Google's experiments with integrating more of its search advertising experience within Google Maps continued March 22 with the revelation that the company is now serving up prices for some hotel listings.
When the small portion of users for whom this feature is currently available search for hotels on Google Maps, they'll be able to enter the dates they plan to stay and see current prices for some hotel listings.
Those searchers who see prices can click on them and will see Google advertisers, such as Expedia or Priceline.com, that have provided pricing info for hotels. Travel-minded folks can click through to reserve a room on the advertiser's site:
"By showing you this relevant hotel rate information directly in the Google Maps results panel we hope to make this aspect of your trip planning more speedy and efficient -- so you can get where you're going and enjoy your travel destination!"
Sure, but it's also one of the many ways Google finds itself vying with Microsoft Bing. Though a distant third in search, Bing is heavily targeting vertical markets Microsoft expects to make millions of dollars from.
So when you do a search on Bing for "hotels New York" per the Google example above, you don't get prices right off the bat from sponsors, but you do get a "Book it" button that takes users to the advertiser, such as Orbitz, Priceline or Expedia, to book a room:
So you see where this is going, and so soon on the heels of Google's experiment in Australia of putting local business ads directly on Google Maps results.
Both Google Maps and Bing Maps are narrowing the gap between search and ads and the e-commerce transactions the search and ads are intended to facilitate.
I've no doubt Google was working on integrating hotel information into Google Maps before Bing launched its e-commerce-driven Travel section.
Google and Bing are clearly in an arms race to help consumers not only find what they want, but act on it directly from within their respective search engines.