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Travel marketing: 4 tips for PPC marketing

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Ravi Sharma

With Google becoming a one-stop travel planning and booking tool, marketers have to fight harder to get their brands seen by holidaymakers. Paid advertising is one of the few channels that guarantees your message will be seen but fewer ads are being shown for those crucial booking moments.

Here are 4 PPC tips for travel marketers in today’s competitive landscape.

#1: Re-evaluate your paid search opportunities

We’re seeing more Google products in place of travel ads, especially for searches that could result in an online booking. This is bad news for comparison/booking tools but not a great deal has changed for the companies selling flights or hotel rooms themselves.

What used to be a paid opportunity is now an organic one.

With travel SERPs changing so quickly, you need to constantly evaluate where the paid (and organic) opportunities are – otherwise, you’re wasting valuable resources. Automate your keyword research and competitor analysis so you’re always on top of the latest search trends and ready to optimise.

You may find you need to target users at earlier stages of the planning/booking process and nurture leads to the finishing line. Start by creating campaigns for categories like family holidays, backpacking adventures, honeymoons, etc. and then break them down into niche interests.

For example:

  • Best beach honeymoons
  • Best adventure honeymoons
  • Best yoga retreats for honeymooners
  • Child-friendly honeymoons

Also, make sure you’re optimising your campaigns throughout the year for different seasons, holidays, weather patterns and the latest travel trends – anything that affects travel interests.

Adapt your bids, schedule your ads and create new ad groups to make sure your most profitable ads are always being delivered.

Related reading - Using travel micro-moments to increase PPC conversions

#2: Build your Google Ads strategy around remarketing

Remarketing is the most important feature in Google Ads for travel marketers. First of all, you can target organic traffic with these ads, meaning you can turn any organic search into a paid opportunity.

Make sure you factor this into your content marketing strategy.

Then you have remarketing lists, which allow you to place prospects on lists and target them with highly relevant ads as they progress through the sales process. Combine this with events tracking in Google Analytics and you can also assign users to lists based on the actions they take on your website and guide them through the entire sales funnel.

Another powerful remarketing feature is remarketing lists for search ads (RSLA), allowing you to target people on your remarketing lists with search ads. So when people who have already interacted with your brand come to making important decisions, you can make sure your ad is at the top of Google Search results.

If remarketing isn’t at the centre of your Google Ads strategy, it should be.

#3: Spark travel inspiration on Facebook and Instagram

While Google is great for targeting travellers already planning their next holiday, why wait? Almost 2.5 billion people use Facebook on a monthly basis, and they’re bombarded with friends’ holiday pictures every day, making it an ideal platform to spark travel inspiration.

Use visual ads to turn travel jealousy into holiday plans and don’t forget about Instagram – its 1 billion monthly user base might be smaller than Facebook’s but it’s a travel-hungry bunch with 40% saying the “Instagrammability” of a location is a factor when choosing travel destinations.

Facebook and Instagram both have the same extensive targeting options that allow you to deliver ads based on life events (eg: engagements, graduations, etc.), travel content/brands people have already engaged with and combined interests, eg: vegan food, sustainable tourism, NGOs or teaching English overseas.

There’s also an advanced location targeting option that allows you to reach people while they’re travelling in specific areas – perfect for promoting local tours, attractions and experiences.

#4: Get your ads seen on YouTube travel content

According to research from Google, 65% of travellers turn to YouTube content for information before making a booking. Why read a review about scuba diving in Gili Air when you can watch a video and get a sense of what it’s really like to go there?

With TrueView video ads, you only pay when people watch the first 30 seconds of your ad or watch it in full, whichever comes first. This is just about the lowest-risk PPC strategy on what happens to be one of the most popular travel planning tools.

Crucially, you can now target people on YouTube based on their Google Search history, allowing you to deliver ads to people who have already demonstrated an interest in your offer by using custom intent audiences.

James Faulkner, head of PPC at Vertical Leap.

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