Today, PPC advertising is the best way for travel marketers to reach and convert new target audiences. With revenue opportunities only continuing to grow, digital travel sales are expected to exceed 800 billion dollars in 2020, according to Statista data. Investing smartly in effective travel and tourism PPC tactics can help an array of businesses earn their share of digital travel revenue this year and beyond. This ultimate guide explores the strategies with the most opportunity for growth.
Most travel and tourism PPC tactics revolve around promoting hotel rooms and travel bookings. However, there are lots of other opportunities to earn revenue from PPC in the travel niche. Tourists today spend $129 billion on travel-related activities. That’s a huge share for travel companies to tap into.
Expectations and preferences surrounding travel have changed a lot in recent decades. 67% of high-income travelers would rather spend money on activities and experiences than an expensive hotel room. Travel marketers can take advantage of this trend by promoting tours and activities with their PPC ads:
Travel companies that don’t traditionally focus on offering experiences can also adapt to this new trend by creating new services. That’s exactly what Airbnb did by launching AirBnB Experiences last year (which they now promote heavily through PPC ads).
The travel space has become massively competitive over the past decade. When budgets are limited, it’s a challenge to outpace PPC competition and reach audiences at critical points. In order to stay competitive, travel and tourism companies need to focus their spending on keywords that drive more conversions.
All sorts of relevant keyword phrases can be targeted to engage audiences at different points across the customer journey. Some have higher conversion value than others. For example, a travel company with destinations in Spain could target long-tail keywords like “best time to visit madrid” or “things to do in barcelona.” These are informational queries that show users are just researching. They’re not necessarily ready to purchase a ticket, tour, or hotel room.
Instead, it’s better to allocate more budget to target keywords that show users have high purchase intent, such as “buy tickets to barcelona” or “book costa del sol tour.” These queries suggest that users have done their research and are ready to buy.
There are also lots of opportunities to reach people as they’re about to convert by targeting location-based queries. According to Google, nearly half of experience bookings happen after travelers arrive at their destination:
Your previous campaign performance can tell you a lot about what demographics are likely to convert on your ads, as well as when, and where. Use this information to create new targeted ads and landing pages to improve campaign performance.
There are numerous pre-defined reports in Google Ads that can give you insights into the performance of different dimensions. For example, you can look at impressions and clicks by geographic location:
You may discover the people searching from a specific geographic region are more likely to click and convert on ads promoting a local tour. You can take advantage of this by increasing bids for audiences in that location. If there’s a major performance opportunity in a dedicated place, you could also create unique ads and landing pages tailored specifically to them. Creating more relevant content for your ads and keywords can also improve your Quality Score and Ad Rank.
Geo-targeting isn’t the only option to optimize your bids and targeting. You can adjust bids for different times of day or days of the week that tend to perform better as well.
Mobile optimization is important for any PPC campaign. However, it’s a particularly important travel and tourism PPC tactic. Consider these statistics:
As mentioned above, people also use their mobile devices to book experiences while traveling. Simply put, people use mobile devices when conducting searches related to travel more so than in other industries.
To invest more in mobile, marketers need to prioritize optimizing their pages for mobile and then consider bidding more on mobile to get visibility. Search results have less real estate on mobile devices. In order to ensure people see your mobile ads on tiny screens and click on them, you need to target positions 1 and 2 in search results.
To monitor your ad rank performance on mobile versus desktop, go to the Devices page, click Columns>Modify Columns. Then add Impr. (Top)% and Impr. (Abs. Top)% to your reports:
This will show you if you’re bidding enough on mobile devices to achieve an ad position that will get you visibility.
Travel and tourism PPC tactics should include personalization as much as possible. Personalizing your content can increase clicks and conversions considerably. People have also begun to expect it as part of a good user experience. According to a Travolution survey, 81% of respondents say delivering personalized experiences is very important to them. Best-in-class travel companies deliver this throughout the customer journey using accurate ad targeting and dynamic web content.
