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Starting March 9, 2021, Google began a new feature called “Free Booking Links.” Here, we have consolidated a handful of support articles and information directly from Google for you to learn more about the feature and how to take advantage of it. All sources are linked at the bottom if you would like to read more directly from Google. Although Google has chosen to call them “Free Booking Links” they aren’t exactly free and do not replace Google Hotel Ads. We hope to clarify any confusion in this article. Most of the information below has been provided by Google and modified slightly for ThinkReservations users.
About hotel free booking links
With free booking links, your booking site can appear across Google when users search for hotels. You can connect with more travelers and drive more bookings at no cost to Google.
Free booking links display your site name or hotel name along with the room rate for the itinerary selected, allowing you to show the best rate to travelers through the Google Hotel Ads integration. When users click on your link, they’ll be taken directly to the ThinkReservations online booking engine.
How to get started
If you’re already participating in Hotel Ads, you’re automatically eligible to show free booking links. Any property with Google Hotels enabled, a bid in a hotel campaign, and participating feed will be eligible. There’s no cost for clicks on free booking links, and a minimum bid is only used as a signal for eligibility. Bids also have no impact on the ranking of free booking links. Your hotel ads will continue using the set bid price.
If you are not currently participating in Google Hotel Ads, you can begin by following the steps in our Google Hotel Ads support article.
Free Booking Links vs. Google Hotel Ads
Free booking links may resemble hotel ads, but Google stresses they’re not ads. Google says they are ranked using a variety of signals to determine which links are best to show users. No one can buy a better placement for free booking links, while advertisers can bid to be ranked higher in the hotel ads section. Google clearly marks ads with the "Ads" badge in the hotel booking module.
Start with free booking links to drive more bookings at no charge, and you can choose to participate in Google Ads at any time and gain more control over where you show.
1. How are free booking links different from existing hotel ads?
Google’s free booking links display similar information to their paid booking links, but the main difference is simple: hotel ads are paid links, ranked according to Google’s ad auction, whereas free booking links are unpaid links, ranked according to their utility to users. Google may show free booking links alongside hotel ads within the existing booking module.
2. Why are my paid ads showing below free listings?
Google continually evaluates how best to enhance the user and partner experience within Google’s travel products, including how users interact with both paid and organic content. This includes testing placement variations of the free booking links relative to the paid booking links.
3. Can a partner appear in both paid and free booking links for a single impression?
Yes. Because ranking of free booking links is completely separate from ad ranking, duplication is possible. This is just as with text ads and search results.
4. Can I make my Free Booking Link show up higher in the list, or more often?
No. Your free booking link may or may not show up consistently or at all, and it may be buried further below where it can only be seen when a guest clicks view more options. This behavior is not the same for Google Hotel Ads where you ad placement is based on bids (and other factors).
5. Can I use free booking links without paying for a Google Hotel Ads subscription?
No. This is why we mentioned that the term “free booking links” is a bit misleading. There is no additional cost for free booking links but you must have a Google Hotel Ads campaign set up with a Google Hotel Ads provider in order to have the free booking links appear.
Since ThinkReservations is a Google Hotel Ads provider, if you would like to appear in Google search results with a free booking link, you can enable Google Hotel Ads with a maximum Cost-per-Click of $0.01 and a Daily Spend of $0.01. You will be charged the ThinkReservations monthly subscription fee for Google Hotel Ads integration, but no ad spend will be replenished each month. As mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee from Google that you will appear in the free listings 100% of the time.
Google’s original articles can be found on these Google support websites: