Expedia has announced they’re pulling out of Google’s vacation rental product starting in the middle part of 2021. Skift has highlighted the key notes from Expedia’s investor call on February 11th, 2021.
This is a somewhat surprising move considering a few key points about how the vacation rental metasearch works on Google.
According to a quote from VRM Intel, representatives from Expedia said, “Google VR was not particularly significant, and we concluded that it was not additive, which is why we made the move that we made.”
Why is that? How does Google create such a large SERP feature that isn’t worth listing in?
Vrbo Is Opting-Out Of A Free Click Traffic Source
To be clear: Vrbo’s opt-out of Google’s vacation rental search product isn’t a cost-saving measurement. Clicks from Google’s metasearch results are currently free, similar in some way to organic search results. Vrbo is one of just a handful of websites that is currently listed in those results, however channel managers like Rentals United are also able to show properties there too.
Vrbo doesn’t appear to be changing their strategy to run paid ads across Google search. Today I reviewed highly-searched markets in the US like San Diego, Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach and Orlando and found Vrbo ads running on all of those queries.
According to Semrush, Vrbo’s monthly ad budget in Google likely exceeds $20m according to data from February of 2021. A shift in pausing or stopping their search ads would yield a significant cost savings, but come at the expense high value bottom of the funnel guests looking for vacation rentals in Vrbo’s core markets.
Is This Part Of A Larger Test?
Vrbo has spent the last year or so focused on driving more awareness for their brand and their own branded search as Airbnb has done so well — this may be part of a larger strategy to see how much they can remove Google from their traffic and still keep booking demand high.
Time will tell if the vacation rental surge is benefitting Vrbo and they’re just riding the wave or if Vrbo has actually made inroads with travelers looking to find vacation rentals.
Will Vacation Rental Managers See Less Traffic?
Vacation rental managers shouldn’t expect this adjustment to change their traffic in the coming months: assuming Vrbo was willing to remove a free traffic source indicates that it wasn’t driving a lot of bookings. The vacation rental search module on the SERP is still showing, with inventory from Tripadvisor, Turnkey Vacation Rentals, Vacasa, Sonder and many others present.