Ever-changing consumer behaviour, rising competition from online travel agencies (OTAs) and updates to the search landscape mean keeping ahead of the competition and reaching your customers within the travel industry can be difficult.

In a recent report on the consumer holiday booking process, 28% and 23% of UK adults used TripAdvisor and Booking.com in the last 12 months respectively, showing the increasing popularity of such OTAs.

Due to the increasing number of options available to the consumer, it has never been more important to find new ways of directing this traffic to your site.

Firstly, it’s worth providing some context around the target audience. To do this, we will delve deeper into the customer journey to get a better understanding of what the user is doing and how they are behaving.

With so many options now available to consumers, it’s easy to conclude that, when looking for holidays, they will pass across multiple touchpoints and many different providers before booking their holiday.

The interesting factor here is how indecisive the user actually is.

Google recently looked at thousands of users’ clickstream data to see how they booked their holiday. They found that the user does not follow a linear path down the marketing funnel.

PPC tips for holiday bookers

The journey is very unpredictable and consisted of them narrowing and broadening their search criteria multiple times.

In the examples given by Google it was also highlighted that each journey had over 100 touchpoints with the user crossing between a variety of different providers.

The main takeaway from this research is the need for visibility at the different stages of the customer journey.

So what areas should you consider within your PPC strategy when trying to remain competitive within the travel industry and be visible throughout the customer journey?

1. Hotel ads

In the pursuit of creating a better user experience, Google is changing the way information is being shown on the results pages, giving a greater focus to hotel ads and hotel prices.

Due to the increased focus on hotel ads, Google is now making it easier to manage these campaigns by migrating them into the Google ads platform.

This change allows you to view performance of hotel campaigns alongside search campaigns in one platform, allowing for easier account management.

Benefits of this migration include more powerful analysis capabilities and richer ad management.

It also allows hotel ads access to new features via Google ads such as more automation via ad scheduling and access to Google ads audience manager.

This change offers a host of opportunities to help improve visibility within the SERP’s and potentially drive growth within your account.

2. Make use of audiences

One of the main features noted within the migration is the ability for hotel ads to access the audience manager within Google ads.

Audiences are a very powerful tool and, if used correctly, can boost campaign performance.

RLSA audiences allow analysis of the performance of users who have already visited a site.

By creating a granular audience strategy, it’s possible to optimise investment by funnelling spend into users who are showing greater intent to book.

Here is an example of an audience strategy that could be implemented:

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Whilst this covers a basic strategy, it is possible to customise audience and time segments for a business. Other ideas include a loyalty program sign up, newsletter sign up or any action you warrant as valuable.

Once RLSA audiences are created similar audiences can be added in to try and attract new users to the site showing similar search behaviour to your audience.

For example, similar audiences can be created based upon a converters list to find new users showing similar search behaviour patterns.

Alongside this you should also be taking full advantage of in-market audiences. Google and Bing both offer a wide variety of in-market audiences around the travel industry from hotel rating to travel destinations.

These are again a good way to optimise your budget by increasing/decreasing spend on users based upon their behaviour and intent to purchase.

Here are the travel in-market audiences offered by Google:

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These are very easy to add into any strategy as Google has already created these audiences based upon user intent.

Once added, it’s important to allow for enough data to be gathered before starting to add in bid modifiers depending on performance.

3. Competitive ad copy

Ad copy is vital is getting prospective users to your site, it needs to stand out from competitors and there are a few ways in which to do this:

a. Add offers into the main ad copy. Price is an important factor when it comes to booking a holiday for many users, and this approach can create a more enticing adverts.

b.Make use of ad customizers such as countdown ads. Using the countdown function within your ad copy can help to create further urgency to book as there is a noticeable time limit.

c.Don’t just stick with the standard expanded text ads. Start testing others formats as they might work for you such as responsive search ads. One we have found that works well in Gallery Ads. These are still in Beta but offer a new image focussed ad copy variant for mobile only. These are a good option as they take up a lot of space on the screen and offer a lot more than just text on a page.

ETA Mobile CTR - 19% Gallery Ads CTR - 26%

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4. Take seasonality into account

The travel industry is very seasonal depending on the offering so this needs to be considered when creating a PPC strategy. There are a couple of areas you should look at when phasing your budget for the year:

a. Review past data to see when search volumes change throughout the year as this can be a good indicator of what is likely to happen again in the coming months.

b. T ake advantage of Google trends as this can give a top-level idea of how overall searches have changed over time and can also highlight search trends. In the example below we can see how search volume generally fall around January and over a five year period it has seen a gradual decline.

c. Take account of any major events happening which can impact how people are searching for your brand, such as sporting events like the Olympics where people are looking for nearby hotels.

Get in touch with our team if you’d like any further advice on tailoring your PPC strategy to stay ahead of the competition.