In this, the second of a four part series The 4 Pillars of Digital Marketing Success we take a look at pillar 2, Paid Advertising.
Pillar 2 | Paid Advertising
By Jason Kelly
It’s easy to be cynical about paid advertising on search engines, which today is almost like a visibility tax that you have no option but to pay. We’ve already seen how Google is monetising the SERP more and more, but the bottom line is that paid advertising still works.Aggregated data from Bookassist indicates that traffic from paid sources accounts for 35% of hotels’ website revenue. What’s more is that when used together with SEO, paid advertising can actually help SEO.
Paid Advertising and SEO - The best of friends
There is a common misconception that paid advertising, particularly on brand search terms, can cannibalise organic traffic. Bing published a study for the travel sector in 2015 on the value of running search ads on brand name terms. The key findings from this study were:
- An increase of 27% in overall clicks (paid and organic combined) when a brand ad was present.
- Competitors received almost 40% of clicks when no brand ad was present.
- Competitors received just 12% of clicks when a brand was present.
Clearly, you need to be present for brand paid advertising.
Paid advertising, particularly search campaigns, also works as an excellent keyword research tool for SEO. The data you receive from search campaigns is invaluable for your SEO strategy. We can get a very clear idea of what phrases people are using to search for hotels, the size of the market for particular niche search terms and more importantly, what search phrases are leading to conversions. This data can then be used to optimise content on your website for terms with high conversion potential, i.e. focus your content on answering the questions people tend to be actually asking.
First things first. Where to start with Paid Advertising?
With an ever increasing number of paid channels, it may be difficult to know where to spend your digital marketing budget. At its most basic level, paid advertising should be used to convert users who have shown strong intent to book a room at your hotel; for example they have searched for your hotel’s name on Google or viewed your listing on Trivago or TripAdvisor. This is where you need to start – your brand name.
Running paid campaigns on your brand name should be the cornerstone of your paid advertising strategy. OTAs, used correctly, can be used to create awareness but if you do not have a presence in the final stages of the customer’s journey, you will lose out on direct bookings, no question.
Expanding your reach. Creating awareness of your brand and acquiring new users
Paid channels should not merely be considered as a tool for converting people who have already made their decision about where they want to stay. Campaigns on search engines and metasearch platforms allow hotels to be present in any and all stages of the customer journey and can, over time, help to reduce hotels’ dependence on OTAs for creating awareness.
The amount of money you invest in each stage of the customer journey is dependent on your goals and the extent to which you have mastered the basic essential elements of a direct booking strategy - an attractive, responsive and fast website, optimisation for desktop and mobile, pricing and channel distribution. There’s little point in investing in brand awareness through display campaigns for example if you have severe rate parity issues. But if you have mastered these essential steps, paid advertising, particularly at the stage where there is commercial intent, can bring a new audience to your website that may have only discovered you on an OTA website.
Jason Kelly, Digital Marketing Specialist at Bookassist (www.bookassist.com), the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.
Bookassist is The Direct Booking Expert™ and is a Google Premium Partner.
 on search engines and on metasearch platforms