SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google’s Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google's Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

The key to success in digital marketing = Happiness

I posted a version of this article originally on my Blog in 2011.  I am excited to share that the LinkedIn Pulse Publishing platform is certainly worth the investment of time and commitment to good content.  I am thrilled and humbled by the feedback I have received from this article both on LinkedIn and Twitter.  I look forward to ongoing contributions.  The response is inspiring!

 

LinkedInPulse_AliciaWhalen_SocialSellingWorks

 

 

This is a fast paced digital world we live in and we as marketers are always looking for new ways to get customers to buy.

Why is this relevant now in the age of an exploding digital media landscape where consumers are living online and across multiple devices like never before?

 

Perhaps we need bring marketing and advertising back to basics and take a queue from our favourite MadMen Ad exec. Don Draper says: 

“ Advertising is based on one thing:  Happiness. “

 

Bring digital marketing back to the basics.  There is content coming at us fast and furious – whether in search engines, on social networks and news portals.  We are witnessing a digital media convergence where more and more media is available online across multiple platforms, and to add to that we are accessing digital content across multiple devices. How do we really make consumers happy now?  Is it still as simple as delivering on a promise and providing a product or service that makes your customers Happy?

I think so!  Now, how do we engage with consumers who are changing their online user behavior as quickly as Facebook changes its profile layouts?  We are marketers are constantly second-guessing where we are allocating our marketing dollars, seemingly because of the following fears:

 

FEAR of missing the next big thing.

RESOURCES – both financial and human.

CONFUSION about what tactics to focus on as the online world shifts again – and again – and again.

 

My advice? Bring it Back to Basics:

  1. Know Your Customer (this will make them Happy)
  • Check your website analytics for top referral traffic and keywords used to find your website, then continue to build on the content that is attracting and engaging your customers to ultimately buy from you.
  • Use a social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social or free tools like Google Alerts, Facebook insights, Twitter analytics or others to “listen” to your customers and understand how to make them Happy.
  • Allocate time and resources to understand changes in how your target audiences are researching and transacting online.  Read and educate yourself about digital marketing tactics that work to make customers happy.  I know a few things that work.  Price transparency and the delivery of a brand promise.  Pretty back to basics right?
  • Most importantly, if you’re taking the time to ‘listen’ to your customer’s online– be sure you act on that information. Simply monitoring the conversation without adjusting your strategy, or communicating with your brand ambassadors will not help you understand how your consumer wants to receive your messages now and in the future.
  1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Understand Your Objectives
  • What are your objectives in your digital marketing campaigns?  Are you looking to increase sales? To build a new audience? Launch a new brand? Increase brand engagement?  It will make both you and your customer happy if your advertising is delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right consumer.  Win win win = Happy!
  • With all of the new tactics available to marketers today, it is more important than ever to set specific and measurable objectives for campaigns. This makes me nostalgic for the Mad Men days really.  This whole marketing thing has become a little bit mind numbing.
  1. Stick With What Works.
  • If you have already developed an active Twitter following and you’re seeing ROI (in sales and or website traffic etc) keep going!
  • Continue to build on what works to make your customers happy. Build a team of Tweeters to help in building and engaging your audience further or in providing CRM – think about what would take a successful campaign to the next level.
  • If Google AdWords campaigns worked well last year to drive targeted traffic during need times, or to sell specific packages or products – build on it and do it again with a new twist, or put some dollars towards other search channels such as the Yahoo/ BING network that might provide a smaller reach but more conversions.  Don’t be afraid to test new channels.  Consumers are spending a great deal of time online, therefore advertising budgets need to adjust.
  1. Search is still king.  Your customers are Happy when they find what they are looking for.
  • Focus on making sure you have a strong web presence across all online channels that help to guide your consumers to transact.
  • Ensure you have taken care of the basics like search engine optimization, good creative and content, Google Places optimization, a good mobile version of your website etc. and then you can focus on other channels to build your traffic.
  1. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.
  • Make sure you integrate your campaigns online and offline.
  • Your brand’s digital footprint should have a consistent tone, creative brand message, and should always drive your target consumers to transact. This is key and is sure to make them Happy.  Ensure that all your brand web assets are navigating customers to act.
  1. Test + Measure and then Adjust.  This makes stakeholders Happy.
  • Measure performance in analytics and benchmark against past campaigns to continue to improve advertising efficiency. Make sure you have defined KPI’s in place such as increases in unique website visitors, increases in time on site and of course –  sales.
  • Did you launch a new Blog that has increased traffic to the website by 20%? How do you grow it from here or how do you encourage more transactions on the website as a result of the Blog traffic? Test, measure and adjust.
  • Have your efforts on LinkedIn increased leads to your sales department?
  • What can you do to ensure you grow these successful marketing channels?
  • Do the tactics outlined in your Marketing Plan work to build on what you have already started?

Keep it simple – stick to the digital marketing tactics that will help you achieve your objectives and don’t worry about all the noise.

It can get overwhelming to look at all that is available to us today. If you execute marketing programs efficiently, with the proper focus on measurement of ROI, which is very do-able in the age of digital media, you may have the confidence and extra resources to be able to adjust and try new things.  This will make you a Happy marketer!

To take a lesson from Mad Man, Don Draper – Budget + target demographic + medium = time for a scotch.  

Just make them Happy!

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media. She is the co-founder of www.acoupleofchicks.com and the digital marketing conference for tourism www.onlinerevealed.com  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.  Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at www.ideahatching.com 

 

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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