At the Direct Booking Summit we hosted in New York this September, Brad Brewer of Brewer Digital Marketing posed a question to the room.
"How many of you are employing Schema.org markup on your websites?"
Of the two hundred or so hoteliers in attendance, perhaps three or four raised their hands. The remainder looked on in good-natured bemusement. Schema.org was clearly not common parlance among this crowd.
"Over 50% of the web is now using Schema.org," Brad told us. "The hotel industry needs to pick this up - fast."
So, what's the big deal? Schema is a specific vocabulary of tags - or microdata - that you can add to your HTML to enrich the way your page is represented in search engine results. It was originally dreamt up back in 2011 by the teams from Google, Yahoo! and Bing. It's basically a way to mark up website content with metadata about itself, which can then be recognised by search engine spiders. Ever wonder why Booking.com's hotel listings have such a rich appearance in search engine results? They're using Schema.org, that's why.
Keeping Google happy
With Google keen to keep bookers within their 'travel ecosystem' for as long as possible, hoteliers need to be thinking about getting as much information as possible in front of potential guests while they're still on the results page. According to Brewer Digital Marketing, the hotel brand websites they work with experience a 40-60% lift in click-through rate from search engine results just by displaying star rating data with Schema.
Booking.com's search engine results are enriched with star ratings, reviews and even room rate data.
"Users aren't leaving Google until much later in the buying cycle than they did before," Brad Brewer told us. "Google are powering unique experiences for every searcher."
With Schema, you can tell Google (and other search engines) about everything from 'food festivals' to a nearby 'volcano'. You know Google Trips? Its 'Things to Do' section is populated by events and location data that has been structured on websites using Schema. So, if you regularly host events at your hotel, so may well want to consider serving up that information to Google so it can feed it into Trips. Ever wonder how Google manages to transform your emails into calendar events and search results? That's right, it can read and interpret those emails that have been marked up with Schema.
So, how do you make sure your hotel becomes part of those 'unique experiences' on Google? And how do you take advantage of the highly-qualified search traffic that the search behemoth can increasingly provide? Well, the answer may not be as complex as it seems.
Structure your data
Schema can be used to 'mark up' a whole bunch of different things - from hotel rooms to landmarks to recipes. By 'marking up', we basically mean using a piece of code to tell search engine 'spiders' (the little bots that scrape your website for information to display in Google results) more about your product. Structuring your data helps search engines to categorise and index your content. Search engines like it when you do this, because it means they have a better chance of providing users with the most appropriate results for their query.
A full list of items that you can mark up with Schema can be found here. Conveniently, Schema.org have dedicated a full page to explaining how to correctly mark up all the features of a hotel website. We highly recommend taking a look - they've even gone and provided the code templates you need to display locations, photos, star ratings and pricing data within organic search results.
Here's a very basic example of marking up a single hotel room for $99/night:
For the non-code-savvy hotelier, this stuff can look intimidating at best. There are plenty of helping hands out there, however, to help you take advantage of the opportunities Schema.org provides. A good place to start is Google's own Structured Data Markup guides. Merkle have also built a pretty nifty Schema Markup Generator which helps you quickly build the code you need.
We all know that Google are making a concerted effort to 'own' as much of the traveller journey as possible. Travel is their growth area, and Skift estimates that their travel business is worth even more than Priceline. Their aim is to provide rich, tailored experiences that work seamlessly over a range of different touchpoints. Schema.org helps to surface your information wherever a traveller might be looking for it, whether that be voice search, email, or traditional search engine results.
We're all concerned about direct room rates being buried by the noise and heft of advertising by Booking.com, Expedia et al. Pulling these rates through to search engine results is a way to capture qualified traffic before it gets lost to an OTA.
This article was inspired by a presentation given at the Direct Booking Summit by Brad Brewer of Brewer Digital Marketing. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the Summit or pre-register for next year's event!