7 PPC strategies for travel companies

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A look at seven PPC strategies travel companies can use to take full advantage of the UK opening up and travellers feeling more confident about booking that next, long-awaited trip.

The travel industry has had a harder time than most over the past couple of years but recovery is finally on its way. Demand for domestic and international trips are both on the up and restrictions in the UK are more relaxed than they’ve ever been since being introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are some travel PPC tips from our team to help you capture as much of the increased interest as possible.

What PPC strategies are we looking at today?

  1. Take advantage of online shift
  2. Ease travellers’ Covid concerns
  3. Cater for last-minute, flexible bookings
  4. Create a sense of urgency in your remarketing ads
  5. Go the extra mile to win positive reviews
  6. Target leads, not only bookings
  7. Keep on top of search data

You can apply many of these strategies to your broader marketing strategy (SEO, content marketing, etc.) but, in this article, we’re specifically looking at how you can apply these to your PPC campaigns.

#1: Take advantage of the online shift

Recently, we published an article entitled 5 ways shopping behaviour is changing in the UK, exploring data published by Google and UK research consultants Trinity McQueen. The joint study suggests the “seismic shift towards online” driven by Covid-19 is here to stay and retailers that also (or predominantly) sell offline have to adapt to this permanent transition.

% shopping or expecting to shop via online vs in-store

This applies to travel companies that used to taking bookings offline prior to the pandemic, especially if these involved in-store or agency visits.

This has to be reflected in marketing budgets with more funds dedicated to online channels – namely, search marketing. Search is where the online booking process begins and PPC gets you to the front of the queue when travellers are looking to make a booking. By targeting high-intent keywords like “flight to Italy,” you can secure bookings on the spot but you’ll be competing with some heavy brands for the top positions.

PPC results for travel companies targeting 'flights to Italy'

If you don’t have the budget to compete for more competitive keywords, you can target long-tail queries, such as “flexible return flights to Venice”.

You can also target long-tail organic searches, such as “winter holidays no quarantine for UK travellers” and target page visitors with remarketing ads as they continue to browse the web.

#2: Ease travellers’ Covid concerns

According to a survey carried out by VisitBritain, 80% of travellers asked in August 2021 would consider an international leisure trip in the next 12 months with 50% saying they would “definitely” consider travelling.

However, travellers still have concerns about travelling during the pandemic and companies have to address these. The same study cites money-back guarantees as the biggest influence on travel bookings, given all of the uncertainty travellers have faced over the past two years.

The second biggest concern for travellers is Covid-19 cases in the destinations of their choice, followed by the removal of quarantine measures, hygiene and safety protocols, high vaccination rates and the travel requirements returning back to the UK (these have eased significantly since early October).

#3: Cater for last-minute, flexible bookings

As we touched on in the previous section, the money-back guarantees are the biggest influence on travel bookings for people in the UK. Last-minute restriction changes throughout the pandemic have forced travellers to return home early, cancel trips or face expensive quarantine restrictions and, in certain cases, flights have been cancelled altogether as foreign countries have placed travel bans on the UK.

Travel restrictions are now at their most relaxed for UK citizens returning home but uninterrupted international travel is far from guaranteed.

As a result, travellers are increasingly booking trips at the last minute. The best thing travel companies can do to help people book with confidence is cater for last-minute bookings, provide as much flexibility as possible (changing dates) and offer money-back guarantees or free/cheap cancellations.

Use callout extensions in your Search ads to show users that you offer these incentives. Callout extensions allow you to place additional text on your ads to highlight key selling points or benefits of your service, such as flexible bookings and money-back guarantees.

Travel company showing sitelinks in their PPC ad

Alternatively, you can use sitelink extensions to link directly to pages featuring trips with flexible bookings or policy pages for money-back guarantees.

#4: Create a sense of urgency with your remarketing campaigns

We touched on remarketing campaigns earlier as a strategy for reaching organic traffic and beating competitors at the early stages of the travel research and booking process. However, remarketing campaigns are just as effective at the other end of the consumer journey, especially once travellers have shown an interest in specific destinations or offers.

With demand for travel rising and ongoing disruptions caused by the pandemic (and the B-word), you can create a sense of urgency in your remarketing ads by leveraging the so-called fear of missing out.

This is a great way to tempt people back to your website as they browse other websites or re-introduce your offers as they engage with relevant content.

Travellers in the UK have already felt the sting of surging prices and limited availability for domestic trips so use your remarketing campaigns to remind people that prices could rise and places will soon run out (eg: “prices locked until Jan 2022 while places last”).

