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Google Free Booking Links Vs. Paid Hotel Ads

What are the differences between free booking links & paid hotel ads in Google Hotel Search, and which is the right option for your hotel? Keep reading to find out.

The Difference Between Free Booking Links & Paid Hotel Ads in Google Hotel Search

Google Hotel Search provides hotels & other advertisers with more potential to be seen in the SERP with free booking links and paid hotel ads. Discover the differences between the two options and how every hotelier can utilize one or both to assist in achieving their goals.

What Are Google Free Booking Links? 

Free booking links launched in March of 2021 in the Google Hotel Search below the paid hotel ads. The section labeled "all options" below the paid listings now shows unpaid listings from hotels & travel companies. 


Google has now made it possible for hotels that previously hesitated or could not enter these auctions by providing a "cost-free" way to be included in Google's Hotel Search. They are now visible directly on the SERP, below paid hotel ads as well as in maps and the travel planner. 



Any hotelier or travel company that wants to leverage this option must opt-in with a provider to open those channels for rates to be shared. They must also set up a campaign with a minimum bid to be shown. Free listings consist of the hotel's name and the room rate for the selected itinerary.


What Are Google Hotel Ads?

Google Hotel Ads was introduced by Google in 2015 and continues to grow. Like the Google free booking links, hoteliers require a connectivity provider to make that connection to list their rates on the Channels such as Google, TravelClick, Trivago & Kayak.   

Google Hotel Ads have their benefits compared to the free booking links. Hoteliers can be ranked in the auctions, boosting their visibility, leading to a higher CTR, and increasing production. Free booking links do not have this capability; they are visible below "all options" further down the page, decreasing visibility and leading to lower CTR. Google Hotel Ads can also target audiences to contribute to revenue production and target by location, checkin day, and days to arrival, which are not available to free booking links. 



Google Hotel ads and free links vary in how they are shown, similar to standard paid search and organic search. Free listings rely on specific criteria to be displayed. The three top categories that Google looks at are accuracy, landing page quality & price parity. If these three items are clearly defined, free listings are more likely to be seen in a qualified search in the "all options" section. 


Why are Accuracy, Landing Page Quality & Price Parity Important? 

As with any ad, be it in the SERP or Google Hotel Search, the accuracy of the ad is essential to Google and the consumers; both want to know that the price listed corresponds with the price shown on the landing page.

The landing page is significant; it needs to load quickly and provide correct pricing. Google doesn't want to promote listings that are not consumer-friendly; this can lead to a bounce and distrust in the property if it consistently happens. 

Price Parity is a critical category; being out of parity can cost hotels conversions and eventually lead to Google not showing the ads. Regardless, if they are paid or free. Price parity refers to the price shown in the listing matching the booking engine. Google can penalize by increasing CPCs for paid hotel ads if it remains out of parity. If it persists, they will start showing the ad-less, and if it continues, they can stop offering it all together until it's been fixed.  


Which Option is Best For Your Hotel? 

If budget is an issue, free booking links are the way to participate in Google Hotel Search without paying for any view and click. However, if you want more control and want to be present in every auction your property is eligible for, a paid hotel ad in Google Hotel Search is your answer. Also, when your hotel is set up with a paid ad, your property is eligible to show as a free listing and can appear in the paid listings and the free listing within the same search. 




Please reach out if you are interested in Google Hotel Search Ads and want to learn more about ways to manage your metasearch channels.