Hilton Worldwide: ‘We’re Constantly Refining Our Attribution Model’

DustinBomarIf you’re looking for a last-minute hotel in Times Square, who ya gonna call? Google hopes you’ll simply do a quick search.

The company has updated its Google Hotel Ads format, an AdWords product first launched in 2011, to include greater searchability on price and location, user reviews, mobile compatibility and high-res images.

Hospitality giant Hilton Worldwide has tested Hotel Ads since the start to help drive bookings for its portfolio of 4,250 properties. Dustin Bomar, Hilton’s VP of digital acquisition, said he’s generally pleased.

“We were eager to test it when they first rolled out because it’s reaching the user at a pretty qualified point, when someone has intent about a specific destination or for the hotel they’re shopping for,” Bomar said. “Obviously there’s huge volume to be had, given the number of searches done on a monthly basis for search terms like ‘New York hotels’ alone.”

Hilton is able to set its bids around device type, user country and Google site. Hotel Ads can be placed directly in Google search results or alongside Maps or Google+ and on mobile, which is generating a lot of usage from travelers on the go.

When a consumer selects the property, Google’s metasearch pulls up all of the availabilities on third-party sites, such as Booking.com or Expedia.com or the hotel directly, where users can book. Advertisers pay when a traveler clicks through and converts.

Hilton has seen a 45% increase in conversions compared to traditional search campaigns as a result of deploying Google Hotel Ads, contributing to a 12% uplift in ROI.

Although Bomar said the brand is able to target by device type, destination and by hotel, it would like more time-based bidding options.

“When a user enters a date, I can’t necessarily change my bids based on the date they enter, so it’s basically a bid on the hotel for a certain period of time, but not based on the user-entered date,” he explained. “I would love to be able to adjust our bids and be more aggressive at specific times of year, or weekday vs. weekend.”

hotelFor Hilton, such a capability would support its back end. The company’s digital marketing team works closely with its revenue management operation. Typically it evaluates which hotels have high or low occupancy 45 days in advance, and seeks bid adjustments accordingly.

“We have an attribution model that we’re constantly refining,” said Bomar. “It needs to be updated and refined as market conditions change. When you run over 4,000 hotels around the world, the market condition changes at the individual DMA level, so based on what happens in New York, we often have to change pricing overall to reflect that.”

Yet paid media – whether search, metasearch, affiliate or display – represents only a portion of the revenue Hilton drives through digital channels, he said.

“I want to know where the other half-plus revenue is coming from, like organic search, so it requires a healthy marketing analytics dashboard,” Bomar said, and Hilton leverages Adobe Analytics to support that effort.

Additionally, while Hilton has longstanding, “fantastic partnerships” with third-party travel-booking sites like Travelocity, the brand still prefers to drive consumers back to its branded sites.

Traffic and referrals to its sites are “big indicators” of what people are interested in and how they’re converting. Hotel Ads are one part of Hilton’s full media mix, but it’s figuring out how they work in tandem with standard search ads and display.

“I want to know the full value [a channel is] having, good or bad,” Bomar said. “Last-click is an easy way of attributing revenue, but it’s not always the right way. It would be silly for me to say that what we do in television doesn’t drive branded searches. We know intuitively it does, but it’s hard to drive a direct correlation between the two.”

 

 

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