As an example, if you search “cheap london hotels” on Google, the headline of every ad listed speaks to that specific pain point (affordability).
And, when you click on one of these ads, the resulting landing page is also personalized to this need. Hotels.com, for instance, shows offers for discounted hotels and special pricing options. They also adapt their landing page copy based on the location of the searcher:
Inherently, travel is about having new experiences in unique places. Few people are interested in trying new things without strong recommendations from others. When people look for travel information online, they rely on reviews and ratings from others to make decisions. According to Tourism Research Australia, people say review websites are the number one source that influences global travel decisions, ahead of travel agencies and tour operator sites.
Google has made a lot of effort to include reviews right in search results. If someone searches for your brand by name, they’ll see reviews along with your information from Google My Business:
Reviews also show when your business appears along with other listings in local pack search results:
And even if people find your business through search results, they’re likely to turn to other review platforms (like TripAdvisor) to learn more before making a purchase decision. Reputation management, then, must be a priority across relevant platforms.
User experience optimization is one of the most important travel and tourism PPC tactics. You can invest a lot in creating your ads and optimizing ad targeting, but if your booking experience is difficult, you’ll get few conversions. People have many options for booking travel online. If your booking experience is confusing, they’ll simply go back and find an alternative option.
The first aspects to consider when looking to enhance user experiences are mobile-friendliness and site speed. Both of these are important Ad Rank factors for Google PPC. The next thing you need to consider is site navigation. Is it easy for visitors to find the content they’re looking for on your site, regardless of what page they landed on?
Lastly, you need to optimize the booking process itself:
Even small changes such as consolidating your booking fields or reorganizing a page can improve conversion rates. Whenever you make changes, flag the days in Google Analytics so you can understand their impact on performance.
Your PPC ads should largely be focused on driving conversions. Your advertising strategy as a whole, though, should also include techniques to build brand awareness. Keeping your brand name at the top of people’s minds is more important in the travel industry than in others. In a survey conducted by SEMRush, it was found that 52% of travel site traffic is direct, followed by search at 32.2%.
So, even if your ads don’t drive conversions directly, they can build brand awareness, encouraging your audience to revisit your site when they’re ready to convert.
One way to prioritize building brand awareness is by supplementing your search ads with Google display or Facebook Ads. You can use them to remarket to audiences that clicked on your PPC ads but didn’t convert, or target similar audiences to broaden your reach across platforms.
An impressive 79% of travel marketers already use Facebook Ads. The platform has an ad type specifically designed for the travel business, so you can get more bookings, show complimentary offers, and build your brand image on the web.
Once you start building a strong image for your travel brand online, it makes sense to start bidding on branded keywords. Users who are familiar with your business are much more likely to search for it directly. Even if your pages are ranking well in organic search results for branded terms, it’s worthwhile to double down with PPC ads. Research has shown that clickthrough rates are higher when a brand appears in both organic and paid search results.
As your online authority grows, competitors are also likely to bid on your branded keywords to get more visibility. As a result, bidding on branded terms is also necessary to beat out the competition, getting the clicks and traffic you deserve.
Seasonality data should inform how you set up your campaigns and optimize them to maximize the value of the travel season. Your previous Adwords performance data can show you which times of the year bring a higher search volume for different locations and experiences you promote. Create separate campaigns for the different destinations you’re targeting so you can easily start and pause campaigns throughout the year. This makes it easier to distribute your advertising budget to the locations that matter most.
You can also rely on seasonality trends to inform what kind of bid adjustments you should make. Even if you create separate campaigns for different destinations, there will still be micro-fluctuations within the busy season that you can take advantage of. The best way to do this accurately is with automated bidding strategies. For example, Google’s Smart Campaigns consider seasonality factors when automating bidding decisions.
Investing in targeted travel and tourism PPC tactics is essential to stay ahead of the competition today. The industry continues to grow year after year, as do the opportunities to target and reach travel audiences through PPC.
Start by systematically investing in each of the strategies in this ultimate guide. Monitor performance to see which are the most valuable at helping you reach your revenue goals.