Planning a holiday can be a long and daunting task that requires in-depth planning and research, making online travel a complex and challenging industry.

In this post, we take a closer look at the travel market and understand the behaviour of holiday planners as they move down the purchase funnel, and how you can relate this to PPC travel campaigns.

Understanding the Funnel

It goes without saying that when planning your PPC campaigns, you need to understand the funnel and how this can indicate the buyer status of your audience.

Top of the Funnel: These customers have just begun the trip-planning process, and are mostly looking for travel inspiration.

Mid Funnel: This is the information-gathering stage, where customers begin building a list of brands. These brands are then first to come to mind and are included in the customers final consideration set just before the booking stage.

Bottom of the Funnel: The last stage of the purchase cycle, where customers know exactly what kind of trip they’re seeking, and are ready to book.

Filling the Funnel

Filling the funnel involves creating awareness for your brand and the product you offer. According to Google’s travel research, 65% of travellers turn to the web first when looking for a holiday.

While display is often left out of PPC plans because of its inability to drive direct conversions, it’s extremely good for brand recognition and to act as a first touch. Google’s Path to Online Purchase study confirms this, showing that a display click is most often the first interaction a user makes before booking in the travel vertical.

Customer Journey2

Google’s Consumer Journey to Online Purchase (based on large businesses in the travel industry in the UK)

By targeting the display network you can generate cost-effective traffic to your travel site and increase the likelihood of being higher up on a user’s mind when they’re ready to book.

Mid Funnel Marketing

The majority of visitors will not book a holiday on their first visit and most users will never come back to visit your site. The majority of customers will visit your site at least twice before booking a holiday. Both remarketing and paid search play an important role in this part of the funnel because of their ability to target users based on user intent or past behaviour.

Remarketing should ideally be tailored depending on what actions a user has completed on your travel website during their first and follow-up visits. For example, if a user has visited the “Family Holidays” page on your site but not viewed any specific family holiday packages, remarketing ads should focus on the different resorts that are suited to family holidays.

Customers’ search activity at this stage of the funnel focuses on informational search terms: locations, deals, packages and holiday themes (family, all inclusive, beach, honeymoon, skiing etc). The use of paid search at this stage of the funnel can become quite expensive, as search terms are generally quite broad and competitive. However, travel marketers quickly realise the value that paid search brings in moving travel-planners from the middle to the bottom of the funnel, if a strategy is in place manage these keywords effectively.

Pre-Booking – Bottom of the Funnel

By this stage of the purchase funnel, customers have often researched and compared many different locations and packages, and have decided exactly what holiday they would like to book. Paid search plays a vital role providing the final step to purchase in the travel industry, as users will generally be searching for a holiday matching their requirements almost exactly.

A Closer Look at the Search Funnel

Google search is an extensively used tool for online holiday planning, and has varying roles at different stages of the broader, purchase funnel. A deeper look at the search funnel is therefore needed in order to most effectively make use of paid search. As a user moves through the purchase funnel, their searches progress, becoming more specific until they’re at the point where they’re ready to make a purchase or booking. Below is an example of what a typical search funnel would look like for a family holiday booking:

Search FunnelMaking use of Google’s Search Funnel data can reveal important information to help you understand how users search for your products before converting. This data can then be used to optimise your campaigns by discovering and organising keywords, adgroups and campaigns.

The data can also be used to help create and implement keyword-level bid strategies depending on a keyword’s position in the search funnel.

Upper Funnel Keywords: These are the generic keywords that drive volume, but not direct conversions. Aiming for ad positions 3 – 4 here will help to improve cost-efficiency while ensuring exposure.

Mid Funnel Keywords: More specific keywords, often with a location included in them. Ad copy should match these keywords as closely as possible and you should aim for ad positions 2 – 3.

Lower Funnel Keywords: Highly specific keywords, often with terms like “book” or “purchase” included in them. Higher bids and higher ad positions are recommended here due to the lower overall volumes and the likelihood of these keywords converting.

Summary

Purchase and search funnels are as dynamic and complex as the online travel market itself, and will inevitably vary even within different travel businesses i.e. luxury vs budget holidays.

While this article provides a brief overview of how the purchase funnel can be used to tailor your marketing efforts, continuous testing and refinement is key to understanding your customer’s intent and will enable you to take advantage of where your customers are in the purchase cycle.

To discover more about Silverbean’s paid media expertise and how we can help you transform your digital presence through effective PPC management, talk to us. You can reach us on 0191 406 1200, or by email to [email protected]