PPC for the Travel Industry

As a keen traveller, the majority of my own leisure travelling is booked online, from start to finish. This includes researching where to go, what to do when I get there and booking tours, flights & accommodation.

In fact, the only exception to this has been a tour around Sri Lanka that was booked in store with a travel agent. Even so, the entire research process took place online, across multiple devices, over many months. And I’m not the only one.

Google reported in 2013 that 70% of the ‘affluent travellers’ they had surveyed began their holiday & travel plans online. I suspect the figure has only increased since this survey took place, which goes to highlight the importance of digital and where it can fit in within a user’s research, prior to booking their travel or holiday.

Of course, the travel market is extremely competitive and as one of Google’s biggest revenue drivers, your budgets will need to represent this, as will your strategy:

  • Understand who your audience are and what information they’re looking for
  • What are the best times of day to target these users?
  • Seasonality plays a huge role in the travel sector, make sure you’re planning ahead

You will also need to establish what it is you can offer; what is your USP? Why does this differentiate you from your competition and how can you convey this to potential customers, to generate sales and revenue?

Let’s take a more detailed look at some of the things you will need to consider whilst constructing a travel PPC strategy:

Audience

Understanding your audience is essential for engaging with users effectively.

Serving them relevant and compelling ad copy will encourage clicks and help drive the right users to your site. Ensuring you’re targeting the right audience with the right ads will reduce wasted clicks and improve your conversion rate.

A useful way of defining an audience is to create a Buyer Persona – let’s look at the ‘Student Traveller’ as an example. Often these users are searching for trips with a ‘quantity-over-quality’ approach, looking to visit as many countries as they can for as little money possible.

customer-persona

In the case of purchasing flights, generally they are searching for those that will get them from A to B and allow for as much remaining money to enhance their time in these countries, with experiences. If this is your target audience, you will want to cater to this within your copy, outlining offers and using an appropriate tone of voice, to encourage click-through rate.  Also remember in the ‘budget’ market you’ll be competing with travel aggregators and comparison sites!

The landing pages to which you send traffic also need to serve the audience that you’re targeting effectively. Taking the example of the ‘Student Traveller’ again; as with ad copy, the tone of the page needs to appeal and provide them with the services you offer and show how they suit the user, then guide them through the conversion process as simply as possible.

This of course can be applied to all areas of the travel sector, from inexpensive flights to high-end, boutique hotels, the important point being that the tone (and even the specific wording) used in your ads should be consistent with the landing page.

Seasonality

Travel PPC Seasonality

Before you begin targeting the travel demographic with PPC, determining the periods that work best for you will help ensure that you use your budget when users are most willing to engage, therefore encouraging conversions and reducing the cost of each lead (cost per acquisition).

For terms such as ‘summer holidays’ there is a predictable increase in searches in the lead up to the summer period, however, determining seasonality trends within more niche areas of the travel sector is not that simple.

Many users will begin their search much earlier than this and in the case of terms such as ‘holiday ideas’, some even as early as October the year before.

In addition to this, destination specific holiday searches also tend to take place most frequently during January, although the peaks in volume are not as significant as the much broader search terms mentioned above, so you really need to take it on a case by case basis.

Interestingly, some terms have multiple peaks throughout the year, with searches for ‘Spain holiday’ generating increased search volume during January as expected, followed by a dramatic decrease in searches, only to see a gradual increase in the lead up to the summer months.

As a result of this, it’s extremely important to consider what users are looking for and when they start to search for it, whilst devising your PPC strategy to generate the right traffic at the right time.

Awareness & User Behaviour

People often turn to Google for speculative, informational searches. Looking for places to visit, for example, and this should be considered as part of your keyword strategy.

Although users may be less likely to convert at this stage of the buying cycle, it’s another touch-point through which you can contribute to brand awareness.  In fact studies show that up to 95% of visits are from users who are “just browsing”.

Therefore it’s important to target users at every stage of their buying cycle and determine their value at each of these stages. For example, when a user starts their journey, they may be looking at broader terms, such as ‘Holiday in Iceland’, with little-to-no intention of making a purchase (converting) that day.

Targeting these location-specific terms with lower value bids (offers increased visibility for your brand while not bidding so heavily that you commit all of your budget) can be a good way of generating visits from users who are taking their time to consider all of the options.

We consider this the ‘awareness’ stage of the buying cycle; this approach is an opportunity to introduce yourself to a user without exhausting budget.

Of course, the competition in this stage is also very stiff, so it may also be worth ensuring that you have longer-tail keywords that are less competitive to ensure that you gain visibility from keyword with lower search volume, as well.

Users will generally then go through the ‘consideration’ part of their journey, having now completed their initial research, you will need to be visible for more specific keywords. Taking the Iceland example mentioned above, using terms more related to specific elements of a holiday, or offers, such as ‘cheap hotels in Iceland’ can encourage additional visits and again reinforces your brand as relevant, even when showing in lower positions.

Targeting users through re-targeting is also a very useful strategy at this point to drive users who have not converted previously back to your site through display banners.

Ultimately, we all want conversions and following the two stages briefly mentioned above, users will often convert on a branded term. The visibility and traffic gained at each of these stages will help put you in a position to gain additional visits through branded terms that you otherwise may not have generated.

These users have already shown some degree of intent and have completed the consideration part of their journey and have now come directly to you. This is your opportunity to finally ‘wow’ them and get them to convert.

Competition

Travel PPC competition

Another thing to bear in mind is your competitors. Who are they and what are they doing that makes them different? This needs to be taken into consideration when determining your approach to PPC and the tone of voice you wish to use.

With the rise of sites such as Airbnb, users are also rapidly moving to peer-to-peer alternatives to hotels, so differentiating yourself from these may be an essential part of your strategy. Alternatively, you may want to go head-to-head with these types of sites and this will require you to look at these competitors and (again) see what they’re doing to set yourself apart from them to allow yourself the opportunity to compete within the results page.

Do you run offers at key periods in your year? Take advantage of these and use them within your PPC ad copy. Use these in your copy to get the user’s attention.

Final Thoughts

We hope that there is plenty for you to consider above and take with you for your own PPC strategy, however, if you feel like you need some additional guidance, please feel free to get in touch. We can help you get started, or if you’re already running PPC campaigns, we’re happy to help make sure you’re taking full advantage of the opportunities available and develop new strategies to maximise their return.

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