GMB Product Expert and Local SEO Consultant Tim Capper is known for his expertise on Google My Business for Hotels. On Twitter, Tim regularly shares updates to help keep hotels (or agencies who manage hotel listings) in the loop and ahead of the game.
In this guide to GMB for hotels, Tim outlines the quirks and oddities that make Google My Business for hotels a different game entirely.
The Foundations of Google My Business for Hotels
In 2018, Google made changes to their local algorithm that removed localization from the organic search results for search queries that include ‘Hotel + Location’.
This update removed local hotel websites from search results in favour of Online Travel Agent (OTA) sites, which meant that the only remaining avenue for individual hotels to appear on a page for ‘hotel + location’ was in the Hotel Pack.
This update meant that, more than ever, having a Google My Business listing was vital to a hotel’s visibility for these types of search queries.
What is the Hotel Pack?
The Hotel Pack is similar to the Local Pack but looks and behaves very differently. It’s the list of businesses that appear when you perform a local search, above the organic results. The Hotel Pack, like the Local Pack, is comprised of local business listings but it will look a little different as will explore shortly.
How is Google My Business for hotels different to other listings?
Although the listing is created within the same framework of Google My Business, lodging categories are heavily restricted as to what they are able to access within the Google My Business framework.
The reason for the heavy restriction on functionality is driven by ads revenue. By limiting all the above features, space is created for the ‘Compare Prices’ and ‘Booking’ block for OTAs. The remaining space is filled with hotel amenities.
Take a look at the below screenshot to see what I mean:
The Local Pack vs Hotel Pack
The Hotel Pack is very different from the Local Pack and is primarily driven by Google Travel, rather than the Local Pack (which is driven by Google Maps.)
See below the Hotel Pack (left) compared to the Local Pack (right).
The Hotel Pack is designed to allow for ease of use in filtering hotels and booking. It does not allow users to click through to a hotel’s website or view its telephone number this early on in the browsing/buying process. The aim here is to allow the user to find and book through Google Travel.
The Hotel Pack is triggered for multiple search queries, but they must include the search phrase “hotel”.
The Hotel Pack will typically appear below ads and before organic search results.
How does the Hotel Pack local algorithm work?
The algorithm ranking factors for hotels remain the same for other Google My Business listings. These are:
However, Google tries to provide the most relevant hotel for specific hotel search queries:
- 5* Hotels in
- Hotels near (landmark)
- Hotels with (feature)
- Hotels with Amenity
- Price based on user refinement
It’s worth noting that a lot of the above can be influenced by optimizing on-site for specific phrases and queries.
How does searching for hotels on Google Maps work?
The most significant difference you notice when searching for a hotel in an area is that the usual “pins” you see are replaced with price pins.
The price displayed on Maps is typically the lowest rate available from the listed OTAs for the date selected by the searcher.
If you are not using an OTA or using a 3rd party booking provider integrated with Google Hotel Ads, then you won’t get a price label. Instead, you’ll get a tiny blue dot.
Equally, if your OTA or booking provider has not provided any room rates for the date criteria that a user is searching, the price pin reverts to a blue dot.
The takeaway from this is, without pricing info, you become a blue dot in a sea of dollar signs.
Don’t be a blue dot!
If you are a small hotel or Bed & Breakfast I would recommend either registering with an OTA or Hotel Ads, but you must keep your bookings and availability up to date.
Google Hotels also have a free booking link set up to help small properties get connected and visible.
What GMB features do hotel listings have access to?
Although hotel features are heavily restricted, you should certainly be using them, updating them and monitoring them.
Here are the features for hotel listings to pay attention to on Google My Business:
- Hotel Attributes
- Opening Date (this is simply the date the hotel opened on, and can be added in your GMB dashboard)
Some of these only need creating and never need re-visiting, but attributes, photos, and reviews should be monitored and or updated regularly.
It’s also worth noting that some of these can be managed in the GMB dashboard, some partially, and some you need to contact business support to update.
Updating and checking your hotel attributes should be done on a regular basis, as Google is constantly updating what’s available.
You can access this feature by heading to your GMB dashboard, then Info, and then Hotel Attributes.
There are two sections within hotel attributes:
Property Details, which includes:
- Health and safety
- Covid-19-responder policy
- Food and drink
- Policies & payments
- Parking & transport
- Business & events
And room details:
- General room features
- Food-related room features
Hotel amenities can be selected and deselected directly from the GMB Dashboard. This is also available under the Attributes section.
The majority of these amenities can be modified in your attributes, however, some of them are still provided directly via OTA sites.
