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Spring Forward with Search Strategies for Travel Marketers

daveragals082011
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With the holidays in our rearview mirror and U.S. search advertising having enjoyed its best quarter ever, we are quickly approaching the travel industry’s high season. Roughly 40 percent of the industry’s annual impression volume takes place between May and August, leaving only a few months for travel marketers to get their accounts in order.

Historically, April showers bring a sharp rise in impression volume, while (along with flowers) clicks and spend pick up in May. Each remains at high levels through most of the summer, and tails off in August.

While this may be the equivalent of retail’s Q4, the post holiday lull in travel search really ends in March, so the right strategies could start paying dividends now. Here are some areas travel marketers should focus on to prepare.

Geographic Breakouts

One of the most basic and potentially overlooked aspects of travel marketing is determining how well your markets perform geographically. By using reporting to understand these intricacies at a deeper level, we can isolate a market’s individual performance.

Conversion, costs and return can vary by region, state or city. With the right strategy, you can spend to the ideal thresholds in specific markets – until you meet the point of diminishing returns. Implementing this strategy will increase impressions in the stronger performing markets, while reducing your investment in markets with lower margins and returns.

Mobile Campaign Breakout

For marketers engaging with mobile users, it is important to ensure that you're able to distinguish mobile’s performance against other marketing channels. Mobile has proven to be an area of opportunity for travel, as the vertical continues to show double-digit growth in mobile search.

Taking the step of isolating performance by desktop and mobile will allow for greater improvements in optimization, as keyword performance varies drastically by device. Utilizing mobile as its own, unique channel will increase your presence in a competitive, digital travel industry, while preparing you for future growth and gaining customers on the move.

Location Extensions

Marketers can benefit from AdWords Ad Extensions. Location Extensions, which have statistically proven to boost CTR while increasing your real estate at the top of Google’s SERP, is a clear win for travel advertisers.

Whether it's making your brand more visible or literally putting your business on the map, Location Extensions present a variety of new opportunities and every advertiser should take advantage.

Places (and all its Offshoots)

Google Places offers travel marketers something free and highly visible. As Google touts, Maps offers “basic information about a business, from the address and phone number, to how to get there by public transportation, and even the price of a restaurant's average entrée.”

Business owners are able to update their pages, photos and videos at any time, while also providing ways for users to share business info with “print, email or link” options.

Inventory/Yield Optimization

Most travel-related businesses face seasonality and under/over-bookings, which can cause unmanaged search campaigns to drive traffic to offers without actual availability. Actively managing SEM around inventory is a daunting challenge, but can be rewarding with the right approach.

Determining the factors which will help you optimize based on inventory is different for each brand. Options consist of pausing markets at certain conversion rate thresholds, setting daily market spend levels, or incrementally bidding on keywords based on higher inventory or AOV. Whether you choose to address one of these factors or utilize a blend of factors, there are efficiencies to be found when managing by inventory.

Some marketers will choose to focus on conversion rate drops by market and pause those markets as inventory diminishes; however, this can cause some volatility. Marketers may see more stability when they focus on optimization by adjusting daily spend levels based on open inventory, or bidding up keywords with more inventories. Managing by search inventory works best with a mixture of strategies, and will factor in weight or percentage in optimization for inventory levels.

Put Some Spring in Your Step

Although these strategies have proven to impact the travel vertical, not all marketers will benefit from every one of them. To best understand the potential impact for your business, now is the time to start testing. By fertilizing your search garden with time and resources now you will be rewarded with beautiful spring flowers of qualified leads and sales.


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