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Time to hit the refresh button on your paid search strategy

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With over 51% of holiday plans originating from online searches globally, it comes as no surprise that paid search should be such a popular advertising avenue for travel marketers.

Although travel spending among Europeans is not expected to return to pre-pandemic strength until at least 2024,as many as 7 out of 10 frequent travellers worldwide are expected to spend more on travel in 2022 than in the past five years.2 In fact, the travel industry is already responding to growing demand with a resurgence in advertising spending, amid the global vaccine rollout and progressive lifting of travel bans and restrictions.

With over 51% of holiday plans originating from online searches globally,it comes as no surprise that paid search should be such a popular advertising avenue for travel marketers. While hugely popular, paid search advertising strategies are often not being deployed to their full potential – with nearly half of businesses (42.3%) having no system in place to track the efficiency of their campaign.4 At a time of post-pandemic budgets constraints, it is vital that travel businesses make a conscious effort to work out how much of their paid search advertising budget is delivering a return and how much is going to waste.

To better understand and illustrate the issue, Go Inspire took the initiative to conduct a series of control tests with its customers. The study was conducted between 2018 and 2020, covering over 500,000 consumers from GI’s client base, and the results were then proportionally applied across different industries. The results showed that UK travel businesses could stand to save £57.6 million of their paid search budget. The question is how can this be put into practice?

1. Create a panoramic view
Having a 360-degree view of your customer – linking both online and offline activity - is the first step on the path to a successful paid search advertising campaign. Travel marketers should have an understanding of typical customer behaviour and triggers by segment. Without this analytic background research, it can be hard to pinpoint at which stage of the customer journey paid search is most effective – if at all. Many tools are available to help uncover these behavioural patterns and build a holistic view of customers, but not all marketers use them or know how to use them.

2. Monitor the traffic
Part of the problem with most PPC campaigns is that they treat all customers exactly the same way - as if they were a net new customer. A lot of traffic for online travel content will come from organic searches, 5 so companies may be wasting chunks of their budget by bidding their name to searchers who were already looking for them. Understanding the customer’s intent, and where your traffic is coming from, is therefore essential, so that paid search advertising can be directed specifically at lapsed customers or those looking for a competitor.

Similarly, phantoms – those customers who land upon a page by error and never come back – are more likely to be unresponsive to marketing messages, leading click-through rates and quality scores to drop. However, it may be helpful to identify phantoms that have previously engaged with your brand and jump on the opportunity to entice them back.

3. Keep a weather eye open
Customers’ travel behaviours have undergone significant changes since the start of the pandemic – and will undoubtedly continue to do so. Marketers therefore need to continually revisit their strategies and flexibly adapt to any changes, in order to optimise campaigns and gain the best possible return from their investment.

Read Go Inspire’s report, ‘Which bit’s not working? An estimate of current wastage rates on paid
search advertising’, here.

 

1 Euler Hermes, Tourism: Europe will be at the frontline of the recovery, but only in 2024: 5th March 2021: https://www.eulerhermes.com/en_global/news-insights/economic-insights/Tourism-Europe-will-be-at-the-frontline-of-the-recovery-but-only-in-2024.htmlhttps://www.alistdaily.com/media/covid19-impact-on-travel-ad-spending/
2 Global Newswire, Travel Spike Projected as Consumers Plan to Spend Big and Extend Stays , 12 th May 2021: https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2021/05/12/2228165/0/en/Travel-Spike-Projected-as-Consumers-Plan-to-Spend-Big-and-Extend-Stays.html
3 Statista, Sources of vacation inspiration preferred by travelers worldwide as of July 2020, July 2020: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1239121/main-sources-of-vacation-inspiration-worldwide/
4 Disruptive Advertising, Why Google Ads Accounts Succeed and Fail, March 2020:
https://disruptiveadvertising.com/adwords/2000-adwords-audits/
5 Common Ground, Comprehensive Guide to SEO in the Travel Industry:
https://www.commonground.digital/seo/comprehensive-guide-to-seo-in-the-travel-industry/

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