Best Practices for Building and Managing Google Ads Accounts in the Travel Sector

Running Google Ads accounts for travel clients is something our team has a lot of experience in, from Secret Escapes, Alpha Rooms, PitchUp and more.

We can appreciate therefore that the travel industry throws up a lot of unique challenges that you don’t see within other sectors. Such large fluctuations in demand for example depending on external factors, the precision with which you need to build keywords, and the localisation process.

Below I’ve summarised our top best practices for building and running travel sector Google Ads accounts.

Match Types

In the vast majority of accounts, phrase match really ought to be redundant. In our experience, BMM consistently outperforms phrase in terms of ROAS and CPA, and tighter controls over ad copy and exposure are easily controlled with exact match.

Phrase match has actually been shown to convert at a rate similar to that of pure broad match in fact, as demonstrated in this article and in the graph below.However, there is a real need to respect word order in a search for the travel sector – particularly if you deal with transport. That makes it tempting to use phrase match over broad match modifier keywords.

For example, a search for “london to paris flight” is quite substantially different to “paris to london flight”. And the only way to capture the difference in intent for both ad copy and landing pages is to guarantee that a keyword will only match with the specific word order of the query.

There are two ways of dealing with this:

1. Use phrase match keywords instead of BMM, but build out a lot more keywords

Of course the issue with phrase match over broad match modifier, is that a “paris to london flight” keyword won’t appear for searches that put any other terms within that query.

For example, you would miss out on “paris to london stansted flight”, or “paris to london last minute flight”.

Conversely, because phrase match respects word order, you’d miss out on “flight paris to london” and “flight to london from paris”, which clearly have the same intent as “paris to london flight”.

What this means is that keyword coverage needs to be much more thorough and really carefully thought through. Fortunately at Clicteq we have an in-house campaign builder tool that automates a large proportion of this headache, freeing up more time to sense check the output.

If you’re interested in utilising our account building services, please get in touch.

If you don’t have access to a campaign building tool, or a huge amount of people power available, then we would not suggest this approach.

2. Our best practice: use BMM keywords and negative out undesirable word orders using phrase match negatives

In this scenario, you could have +paris +london +flight in one campaign, with the phrase match negative “london to paris”, which would allow you to match for a whole range of searches.

For example, “paris to london flight”, “flight from paris to london”, “flight to london from paris”, and “cheap flights paris to london” would all match.

It will not match to “london to paris flight”, “cheap flight from london stansted to paris” etc.

You would then manage these as you would any other account, by running regular SQRs and adding converting terms as exact match keywords, allowing you to create tailored ads and specify landing pages.

You could then have another keyword in the same campaign, +london +paris +flights, and add the phrase match negative at ad group level: “paris to london”.

This would produce the opposite effect, and allow you to capture intent with the departure and destination locations reversed.

As you can see, this allows you much more flexibility with a less messy account than the first option. More importantly, it consolidates your conversion data into fewer keywords, meaning you can make more informed optimisation decisions.

There is a much lower risk of spending a long time building out low search volume keywords that never end up serving ads anyway.

Of course, this can be prone to human error and so is much better accomplished using a campaign building tool with ad group negative functionality. This is something we can achieve in-house, so let us know if we can help with your restructure or new builds.

LocalisationA mistake that we’ve seen on multi-national accounts time and again is not nailing the translation and localisation process.

For example, I once took over a series of accounts from a US based agency that were running all of their EMEA campaigns targeting English only.

Here are our best practices to not only avoid simple mistakes like that, but also to ensure you are maximising on performance across territories:

1. Use a native speaking translator with paid search experience

When creating campaigns, from keywords to ads, you are essentially trying to get into the mind of someone in your target market – what they would search for your services, and what would make them click on your ads.

It is safe to say that that needs to be as natural as possible, and so we always use native speakers as translators. It is not just accuracy you should aim for, but a local linguistic nuance.

For the same reason, you should always communicate to translators the purpose of your ads and service, in order to translate the meanings of words, not the words themselves.

Further, we either choose translators who have worked in PPC, or spend time training them. One reason for this is because we use campaign building tools that require knowledge of paid search.

More importantly though, understanding of the user journey and how a campaign fits together is essential to effective ad writing – especially in languages where 30 characters for a headline can be restrictive.

3. Don’t just ask for translations of what you have – ask for translations on anything you might be missing

When creating a new campaign, you ought to go through a process of keyword mining. Really this exercise needs to be done for each new language you translate into.

Languages do not match 1:1, so nor should your campaigns.

This means translators should be tasked with thinking of any synonyms in their language which are not covered, as well as removing anything that feels irrelevant or overly formal or colloquial.

4. Bear in mind the native language of the searcher, regardless of their location

If you are targeting “all languages” in your campaign settings, you ought to be capturing anyone who searches for your keywords regardless of what language their browser is set to.

By expanding the keyword coverage to the languages you believe people are likely to search in, you can almost instantly massively increase valuable coverage. It can also be a very quick win if you’ve already got campaigns in those languages running in other territories.

For example, if you sell flights, and know that your routes from Spain to the UK are very popular, it is worth creating campaigns with English keywords targeting Spain (as long as your website is available in the alternate language).

5. Leave ad groups in the PPC team’s native language

Or, if managed by multiple teams, in the principle operating language of your business. This is a top management tip and makes analysis and optimisations a lot more efficient.

It is particularly effective if you are using a single keyword ad group structure (which we almost always advocate), as the ad group names align with the keywords themselves.

Demand & Supply Based ManagementI’ve written more in depth about this in another article (the top 5 scripts for the travel sector that you might not be using), but to summarise: the thing that makes working in travel so challenging is how fast paced it is, but that can also make it the most exciting from a PPC perspective.

That’s because the pace is linked to fluctuations in demand which are influenced by external factors. Fortunately for us, those external factors (like exchange rates, flight cancellations, and the weather) and linked to a whole stream of data.

And that data can be used to make intelligent bidding decisions.

At the same time, you’ll see your supply changing, and there are a host of smart ways in which to make sure that you are not wasting spend advertising services that are unavailable.

Or, not spending enough on promoting inventory that will not be filled otherwise.

The article above gives a full outline of how to best utilise Google Ads scripts to benefit from supply and demand bidding, but here are our two best practices:

1. Test weather-based bidding

Weatherads and Thomas Cook have both found relationships between weather in the country a customer is in and the volume of holidays purchased.

That is, usually as weather gets worse in a country, demand goes up for holidays abroad, whereas if the weather is nicer, domestic travel is more likely.

We’ve seen varied results with our own clients, but would definitely suggest testing a weather based bidding script if you are in the travel sector.

This script from the Google Ads Developers is our go-to.

2. Use ad customisers linked to an inventory feed to reflect supply and prices

Whether it’s accommodation or tickets, if you have a large inventory, it really isn’t feasible to sensibly manage availability manually. That is also true of limited time offers, especially if those are linked to the amount of availability.

Ad customisers are great for managing this kind of task, and are a Google Ads feature that is definitely typically underused.

There is an article here which talks you through how to set them up, but essentially they run on a feed. So, update the feed (manually or dynamically, depending on your infrastructure capacity), and away you go.

There is much less room for human error, and this system is much more responsive at anti-social hours than a PPC Manager would be.


Have any best practices of your own for travel PPC accounts that aren’t featured here? Or, interested in hearing more about our travel-specific account management? Get in touch!

Amy Hawkins
About Amy Hawkins

Amy joined Clicteq in March 2019 as a Paid Search Account Manager. She has a wealth of experience in managing enterprise retail and lead generation paid search accounts including BMW, Hive, Secret Escapes and iRobot.

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