Are you a Hotel?

Google Free Booking Links

Publication date: March 2021
Everything you need to know about the new Google Hotel Ads feature

On 9 March, at the ITB in Berlin, Google introduced Free Booking Links, the latest Google Hotel Ads feature, which allows hotels to appear together with the rates from their booking engines in the “Prices” tab on the box dedicated to the structure in Google Travel, even without doing Hotel Ads campaigns. Since these consist of entirely organic results, the clicks obtained thanks to these new links are at no cost to the hotel.

In order to gain better insight into this new and interesting feature, which now allows both the hotels and all the operators (including OTAs and resellers) connected with the Google rate comparator to display their prices, even without advertising on the Google Hotel Ads platform, two clarifications are needed:

  • hotels will still have to contact one of the Google Integration Partners - such as Blastness - to obtain the connectivity necessary to transfer the rates;


  • as of today, the Free Booking Links can only be seen by logging in to the Google Travel website, and they aren’t seen on either the Google My Business Card or on Google Maps.

On the Google Travel website, the results are now divided into “Ads – Featured options” – a section in which only advertisers who do advertising campaigns will continue to appear – and “All options” – a section in which the organic results are shown instead – with an identical architecture to the search engine results pages, where ads are displayed first, followed by the organic results.

Google Free Booking Links 0

Like what happens with the search engine results, the ads on the Google Travel platform are clearly more detailed and customisable than the organic results. In fact, while the latter only display the “Official Site” tag, the cheapest rate, and the Cancellation Policy, the information in the ads can be enriched by inserting callout extensions, showing all the types of rooms and the different rates, and adding specific photos and texts.

Google Free Booking Links 0

Just like in the case of web search results, the order of the ads is determined by a system of bids carried out in real time among all the advertisers, while that of the organic results depends on numerous Google ranking factors (not all of which are disclosed), such as:

  • User preferences and habits
  • User experience value
  • Landing page quality
  • Accuracy in communicating prices to Google (Price Accuracy Policy)

Some practical instances of how the Free Booking Links’ organic visibility is currently limited to the Google Travel website, and does appear on the Google My Business and Google Maps tab, are shown below.

For example, let's imagine that a user searches for your hotel on Google, and that you have activated the Free Booking Links. The rate on your Official Website will not be shown in the comparator on the Google My Business tab unless you also have Google Hotel Ads campaigns activated

Google Free Booking Links 0

For example, let's imagine that a user searches for your hotel on Google, and that you have activated the Free Booking Links. The rate on your Official Website will not be shown in the comparator on the Google My Business tab unless you also have Google Hotel Ads campaigns activated


The Free Booking Links can only be accessed if the user clicks on “View other rates”, thereby accessing the Google Travel platform.

The dynamics are similar on Google Maps. By selecting a specific hotel, the website only shows the rates of Google Hotels Ads advertisers with active campaigns, without the possibility of viewing the Free Booking Links.

How can I activate Free Booking Links for my hotel?

To activate Free Booking Links, your hotel must have a Google My Business profile, and you must have enabled connectivity between your Booking Engine and the Google servers via an Integration Partner, such as Blastness.

If you already do Google Hotel Ads campaigns, you can have your Free Booking Links published by simply asking your Integration Partner to enable them.

If you’re a Blastness customer and have entrusted us with the management of your Pay Per Click campaigns, your structure’s prices are already displayed among the Free Booking Links on Google Travel!

Why does Google make Free Booking Links available to all operators?

This new Google Travel feature is consistent with previous decisions by Big G, which in 2020 already introduced organic results on Google Flight, and later on the Shopping Tab.

The Free Booking Links are therefore part of the massive strategic development plan for the Travel sector, in which Google has invested heavily in recent years. The enrichment of the platform with content, information and, in this specific case, a greater number of available rates to book a hotel, has made Google Travel increasingly authoritative and relevant for users, and has allowed the platform to establish itself as a one-stop-shop for planning a journey.

While on the one hand the Free Booking Links guarantee users a more complete experience thanks to the greater number of rates available, they also create a more competitive environment for hotels and OTAs, which will still have to invest in advertising in order to stand out.

Like what happened with web searches, the increase in organic offers will most likely make competition with paid searches even more aggressive


The Free Booking Links are not a substitute for Google Hotel Ads campaigns

Like in the case of the search results pages, the new organic feature is not in any way comparable to paid listings. For this reason, in addition to relying on the Free Booking Links, the major OTAs are increasingly investing in advertising, even with Google Hotel Ads.

So if you want to make sure that your hotel appears at the appropriate times to generate conversions, and, above all, to compete with the OTAs, you can’t rely exclusively on Free Booking Links.

In order to demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of Google Hotel Ads, it is easy to verify how OTAs (especially Booking.com) hold dominant positions for most hotels on the of Google Travel “Prices” tab thanks to their advertising campaigns. Even today, despite the presence of their Free Booking Links, OTAs continue to exploit the visibility and advantages offered by paid ads.

As already analysed in our previous study, OTAs lost a considerable market share in 2020 by reducing spending on search and metasearch engine advertising campaigns by over 50%. Today, the investments have resumed, and the results are already evident: OTAs are once again dominating the market, to the detriment of the direct sales channel.

As evidence of the above, the trend in terms of the impact of all the OTAs’ production in relation to the total electronic distribution of rooms calculated by date of purchase with respect to a panel of approximately 800 of our Italian structures for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 is shown below.

Google Free Booking Links 0