If your attributes have never been set or managed, they will be fully set via OTA information. Once updated, it may take a while before they display.
You will need to contact OTAs for ones not available but still displayed on their page, then GMB support who can manually update the information.
Hotel highlights cannot be controlled by the business; these are created by user reviews, either by mentioning “highlights” within the review text or by selecting it within the review flow.
Based on the type of visitor:
And then refined based on the travel type they’ve selected:
Where Google has access to your county’s official hotel class classifier, they will use this class rating. Where they do not have access, they will rely on OTA information.
If your hotel’s class is displayed incorrectly (for example, 4-star instead of 5-star), check with your country’s official classifier to make sure it is displayed correctly and also check that all your OTA listings are displaying the correct class.
You will then need to contact GMB support for the correction to be manually updated.
Typically 3, 4, 5-star hotels have 24-hour opening hours and should be set as such.
If your reception closes at a certain time, with guests having to use a keypad or key to gain access, then you can set your hours accordingly. For example, 6am-11pm.
You can then use the ‘More Hours’ section and select access hours.
In order to have an OTA booking link displayed, you have to be listed on that OTA’s website.
To have the pricing information displayed, you need to configure this directly with the OTA and your booking system.
To have your own booking link displayed, you either need to integrate your booking system directly with Hotel Ads API or use a booking system provider that is integrated with Hotel Ads.
Note: You will still need to set your room commission (bid) with Hotel Ads even for your own booking link. This means you will still pay Google a commission on the room booking even if the searcher uses your booking link.
Eligible businesses located inside the hotel
Google offers the option for hotels to list businesses that are located within the building. For example, you might have an on-site restaurant or even a salon.
Some businesses eligible for this feature include:
There are a few things to keep in mind in order to prevent a duplicate merge, which can cause havoc to your listings.
Internal listings should be marked as ‘located in’ the Hotel.
You cannot mark something as ‘located in’ from your dashboard, so you need to use the “Suggest an Edit” feature in Google Maps.
Now, because this is user suggested, you need to regularly check if your main hotel is located inside a larger building on your listing. Users love to suggest you are inside the main building and not the actual hotel, so keep an eye on this to ensure it remains accurate.
Photos for hotels get viewed a lot and play a large part in the user’s purchasing decisions.
Here are some basic rules to follow:
- Check user-added photos regularly and report any bad ones
- Brand your images where possible
- Keep your GMB images unique (don’t share your Google My Business photos with OTAs!)
- Make sure images are high resolution
In my work, we typically try to provide OTAs with one standard set of images for hotel, rooms and facilities, then use another set for our own sites and GMB. We want the user to stay on our own properties (e.g. website) where possible.
Google My Business listings for hotels do provide a services section. However, at the moment, hotel services are not surfaced in search, as is the case for other GMB listings in the form of justifications.
For example, here where it says ‘Provides: Sports massage’, is an example of Google surfacing a business’s services in SERPs.
Even though services are not used and surfaced for hotels at the moment, this is not to say they won’t be in the future, so I’d recommend taking the time to add your services.
These could be things like:
- Afternoon Tea
- In-room Massage
- Local Tours
- Bicycle Hire
- Room Service
- Dog Walking
Service categories will be created for each category type you select, and internal services can be selected based on this information.
Some options will already provide a selection of services that Google typically associates with the category.
How to Set Up Google My Business for Hotels
It is very rare for a brand new hotel to be built and for there to be a need for a completely new listing. You would typically have brand new listings for Bed & Breakfasts, Guest Houses, and smaller operations.
If you’re not working with a brand new hotel (for example, you’re doing a rebrand for an existing property) you first need to locate any previous listings. Ideally, the purchase contract should include ownership transfer of the current Google My Business listings (the hotel itself and any internal listings.)
It might be the case that you didn’t have this information, or the company you worked with didn’t want to hand over the GMB listing. If so, the steps will be different for you.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take depending on your scenario:
Setting up a new hotel listing
If you’re working with a brand new hotel (which, as I said, would be rare) you would create and verify a hotel’s GMB listing just like any other GMB listing. If that’s the case, follow these steps to set up your Google My Business listing.
Taking over an existing listing
In the instance that you’re taking over an existing listing, there are three possible scenarios:
1. Ownership Transfer
The previous owner transfers ownership to your account. Once ownership is accepted they remove themselves from account ownership.
2. Hotel Listing Claimed but Ownership Not Transferred
The sale is complete, everything is transferred but they forgot about GMB and now you need ownership.
