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As with any industry, when it comes to digital marketing, travel has its own quirks. In this article, we’ll focus on how to generate better return on investment (ROI) without sacrificing sales, at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

Search engine marketing (SEM) typically gets the best ROI for our travel clients; this includes pay-per-click (PPC) and search-engine-optimisation (SEO). We base our assessment of ROI on both a last-click channel analysis, as well as multi-channel attribution.

Being visible when the user demonstrates intent is key; when a user is searching “train tickets from Manchester to London” they are demonstrating strong signals for intent. But users might also use a less specific intent-driven search query, like “bus tickets”.

If we’re honest, most travel operators offer very similar (or even the same) products as their competitors. To generate a great ROI in such a crowded space, you need to:

  • Be as visible as possible at the right time
  • Provide a relevant solution
  • Provide an easy solution
  • Communicate your offering effectively
  • Be price competitive
  • Demonstrate great social proof

How can you address the above?
When someone searches for how to get from A to B, you want your ad to be there. But showing ads for every search is a bad idea. To help, Google harnesses thousands of data signals to identify which users have the highest chances of converting on your website. Through the use of automated bidding, Google can use those data signals to show ads to the right people. Thus reducing wasted spend and improving ROI.

A/B split-testing automated strategies is the best way to identify which solution works best because, depending on the setup, sometimes automated bidding can perform worse than traditional manual bidding.

Dynamic search ads (DSAs) are a great way to supplement your keyword-driven campaigns and can increase your visibility for searches that you may not have thought to target. In fact, even if you are targeting every possible keyword, to get the best ROI you should still test DSAs. Sometimes, DSAs can actually work better than a keyword-driven search campaign – even when ads use the same bid strategy and are triggered by the same search query.

Remarketing can be particularly cost-effective for travel. It allows you to reach users who engaged with your website but exited without a purchase. Displaying ads to users browsing other websites helps you to stay front-of-mind. Use messaging that overcomes objections about your service and encourages users to take an action that they might have avoided before on your site.

If you run a taxi company and you are bidding on keywords like “bus tickets”, you’re not going to have a good time. The user is probably not going to have a great time either because they aren’t seeing relevant results. A user might still click on your ad, but then they’ll likely bounce back to the search results page. Google doesn’t like this because their goal is to provide a great user experience. Promoting a different product than what the user is searching for might be tempting to increase your market share, but your keywords’ quality score will decrease, your costs will rise, and your ROI will decrease.

In this situation, a better solution to increase your market share using Google might be to use display ads with a custom-intent or custom-affinity audience. This is because the cost-per-clicks (CPCs) are cheaper and you’ll have a greater reach than with search ads.

Users love a good website experience. They want the website to load quickly and they want to navigate easily on any device. The better a user’s experience, the more likely you are to generate a sale. By improving user experience, you will end up paying for the same volume of website visitors, but you will get more sales, so you get a better ROI.

If a user searches for how to get from A to B, then direct them to a page about that particular journey. Test pre-populating a journey planner with information you can be confident about: if a user is based in London and they are looking for plane tickets, it’s likely they will want to depart from a London airport, so try pre-populating your journey planner with “London”.

Increase the chances of conversion from every visit with conversion rate optimisation (CRO). A/B test different website changes until statistical significance is achieved. Test small things like the colour of a button, and big things like the page layout itself. Don’t forget to test your messaging, too!

User experience (UX) as a service helps identify pain points in a customer’s website experience. Common challenges for users within the travel industry are confusing ticket options and difficult or buggy checkout processes. Just because you might find something simple doesn’t mean everyone else will!

Effective Communication
From the ad to the landing page, ensure that you are communicating well with your target audience. In a busy marketplace, capitalise by promoting your core USPs to set yourself apart from your competitors.

To maximise your ROI, you need to understand your audience. We know that they want to travel, so go deeper than that. What is most important to your audience? It might be the comfort, speed, safety, a money-back guarantee, or reassurance from other customers’ reviews. Or something completely different.

Automation can help with ad copy. Follow best practices and create a combination of expanded search ads (ETAs) and responsive search ads (RSAs) with excellent quality-scores. This allows Google to select the best copy to show to a particular user for a particular search. Don’t forget ad extensions, and regularly check their performance.

Be sure to include a call-to-action (CTA) in your ads too. Bonus points if you have the same CTA on your landing pages! This sort of consistency helps improve conversion rates by making navigation easier, improving the chances of a sale, which in turn improves your ROI.

Price Competitiveness
This is a bit of a no-brainer. The only exception is if you can add value in other areas. For example, your service might be faster or more luxurious than your competitors’. However, to maximise ROI, this needs to be communicated very clearly in your ad copy. With enough data, the right automated bidding strategy will harness data signals to show your less competitive service to users who are more likely to respond to your added-value service (and show ads less to those more focused on price).

Social Proof
This refers to the documented experience from other customers who have used your service, and applies on your website, off your website, and word of mouth. What are your customer reviews like? What can you do to improve your ratings?

Google automatically aggregates reviews from various websites like Feefo, and if your review rating is 3.5 or greater (out of 5) then this is shown in your ads automatically. This builds consumer confidence and encourages clicks and sales. Sometimes quoting a great review in your ad copy can generate incremental ROI. It’s also worth reminding users who are already on your website about your great service by showing reviews and ratings on your site, and throughout your checkout process.

For all of the above points, test, test, test! Just because performance is good or acceptable, don’t settle. Keep testing to keep improving your ROI.