If anyone thought meta was dead or dying, then Google’s March 11 release just gave it an adrenaline shot to the heart. Looking closely at the release, you can see meta is an important part of the new Google Destination enhancement. With these changes, Google looks to gain prominent status as the go-to platform for researching and booking not only air travel (its Google Flights service has been popular for some time), but also hotels. “OTAs have always been dominant on meta but the organic listing on Google Search/Maps — suppliers know it as Google My Business — gives an additional opportunity for hotels to pull organic traffic away to their brand websites,” says Raindi Hamdi in his article, Google Quietly Releases Its Hotel Booking Destination With Potentially Huge Implications. “Savvy hoteliers also play the meta-search bit and generate paid traffic from it.”

High returns for a “dead” channel

According to Google, in 2018 an estimated $33 billion in booked room revenue was spent via meta channels globally. Even with Google being the largest of the meta channels, there is still plenty of room for them to grow in a market where there are over 20 metasearch sites overall. It isn’t just Google that can see results – after all, people must book for them to make their money.
Google’s success points to an opportunity for hoteliers to profit. A correctly-executed meta plan can easily outperform other forms of low-funnel marketing with a 7- or 10-to-1 conversion rate.
As a result of these high returns (which are comparable to, if not better than, brand PPC), Sabre has seen 40  to 50 percent of marketing budgets being driven through meta channels. So, why are we still hearing talk of the “death of meta”?

Damaging rumors and regrettable misunderstandings

For the industry press and pundits, talking about whether meta is dying is controversial enough to spark some interest and attract readers. And these rumors may even come true at some point in the future – after all, with the pace at which technology changes today, anything is possible. But with numbers that show its potential, the truth is that if meta isn’t working for a particular brand, it’s likely that this channel is the unfortunate victim of mistaken identity or inactive management. Meta requires resources and talent to realize its full potential. When treated like PPC or not given enough attention, it won’t produce as much revenue as it could. In order to take full advantage of what meta has to offer, you must have an actively-managed program. A lucrative meta strategy will first consider if you are on the right channels. It will then assess whether you are funding according to performance and will adjust that funding once key channels have reached maximum capacity.

Making meta live and breathe for your brand

Although most people immediately think of the top four meta players that you must include (TripAdvisor, Trivago, Google and Kayak), it’s important to consider the strengths of all meta channels in relation to your brand’s needs. Note also that each meta channel requires an ARI link, which can become cumbersome if managed one-on-one. Having a technology partner can help alleviate some of this difficulty. Also, keeping up with the changes made by each partner over time can be time-consuming, but is vital to making sure your meta strategy is effective.
Consumer behavior changes even more quickly than the channels themselves, so a key part of your meta strategy should be to regularly assess and adjust according to the most recent performance statistics.
Of course, to do this you have to manage budgets and performance reports for each player, which must be done manually. This is another area where bringing in a technology partner can save you huge amounts of time.

One last point…

As with any successful acquisition strategy, you can’t look at individual components in a silo. Each part of your strategy plays into the performance of others. If your other digital marketing components are not strong, your meta performance may suffer.  Not sure whether you have a winning acquisition strategy? Take our free assessment to see if you have all the right components and how you measure up.

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