In this case, you need to log into your GMB dashboard and select ‘Add Single Business’.
Search for and select the hotel you need access to.
If the business has been already claimed, select ‘Request Access’.
The current owner then has seven days to either confirm or deny the access request.
If the user fails to confirm your request (for example, it may be an unmonitored/inactive account) and Google can see your account is the verified owner of the associated domain (this will be confirmed through Google Search Console) then the listing will be transferred.
If, for some reason, it is denied, then the update email from Google will contain a link where you can appeal and follow the process to regain ownership.
3. Hotel Listing Unverified
This is a straightforward claim where you simply need to verify the business listing through a postcard or telephone verification.
In the case of new owners or a rebrand
If the hotel you’re working with is rebranding, before you go through the steps of getting ownership of the listing and rebranding the listing, you need to think about a few things:
1. What are the reviews like?
If they’re terrible, then it may be better to mark this listing as closed and open a brand new listing. Before you mark it as closed, you can either remove the telephone number and website or update it to your new telephone and website via the ‘Suggest an Edit’ function.
2. What OTAs are listed on the booking options?
Updating the name and details of the GMB listing will not automatically remove the OTA bookings that are listed. This is because they are linked via the listing’s CID and not the name or domain.
You must remember to update all the OTA listings: either inform them of the name change (if you are keeping access to OTA dashboards) or request that they remove the old hotel and create new OTA listings and accounts under the rebranded name.
Once you have decided on the above options, the listing can either be marked as closed and a new one created, or you can transfer ownership of the current one for the rebrand.
Top Tip: It is always advisable to create your GMB listings in the same account as your Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Hotel Ads accounts. As we discussed earlier, this can help Google understand that all entities are linked and therefore verify that you’re the domain holder.
How to Succeed as a Hotel on Google Maps
Google My Business provides very little for hotels to optimize within the platform itself. Use what you can and keep amenities up to date, with regular photo updates.
There are some other tactics you can integrate to put your best foot forward, too.
Make sure your website and GMB listing work together
Location is key to hotel searchers and the search results produced by Google so, on your website, be specific to your location and provide accurate location information to Google.
For a single location hotel site: have your hotel’s name, address, telephone, and ‘find us’ link running across your footer.
For multi-location sites: provide your hotel’s name, address, telephone, and ‘find us’ link running across each specific location’s property’s pages.
Shift your focus
As I said earlier, Google has made it almost impossible to rank your business for the query ‘Hotel + Location’.
You should still be optimizing for this, naturally, but your focus should be shifted to where you can win in search results, as well as appearing for more specific user search queries during the searcher’s research phase.
Look at your :
- Leisure Facilities
- Wedding Offerings
- Conference Offerings
- Food & Beverage Facilities
- Your Location
All of these can be optimized for location queries, plus offering and the intended guest type.
There are ways to leverage your accommodation offerings, based on:
What beach, mountain, monument, and.or park does the accommodation overlook? Include this in your content.
How many bedrooms are available? Is it particularly good for families? Is there access to a swimming pool? Are the baths oversized?
3. Intended for
To whom is the room type or the accommodation best suited? Make sure to include this information if you do have a target audience.
What can the accommodation be used for? For example, is the space large enough to host a small wedding? Is the room equipped for long-stay and business?
Remember that your leisure facilities may also be eligible for their own GMB listings (for example, an on-site spa or gym). These can then be optimized in their own right for queries like ‘Gym + Location’.
Wedding & Conference Facilities
Optimize individual pages as well as supporting content:
- Packages (bronze, silver, gold)
- Lists (Top 10 Wedding Venues in <City>)
- Location information for wedding or conference guests
- Parking, directions, park and ride facilities, area information
Location and Local Content
Be the source of information for the area your property is located in. I like to explain this as a brand-building exercise while showcasing your property to potential visitors to the area.
Be the source of information for users looking at visiting your area.
- Is the area known for something? Is it home to a famous sports team, a historical figure, or even a type of food?
- What should guests know about the weather or local climate?
- Are there any regional phrases that might be fun to share?
2. Things to do
People travel to an area for a variety of reasons, so be the source of this information to users and keep them looped in with what’s available in the nearby area.
If you can’t be proud of your city, town, village, then who can?
Share information on nearby amenities, restaurants, bars, attractions, and must-see landmarks.
As we’ve seen above, managing Google My Business and Google Maps for Hotels requires a different set of tasks to other industries, but I hope that by providing this guide to getting the most out of your GMB hotel listing, I’ve shown you that optimization is possible and that there is always room to improve your listings. Good luck!