Google has recently announced some changes to their Brand Protection policy. These affect who can and cannot bid for ads under certain brand names. The original policy reserved this right to the owner of the brand name, but it has now been extended to distributors. This makes advertising your business on Google harder and more expensive, but not impossible.
You can check out the full details of these changes on Google’s support pages. Here is the gist of the policy and how you can protect your business against the new rules.
What do these Google Brand Protection changes mean?
Other websites – including OTAs, review websites and blogs – can now bid for search result ads using your brand’s name as long as they are official resellers of your offering, or are providing information about your business in some form or another.
Simone Puorto from Tnooz calls this “brandjacking”. Larger distributors with bigger budgets will now be able to appear higher than you on search result advertisements. You should also be aware of review sites and bloggers. Any influencers you recruit to write a review for your hotel will now be able to advertise under your brand name. This is not necessarily as bad – especially if the reviews are good – but it can increase your costs in an unexpected way.
You will need to spend more money on advertisements to ensure you are the highest result. As a result, your cost per click will immediately rise. In short, you’re going to have to raise your advertising budget. Advertising budgets per hotel are completely at the discretion of the OTAs paying for the ads. Though we don’t suggest removing your business from OTAs, you will have to fight harder from now on to get those precious direct bookings.
How will Google Brand Protection changes affect my bookings?
If you are a small business, the OTAs probably have a much larger advertising budget than you. This means they will appear higher up in paid search results, and will, therefore, attract more bookings. You might notice your direct booking rate decreases as a result of this, especially where new customers are concerned.
It also means that the highest bidding site will be the go-to reference for most new customers. You should make sure these customers have as much information as possible if you find that they’re going through these sites. If you tend to be one of the lucky ones that rely mostly on direct bookings, you should double check all of your OTA listings for accuracy and quality before this change is completely rolled out.
What can I do to offset these changes?
Aside from adjusting your OTA listings, you should also make sure you are getting great reviews. Review websites can also bid under the name of your brand. If these are going to be the first hits potential customers see of your brand, you want them to be good.
You should also still work to improve your own website. Savvier customers may have a tendency to skip past the paid listings, so good SEO will make sure you still appear on the first page. The Google Brand Protection changes only apply to paid listings. Any work you do to boost organic listings will go a long way.
In its blog, Mirai says it is also possible for you to negotiate with the OTAs directly. Ideally, you want them to agree to not advertise using your brand name, but there’s no legal requirement for them to do so if you make that request. The best case scenario you can hope for is that they will reduce their advertising budget for your property. This gives you a fighting chance of being able to afford your own ads.
We also have some great blog posts with advice about how to increase direct bookings. You should at least make sure you are engaging in remarketing with previous guests. In the meanwhile, if you do not already advertise on Google Ads, you should set something up. Even if you are not the first result, it is important to at least appear in the paid search area. Again, savvier customers might prefer a link from the hotel itself if they see it.
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