Booking holidays online has become the norm, with many prospective clients in the tourism industry using Google throughout all the stages of their booking process, including the most minute detail like finding a taxi once they arrive at the destination. Last month, the technology giant launched its own consumer trends table for the first time. Darren Kyle, search marketing manager at Equimedia, has advice for agents looking to understand the search engine’s tools in the following article published by ttgmedia.com.
Search, more so than any other tool, plays a pivotal role when it comes to travel bookings. Travellers use Google at almost every stage of travel planning, from destination selection to booking a local taxi. It stands to reason then that Google pays special attention to the travel industry and just last month launched its own travel dashboard, sharing consumer search trends publicly for the first time.
But how can travel agents make the most of the tools made available by Google (some specifically available for the travel industry only), as well as other factors such as seasonality and unplanned world events, to enhance their position on Google and ensure they are standing out from their competitors?
One of the most interesting things about this industry is that it is fantastic for showcasing all possible pay-per-click extensions (when a search engine allows businesses to buy their listings in search results). These range from sitelinks that are perfect for highlighting destinations to price extensions that can be used to promote special offers.
The keyword planner that Google offers will suggest bids for a range of generic holiday search terms, which indicates a highly competitive market. But it’s worth noting, these estimates can be conservative at best, so you should expect actual cost-per-clicks to be higher in reality, especially around the key booking periods of the year.
This makes it imperative to ensure that pay-per-click accounts are well optimised and bids managed on a regular and seasonal basis to ensure efficiency. It also makes “niche” spotting or exploiting your unique selling points imperative; long-tail expansions (low-volume, obscure, infrequently searched-for keywords) are vital to make campaigns commercially viable.
Search Engine Results Pages
The travel industry is unique when it comes to pay-per-click because there are ad formats available in this vertical that aren’t open to other markets. One that has rolled out to most countries now is the “3 pack” ad, which will suggest three different channels to book a room when a potential customer is searching for a hotel on Google. The “Book a Room” ads are shown below the main hotel information; clicks on these ads direct you to the advertiser’s landing page. Previously these ads were shown in the knowledge card on the right of Google, however after various tests (and probably falling revenue) Google has decided to move these into the heart of the page.
The “3 pack” is only showing on hotel results at the moment. These ads are powered by the Hotel Ads API; they need to be feed-based and work dynamically in order to serve accurate availability and pricing.
Marketers need to be on top of the seasonal trends that are particular to their brand to ensure they drive maximum volume during the periods of highest interest. Forecasting against trends and seasonality for your brand and allocating budgets to capitalise on surges in interest or changes in the weather are an important consideration when working to maximise cost efficiency and return on investment. Seasonal copy is also imperative within the travel industry. In a highly competitive market it is crucial to stand out and the cheapest way to do this is with quirky and seasonal copy.
Agility is crucial when it comes to preventing wastage and protecting brand reputation. Global events have the ability to scupper the travel industry in an instant. Natural disasters, airplane crashes, terrorism threats and health crises all have a dramatic effect on searches and bookings. For example, searches around “Turkey” in July would have been driven more by the coup rather than people looking for holidays. In this instance it would have been crucial to remove Turkey-based copy and ads promoting holiday deals to the country or at the very least to have added negative terms such as “coup” or “uprising”.