Referral Experience Policy

The referral experience refers to the user’s experience after seeing a price on a Google site and then clicking through to a partner’s landing page and eventually the booking page. Google requires that you maintain a consistent and discernible presentation of the room/rate the user selected on Google’s site, and a reasonable booking flow in order to ensure a positive user referral experience.

We evaluate the referral experience on the following criteria for sites where a booking takes place. Failure to comply with any of the following may cause a price to be marked as inaccurate.

  1. The room and rate the user clicked on from Google must be displayed prominently to the user on your landing page. See the “Prominent display of selected room and rate” section below for details and examples. 
  2. A user should land on a page where it’s straightforward to navigate to book the selected room and rate. Please see our “Landing and booking flow policy” for more detail.
  3. Information displayed from landing on your site through booking should be consistent, clear, and comprehensive. Please see the “Information policy for the landing and booking pages” for details on what is required through the flow.

Typically the rate users see on Hotel Ads should be the lowest rate you offer on your site for that hotel, date pair, occupancy, and point of sale. This will help you garner the most user interest and best represent your site on Hotel Ads. Though we consider it beneficial to users and partners if the rate on Hotel Ads is lowest available, you may send another valid rate in the rare instances you are unable to send the lowest rate.

We realize the experience for meta-search partners is somewhat different than for partners where the booking occurs on the partner’s site. Please see the section below to understand the expected experience for Metasearch partners.

The expected referral experience for Meta partners

Some partners may surface prices from other booking providers (e.g. Metasearch type functionality). Those partners are still responsible for maintaining accurate prices and a clear path to booking the rate found on Google. For those partners who aggregate rates from providers and send users off-site to book (e.g. meta-search partner), the following criteria must be met to avoid being penalized.

  1. The room and rate the user clicked on from Google must be displayed prominently to the user when they land on your page. Even if prices are loaded after a user lands on your site, the option they clicked on Google should remain clearly in view (e.g. not hidden behind a “View More” tab). See the “Prominent display of selected room and rate” section below for details and examples. 
  2. A user should land on a page where it’s straightforward to navigate to book the selected room and rate. If the booking happens on your site, you must follow the “Landing and booking flow policy”. If the booking happens on a partner site, the policy must be followed through booking on their site.
  3. Information displayed from landing on your site through booking should be consistent, clear, and comprehensive. Please see the “Information policy for the landing and booking pages” for details on what is required through the flow.

​Prominent display of selected room and rate

The room and rate the user clicked on Google should be easy to identify when the user lands on your site. As such, it must be prominently displayed on the landing page. We define “prominent” differently depending on the type of page the user lands on:

  • For landing pages that are a room selection or booking page, the room and rate must be visible and easy for a user to locate. Options that require excessive scrolling to see are not considered easy to locate.
  • For landing pages that require a user to select a hotel or provider, the rate the user selected from Google’s site should be distinguished in placement and/or treatment from other rates, to make it clear and obvious to a user.

We realize partner sites are designed differently, so to help, below are some examples of what is likely to be considered prominent placement:

  • A rate that is larger than others and in the highest position on the page.
  • A primary selection button for a rate that is in the highest position on the page.
  • A rate that is near the top of the page and has a visual indication (e.g. has highlight or text) that identifies it as the preferred option.
  • A rate that is pinned to the right or left side of a page, distinct from other rates on the page.

If you have questions about whether the “prominent” display on your site passes our criteria, please feel free to reach out to your Google rep. Below are some visual examples to guide you. Please note that these are only examples and may not be compliant implementations for all partner sites.

Examples

Price shown on Google is most prominent (Pass)

Price shown on Google is clearly identified (Pass)

Multiple rates: Price shown on Google is clearly identified (Pass)

Multiple prominent rates with no identifier (Fail)

Rate is neither prominent nor identified (Fail)

Google periodically checks landing pages for compliance with this policy. A check may result in a fail if: the price is among multiple prices with no clear differentiator, requires scrolling to find, requires an additional click to see, etc.

Landing to booking flow policy

Your landing page must feature the same room type, check-in date, check-out date, occupancy count, language, and base rate associated with the link that the user selected on Google. The landing page is encouraged to be the booking page. In the cases where it isn’t, the landing page must:

  • Allow the user to proceed to booking a hotel without unnecessary clicks that don’t take the user closer to booking, or re-entering the selected hotel or dates at any point in the flow.
  • Clearly show the name of the hotel.
  • Indicate the next step for the user to take to proceed to booking.

When the user clicks through to the booking page (or if the landing page is also the booking page), the page must:

  • Comply with our Taxes and Fees Policy.
  • Show the hotel name, dates and occupancy for the stay.
  • The rate from the referring click (e.g. rate user clicked from landing page, or rate user selected on Google) must be easily findable by a user or correspond to the rate associated with the primary booking button (if there is a primary booking button).

Unavailability of the rate type clicked by the user through the booking flow is considered an accuracy violation.

Information policy for the landing and booking pages

Rates that are offered on your landing page must be identical in inclusions and conditions (e.g. refundability, wi-fi, points, etc.) to rates that are offered to users who begin a search from your booking site directly.

The landing page must:

  • Show the name of the hotel.
  • Feature the same room type, check-in date, check-out date, occupancy count, language, and base rate that the user selected on Google.

The booking page must:

  • Show the name of the hotel.
  • Feature the same room type, check-in date, check-out date, occupancy count, language, and base rate that the user selected on Google.
  • Include all mandatory taxes fees in addition to the appropriate base rate

What is the policy on interstitial pages appearing before the landing page?

Google considers the landing page to be where users actually end up after passing through any redirects resulting from a click on a referring link on a Google site. This stable page will be at the end of any redirects and will not change without manual user interaction.

Interstitial pages are web pages that appear before the landing page and automatically redirect to the landing page after some time. Displaying interstitial pages between Google sites and your landing pages is discouraged. However, if you must show an interstitial, the interstitial must be branded as the Hotel Ads partner brand that matches the referral link.

What happens if I violate this policy?

Google will consider any prices that are at the end of a policy-violating referral experience to be inaccurate. Any enforcement regarding low price accuracy numbers will then apply as normal. See the Price Accuracy Policy page for more detail on actions Google may take in response to low price accuracy.

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