Travel is Trending: 5 Data-Driven Travel Marketing Tips
Beach lounging in Hawaii? Hiking through the jungles of Belize? Or perhaps a wine-tasting tour in Tuscany? I’d be 150% down for any of these luxury excursions, wouldn’t you? Most level-headed human beings love to travel, which is why travel marketers have it good. They get to day-dream and promote luxury vacations full-time! Seriously!? As a SaaS marketer, I’m SO jealous (sorry WordStream). Did you know that the majority of happiness from a trip comes from the planning process? Travel marketers must be happy people!
Yet, travel marketing is hard. Competition is steep, keywords are expensive, and fluctuations with seasonality can affect the business. The good news for travel marketers is that 2015 is predicted to be a year worthy of several leisure excursions. Why? The unemployment rate is low, gas prices have decreased, and the U.S. dollar is strong, AKA people have money to blow! Americans plan to spend 8% more on leisure travel, and 5% more per trip than last year, according to a study by Choice Hotels International. Also according to eMarketer, U.S. travel sales are predicted to top $153 billion dollars in 2015, which is a 6% increase from 2014.
The Bing Ads team recently released some fascinating travel search specific research from comScore and other 3rd party data, which sheds light on how shoppers are booking travel. Travel marketers should pay attention to these data-driven travel tactics that will drastically up their bookings.
Tip #1: Have a Solid Mobile Search Strategy
We hear it all the time. Mobile is important blah, blah, blah, we get it! But, have you actually done something about it? Perhaps you set up some mobile ads, and tinkered with the idea of optimizing your site for mobile, but I’d bet that a lot of travel marketers have brushed mobile to the side assuming that conversions are mostly completed on desktop. But the research shows that mobile plays a huge factor in the travel planning process, as well as in-trip spending decisions. Mobile searches just exceeded desktop for Pete’s sake! The Yahoo Bing Network reported a 43% year-over-year increase in the number of smartphone searches related to travel, and this number is only predicted to grow! A few mobile optimizations to make right now?
- Ensure you’re running mobile preferred ads, which speak to the on-the-go mobile searcher.
- Check to see if your site is mobile responsive. If it’s not work to make sure it is, or implement call-only campaigns to skip the landing page all together.
- Utilize all ad extensions to ensure you’re providing useful information for mobile searchers like location, contact info, etc.
- Do you have an app? Use the app extensions to encourage downloads.
Tip #2: Be Aggressive During Summer and Winter
Why? Because these are the times when people are most likely to book travel. For example, January saw a 27% year-over-year increase in travel searches. The months to focus on? For summer, June through August, and for winter December through January. This makes sense, right? In summertime people are looking to escape the office, and in winter people are looking to escape the cold. So how can advertisers take full advantage of these peaks?
- Allocate higher budgets to capture more conversions during these peaks.
- Use seasonal language in your ads to entice searchers (for example in January say “Escape the Cold! Book a Trip to Saint John).
Create a game-plan to attract as many searches as possible during these seasonal peaks.
#3: Bid on Brand Terms
There’s often debate on whether or not it’s worth it to bid on brand terms. The argument: “We’re already showing up organically so why would we spend money on our own terms?” Well, you’re not the only one showing up, your competitors are as well because they’re likely bidding, and sometimes out-bidding you and winning higher placement on YOUR brand. RUDE, right? Bing research proves that bidding on your own brand terms results in more clicks. Bing Evangelist John Gagnon shared an interesting case study showing a 32% gain in brand clicks from bidding on their brand keywords rather than relying on SEO alone.
Wait, what does this have to do with travel specifically? Well, Bing’s study found insanely high click-through rates for all preferred online travel aggregator (OTA) sites – think Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, etc. On desktop, OTA CTR’s are as high as 11 to 16 percent on average, and on mobile even higher, between 14 and 19 percent! The research also advises bidding on the top ad spot is important for smaller travel advertisers.
Moral of the story, bid aggressively on brand terms to ensure you’re reaching full impression share at the top of the SERP’s.
#4: Be There Throughout the Entire Travel Journey
With 58% of travel spend occurring during the trip, it’s important to be there for all of those “micro-moments” that travelers have during their journeys. Marketers might not realize that travelers are more spontaneous then they might suspect. More than half of searches on hotel mobile websites take place within a week of a traveler’s booking window. This means that marketers need to target last minute bookers during these time-sensitive moments with compelling offerings, like “Book Now Before It’s Too Late!” or “You’re Running Out of Time! Book a Hotel in L.A. Today.” You get the gist.
Travel advertisers also need to be there to persuade travelers to extend their stays. Who wouldn’t want to spend an extra few nights on the beach? The average American carried over 3.3 paid vacation days from 2014 to 2015 – that’s $56.6 billion worth of paid vacay! I’m sure these Americans aren’t complaining about the extra cash, but why not spend that on a few more days in paradise? As someone who recently survived a record-setting snowfall winter in Boston, I can assure you that you would not have to ask me twice!
#5: Utilize Cross-Device Attribution Reporting to Make Smarter Optimizations
The first tip was all about the importance of mobile, BUT as we all know, we live a cross-device world. We’re playing on our phones, while browsing Facebook on our PCs, while watching the Voice on our TV’s. According to eMarketer, 6 in 10 leisure travelers use search engines to plan their trips, and they plan, research, and book travel across multiple devices. Therefore advertisers need to be there on all devices at all relevant times. In order to truly understand the value of each conversion and properly optimize, it’s critical to measure and report on these cross-device conversions.
Take advantage of this data and implement these tactics into your travel marketing plans. You’ll be stealing vacationers from your competitors in no time.