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Google has announced that it is now offering a free version of its hotel listings, this is now in addition to the paid option. This is very much like how Google made Google Shopping free last year. Google wrote “we’re improving this experience by making it free for hotels and travel companies around the world to appear in hotel booking links, beginning this week on google.com/travel.”
What is the difference between free versus paid Google Hotel listings? Google said that “free booking links may resemble hotel ads, but they’re not ads, and are ranked using a variety of signals to determine which links are best to show users.” Google clearly said again that “no one can buy a better placement for free booking links,” but explained “advertisers can bid to be ranked higher in the hotel ads section.” Google also said that they “clearly mark ads” with the “Ads” badge in the hotel booking search results.
Here is a GIF of what it looks like:
Google ranks these free listings by “a variety of signals” it says in order to “determine which links are best to show users.” The signals include “consumer preference, value offered to the user, landing page experience, and historical accuracy of the prices provided to Google as measured in the Price Accuracy Policy.” Google then clearly says that any paid relationship has no influence on the free listings. Google wrote “Google’s commercial relationship with the free booking link provider has no effect on ranking, nor can anyone pay for a higher ranking. Participation, or non-participation, in Hotel Ads does not impact ranking of free booking links either.”
The price accuracy score is how Google computes a score for each partner based on how often prices are compliant with our policy. This Price Accuracy score is meant both to inform partners about whether their prices are considered accurate, and as a basis for potential penalties Google may give to partners. Your Predicted and Overall Price Accuracy Score can range from Failed to Excellent.
For hotels or travel companies to sign up for these free listings, you can do so over here.
Forum discussion at Twitter.