Travel Agencies Aggressively Targeting Hotel Brand Name Keywords in PPC [Study]

Bidding on a competitor’s keyword is a pretty standard practice in the paid search world. But BrandVerity conducted a study to see just how many online travel agencies were potentially stealing attention away from a hotel brand’s name in the SERPs.

What the study found was that travel agencies had a significant and consistent presence in the PPC ad results when performing a search for a hotel’s brand name.

One example of this in action is the PPC results showing for a search on “Miami Best Western”:

paid-search-results-for-best-western-miami

These types of results were commonplace in BrandVerity’s research. In fact, on Bing, nearly one in every nine SERPs had an online travel agency (referred to as an “OTA” in the study) in the No. 1 position in the paid search results for a hotel brand name search. 

On Google and Google mobile search, OTAs held the No. 1 position approximately 12 percent and 17 percent of the time, respectively.  

ota-occurence-for-hotel-name-keyword

Many OTAs used the hotel brand name explicitly in their ad copy. On Bing, approximately 88 percent of OTA ads included the brand’s name. In AOL, about 68 percent used the brand name in the text. This occurred on Google 61 percent of the time and on Google mobile, 53 percent. 

ota-hotel-brand-name

The following chart illustrates how many ads on average appeared per query in the paid search results, and of that, how many were ads from the hotel brand itself, competitor ads and OTAs across engines like Google and its mobile network, Bing and AOL:

types-of-businesses-in-paid-search-results

In its report, BrandVerity acknowledged the fact that the hotel’s ad was a small slice due to regulations from advertising platforms against double serving ads from the same domain, but it did give tips on how brands could get a bigger piece of the pie.

Only one ad for ‘New York Hilton’ could lead to the Hilton.com domain. However, Hilton could also elect to run ads that landed on the domain HiltonDeals.com. By doing so, their ads could appear twice on the SERP, thereby helping decrease their likelihood of being outranked.
Two brands used this exact tactic rather effectively. They each used a consistent secondary domain to advertise from, and appeared on many SERPs with both of their domains. This made them the least likely to have their top ads outranked by OTAs. In fact, neither of the two brands was outranked on any Google or Bing SERPs.

For more information on how this study was conducted and additional data on travel agencies vs. hotel brands in paid search, you can download the report here

About the author

Jessica Lee is a marketer specializing in web content strategy and B2B/B2C writing. Since 2005, Jessica has been in the business of content and communications, with the past several years focused on the web marketing space.

Prior to launching her consulting business, bizbuzzcontent, Jessica was responsible for content strategy, development and marketing for Bruce Clay Inc. – a global SEO firm, where she served small businesses and Fortune 500 clients. Jessica's background also includes positions in traditional marketing, communications, broadcasting and publishing.

Jessica has a bachelor's in communications and public relations from San Diego State University. She also contributed to the book “Search Engine Optimization All-in-One For Dummies” 2nd edition.