When searching for a flight or a hotel room, users may begin their queries at any one of four major stages. Here is a look at those entry points and how marketers should respond.
How does a user search for a hotel room or a flight and then eventually decide to make a booking?
Previously, we revealed that a typical online travel/hotel booking engine website is in fact very much a vertical search engine for travel/hotel booking information. But a vertical search engine is only one of the stages where a user performs an online search.
There are four major stages in which a user can search for travel or hotel information.
Search engines are where most people start a search. Across many different countries, people usually search using Google. But in specific countries such as China, people mainly use Baidu to perform searches.
For example, if a user searches for hotels in a specific destination on Baidu, Baidu would return a list of search results, which may usually include:
A travel comparison website is a travel information aggregator, and a hotel comparison website is an aggregator on hotel information. The hotel information, such as prices, room types, etc., is gathered and updated from multiple hotel booking engine websites.
The one main objective for a user to search on a hotel comparison website is to find out which hotel booking engine website provides the lowest price on a specific hotel of a destination. Then, the user will be redirected to the hotel detail page of that specific hotel booking engine website, and complete the hotel booking.
A typical online travel/hotel booking engine website provides travel/hotel information to the end users. The hotel information was most likely gathered from some centralized hotel information aggregation systems and/or directly from some hotel chains.
Users who are loyal to the specific travel booking engine website would normally skip stages one and two and start hotel/travel-related searches directly on the specific travel booking engine website.
Hotel chain and/or hotel brand websites are the official websites that are built and owned by the specific hotel chains and/or hotel brands.
Users who are loyal to the hotel chains/brands would normally skip stages one, two, and three and start hotel searches directly on the official website of the hotel chain/brand.
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Gordon Choi has paid search experience in Google AdWords and Baidu since 2003; Yahoo/Bing since 2002 and SEO and web analytics experience since 2005 across China, Asia, U.S., U.K. and Australian markets. He gathered China Internet experience through working in-house at Ctrip.com and Alibaba.com and now specializes in setting up SEM/SEO strategies, managing online campaign operations, and implementing web analytics solutions for clients.
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