The travel industry is the third largest spending industry category in AdWords paid search, spending £96 million in the UK during 2014. However, the travel industry also has the lowest conversion rates of 1.45%. This is not only an indication of how competitive the industry is, but also how profitable it can be if your paid search activity is managed correctly and cost efficiently.

This blog post outlines effective ways to set you apart from competitors on travel-related search results pages.

Get the Basics Right First

There are a number of basics that need to be covered in order to help you stand out from competitors on search results pages. These are changes that can be made relatively easily and quickly to give you the edge on your competition:

Ad Copy

Does your ad copy stand out from competitors? The AdWords Ad Preview & Diagnosis Tool can help you identify areas where you can improve your ad copy. It’s worth noting that there are fewer ads displayed for mobile searches, increasing the importance of differentiated ad copy on mobile devices. It’s particularly important to mention location in ad copy when targeting mid-lower funnel customers.

Ad Extensions

Are you making use of Sitelinks, Call Out and Review Extensions, and are these as relevant as possible for searchers? Ad extensions are now a considered as major influencer in ad rank, and while they’re a must have they can also help differentiate your business from competitors. A key strategy behind using ad extensions is increasing space occupied on search pages, pushing any competitors into lower, less desirable positions.
Ad Scheduling and bid adjustments

First of all you need to understand seasonality research the times of year when you make sales. Once these times of year have been identified you can you use adwords ad scheduling features to break down the data further. Do people search holidays on a Sunday? Do people book holidays at 9am on a Monday morning? This data can then be used and ad scheduling can be applied to ensure you are getting your ads out at the right times, when performance is high, and reaching users that are ready to book.

Using bid adjustments you can increase bids during peak periods and decrease bids when activity slows down, this will ensure maximum visibility when users are searching. This will result in improving profitability during poorer times, whilst maximizing peak hours.

So once you’ve got the above basics right, you can move on to further developing your campaigns with long tail keywords and mobile strategies:

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords can greatly increase an advertiser’s relevance, particularly in competitive industries like travel. These are the three or four keyword phrases that feature heavily towards the lower end of the search funnel, when a user is more certain of what they’re looking for and ready to purchase – making them highly profitable.

For example, bidding on the keyword “Safari deals” would likely see you in direct competition with all safari tour operators and online travel agencies selling safari holidays. On the other hand, targeting long tail keywords like “South Africa Safari holidays in March” allows you to tailor your ad copy and landing page to the exact search query, as a result of this you will also be cutting out much of the competition who are bidding on more generic terms. Therefore less competition and more relevant ads for search queries that have a high chance of converting making long tail keywords a powerful search marketing tool.
There is a point where the time needed to manage large volumes of long tail keywords outweighs the value they bring. The Search terms reports are a great place to start for an indication of what long tail keywords should be targeted in your campaigns.

The Importance of Mobile in Travel

In Q4 2014 mobile travel queries grew by 42% and tablet searches grew by 25% whilst desktop queries declined by -1% year on year in the same period. Google’s annual travel research study has identified that 49% of travel users conduct a quick search on their mobile devices during this process, and around half of those who do so, end up ultimately booking online.

Mobile devices play a major role in the end of the purchase cycle, especially in travel. Booking a holiday online is a big step for most consumers, and many prefer to make a phone call to ask questions before completing their booking. Google reports that up to 44% of users who book a holiday online do so by making a call from their mobile phone.

Call extensions are an invaluable tool to take advantage of the need for users to call when planning their holiday or trip. These extensions allow users to call to make an enquiry directly from an ad, instead of having to go through a website first. This also allows for keyword-level bid optimisations based on keywords that are providing considerable value in the purchase funnel by generating calls.

AdWords have recently introduced new call only campaigns, providing a huge opportunity for travel businesses that value phone calls more than website clicks. Call only campaigns specifically only allow mobile users to click to call and therefore do not provide an option of clicking through to a website. For call only campaigns campaigns we would advise customising ad copy to focus on a single action such as ‘speak to a travel specialist today’ or ‘call us today’.

Key Take Outs

The travel and tourism industry is highly competitive, calling for fresh perspectives when approaching PPC marketing. Often in industries where competition is strong and keyword bids are high, businesses either end up holding back from paid search altogether, or burning through budgets ineffectively. As we’ve pointed out in this blog post however, there are various ways to manage with the high levels of competition, and increase profitability. Making sure you have the basics right, utilising long tail keywords and taking advantage of mobile usage and phone calls are just some of the ways to do so.

For further insight on Silverbean’s unique budget optimisation approach to competitive paid search campaigns, for the travel sector and beyond, speak to a member of the team on +44 0191 406 1200, or via email to [email protected]