As we pass 700 listings in the Google VR beta, I wanted to take a second to provide a very important update. This may sting a bit, but please read this thoroughly to understand the issue.
At this time, we are only allowing users with a Hosted Site (ie. the website engine managed by OwnerRez) to enter the Google VR beta. Yesterday, we reached out to the users who were already in the beta and were not using a Hosted Site, informed them of this decision, and removed their listings from the integration.
This is nothing something we want to do, but it has to be done to keep the integration in place.
Google measures what they call "Price Accuracy" for all the listings in a particular integration. We have access to a dashboard showing us the Price Accuracy of all users and listings from OwnerRez. Price Accuracy is a measurement of how many OwnerRez listings are showing the correct price on Google. Basically, Google wants to ensure that when a guest clicks through to the landing page (i.e. the user's actual website) to complete the booking, the price they see at the end is the same as what was advertised on Google back at the beginning. They also check for availability and branding to ensure the property looks the same and is still available if it is shown as available on Google.
Price Accuracy is a pivotal part of the integration. The integrating partner (OwnerRez) must maintain a high score or risk being delisted, and that means the entire integration, not just one or two specific listings.
The Price Accuracy score for OwnerRez is very low right now, even though we've been working with many individual users and listings for months to analyze and fix problem after problem. We have dropped into a range where our integration (the entire integration for all users) is at risk of being turned off completely. We don't believe it will come to that, but we have to take drastic actions to make large changes and then work towards bringing back new features after the pricing issues are first corrected.
So why is our Price Accuracy score so low? What's the problem?
As we do with all of our features, we built the Google VR integration with a lot of flexibility in mind. We designed the integration to highlight our user's brand and website - we wanted to give each of you the flexibility to showcase your own website so that it's a direct booking experience when the guest comes to your website from Google.
Our competitors don't do this. Our competitors use a single landing page for all traffic (like bookings.mypmssoftware.com), and force all guests to go through that same experience to book. This is what Google prefers and how their system is used to validate Price Accuracy. It's more of a hotel model where they assume all listings are the same. If you search on Google VR for vacation rentals that are listed by some of our competitors, you will see what I mean. Most of them go to a central booking landing page, not the PM's website. This allows Price Accuracy to be uniform and consistent across all listings.
Because our OwnerRez team built our integration to use each user's personal website, widget, or custom landing page, it means that Google has to check Price Accuracy in different ways for each and every user. This has created several problems:
1) Google's verification system is not designed to do this correctly. We have talked to Google exhaustively about many parsing/verification issues that are not actually correct. What they have deemed incorrect on one user's website may not be the same on another. In many cases, it comes down to presentation - do they believe that "this widget to book on" is the same as the listing that was on Google VR at the beginning?
2) In many cases, our OwnerRez users are using widgets or custom website landing pages in ways that do not correctly show the same rates or availability as what Google is looking for. When Google verifies the landing page, they don't see the same prices, so they drop the Price Accuracy score for that listing.
3) Google does not verify everyone, only a random handful of users day by day. As I mentioned above, Google's verification system assumes that all listings within an integration are the same booking experience. If 10 or 15 verifications fail overnight, they drop the score based on those failures and don't verify the other 500 listings. The next night, they may verify 10 or 15 others.
Solutions and steps forward...
It is imperative that we fix the Price Accuracy problem as quickly as possible. We have noticed that most problems come from those using widgets on other websites or custom landing pages because we cannot guarantee that those widgets and custom landing page experiences will show the correct pricing and availability when Google verifies that page. The users using our Hosted Website tend to be the most accurate as our hosted website booking and property pages use the same structure and forms. While they may be styled differently, the underlying property and booking pages are the same user by user, so our Hosted Website landing pages tend to verify at a much higher rate.
Our current roadmap is this:
1) As of this moment, only Hosted Website users will be allowed to participate in the Google VR integration. We have already removed those without a hosted site and are taking steps to put out a quick update so that new beta users don't see widget/custom landing page options.
2) Work with Google to monitor Price Accuracy scoring and restore our integration scores to excellent.
3) Develop a default landing page that all users can use (no matter your website situation) that uses an OwnerRez-provided guest form, which will accept Google VR traffic and ask the guest if they want to book after showing a standard landing page with charges. This will become the new default landing page option when turning on Google VR. All of the current beta users that were kicked out will be immediately added back using this landing page option.
