Google Outpaces Social Media in Priceline Conversions

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Social media channels play an important role for every company’s online reputation, but are they providing the best ROI when it comes to digital ad-spend? According to Priceline’s CEO Darren Huston, ads for his company on Facebook and Twitter have failed to deliver results.

“For Facebook and Twitter, we have endless amounts of money,” Huston said April 14 in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. “But we haven’t found anything there.”

The Numbers Behind the Words
Priceline’s online marketing costs increased 41% last year to $1.8 billion. This number was significantly higher than the company’s sales growth in 2013 (29%). According to Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in San Francisco, 90% of Priceline’s digital ad spending goes to Google, the best source for delivering online traffic.

Search vs. Social
The advantage Google, and other major search engines, hold over social media is that their search ads are based on keywords and often capture consumers looking for a specific vacation or hotel. This, in turn, leads to online reservations.

Facebook and Twitter social ads can help companies communicate with individual fans, and can be used to target people based on characteristics like location and who they follow. However, these ads have not results in significant bookings for Priceline.

Search, Social, and…
According to the Bloomberg interview, Priceline is also dedicating more investments to mobile offerings as more consumers book last-minute travel from smartphones, and as users opt for tablets over personal computers. However, according to our recent “Four Mobile Design Myths for Hoteliers” blog post, the idea that mobile devices are used only for last-minute bookings is outdated.

Thanks to the durability, ease-of-use, and lowering costs of tablets, these devices are now used throughout the trip planning and researching process, as well as in the booking process.

An Example of Why Priceline’s Advertising Dollars Make Sense
Priceline spent $1.8 billion in digital advertising in 2013. Of this, 90% of their digital budget went to Google cost-per-click because that is where the best conversions came from for their shopping site.

Where does the $1.8 billion go?

When I type [Paris Hotels] into a Google, Yahoo, or Bing search engine, I find that has first page placement. When travelers click into the hotel discount-shopping site (, they are offered thousands of hotel room options. The reason Priceline spends $1.8 billion in digital advertising is that this is where the best conversions to bookings take place, affecting Priceline and the individual hotel’s booking revenues.

The only way Priceline generates revenue is if a traveler books a room through their site, and they receive a commission. Because this is the case, it does not make sense to dedicate advertising monies to a channel (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) where conversions are low.

How Does This Apply to my Partnership with is a shopping site for unique lodging properties seeking leisure travelers, just as Priceline is a shopping site for hotels that are seeking price conscious travelers.

When I type [Oregon Resorts] into Google, I find is on the first page. When travelers click into the shopping site, they travelers is offered thousands of resorts, lodges, boutique hotels, inns, vacation homes, cabins, condos, and other unique lodging options. The traveler can book your unique lodging options online, directly call or e-mail your property, or visit your website with the simple click of a mouse.

Are Google’s Travel Goals Too Ambitious?


Last week, we discussed Google’s ambitious jump into the travel industry with the release of the Google Hotel Finder on April 8, but a recent Motley Fool article questioned whether the company’s long-term travel plans are TOO ambitious.  The question this article focuses on is not whether Google will be successful (it likely will be), but rather how its move will affect major travel sites like and Expedia. Continue reading

Top 10 Hotel Amenities for Travelers


Amenities are a critical factor in how travelers perceive your property when they stay with you.  Millennial travelers are looking for the latest technological advancements, families are looking for more space, and most travelers are looking for some help along the way.

The latest Amenities Survey revealed the Top 10 Most Important Hotel Property Amenities and the Top 10 Most Important In-Room Amenities.  To gain this valuable data, surveyed 1,000 travelers globally who have a trip planned in the next six months.

Not surprisingly, hotel guests preferred Wi-Fi over any other in-room features, and ranked Wi-Fi availability third-highest for shared spaces in the property.  The need for constant connectivity is at an all-time high thanks to all of the mobile technology at everyone’s fingertips.

As more amenities become standardized (parking, non-smoking rooms, pools, etc.), you have to find new ways to differentiate your property from the rest of the pack.  Taylor L. Coleg, APR travel expert for, confirmed that today’s travelers are placing more value on quality food options than ever before.

What else can you do to set your property apart?  Look at the following lists to determine what you have, and what you are missing.  Not all of these amenities are feasible with every property.  For instance, a cozy B&B on the coast may not need a swimming pool, or a bar, but it may need to add air conditioning so that travelers will enjoy a more pleasant experience.

