Here’s a quick stat for you. We all love a stat don't we? Since 2004, search volume for Pay Per Click (PPC) dropped by 88%, whereas AdWords has grown by 36%. Google has also greatly expanded their education practices, giving more companies the tools to compete. Simple fact is, people are becoming savvier when it comes to digital marketing.
That’s the tricky thing about trends and doing new things. Eventually everyone jumps on them.
As travel marketers (particularly regarding PPC), it’s something we’re all too familiar with. However it’s important to remember the fundamentals of how to stand out: we simply do what others are not doing.
“Incept” your customers at home
Before your customer even has a destination in mind, or even before they have begun to think of a travel budget, you should work towards getting your brand firmly lodged in their mind-set. You’ve seen Inception, right? That’s the approach we’re taking. We want to steer our customers towards our brand, before they’ve committed to the idea of travel.
We want to do this because once a customer decides on one part of their holiday, suddenly all of that feverish converting happens in a very short time, with online purchase decisions falling like dominoes. Not only that, but search is likely to be very competitive (and costly) during this stage of the funnel. By getting your brand established early, you’re increasing the chances that a customer will recall you right as that first domino drops, choosing to come directly to you, circumventing non-brand search entirely.
Capture interest in your brand early by providing some killer content that inspires and entertains, delivering by any combination of display, video, social networks and (veering slightly outside of PPC) native advertising.
Follow up and capitalise
Having committed all that work to have your brand recalled, I’d recommend that you go about measuring it and capitalising on it.
For a simple strategy that gets results, set up an RLSA campaign, targeting audience lists with a long membership duration (don’t be afraid to go up to a year and beyond). Next, create two ad groups: one that focuses on brand, and one that focuses on non-brand. Make sure to add brand keywords as negatives to the non-brand ad group, and vice versa. We want clean results, after all.
By comparing the volume of those brand searches with year-on-year reports, you will begin to get a basic idea of how strong your users brand recall is after working to strengthen it.
Even if you’re not attempting our method of travel ‘inception’, its continually important to have a suite of audiences at the ready for re-marketing, particularly in the travel industry where customers might travel annually, or multiple times a year, so make sure these are set up.
Give keywords their own place
Appealing to top-of-funnel users is excellent, but that’s not to say your in-market strategy can’t be sharpened.
Virtually every one of our travel clients has a focus on in-market PPC, and we’ve found a lot of success with this simple optimisation method:
Take your ten best performing keywords, and reward them for their good work with their very own ad group. This way you can tailor ad copy to appeal directly to each keyword, and experiment with different landing pages and different styles of messaging to squeeze out even more conversions. You can of course do the same with all keywords in your account (and I recommend doing so), but your best performers deserve the most immediate attention.
The reward for doing this is a higher quality score, a lower CPA and (through further testing) an increase in revenue.
Put the work in
The reason there are so many opportunities to stand out with PPC in the travel sector, is simply because a lot of companies do not, or cannot. Whether it be a lack of knowledge, or capable resources, sometimes capitalising on these opportunities just isn’t prioritised enough.
I’m not admonishing here. I get it. Virtually my entire week is dedicated to carrying out tasks like this for our clients, and it is both time consuming and difficult. But the truth is that putting the work into research, experiments and actions is how the race is won, and its how travel brands stand out in the world of PPC. But here’s the bright side: if others are not grabbing those opportunities, now’s your chance.
See our first tricks of the travel marketing trade blog here.
Josh Whiten is digital marketing director at Sagittarius.