Does Google’s “Zero Click Search” Mark the End of Hotel Paid Search Marketing? — Hospitality Net World Panel

The Search Engine Journal just reported that 50.33% of searches on Google end up with no clickthroughs to websites because Google provides all the answers a user would need on the first results page itself. Google has become the “Librarian of the Universe” and has amassed more information than all libraries on planet Earth combined. Google has a singular objective: to provide answers — ultra-fast, relevant and straight to the point — to any question a human may have and, of course, make money in the process. With the advance of mobile and voice assistants, these answers happen more and more in the form of “Zero Click Searches” where the answer is provided right at the top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and the user simply has no need to click and read further. With less than 5% of searches on Google resulting in clicks on paid search listings (Google Ads), does this mean the end of hotel paid search marketing?

This viewpoint was created by

Max Starkov, Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant

Simone Puorto
Founder | CEO | Futurist

Since mid-2017, I started experiencing a slight, but steady, decrease in Google Ads performances (both in terms of ROAS and CTR) for pretty much all of my clients. Back then, I had two rational explanations for the phenomenon: GHA cannibalizing GA results, or Google users favoring GMB listings (over paid ads) as their first entry touchpoint. After 12 months of careful monitoring, I found out the latter to be true. According to my analysis, in 2019, averagely 1/2 of the traffic and 1/2 of the revenue generated on my clients’ official websites originated from their GMB listings.

Now, the behavior shift towards universal search is nothing new but -especially following the recent Google algorithm updates- this became way more evident in 2019. The bottom line is that, when I presented 2020 advertising budget proposals to my clients, I’ve cut around 20% of GA investments (and it’s the first time, in my career, that I do that). With Google becoming the “Librarian of the Universe,” moreover, not only GA performances, but the very notion of official website will be in danger of extinction. I’ve been stressing this for the last five years and, eventually, data seem to back me up: a future where GMB and a (decent) booking engine will be all your guests need to book, does not seem so far fetched. My suggestion? Reduce GA investments, do not overfocus on fancy, expensive websites, and make sure your GMB listings are up-to-date because, to paraphrase the mighty Buggles, “Universal Search Killed the Google Ads Stars.”

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