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Meta Sites – what you need to know

First of all, I have a confession to make… I am not a fan… Meta-Sites are a phenomena built on bad revenue practices and poor contracting…

The facts are, that if you had good revenue practices; were water-tight on contracting with OTA’s; had the best rates on your brand site and on that point, gave your brand site and booking engine the attention and respect it deserves, then there would be no need for Meta-Sites at all. Let me explain…

First of all the concept of meta sites is not new. There have been price comparison sites in the market for a long time and the concept of bidding to increase your chance of being seen by customers was introduced by Google back in 2000!

So what is an Meta-Site? 

The most popular are of course Google Hotel Finder, TripAdvisor, Trivago and Kayak.  They are purely price comparison sites and will trawl the internet to find the very best rates over multiple distribution sites (such as Expedia, Booking.com, Anoma and Agoda) and will present rates to a browsing customer for their requested date.

What should be shown is a list of rates from OTA sites and of course if you have good revenue practices, these rates should all be the same.

I would like to show you an example of what this actually looks like, but for every single example I chose (in my own market), there wasn’t one single hotel who were actually playing the game and winning and I felt it unfair to ‘call them out’. Every single hotel without exception, had (mostly) rate parity on the OTA sites but in every single case, there was a site (usually Agoda or Anoma) who were under-cutting all other sites, including the hotels own brand site.

How can I list my hotel?

You should find yourself automatically listed but if you aren’t prepared to pay, then your brand site won’t be featured and the only sites that will be shown are the OTA’s. The Meta-Site model works exactly like a Google Pay Per Click campaign – you need to bid to have your brand website featured.  Hotels with good revenue practice should always have the best rates shown on their own site, so surely this is a no-brainer?

The down-sides to being on these sites is that there is a cost involved:

  • you need to pay a company to manage this for you and there are specialist marketing companies that will
  • you need to assign a budget each month – just like a Pay Per Click campaign
  • you pay each time your brand website is clicked, regardless if a booking is made or not – exactly like Google or Bing pay per click.
  • you will need to allow and estimate a budget for spend and factor this in to your marketing spend

What we also need to remember is that these Meta-Sites are in fact owned by the OTA giants.  For example, Expedia owns Trivago and Booking.com own Kayak. So please don’t be fooled by marketing agencies who say that by being on Meta-Sites you will shift your business from OTA’s – they are purely just a different OTA.

That said, if you are allowing the Meta-Sites to feature your hotel purely through OTA sites and not being featured there through your brand site, then you are missing a trick.

Meta-Sites should absolutely be part of your overall strategy; not all of it, but definitely part of it. You need to be where your customers are and if they are finding you on meta, then you do need to seriously consider this channel as a means of distribution.

The facts are that Booking.com openly share that around 10% of all bookings that come to through the booking.com site, actually originate on a Meta-Site.  So shouldn’t you be there?  Shouldn’t your brand site be featured – at least that way you have a chance of moving that business from those expensive OTA sites, to your own website.

The importance of your own website

Unfortunately I am often frustrated by the lack of significance hoteliers put on their own brand website and booking engine.  If we get visitors to your own site, whether through a Meta-Site or not, then you need to ensure  you have:

a) the very best rates on your brand site

b) the very best availability

c) the very best packages

d) great content that would entice a customer to stay and engage

e) fantastic imagery again to entice and engage

d) video – as this is the future of our customers browsing habits

I urge you to search the Meta-Sites right now.  If you don’t have a company managing Meta for you then please review your rates.  I can almost guarantee that you are being undercut.

If you do have an agency managing this for you, then please just check your rate strategy – again I can almost guarantee that there is a website out there that has lower rates than you do directly.  These low rates are normally published by OTA’s that you allow to have nett contracted rates, so please review and clamp down hard. My final piece of advice is to keep checking and reviewing. At least once per week do a random check on dates and rates, I promise you will be surprised, if not shocked!

The bottom line is that whether we like it or not, our customers are browsing and booking on these sites.  And until we get a solid revenue strategy in place and tighter contracting, these Meta-Sites are here to stay. I am however hopeful that customers will eventually get smart and realise that these sites offer less than we can provide if they book direct.

(and for all things revenue, please just ask@rightrevenue.wpengine.com)