The EU Digital Markets Act (DMA) was designed to level the playing field in the digital sector by setting clear criteria to pinpoint "gatekeepers" such as Google. 

But, Google's response to this new regulation has introduced some substantial search changes, significantly impacting traffic and search visibility – especially for hotels and travel sites. 

In this blog, we’ll go over what the DMA is, why it’s important, how it’s changing search, and how to measure the impact of the changes on your site. 

Table of Contents:


What Is The EU Digital Markets Act​?

As previously stated, the EU Digital Markets Act was created to make the markets in the digital sector fairer and more contestable by establishing criteria to identify “gatekeepers” like Google.

Essentially, it lays down clear rules for big platforms to stop them from imposing unfair conditions on businesses and consumers.​

The question is, why does it matter?


Google’s Response to the Digital Markets Act

The DMA does something very important for anybody in search: it imposes a no-preferencing rule on gatekeepers.

In the case of Google specifically, this essentially means that Google’s own vertical search services – such as Google Shopping and Hotels – cannot be preferred over other vendors.

Now, this is a little too late to help the companies that Google already destroyed with their search monopoly (i.e. the shopping comparison engines that were destroyed by Google Shopping). 

BUT it's not too late for OTAs and aggregators in the travel space. 


New “Comparison Sites” SERP Feature​

To comply with the EU Digital Markets Act on Search, Google is adjusting European search results to give more prominence to “comparison sites.” 


A blog published by Google on the subject of their DMA preparations states:

We will introduce dedicated units that include a group of links to comparison sites from across the web, and query shortcuts at the top of the search page to help people refine their search, including by focusing results just on comparison sites. For categories like hotels, we will also start testing a dedicated space for comparison sites and direct suppliers to show more detailed individual results including images, star ratings and more.

As a result of these changes, certain SERP features such as the Google Flights unit will be removed.

Google only started rolling the Comparison Sites search feature out in Germany, France, and some other countries in the beginning of March. As of yet, we're still not seeing a widespread presence of this new feature. 


Changes to the Google Hotel Pack​

The Google Hotel Pack provides extremely high visibility – 93% of the time, it ranks in the Top 3 rank positions. 

This enables hotels to leapfrog OTA’s in search visibility​ without competing with traditional web rankings​. As a result, most travel and hotel sites likely track the bookings, clicks, and calls that come through this Google pack.

But this is now being outranked by the new Comparison Sites SERP feature. So where you would usually search for “hotel sur Paris” and see this hotel pack, you now get this big block that shows up at the top.

Every time a new SERP feature or result shows up above another, the clicks of the result that was demoted get cannibalized by between 5 to 10%. 

But this is not just a standard web result. It's nearly 500 pixels tall which is about half the scroll deck of a standard page. 

As a result, the impact is much bigger than what we typically anticipate for a normal SERP feature.

In addition to more generic terms like the one in the previous example, this feature also shows up and impacts brand searches. 


Potential Impact on Traffic of the Comparison Sites SERP Feature​

OTA’s​ are expecting to see a bump up in traffic. This is because when the Hotel Pack originally came out, OTAs saw a decline in their traffic since hotels were able to leapfrog them in the results and show up in the top position through the Local Pack.

But now, OTAs are able to jump over the Hotel Pack and show up above hotels in the new carousel. 

As such, Local Pack traffic for hotel chains will likely be impacted negatively. That being said, the exact impact is still unclear since the potential for new traffic is possible if hotels can get included in the new SERP “Comparison Sites” feature. 


What Sites Are Seeing / Not Seeing an Impact 

Many SEOs are confused as to why they’re not seeing the impact of the Comparison Sites SERP feature as significantly as they had expected, while others are noticing a huge impact on their site’s traffic.

Ultimately, the stronger your original visibility for web results and the stronger your presence is in the local pack, the larger the impact you're going to see.

If you start with a very high visibility, you're going to see more than the 5 to 10% decrease in clicks that we normally expect. So it’s not unusual to expect somebody who's ranking in position one in local every single time to see a ~40% decline.

But if you're always in positions 2 and 3, the Hotel Pack has an intent that this new carousel does not meet.

For example, it’s not really useful for someone looking for a hotel specifically in Berlin. 



The Hotel Pack allows you to see the map, see hotels, click through, and filter. That is still a better user experience in this case than clicking on one of the carousel results, going over to another site, and repeating all those steps.

So the impact of this carousel on your clicks will ultimately depend on your initial ranking and how much visibility you’re losing to this new SERP feature.


Preparing for the SERP Changes​

The new structured data carousels that Google recently introduced can help you win additional visibility for the position you're in.

These are new rich results that people can scroll horizontally to see more entities from a given site (also known as a host carousel). ​

Each tile in the carousel may have information from your site about the price, rating, and images for entities (hotels) on the page.​

Our free plugin, Schema Builder, can help you easily generate the schema for this which you can then implement through Google Tag Manager or you deploy through ClarityAutomate. No dev resources needed!


How to Measure the Impact of the Comparison Sites SERP Feature

So now that we understand the impact, how do we actually measure what's going on?

Back in March, we introduced the ability to track this particular SERP feature uniquely, which we labeled the “Comparison Site SERP Feature.”

This allows you to see the prevalence of the Comparison Sites SERP feature for all your tracked keywords across different countries.

Screenshot 4-22-2024 at 10.26

You can also compare the organic presence of your site vs Google Hotels vs Comparison Sites.

Comparison Site SERP Feature

Another option is to track rankings for your top keywords against Google's Comparison SERP feature and the original Hotels Pack.

Screenshot 4-22-2024 at 10.08 (1)

Plus, you can keep an eye on how your top competitors’ search visibility has been impacted by the new SERP feature.

Screenshot 4-22-2024 at 10.08


The Google “Industry Domination” Playbook​

We've discovered that Google has a very simple playbook that it follows when it comes to dominating industries. 

This “industry domination” playbook includes the following steps:

  1. Identify high-volume terms: Google leverages its dominant position in search to determine what people search for in high volumes on a regular basis (i.e. the weather).
  2. Identify data sources​: Instead of sending people away from their website for those high-volume terms, Google identifies data sources (via public sources, partnerships, acquisitions​) which they then use to create a new “search” feature.
  3. Drive adoption of the new feature​: Free inclusion in “beta” feature to reach a critical mass of data​ (i.e. when the hotel pack first came out, all hotels were invited to join in for free).
  4. Drive visibility​: As a “SERP feature” initially​. Dedicated property follows quickly​.
  5. Cross Promote​: Leverage strengths in other Google products like Maps and Gmail to drive deeper engagement​.
  6. Monetize​: Google monetizes by introducing Ads/Paid Placement within the property or as an alternative​. Ultimately, Google runs on ads and that's the only way for them to make money.


Here’s a chronological list of the industries that have been impacted:

  • Shopping Engines​
  • Public data Aggregators​
    • Weather​
    • Flight tracking​
  • Tools​
    • Calculators (Simple, Mortgage, Conversions)​
  • News Aggregators​
    • Sports Facts​
    • Sports Scores​
  • Online Travel Agencies​
    • Hotels​
    • Flights​
  • Online Directories​
    • Vacation Rentals​

And continuing…​ 



There is still a lot to learn about how the EU Digital Markets Act​ and Google’s response to it will impact search over time. 

As such, monitoring these changes and their effects on your site’s traffic and search visibility is essential.

To learn more about how seoClarity can assist you in tracking these developments and optimizing your strategies, schedule a demo today!

Schedule a Demo