Google has officially jumped into the vacation rental industry, leading to both excitement and trepidation among rental providers.
To be quite candid, much is unknown. In the article, “What’s Going on with Google?”, Susan Blizzard, president of Blizzard Internet Marketing, a RedAwning company, provides some background on Google’s Hotel Ads, outlines how VRMs can expect to work with Google’s Hotel Ads to promote their properties, and explains what they should look for in the future.
Here is what Google’s Pratip Banerji, product manager, Travel, had to say on the company’s blog:
In 2018, we redesigned our mobile and desktop hotel search experience to help you find hotels by price, location and ratings and began including vacation rentals in hotel search results. Now, to give you a broader set of choices for lodging, we’re expanding the hotel search experience to include a wider assortment of vacation rental properties worldwide.
Starting with our mobile experience, you can see and book vacation rentals from a variety of partners including Expedia, HomeAway, Hotels.com, NextPax, RedAwning, Rentals United, TripAdvisor, VRBO and more. In the hotel search experience, you can surface vacation rental properties—be it a cabin in Lake Tahoe or a beach house in Sydney—by applying the vacation rentals filter or clicking on the vacation rentals tip.
You can narrow your search with price and amenity filters, plus browse photos, read reviews and see rates and availability of the vacation rental property. When you’re ready to book, click “Book” to complete your transaction on the travel partner’s page. All property information and bookings are provided and done by the travel partner. In the next month, we’ll bring the vacation rentals filter to the Google Hotels desktop experience as well. We hope this helps travelers make fast, effortless decisions—and with more choices on where to stay, your perfect vacation is just a few clicks away.
Google’s metasearch platform for vacation rental booking is the most significant, and potentially disruptive, advancement in the vacation rental market to date, and VRMs have questions, including the following:
- Will my company be able to afford the cost?
- Will Google’s booking platform cannibalize my organic search results?
- Will the results drive consumers away from my brand and even further to OTAs?
For professional managers, there are a few key advantages to the news, at least in the short term. First, professionally managed inventory has an advantage over owner managed inventory because property managers are more likely to already be working with channel management companies or software companies that are integrating with Google.
Second, it appears Google is working to push back on the broadened definition of the industry to include shared spaces. Instead, Google’s initial rollout focuses on whole-home vacation rentals; and as we read from Google, Airbnb is not currently on the list of partners.
“This absence might be due to Airbnb’s variety of accommodation types, which includes individual rooms, something that does not fit with Google’s vacation rentals concept,” said Skift’s Isaac Carey in Google Adds Vacation Rentals Feature to Evolving Hotel Site. “Plus, the homesharing company frequently finds itself tangled up in lawsuits over illegal listings, although HomeAway likewise isn’t immune from such litigation. However, by focusing on entire homes instead of individual apartments or rooms within an apartment, the tech giant may be trying to skirt the issue entirely.”
Third, professional property management companies know how to work with Google and have committed already-sizeable budgets to the channel through AdWords and search engine optimization strategies.
“We’re looking forward to what Google has to offer,” John Banczak, cofounder and executive chairman of TurnKey Vacation Rentals, said in a Phocuswright panel moderated by VRM Intel. “HomeAway has made it harder over the past year. If you think about how Google operates, it is very clear how to work with Google. If anyone’s ever managed any type of Google campaign, you really know how to manage it. . . . You don’t get that from the HomeAways or the Airbnbs of the world. It’s hard to manage. For us, to the degree a channel makes it hard for us to understand how to drive revenue through it, then you naturally have to look for another channel. . . . Once the Google ads launch in the way we expect them to, I expect that to be a sizable dent into what we get from HomeAway.”
During the same panel, Steve Milo, founder and CEO at VTrips, said, “Remember, there is no rate parity requirement for alternative accommodations. We can always have the lowest price on our website. Google is going to be the equalizer here. The OTAs have to start to execute or they are going to be the rearview mirror for Google.”
Excerpt from best-selling author Seth Godin’s blog post “Clearing the Table” discussing Google’s dominance among consumers (Seths.blog).
If there are 20 search engines delivering traffic to a wide variety of sites, diversity will come from that competition. But when there’s just one, then the human decisions about what gets traffic and what doesn’t (largely based on what makes Google a profit and what doesn’t) change the very nature of what we see and interact with.
This centralized control gives Google the power to absorb most of the profit of businesses that have no better option than to advertise on Google. The powerful model of their ad auction is simple: if it’s worth $100 to your organization to get a new customer, and it’s worth $100 to your competitor to get that same new customer, in an auction, you’ll eagerly bid up to $99 for that click.
Like a landlord who owns every building in town, Google can’t lose. A successful business in the online ecosystem is one that has a few dollars left over after giving the rest of it to Google or Facebook (or Apple). In the short run, the convenience and reliability of centralized control lull users into a happy compliance. It’s a miracle. It works. What’s the problem?
But in the long run, where the long tail has fewer chances to thrive and where the powerful magic of choice disappears, we stagnate. If a centralized government authority decided what news and content we saw, filtered our incoming mail and regularly bankrupted competitors it didn’t like, there’d probably be more of an outcry.