Hotel PPC: The Right Ad For The Right Customer At The Right Time

by Meisha Bochicchio

Whether you are just beginning to dip your toes into the paid search marketing pond or are already chest deep in AdWords remarketing campaigns, its always good to have a solid pay per click marketing strategy in hand and ready to go.
For hotels, the opportunity is clear. Running hotel PPC ads not only puts your brand front and center from when someone performs a related search, it also gives your brand a competitive advantage over other online travel agents trying to take a chunk of your revenue. And, from a pay per click perspective, there are many different options when it comes to reaching the right customer at the right time throughout the sales process.

*Sales Funnel Graphic via Net Affinity

Search Network Opportunities For Hotels

Though not every PPC campaign type will be right for every hotel, paid search is an easy and effective way to reach potential customers at various stages of the sales funnel – all the way from general awareness to abandonment retargeting.

1.) Non-Branded Search Campaigns

From a sales funnel perspective, running non-brand related search campaigns is a great way to reach consumers who are not yet familiar with your brand and are higher up in the conversion funnel. This strategy is only limited to how creative you are and how aggressive you want to be with your budget and ROAS. Typically, customers at this stage have decided on a destination and are just beginning to research accommodation options.
Campaign ideas include:

  • Amenity based search queries (ex: Miami hotel with waterpark)
  • Room type or size based queries (ex: Miami hotel with penthouse)
  • Location specific search queries (ex: south Miami hotels)

Additional campaign ideas could be generated by checking keyword analytics through Google search console, Google AdWords keyword tool, or by using the Google suggest feature that auto-fills popular search queries.
 A few things to keep in mind with non-branded search campaign:
People are most likely not yet familiar with your hotel or your brand. That being said, conversion oriented metrics like sales and revenue are typically lower, as is overall ROAS.
Additionally, competition for these broad, non-brand related terms can be higher, sometimes substantially, than less competitive brand terms. Keep an eye on your CPC versus spend, revenue, and ROAS to determine your comfort zone. You can also try breaking out more long tail / specific keyword variations into ad groups to increase your quality score and decrease CPC over time.
Metrics For Measuring Success Include:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • CTR
  • CPC

As a reminder, thanks to Google’s Hotel Finder platform, organic listings are now below the fold for these broader hotel related search terms. Running non-brand PPC ads can put your hotel back on top and in front of relevant consumers.

2.) Branded Search Campaigns

The long-running debate on whether you run on brand search terms continues as hoteliers struggle to justify the cost with the potential for organic search cannibalization. For the record, studies – including our own PPC Case Study – have shown time and time again that natural search cannibalization is minimal for branded search campaigns and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

That being said, branded search campaigns are almost always the very first type of PPC that we recommend to our clients. This bottom-of-the-funnel approach is a great place to target customers, as they are already familiar with your brand but might be distracted by other online offers. Remember, the ultimate goal is to get consumers to book direct!

Campaign Ideas Include:

  • General brand name variations
  • Brand name reviews
  • Brand name

Like non-brand search marketing, additional ideas for these campaigns could be generated by checking your keyword analytics through the Google search console, the Google AdWords keyword tool, or by using the Google suggest feature that auto-fills popular search queries. Another great way to generate new keyword ideas is to use the Search Terms report within AdWords to see other keywords have been triggered by your existing list.
Metrics For Success Include:

  • Sales
  • Revenue
  • CPA
  • ROAS

Branded search campaigns typically have the highest ROAS and are a great option if return is your #1 priority.

3.) Retargeting Lists For Search Ads

Retargeting is a great way to reach potential customers who are already familiar with your hotel but did not complete a booking. As the travel industry becomes more and more complex, customers are becoming more and more savvy when it comes to performing research and price comparison.
Retargeting works by placing a tag on certain pages throughout your website. You can place this tag on as many or as few pages as you like to make the retargeting as specific or as broad as you want. Then, you will place a tag on your booking confirmation page and build your campaign to exclude anyone who has booked. By doing this, you will be able to reach back out to a qualified audience, remind them of your brand, and even offer them an incentive to book.
Retargeting Ideas Include:

  • Broad retargeting campaigns – visitors who came to your hotel website but did not book
  • Booking abandonment campaigns – visitors who began the booking process but bailed before booking
  • Specific page retargeting – visitors who came to a certain page on your website (ex: specials page, amenity page, etc.) but did not complete a booking

With remarketing lists for search ads, your ads will serve to people who meet your retargeting criteria and then go back to Google and complete another search. Like traditional search ads, the consumer must perform a search query in order to see your ad. And, just like traditional search campaigns, you have complete control over what keywords you want to run on and the bids for those keywords.
Scenario: A potential customer visits your hotel website, explores a bit, and then returns to Google to complete another search.
Solution: By using RLSA, you can retarget that same person when they complete other relevant search queries that you are bidding on. For example, when that person returns to Google and searches for “hotels in south Miami”, you can serve them a hyper-specific ad that showcases a special that they looked at or a specific amenity that they viewed while on your site to entice them to come back.
The most successful retargeting campaigns are both timely and specific. Best practices include:

  • Setting realistic cookie lengths – 30 days is the default but you can shorten or extend the member duration for your specific hotel needs
  • Experimenting with different strategies for more broad campaigns and more granular campaigns to compare results

When implemented correctly, this middle-of-the-funnel strategy is a great way to capture guests that bailed at some point in the research and booking process and typically has a higher ROAS than more generic non-brand search campaigns.

