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Regain control of online distribution by combatting OTA clickbait strategies on metasearch engines

What is clickbait?


Clickbait is online content that aims to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a particular link.


In the world of online distribution, clickbait takes the form of an OTA bid on a metasearch channel. We have classified four types of clickbait tactics:


The first is the case of no inventory or “bait and switch” as it’s also known. Having clicked on the link, the customers will be directed to book a room but find there is no inventory. These OTAs pretend to have inventory in order to redirect customers to alternative hotels.


“Bait and switch” can take another path which is our second type of clickbait. Instead of being told there is no inventory and offered a range of other hotels to choose from, the user is simply sent to the page of a different hotel. This is known as purposeful incorrect mapping when an OTA places a bid on one hotel but then directs the traffic to another.


The third type of clickbait is misleading customers with a lower price. The OTA will display a cheaper rate by not including certain fees and taxes in the shown price. How can they do this? In certain countries, bidders are supposed to give a total rate (including fees and taxes) to the metasearch engines. Some OTAs take advantage of this by showing a lower rate on the MSE then when the guest clicks on the bid, they are told they need to pay taxes or fees on top of the room price.


Lastly, OTAs can mislead customers by advertising one product, such as a room with breakfast included, then, when the customer clicks on the offer, their product will be modified (breakfast is no longer included). The OTA entices a customer with the added extra, stealing the customer from a potential sale through the hotel’s direct channel, when in fact they are tricking customers and in reality have the same offer as the hotel.


These clickbait cases negatively impact hotels’ distribution, hence understanding and addressing these issues have become critical.


A pressing issue in the hospitality industry


In the past few months, we noticed a substantial increase in the number of our customers experiencing challenges in optimizing their distribution effectively due to OTA clickbait marketing strategies. We have well-established strategies for identifying and targeting wholesalers leaking inventory to non-contracted OTAs who then undercut hotels and their contracted partners. But the strategy of making test reservations is irrelevant for this new challenge that our customers are facing.


Customers came to us saying they were seeing an increasing number of clickbait incidents on metasearch engines (MSEs). Customers are enticed to click on OTA ads because of lower rates however, they are misled as these rates are either unbookable or a form of false advertising.


These incidents damage a hotel’s reputation, direct sales, online distribution, relationships with contracted OTAs and ranking on both MSE and OTA results pages. In short, our customers were desperate for a solution to these clickbait and false advertising issues that were entirely out of their control.


Fornova’s Solutions: Metasearch Claim & Evidence Gathering


As a result of these challenging scenarios, Fornova expanded the wholesaler intelligence team and enhanced the platform that our agents operate on.


We are delighted to present the three solutions combatting clickbait ploys on metasearch engines.


1. Evidence Gathering

Fornova creates and documents clickbait occurrences so the hotel can take legal action against the OTAs conducting this marketing ploy. We identify, document and organize these cases correctly which saves hoteliers hours of work. We provide customers with all the necessary evidence to make a legal claim against the offender.


2. Hotel Metasearch Claims

In our second solution, we submit claims against the offenders on behalf of the hotel to the metasearch engines. When making claims we need to first classify the issues. The metasearch engines require classification of the clickbait strategy implemented, for example, was it missing taxes or the wrong hotel, etc. We also submit the offending OTA, the country of origin through which it was identified and attach proof of the issue in the form of screenshots.


3. Consumer Metasearch Claims

Thirdly, we submit claims on behalf of consumers to the metasearch engines. We object to the cases of false advertising from the perspective of frustrated customers. We are delighted to share a case study that details the success of this strategy.


Depending on the type of clickbait, we have three different strategies to approach the metasearch engines. For the most successful results, a combination of both consumer and hotel claims is required. Revenue managers have been losing revenue to these clickbait tactics for too long, it’s time for them to reclaim control of their distribution. These strategies will become ever more vital when demand decreases and OTAs become more aggressive with their promotions and marketing strategies.


If you want to increase your direct revenue and improve your online distribution by combatting these clickbait tactics, sign up for a no-obligation free trial of Fornova Distribution Intelligence today.