Search Marketing Tactics for Travel Sites

April 19, 2013

5 Minute Read

2013 just feels like a year of change. The US economy is on the rise, the weather in Chicago has returned to its usual cycle (no 80 degree days in February) and Google is releasing new search products faster than the snow is melting on the streets. Ok, so truthfully these are much less changes than they really are a return to the norm. But the same is not true for travel search tactics.

So, what does this have to do with the Travel Vertical in search? Well…it is simple: we have grown accustom to the lack of change in the travel vertical over the past few years. With the exception of mobile, the travel vertical has remained status quo for some time. No new products, no real changes to the SERP pages and no new innovation within the vertical.

travel search tactics

In early 2013, Google has decided that enough is enough with status quo, and is redefining the way we look at travel search tactics. In this article, we take a look at a few of the biggest changes and how they affect the Travel Vertical:

  1. Google, Frommers & Zagat, oh my!
  2. Google Hotel Finder (Beta) & Google Hotel Price Ads (Beta).
  3. Who needs mobile (in separate campaigns)…not you says Google. How Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns are changing the game.

Google, Frommers & Zagat oh my!

In the fall of 2012, Google announced that they had purchased Frommers, a well-respected travel guide company. Virtually overnight, the travel world was abuzz with how this content may be used to further Google’s pursuit of building out more advertising options for Travel Sites. By early 2013, Google began expanding their Google+ Local hotel & resort pages to include content from Frommers, showing snippets of these pages directly within the SERPs.

Along with the new hotel & resort pages, Google expanded its use of Zagat ratings to be more prominent for hotels – showing these ratings directly within the hotel & resort snippets in the SERPs.

However, in April 2013 Google announced that they would be selling the Frommers back to the original owner. They also stated that they will maintain a license to use some of Frommers content. What this means for the changes coming to the Travel vertical within Google…only time will tell.

Google Hotel Finder (Beta) & Google Hotel Price Ads (Beta)

Google Hotel Finder (GHF) launched in July 2012 and has been picking up in interest ever since. Hotel Finder operates a lot like a standard OTA (Online Travel Agency), where a user types in a location and the dates of travel and GHF provides matching hotels for that time period. What is more interesting than GHF itself is the use of the reservation box, directly within the SERPs (pictured). This could be game changing for Travel advertisers by giving search users one less step to do in the booking process, improving the rate to conversion.

Along with GHF, Google also released Google Hotel Price Ads (GHPA). GHPA’s allow OTA’s and direct suppliers to provide Google with a pricing and availability feed. In return, prices and availability can be found for hotels and resorts just about everywhere a hotel can advertise (Google+ Local, Hotel and Resort pages on Google+ and in some cases even in the organic results).

You may or may not have seen these price listings for your own searches. There are some pluses and minuses with these types of ads. The plus is that it yet another opportunity for advertisers to promote their travel destinations and opportunities directly within the search results.  The bad is that now competitive advertisers can show ads alongside the ads and organic listings for individual hotels and resorts (pictured on the left).

Who Needs Mobile (in separate campaigns)…not you says Google.

Here is how Enhanced Campaigns in Google AdWords are changing the game.

There has been a lot of press in recent months around the new Google Enhanced Campaigns and the benefits and challenges that will come with the new campaign formats.  For the Travel Vertical there will be important changes that will be important to note. We could write a blog post just on the effects of Enhanced Campaigns on the Travel Vertical, and do not be surprised to see one in the coming weeks from Be Found Online, but for the purpose of this post we will focus on mobile.

It has been well documented and understood for several years that mobile is one of the key components for travel search tactics. According to a Google study on mobile and the Travel Industry in 2012, 50% of hotel seekers were on mobile devices and nearly one third of those searchers booked through a mobile device.

For the Travel Vertical in paid search it has been a best practice to separate mobile campaigns from those of other devices. This allows us to optimize our campaigns and keywords in mobile to users in the mobile world. However, with Google Enhanced Campaigns the way we bid and manage mobile listings is changing and so planning and a well-developed plan are even more important. While we can still build separate ads just for mobile devices, we now have to understand that bidding is now based on a percentage of the bid price on desktop, laptop and tablet devices. In Short, the days of bidding on individual keywords for mobile devices are over. The importance of a well-planned, well-structured account is now more important than ever.

Conclusion for Travel Search Tactics

In the Travel Vertical, the static, unchanging world that we have become accustom too has ended. We now return to a world of innovation and new opportunities within travel search tactics. This means that understanding these new products and developing a strategic approach to reaching as many customers as possible is even more important.

Learn more about how Google Enhance Campaigns are changing the game, not just for travel search tactics, but for the search industry as a whole? Check out this video from The Dan & Steve Show!

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The BFO Team

Here at BFO, we're always striving to bring you the latest and greatest in digital marketing insights and education. We're not ones to brag, but we've been lucky enough to be featured in all sorts of fancy publications and media outlets, strutting our stuff and showing off our industry expertise.