Google has updated its Hotel Finder tool to invite users to narrow their searches by neighborhood and time period, plus (for a limited number of cities) its first unique innovation in metasearch: "time-based search."
When a user clicks to runs a search, a dark box pops up on the screen spotlighting neighborhoods by name. As a user mouses over the neighborhood names, Google provides additional information on each district through pop-out boxes.
Google's recently acquired Frommers text and photos could prove invaluable here.
When a user selects a neighborhood, Hotel Finder highlights on a map what the neighborhood's boundaries are.
The update doesn't change the custom neighborhood search function that Hotel Finder already had. Users can still select custom areas to search for hotels in by drawing a simple box.
Users can also now search by "Brand," a new selection in the drop-down menu, helpful to users who collect loyalty points or prefer a familiar property type.
Current brands participating are major chains, such as Accor, Best Western, Hilton, Marriott, and NH Hotels.
The first unique innovation
Besides the updates to Hotel Finder announced yesterday, Google rolled out a related key innovation in late January as well: find hotels by travel time.
Hotel Finder now offers the option of searching for hotels by travel time (by transportation method) in cities where the company have partnered with local transit agencies to integrate their data.
When a user enters Eiffel Tower in the search box search and select "hotels by travel time", he or she will see the hotels that that can be reached by public transport within 20 minutes. Users can adjust the travel time or their mode of transport, such as from transit to walking or driving.
Travelers can continue to run basic semantic search queries on the tool as well, such as "three star Rome under £200 with WiFi."
Launched in July 2011, Hotel Finder has since had a series of enhancements.
In the past, it has tested how its Hotel Finder appears in generic search results, and some users internationally have been seeing its test in which it invites users to use Hotel Finder above hotel-related search results from hotel chains and travel companies.
It has paid ads in Hotel Finder itself, which again, are ahead of the organic SERPs.