Top 10 Most Important Hotel Property Amenities
1.  Complimentary Breakfast
2.  Restaurant
3.  Internet/Free Wi-Fi
4.  Parking
5.  24-Hour Front Desk Service
6.  Smoke Free Hotel
7.  Swimming Pool
8.  Bar
9.  Air Conditioning
10.  Coffee/Tea in Lobby

Top 10 Most Important In-Room Amenities
1.  Internet/Free Wi-Fi
2.  Bathroom Shower
3.  Room Size
4.  TV Facilities
5.  Air Conditioning
6.  Coffee/Tea
7.  Non-Smoking Rooms
8.  Premium Bedding
9.  Daily Housekeeping
10.  Mattress Type

Google Officially Enters Hotel Business


The internet travel space just got a little bit smaller as Google entered the hospitality industry in a big way on Wednesday.  According to a Wall Street Journal article, the internet giant is moving boldly to play a larger role in booking hotel rooms.  They are doing it at the risk of offending some of its most important advertisers.

Why Google is making the move now
The potential market Google is entering is very large.  In the U.S. alone, travel and tourism spending totaled $450 billion last year, and is expected to grow 3.5% in 2014, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Google also just completed its latest move related to hotels, striking a licensing deal that will give it access to technology from hotel-booking software startup Room 77.  This move also adds engineers to Google’s hotel-search team.

Why this move makes sense for Google
Travelers are constantly looking for the most efficient way to book travel accommodations online. prides itself on putting your property’s homepage one-click away from Google, Yahoo, and Bing search results pages.  Google is trying to make sure you don’t even leave their search results pages, allowing you to book without even reaching the major OTA’s and metasearch engines.  Google becomes the ultimate metasearch engine in this case. Continue reading

4 Mobile Design Myths for Hoteliers


With smartphone technology on the rise, optimizing your mobile platform becomes a top priority for companies of every shape and size, especially in the travel and hospitality industries.  WorldMate launched its first mobile app seven years before the first iPhone luach.

At that time, it was not called an app, but the Palm and BlackBerry creation served much of the same purpose as the more stylish iOS and Android versions today:  help consumers search and organize their travel.

Ian Berman, the Vice President of Business Development for WorldMate, dispelled four of the most misleading smartphone myths during the 7th annual Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel conference, hosted recently by EyeforTravel. Continue reading

5 Reasons Your Social Media Campaign is Failing


Social media plays a vitally important role in any company’s marketing campaign, but some companies are unable to harness the power of this constantly growing communication channel.  There are a variety of reasons why social media marketing campaigns fail, but these are five of the most common issues I read about on social media marketing websites.

1. You are not considering social media as a two-way communication system.
Some companies make the mistake of just releasing a deluge of information to customers, and disregarding whatever the replied communication is.  Social media has brought us up-to-the-second in our ability to retrieve the information we’re looking for.
Continue reading

Native Apps Overwhelm Mobile Web Usage


Without looking at your phone right now, would you be able to tell someone what internet browser your smartphone uses? You are probably not alone if your immediate response to this quandary is no. According to a recent study conducted by Flurry, mobile web browsing is losing the battle to native apps when it comes to mobile data use.

According to data compiled from January to March 2014, mobile device usage has risen to 2 hours and 42 minutes per day, up from 2 hours and 38 minutes per day in March of 2013. Native apps cemented their lead atop the list of in-phone functions, commanding 86% of the average US mobile consumer’s time (approximately 2 hours and 19 minutes per day). Continue reading

Five Tips to Improve Your Online Reputation


Maintaining a positive online reputation can be difficult for any company in a place as public as the internet, but for the hotels and unique lodging options we promote on, it is of vital importance.  Although the thought of people openly reviewing your property may be scary at first, it is important to see these online reviews as an opportunity.  According to Jennifer Davies, senior content manager at Expedia, good reviews of 4.0 or 5.0 generate more than double the conversion rate of a review of 1.0-2.9.

Davies’ statement deals specifically with data compiled by properties on, but the idea is relevant across the hospitality industry.  Still, conversion rates are not the only numbers that are affected by a positive online reputation.  An interview with Expedia’s VP of Supply Strategy and Analysis, Ben Ferguson, revealed that a one-point increase in a review score (on a five-point scale) equates to a 9% increase in average daily rate (ADR).

All property managers and hoteliers realize the importance of conversion rates and ADR, but many do not understand how or why they go hand in hand with a property’s online reputation.  Proactively managing your reputation and using the feedback from online reviews to increase guest satisfaction will allow you to increase both your conversion rates and revenue in a sustainable way.

Here are five tips on how to improve your property’s online reputation:
Continue reading