By Daniel Edward Craig

When I saw Nate Bucholz, Google’s UK Travel Industry Manager, present at the HSMAI Europe conference in London last month, I knew that hoteliers would benefit from hearing what he had to say. So I asked him for an interview, and he graciously complied. Here’s a condensed version of our email Q+A session.

He doesn’t get into specifics about Google’s recent moves to list hotel rates and availability in search, but on the topics of trends in video, mobile, and social search he has some sound advice for hoteliers.

Tell us about your role and responsibilities at Google.

I’m currently based in our London office, where I work with some of our larger travel advertisers in the UK and Europe. My job is to provide recommendations for advertising strategy and work with companies to profitably grow their business. I have a great team that I work with to find ways for advertisers to be more efficient and to take advantage of new trends, products and platforms like mobile. I’ve been strictly working with travel companies for my full tenure at Google – just about 4 years now. Prior to this I was based on Google’s Seattle office.

Tell us about recent changes Google has made to make social media content more prominent in search.

Realtime search is about helping people find the relevant information they need, instantly, as soon as it's on the Web. Realtime platforms are an easy way to share content, and at Google we're working to provide the fastest way to find it. We have recently made significant enhancements to Google Realtime Search to date, creating a new permanent home for the service with new powerful tools. Realtime Search now has a dedicated website with new features including geographic refinements and a conversations view. In addition, we’ve added “Updates” to Google Alerts. As always we strive to deliver the most relevant information in search, and our new enhancements help users more easily find, explore and understand the latest real-time content.

We have also made improvements to Social Search, currently available in English on, that will help you get more information from the people that matter to you when you're signed in to your Google Account.

At the HSMAI conference you talked about the importance of video in the travel industry. How can hotels take advantage of the increasing popularity of video in search?

Online video is gaining rapidly as a place of information and inspiration for travelers. There are a lot of ways to take advantage. If you have the content – be it professional, promotional, etc. – make sure it’s available for people to see. It should be a no-brainer at this point to put up the videos on YouTube. I’d recommend having a channel for your hotel, which is free, to house your videos and establish a bit of community. It can be easy to get lost amid all the content on YouTube, so there are a few things you can do to stand out:

- Promote the channel using your own assets (website, promotional material, Facebook page, etc.)
- Use various ads to generate awareness – it’s a fairly simple task to serve promoted video ads when someone searches on YouTube for your brand or your destination.
- For larger marketing efforts, we’ve seen some very good success with companies hosting contests or encouraging fans to upload their own videos. One of my favorites at the moment is the Disney Parks channel.
- One bit of advice – if you have multiple locations, coordinate your efforts rather than haphazardly putting videos up.
- Finally, provide a slow steady stream of content, rather than uploading in one go. You want content to be fresh. If you have subscribers, they’ll be informed when you upload and you can keep the engagement high.

You also said that mobile search increased by 1,200% last year, and long-tail queries are increasing. In your opinion, how can hotels take advantage of this trend?

Travel as a sub-category is especially interesting for mobile. Travelers use their phones while they are on the move. Hotels can improve user experience by making things easy for their customers. If you target mobile phones with your search ads, you might consider different messaging based on geographic location. For example, if someone searches for your location and is nearby they may be looking for last minute accommodation – I’d promote availability, specials or even distressed inventory for any accommodation-type query that included my location (city, area name, etc.).

Click-to-call mobile ads will allow a traveler to call the hotel with one touch, rather than worrying about navigating a web page on the phone and this can be a customer-pleasing way to advertise. Making sure your business’s place page is updated and accurate is another good rule – this applies to both mobile and desktop situations. Adding in more information about your business only takes a moment and there’s no cost.

Recently, Google has been experimenting with featuring hotel rates and availability on Google Maps and Google Places. When do you expect this feature to be rolled out? Where will rates and availability be pulled from?

Transparency of information for users in both travel product offerings and fulfillment options is a core goal for us. We think it’s important to provide a platform for travel service providers – and definitely hotels – to show not only what’s available and what it will cost, but also what might make it different. We think if we allow more ways for product differentiation then users will have a better experience – and the hotel providers that provide great products will benefit as well. What is currently being tested will evolve and roll out to more countries and pages in the coming months. Rates and availability surface via direct connections with OTAs and suppliers.

It sounds like the system will favor hotel chains and online travel agencies. How will independent hotels compete?

We are still at quite an early stage in our efforts to improve this whole experience. Our development plans are evolving and we look forward to engaging with more partners and hotels.

What is Google’s position on online travel agencies bidding on brand keywords? Isn’t this a breach of trademark? What can hotels do to stop this?

In most countries, including the US and Canada, Google allows an advertiser to bid on whichever keyword it chooses. We believe that more relevant information is better than less. Our guiding principle has always been that advertising should benefit users and our aim is to ensure that ads are relevant and useful. We feel our policy upholds this principle and are careful to ensure that it follows the laws of the country in which the ads are served.

Hotels are certainly able to enter into agreements with OTAs or resellers if they so choose. There are cases out there where hotels form agreements with OTAs on which terms they can use or bid on. Barring such an agreement, I’d recommend a hotel shows highly relevant ads to the search query in question and in turn takes the searcher to a landing page that is highly relevant to the ad. The owner of the trademark will generally have the upper hand at being most relevant and this will result in a high quality score, which in turn will lower the cost per click of the search ad.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One thing I see frequently in the travel industry is the advantage of nimble marketing. Small travel companies will often be up and running with the latest platform, ad format, optimization tool, while the big companies are still holding meetings and studying spreadsheets. This first mover advantage brings customers, higher margins and good branding. If you are a large company, remember to be quick to test. If you are a small company – use this to your advantage! We have the saying at Google that it is good to “fail fast and iterate.” A story comes to mind as an analogy. I spent the day skiing with a friend and boasted that I hadn’t fallen all day. His response? “You must not be trying hard enough.”

Daniel Edward Craig is a former general manager turned hotel consultant specializing in social media strategy, storytelling, and reputation management for the lodging industry. Visit or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Twitter: dcraig.