Everything You Need to Know About Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements

by Pete DiMaio

Thanks to Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements, hotels can bid to the top of the Tripadvisor search results for any given destination.

But what may sound like an advantageous opportunity may not be so advantageous if you’re not keeping a close eye on the many other aspects of Tripadvisor’s search and ad ecosystem.

Before you make a decision about using Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements, let’s first dive into what Sponsored Placements is and how you can choose to participate.

What are Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements?

Sponsored Placements is a campaign type that gives hotels the opportunity to bid on the position of their hotel on the Tripadvisor destination results page.

While users can view the results by ranking, best value, price, or distance, hotels that don’t rank well for any of those criteria can boost their visibility with Sponsored Placements.

Similar to a search engine hotel PPC campaign, hotels can bid to the top of the Tripadvisor search results. The actual click cost depends on the number of active advertisers in your region, exchange rates, and available click inventory.

Unlike a traditional search engine PPC campaign, hotels are also not able to set bids. Rather, they are only able to choose between three pre-determined daily budget levels or a customized daily budget.

Let’s explore an example.

If you are the #35 ranked hotel in Miami Beach, there are 34 other hotels above you with more visibility.

A TripAdvisor Sponsored Placement ad in the destination results.

However, in the example here, if you are SLS South Beach, you can pay to be shown at the very top of the results. Good for SLS South Beach, they’re getting plenty of visibility now! Specifically, we see three key items:

  1. They’re at the top of the search results for Miami Beach hotels and places to stay.
  2. They have a “sponsored” badge.
  3. Their destination ranking is not shown for the search criteria.

That’s right, the top sponsored position doesn’t show “#35 of 233 hotels in Miami Beach”. This makes sense if you are the hotel and Tripadvisor. The last thing you are going to want to show if you are paying for the top position is that you are not really the top hotel.

Now SLS South Beach, a hotel that may have been relatively unknown to casual shoppers looking for a Miami Beach hotel, is now the top choice. Unfortunately for SLS South Beach, once a visitor decides to click, things start to take a dark turn.

In this example, the customer has a few click choices. They can either click the property name and go to the SLS South Beach Tripadvisor profile page or they can click the giant “View deal” button. There’s also a much smaller “Visit hotel website” callout.

The two former options raise some red flags that call into question how effective Sponsored Placements can be for this hotel.

Tripadvisor hotel listing for SLS South Beach.

By clicking on the hotel profile, we have left the Sponsored Placements program and are now on the hotel’s Tripadvisor profile page.

What is concerning here is SLS South Beach may have just paid a very high cost per click to have someone visit their profile, only to be presented with rates from three different OTAs.

SLS South Beach is not participating in TripConnect CPC or InstantBook, meaning a customer is most likely going to book with an OTA, costing the property more in commission fees and losing out on acquiring guest information.

Option number two, choosing to click the big “View deal” button, directs the customer to Expedia’s site where they not only have the ability to book at SLS South Beach but also other competitive Miami Beach hotels.

What has started as a compelling opportunity has turned into spending money just to drive more traffic to the OTAs and requiring customers to enter an entirely new conversion funnel.

Are Sponsored Placements right for your hotel?

This can be a difficult question to answer and one that must be looked at as part of a holistic hotel metasearch and OTA strategy for hotels. While it can be a very effective way of increasing your hotel’s visibility, it can be a very expensive way to drive guests to book with OTAs. It is also not a replacement for your existing Tripadvisor campaigns.

Goals for a campaign can vary property to property. However, in all cases, Sponsored Placements is designed to drive more visibility and increase bookings.

The hotel has no ability to optimize the campaign other than setting one of three bid levels. Therefore, how you use this new exposure becomes the only foundation for your goals.

We have identified how three property types can benefit:

Sponsored Placements for new hotels

Sponsored Placements can be a fantastic tool to immediately begin driving traffic to your profile page or website. Typically, new properties have a significant problem getting a foothold and reaching new customers on Tripadvisor.

Using Sponsored Placements as part of a brand awareness campaign could be a very effective strategy when promoting a new hotel. New properties in this scenario should keep a close eye on the ROAS in addition to ensuring their Tripadvisor listing is optimized.

Sponsored Placements for existing hotels

Existing properties will likely benefit from Sponsored Placements as well, though careful monitoring of performance will be critical. For properties that have great customer satisfaction who are in a very competitive market and struggling to get on page one may find the program to be very effective.

Sponsored Placements for troubled hotels

First and foremost, a troubled property needs to fix their customer issues and start getting four and five star reviews. Then, and only then, can Sponsored Placements become a great tool to drive more traffic and help the property repair a low average ranking or poor destination position.

Launching a campaign before fixing on-site issues is the same as filling a bucket with holes. You can dump all the money you want at the problem, but until you fix the issue the return will not exist.

Things to know before launching a Sponsored Placements campaign

Before you kick off a Sponsored Placements campaign on Tripadvisor there are a few things that you need to ensure are in place to get the best possible return on investment.

We do not recommend launching a Sponsored Placements campaign until these three items are in place and optimized:

TripConnect CPC and InstantBook are a must

Tripadvisor TripConnect CPC results.

If you are considering Sponsored Placements, it is mandatory that you have successful TripConnect CPC and InstantBook campaigns running. If not, you will absolutely be spending your marketing dollars to drive potential direct bookings to an OTA.

Rate parity is required

A hotel should always offer the best rates for direct bookings. In the case of Sponsored Placements, it is even more important that you are showing your best book-direct rate possible.

Before launching your Sponsored Placements campaign you will absolutely need to ensure you are providing customers with the best rate. Focus your effort here first and then launch your campaign once your rates are in order.

Profile page needs to be optimized

Sponsored Placements can be risky. A hotel is paying money on Tripadvisor to send traffic within Tripadvisor. This means a hotel will need to ensure their profile listing is as good as it can possibly be before launching a campaign. Before launching a Sponsored Placements campaign, ensure that:

  • All property details are up to date
  • Images are compelling
  • Property overviews and descriptions are optimized
  • Reviews are being responded to as needed
  • All recommendations in your business admin are addressed

Launching a Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements campaign

Once you have your profile pages optimized, your rates in check, and TripConnect CPC and InstantBook campaigns running, you can dive into the world of Sponsored Placements.

Tipadvisor Sponsored Placement business objective options.

First, you’ll need to select your business objective. You can choose between Increase overall bookings and Drive direct bookings. The second option prioritizes your direct booking channel. Like we’ve discussed, we believe Sponsored Placements to be a much more lucrative option when combined with your direct booking goals.

Second, you’ll customize your target audience. Options include Traveler region, Traveler search dates, and Specific blackout days. We recommend using your hotel analytics to determine which of these categories to select for targeting.

Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements budget options.

Lastly, you can select one of three pre-determined daily budgets or customize your daily budget. Tripadvisor will provide forecasted monthly impressions and monthly clicks data based on your selection. We recommend starting at the lowest of the three bid options and monitoring closely.

And that’s that. Tripadvisor has definitely made it easy to spend your money. But once the campaign is launched, your job is to ensure Tripadvisor is earning your money, not just spending it.

Ready to increase direct bookings?

Are you ready to increase your hotel’s direct bookings? Contact TravelBoom today for a complimentary digital marketing evaluation with customized recommendations on how to reduce reliance on third party bookings.

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