4) Work to establish our own international verifications and vetting process to allow widget and custom landing page experiences. As with all OwnerRez features, we are deeply committed to promoting your brand and website experience, so we will work to get back to this option as time allows. It will be difficult and take time because of how Google verifies things, but it will remain on the roadmap as a goal for Google VR. However, in the meantime, using the default landing page (bullet 3 above) will make it so that all users can get their listings into Google VR without waiting for this.
I understand this will surprise some of you and create frustration. Please understand that this decision is about creating long-term stability in the Google VR integration and opening it up to as many as possible as soon as possible. This integration is unlike any other we've worked on over the years, but we are committed to making it a success.
For what it's worth, my properties are on Google Vacation Rentals search through a VRBO affiliate/aggregator (blue pilllow) and before that through a Trip Advisor affiliate (Holiday Lets).
Thanks for the info Ryan. How does that integration work? Would you mind sharing? Is it pretty simple?
Looks at first glance bluepillow is a channel manager like OR. Are you using both?
How is your take up with Google Vacation rentals, is it worth the aggravation of getting listed?
Colin and Arrive & Thrive,
Before today, I've never heard of Blue Pillow. When I clicked on my listing on Google Maps and went to the link that was on Google Maps (which was blue pillow) it took me to their site where I saw the listing below. The highlighting is mine, showing that they're pulling from VRBO. When I click the listing for details, it sends me to VRBO and my listing there. That's not the correct main photo and the pricing is off too, so their feed pull leaves a LOT to be desired. I can't get the list your home page to load to see what their deal is, but I rather prefer they link to VRBO anyways so things can be managed there, even if the data isn't 100% accurate and the photo sucks. Although maybe this would be an easier integration for OR to tackle if they can consistently get on Google.
HolidayLettings.co.uk was much the same as they are a sub-brand of Trip Advisor (like how HotPads and Trulia are sub-brands of Zillow). I pulled my listings from Trip Advisor this week (since they didn't offer integration), so that's probably why this one is popping up now.
True, nothing is as good as a direct connection and not having to pay fees to VRBO or another OTA. Knowing them they'll want every scrap of info they can get on your business and all your guests... regardless of if they booked with them or not. That's the typical MO for data brokers like Google and Amazon. "If you're not the customer, you're the product." ... but I digress.
Pretty awesome actually. Our properties are on there as well. Blue Pillow has found a killer loophole somehow with what I assume is a kickback from each booking that they send to VRBO via Google Vacation Rentals. Our photos on Blue Pillow are the absolute worst as well. Probably choose images from the bottom of the pile on purpose, so as not to trigger issues.
Either way…. It’s a nice workaround for now. Would obviously prefer it come straight to our OR site, but I’ll take it for now!
Thanks for the tip
My pleasure Haydar.
Agreed Arrive and Thriv, a good workaround for now until we can get something more direct in place.
Good tip. Still very frustrating that OR is not working harder towards this integration.
According to the new pricing post, this is officially in the works for 2023 and contracts signed!
"Channels, channels, channels. Work on channels never stops - every week we are updating some part of a channel integration. In 2023, we have laid plans to integrate with both Hopper and Google Vacation Rentals, both of whom we have met with and signed agreements with. Hopper should be finished first, as it is currently in the process of kicking off, and we anticipate that landing early in the Q1 of 2023. Google will be after that, but we are looking forward to that as well. Airbnb as mentioned above will be getting transactions and payouts very soon, and we are planning to sync content for Booking.com as well. In the background, we have half a dozen smaller first-class channels working on integration as well. These are channels like ECBYO, Whimstay and others."
Thanks for making this happen OR!
We are now working with Google Vacation Rentals to integrate with them. If you are interested in potentially joining our beta test group, please upvote this if you haven't already.
This is good news! We’re happy to be in a Beta group with any/all of our properties.
Great! Would love to be in beta group.
this is awesome, I would love to sign up for this please send me info to do so.
So glad to hear! Would love to be in the beta.
Great news. Would love to beta it
We would love to participate in the beta rollout as well. Thank you!
Yes, would love to be included in Beta test
Great news! I would love to get information to join and be part of the beta group.
We'd love to be in the Beta Group. We have five properties on OwnerRez - and I work in tech so I can speak your language if we run into issues that need debugging. :)
I think I upvoted but would like to be in any group to get this feature going.