Last year 64.82% of
searches on Google ended up with zero “click-throughs” to websites, blogs,
articles, etc., because Google provided all the answers a user would need on
the search results page itself, making a click to the underlying content
This was a significant increase from the 50% “zero-click searches” back in
The remainder of the
searches on Google in 2020 resulted in organic click-throughs - 33.59% - and
only 1.59% in paid click-throughs (Google Ads, Google Hotel Ads, Google Product
This analysis is based on
SimilarWeb data from about 5.1 trillion worldwide Google searches in 2020, and
combined mobile and desktop devices, including iOS devices.
On the surface, zero-click
search looks counterintuitive as it deprives Google, a $1.36 trillion public
company, from much needed paid clicks and revenue. So why is Google allowing
zero-click search to become the predominant result in the search engine results
pages (SERPs)? On one hand, it is in line with Google’s core mission to provide
answers - ultra-fast, relevant and straight to the point - to any question a
human may have.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
On the other hand, this
shift is inevitable as the advance of mobile and voice assistants creates the
need for immediate answers. All of this means that more and more information is
being delivered in the form of relevant zero-click answers and summaries
provided by Google via voice or right at the top of the SERPs.
Where does Google get the
answers in its SERPs that provide users with sufficient information so that
they do not click further, i.e., the search ends up with zero click-throughs?
The answer is very simple: website content and content marketing.
So how can hoteliers
benefit from Google’s new “zero-click” reality?
Hotel website content
Review the content of your
website. Is it unique, relevant and of editorial quality? Does it answer the
crucial question of “Why would I choose this property?”
Does it address all
important questions and concerns of your key customer segments: leisure,
business, corporate groups and SMERFs (social, military, education, religious
and fraternal meetings)? Do you have detailed descriptions of your property’s
services and amenities? Do you provide information on local events, attractions
and points of interest?
By indexing your website’s
rich and deep content Google will find many of the answers for its zero-click
A word of caution: Unique
content on the property website means exactly that - unique content! Avoid
duplicate content, i.e., having the same content (property, amenities, rooms
descriptions, etc.) on your website and the online travel agency websites.
Google and the search
engines consider duplicate content (similar content under two different URLs)
as spam and will rank the website with higher authority, in this case the OTA
website and ignore the other, your website.
Frequently asked questions
part of the website content that has gained importance in the age of mobile
search and mobile voice assistants. An FAQ is structured content on the
property website about the property’s location, services and amenities.
Google and potential customers love this collection of valuable information
about your property since it allows them to find a quick, well-formulated
answer to questions they may have about the property’s location and product and
help potential guests make quick booking decisions.
Review your property’s
broader content marketing, whose role has been highly elevated by the current
crisis and depleted marketing budgets. Content marketing is much cheaper than
performance marketing: paid search, metasearch, display and paid media.
Many of the content
marketing initiatives extend the reach of your property’s answers to pertinent
questions online users may have.
These initiatives include brand positioning
announcements (for example, Green Hotel Certification), SEO, website content, social
media posts, B2B marketing initiatives via LinkedIn aiming to engage corporate
travel and group planners, PR, blog articles and posts, white papers, webinars,
case studies, influencer marketing, expert knowledge marketing (spa and
wellness-related posts, chef recipes, wedding tips, etc.), award announcements,
new services and amenities announcements, etc.
Content marketing engages
and entices the travel consumer in the dreaming and planning phases and creates
ready-to-book customers for the booking phase of the digital customer journey.
Search engine optimization
All 33.59% of organic click-throughs
on Google, plus most of the answers on the zero-click SERPs, are directly
influenced by the quality of your website SEO.
Google has frequently
stated that it is using more than 200 major ranking "signals" with
many thousands of sub-signals and variations. When the hotel website is
optimized to communicate these signals to Google, it will achieve a higher
ranking in SERPs and reward the property with significant organic revenues and
The following three main
SEO categories are well within hotelier marketers' control and should become
top priority in the post-crisis era:
- Website content - unique,
highly relevant and enticing website content that is professionally written,
informative, useful and of travel guide-level quality.
- Inbound links - links
to the hotel website from highly authoritative non-paid websites like CVBs,
online magazines and newspapers, blogs, social media, etc.
