11 Jun 2018

A best practice guide to PPC for hotels

This is a viewpoint from Adam Blackford-Mills, head of digital at MRS Digital.

In order to stay competitive in an Airbnb world, hotels need to be making the most of every revenue stream. Pay-per-click is just one of many parts of a hotel’s digital marketing strategy, but it is one of the most impactful and most complex.

To ensure your PPC has a sound foundation, consider these five best practices.

Space and time targeting

Consider where users are at the time of the search and which device they are using. Queries such as “Hotel near me” are more relevant to your business if users are within a few miles away from your hotel rather than if they are many miles away. Include a GEO-local campaign into your strategy so you can manage budget and bids independently from other campaigns.

“…near me” searches can have different levels of urgency if users search these terms in the morning or in the afternoon. Include different messaging in your strategy based on the time of the day and distinguish your business from other brands by being more relevant.

Queries such as “Where I can find a Hotel near me” are more likely to be used on a mobile device or home assistant, rather than desktop. You can enhance your account by adapting ad copy content based on device. If you know that people are favouring one device over another, make the most of it.

The best way to capture mobile device users’ attention is to provide a special offer just for them. For example, a promotional offer on rates via PPC on mobile devices could boost ROI from online mobile bookings.

Have a clear idea of your audience

Use the right message with the right audience. Establishing an average customer profile can help you to adjust your investment and bids towards those users that are more likely to book a stay at your hotel. Remember, the person booking the room might not be the person staying at the hotel, so you need to bear this in mind.

For example, hotels that have a lot of business travel stays are likely to have guests who have had rooms booked for them. So tailoring your ads for those guests can sometimes mean you’ll miss the mark because you should have been targeting their PA.

Once you understand who your average customer is, you can tailor your ad copy, keywords and ad timing to perfectly match them.

Today, AdWords allows you to segment you audience into different groups depending on a number of factors and create campaigns for each.

For example, remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) allow you to tailor your search campaigns based on whether a user has previously visited their website, and the pages that user viewed.

Running a RLSA campaign can help you manage three key aspects of your ad campaign. You can increase your bid on previous visitor, create unique ad copy or exclude this audience from your campaign.

Knowing if previous visitors are still actively searching for hotels near yours can be extremely valuable. They know your brand already so you don’t want to bother them with the same ads over and over, but you do want their business. Include a remarketing list in your strategy to re-capture or exclude users who are already familiar with your website with different ad copies and offers.

Choose the right set of keywords for your campaigns

Key words such as “Cheap hotel”, “Best Hotel” can lead to high volume of impressions and clicks in very short amount of time and it can be very expensive.

Instead, include longer tail keywords such as “Best Hotel in Brighton with sea view” into your PPC strategy to potentially reduce competition, and thus cost per click (CPC). Make it as specific as possible including the location, time and device. If you are struggling to get volume, make keywords slightly broader like “Best Hotel in Brighton”.

Avoid directly targeting competitor keywords such as “Booking.com”, “Hotels.com”. Again, it can be very expensive from a CPC perspective and your account Quality Score will also be affected. Instead, protect your brand! It is more likely that those giants are bidding on your brand name.

A brand campaign, designed to maximise visibility when people are searching for your hotel, is a much better investment of your budget. CPC on branded terms tends to be much cheaper than generic campaigns and we have found that this type of campaign tends to convert better.

Take advantage of ad extensions

Take advantage of standard and newer extensions to evaluate performance and success. “Standard” ad extensions, such as site links, call-outs and structured snippets should been included in your ads to provide your audience with clear direction and calls to action.

Call, Message and Location extensions allow users to directly get in touch with your hotel or get direction on Google Maps from where they are.

Price and promotion extensions allow you to advertise rooms, products and services by price. Promotion extensions are perfect for, obviously, promotions and deals. Using these extensions, you can display an offer next to an appealing and inviting “deal-tag” symbol to maximise the temptation to click.

Finally, never forget…

Benchmark your performance against your industry

Benchmarking your performance will help you build on these foundational principles and allow you to start seeing what works best for you. While many PPC campaigns follow general lines, it’s in the margins and exceptions that you’ll find the best ROI.

This is why it’s so important to benchmark and regularly review the performance of your ads and make adjustments based on the data. When you’re deciding on your benchmarks, look to your peers within hospitality and avoid generalisations. You should only be measuring the things that your bottom line really cares about.

PPC may seem daunting, but by following these five best practices, you’ll have a good foundation to build on to start running successful and converting PPC campaigns.

Related reading:

The ultimate guide to website design for hotels

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