#5: Go the extra mile to win positive reviews

Throughout the pandemic, travellers have faced uncertainty and, even when they’ve managed to get the trip they were hoping for, many have been disappointed by the quality of services.

The Guardian called this year’s domestic holiday season the summer of unhappy campers after thousands of people complained about the quality of supposed “glamping” sites and the reality of some expensive bookings that fell far short of expectations. Elsewhere, customers have said they are fed up with Covid excuses for bad service.

Travel and hospitality companies have raised concerns over a surge in complaints and negative reviews from “angry and impatient” visitors.

Either way, there’s heightened tension between service providers and customers right now and the negative review this often generates can have lasting effects on travel and hospitality bookings. Positive reviews have never been more valuable when travel companies need to stand out for all of the right reasons and customers are increasingly sensitive about the quality of service they receive for their money.

Use this to your advantage by going the extra mile to win positive reviews and deal with customer complaints (within reasonable limits) and use seller ratings extensions in your Search ads to show your review score, as seen below:

Travel company Jet2Holidays showing customer ratings in their PPC ad

We’re not suggesting you tolerate abusive customers or unreasonable demands but the increased value of positive reviews is something worth acknowledging and taking advantage of, wherever you can.

#6: Target leads, not only bookings

With the travel industry getting back on its feet, it’s tempting to focus all of your attention on securing bookings right away. After all, you’ve waited long enough for things to open up and one of the key benefits of PPC is that you can pay to get rapid results by targeting travellers who are ready to book now.

That said, instant gains may not be the best long-term approach for all travel companies, especially if you’re competing against bigger names. While demand is rising for both domestic and local travel, the numbers remain significantly lower than pre-Covid levels, which means travel companies are competing for a smaller market.

This widens the gap between the top brands with big advertising budgets and smaller travel companies who may struggle to bid on the most competitive keywords that win bookings on the spot.

Earlier, we referenced VisitBritain data stating that 50% of UK travellers said they would “definitely” make an international leisure booking in the next 12 months but that means roughly half of those questioned are still unsure about overseas travel.

The point is, many people still aren’t ready to commit to bookings, no matter how much budget you throw at high-intent keywords.

So allocate a good chunk of your PPC budget for lead generation because travel interest is significantly higher than booking numbers but the gap between the two is only going to close as travellers continue to gain confidence.

By capturing leads now, you can nurture relationships, ease concerns and position yourself as the company to book with when confidence is higher.

One of the other insights we discussed in our summary of changing consumer habits in the UK is that new brand loyalties are being formed online as people re-evaluate their purchase priorities and seek out brands catering to their changing needs.

#7: Keep on top of search data

We’ve covered this topic in several posts recently but the key point is that search data is a marketer’s biggest asset. The uncertainty caused by Covid-19 has only emphasised the importance of real-time search data in unveiling the concerns, interests and changing habits of consumers – as they happen.

While the top ad positions are often dominated by the same few big names for the most competitive keywords, you can outmanoeuvre the big spenders by responding to changes faster.

The pandemic has caused the strongest shifts in consumer behaviour seen in our lifetime

While the disruption to travel businesses has been immense, it also opens up new opportunities for disruptive brands to shake things up now that we’re on the road to recovery. By responding to change first, launching campaigns ahead of your competitors, identifying new keyword opportunities before everyone else and constantly moving to address the concerns of UK travellers – as they change – you can find gaps to squeeze ahead of the competition while things remain volatile.

All it takes is one big win to transform a business but you can also bounce back into a stronger position than pre-Covid times by putting a series of smaller wins together by keeping on top of search data and responding before your rivals.

Need help with your travel PPC strategy?

If you’re struggling to get the best return on your ad spend or respond to the constant changes in the travel industry, our PPC team can help you get things back on track at this crucial time for travel companies. Call us on 02392 830281, drop us an email or fill out the contact form below to discuss next steps for your travel PPC strategy.

James Faulkner profile picture
James Faulkner

James has led Vertical Leap’s PPC team since early 2012, and is responsible for ensuring the effective and efficient delivery that our customers relish. He has a wealth of experience, having managed PPC campaigns across all markets and platforms for more than 15 years, and manages a thriving team of experts. An ecommerce specialist, he loves the data driven nature of PPC. After achieving a BEng degree in Mechanical Engineering at university, he applied his strong problem-solving and mathematical skillset to paid advertising, where he can optimise and analyse the complexities of click and conversion data. James can very quickly identify and solve any hurdles surrounding a PPC campaign to ensure quick wins, successful results and ongoing ROI. James loves his motorbike, brewing, and camping in all weathers; but spends virtually all his weekends sailing his sea fishing boat around the Isle of Wight not managing to catch anything to feed his family.

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