- Technical SEO - an
ecosystem of technologies, configurations and processes implemented to the
website and server designed to optimize the hotel website and enable the search
engine bots to access, crawl, interpret and index your website, which
ultimately results in increased search traffic and revenue.
Make sure your digital
marketing agency can deliver Google-specific ongoing SEO services and can
handle the very complex Google-specific technical SEO requirements including
schema.org, Google AMP, Google Sitemap XML, Google Search Console dashboard
management and more.
Do you have automated
schema markup on your property website? Schema markup helps search engines
understand the content and intent of websites, especially dynamic content
elements such as events and happenings pages, special offers, opening hours and
These rich snippets make
hotel webpages appear more prominently in Google search engine results pages, thus
improving the visibility of a hotel website’s overall SEO performance. One of
the important benefits is the featured snippets, which Google creates
dynamically based on the content of your website and places on top of the
Google accelerated mobile pages
Does your website feature
Google AMP pages, which download fast on mobile and wearable devices and are
featured as news and info “teasers” in the Google AMP teaser section in mobile
AMPs increase hotel visibility and create another entry point to boost
mobile visitors and bookings, as well as provide another opportunity to
outshine the competition.
Should hotel marketers abandon
As mentioned above, last
year only 1.59% of searches on Google resulted in paid click-throughs (Google
Ads, Google Hotel Ads, Google Product Listing Ads), yet Google made nearly $147
billion from paid search in 2020, an increase of 9% over 2019.
So, with over 98% of
searches resulting in zero-click page views or organic click-throughs, should
hoteliers abandon their paid search campaigns on Google? Though paid search is
evolving, it is not going anywhere anytime soon. In “normal” years, 20% to 25%
of hotel website revenues still come from Google paid search campaigns (Google
Ads and Google Hotel Ads).
In the post-crisis,
hoteliers realize that the era of big paid search marketing budgets and
elaborate campaigns is over in these times of struggling occupancies and
depleted marketing budgets. There are smarter ways of utilizing Google’s paid
search formats and here are just a few of them:
Google Hotel Ads
- Make GHA - Google's
metasearch program - part of your must-have Google marketing initiatives by
joining the free
hotel listings program Google introduced recently. Google has resorted to
its masterful freemium model by giving every hotel a free booking listing in GHA,
thus attempting to flood each destination with booking options and forcing
hotels, OTAs and other booking sites to compete for visibility by buying
- If your property is located
in a competitive destination, invest in the sponsored listings program via
pay-per-stay GHA program, which charges a referral fee in the form of moderate
commission only if the guest books via GHA and ultimately stays at the
- Work with your central
reservation system, channel manager or digital marketing partner to enable your
property on GHA.
- Launch small-budget,
hotel-branded keyword terms campaign via Google Ads (GA) to target past guests
in the short-haul and drive-in feeder markets.
- These past guests already
know your hotel brand name, they know your hotel product, all you need to do
now is to convince them that your property is safe to stay at and that you have
packages and promotions that address their current needs.
- In this new zero-click
search reality, the marketing message of your Google Ad sponsored listings has
gained an increased importance. It should now be able to answer user questions
like, “Why should I stay at this hotel?” Identify the core value
proposition of your hotel and use it in your Google Ad messaging. If your hotel
is next door to a theme park, say it! If you are the only spa hotel in town,
- Google Ads is perfect as a
“deal closer” ad format to convert past guests as well as new customers already
exposed to your property’s content marketing or zero-click search result
information, and for customers who know exactly where they want to stay.
Google Display Network (GDN) retargeting
- GDN display retargeting
helps communicate your property’s value proposition to users who have visited
your website and are already familiar with your product, offerings and
location. GDN retargeting serves as a great “reservation abandonment recovery”
and “brand reminder” tool.
- Based on your budget, also
consider launching a small GDN targeting campaign, focusing on your most
important short-haul and drive-in feeder markets. GDN offers direct
response-type of targeting capabilities: location, keywords, audiences, similar
users, etc. GDN targeting is the perfect solution to expand your hotel
marketing reach and attract new customers at the top of the funnel.
About the author...
is a hospitality and online travel tech consultant and strategist.