Display Network Opportunities For Hotels

Display campaigns are sometimes thought of as the digital version of a traditional media buy and are great ways to reach new customers who are not yet familiar with your hotel brand. The advantage of the Google display network, however, versus a something more traditional like a billboard, for example, is that Google uses a highly sophisticated network that allows you to target customers on a variety of factors to ensure that you are reaching the most relevant and qualified audience as possible.

4.) Traditional Display Ads

Ad Types Include:

  • Text – same format as Google text ads on Google search
  • Image – allow users to create their own image or use customizable Google layouts, images, and colors
  • Interactive – also called “rich media ads”, these feature interactive elements such as animations, popups, carousels, etc.
  • Video – This includes video ads or ads that run on the YouTube Network which is included within the Google Display Network.

Targeting Options
The diverse targeting options provided throughout the Google Display Network make it easy to reach a hyper-targeted audience.

  • Context Targeting – allows your hotel to show ads on websites and webpages that based on keywords or topics that you choose. Google analyses webpages that are included on the display network and then categorizes them into different keyword groups and topics.
  • Demographic Targeting – allows your hotel to serve ads to people based on age, gender, and other demographic variables.
  • Geographic & Language Targeting – allows your hotel to serve ads to people located within a specific geographic location or people who speak a certain language.
  • Interest Targeting – allows your hotel to target people who demonstrate online behaviors that show they share a common interest, like travel. This type of targeting is based primarily on the types of videos, websites, and content that a person visits.
  • Placement Targeting – allows your hotel to run ads on specific websites of your choice. You can choose to run on several areas of websites or on specific pages on websites.
  • Topic Targeting – allows you to choose a topic or topics, like travel, and Google will show your ads on websites related to that topic. * Closely related to interest categories but based on websites rather than audiences *

All of these different targeting options present several opportunities for hotels to reach relevant consumers. For example:
Scenario: A family-friendly beach destination hotel wants to reach a large audience that is not familiar with the brand and wants to showcase their new waterpark.
Solution: This hotel could run an image or video based display campaign using interest targeting to reach potential customers who show an interest in travel, beaches, or family vacations. Similarly, they could use placement targeting to show their ads on websites that contain similar content to what their hotel has to offer.
Since the primary goal of these campaign types tends be more awareness oriented versus sale focused, metrics for success include:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • CTR
  • Time on site
  • Higher-conversion funnel goals like email signup

5.) Display Remarketing

 The concept for display remarketing is the same as the remarketing lists for search ads discussed above – to reach consumers who visited your site but did not complete a purchase. The primary difference, however, is how the ads are served and shown to consumers. As you might guess, display ads show across the display network and use retargeting as a placement option. And, unlike the other placement options which are designed to reach a more broad audience, remarketing ads are reaching an audience that is much farther down the sales funnel than regular display and is thus more qualified for an eventual sale.
The process for setting up the remarketing lists is also the same as the remarketing lists for search ads as discussed above – placing tags on your website and building the audiences. Once the lists are built you can go in and start choosing your ad formats and retargeting rules. You can also layer retargeting placement with other placement options as well.
Scenario: A business traveler is looking at hotels for an upcoming trip to New York. He ends up on your hotel site but to check rates and location but does not book at that time. He goes about his business throughout the day.
Solution: Using display remarketing, you could serve that website visitor an ad on other sites throughout the Google network that he or she might visit, like news sites. You could showcase your competitive rates or loyalty program as a way to entice them to come back and book.
As with remarketing for search ads, the key to success is being smart with your ads. Use enticing creative and ad copy and carefully craft your campaign to reach the right person at the right time.
Another important remarketing best practice is to set a realistic frequency cap for your ads. We’ve all been stalked with ads before and we all know how uncomfortable that is. Remarketing can quickly escalate from a polite reminder to an annoying stalker and you definitely don’t want to cross that line.

Now that you have a solid understanding of the most successful pay per click campaign types for hotels you are ready to hit the ground (and SERPs) running!

Ready to get started? Contact TravelBoom today to discuss paid search opportunities for hotel and how we can help you beat out the OTAs.

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