The travel sector is a hard but exciting place to be with regards to PPC – inventory changes, weather conditions, and stiff competition make for a rapidly changing and dynamic environment.
There is however a lot of accessible and relevant data in the industry that savvy advertisers can maximise on. BA demonstrated this with brilliantly with their #lookup advert in 2013, in which a programmatic billboard responds to a real-time flight path.
The stand out players in the travel sector are making an impact by doing just that: using the available data to respond and maximise on the dynamism of the market, through automation and scripts within Google Ads.
Below are our 5 favourite examples of this. Some of the scripts below were developed especially for the unique challenges of the travel industry, and some are more general but are very helpful for travel clients.
All of them may give you the opportunity to revolutionise both the way you manage travel PPC campaigns, and the volume and efficiency of results.
Travel cancellation bidding
Whenever any kind of international transport faces delays, a large captive audience is created who will need accommodation, fast.
Hilton recognised this issue, and wanted to be able to respond quickly and at scale to these travellers. Not least because the stranded could be extremely valuable, especially for providers based in what would be very competitive locations.
The hotel chain used a third-party data feed of flight cancellations, and with their paid search agency, and implemented bidding based on the cancellations.
Hilton saw substantial revenue growth from directly from these cancellation campaigns, totally 88% in New York, 220% in Washington DC, and 500% growth in Philadelphia.
Data providers like OAG are able to provide this kind of real-time data, as well as historical data.
If you are a hotel provider with prime real-estate locations near either airports or international train stations, we’d suggest signing up for a trial and using historical data to examine whether you see a correlation between past cancellations and engagement with your ads.
You might think that weather-based bidding just takes into account seasonality – the weather becomes warmer, due to it becoming summer, and people begin to plan their holidays.
That’s not actually the case (especially if you live in the UK – there is definitely not a clear correlation between the season and the weather).
A study from Weatherads in 2016 for example found an inverse relationship between the temperature and search volume for “cheap flights Ibiza” in the UK. You can see this in the graph below.Thomas Cook also found similar results when investigating booking behaviour and search volume for “Mallorca Holidays” from the UK following days of continuous rain.
On rainy days, they saw search demand rise by 9% on average and booking rates by 7%, whereas on sunny days demand dropped by 14% and booking rates by 8%.
Weatherads found also that for domestic holidays, the relationship between weather and demand is reversed. That is, as the local temperature gets warmer, demand for more local holidays increases.
At Clicteq we have found this varies by client and is extremely dependent on the inventory available, so would always recommend running your own data analysis on the weather-demand relationship.
If you do decide to automate bidding based on the weather, you can do this through this weather-based script created by Google.
Forex-rate based bidding
Another factor that affects the demand for holidays, and which has readily available, real-time data, is foreign exchange rates.
The stronger the Pound is against the Euro for example, the more holidays Brits book abroad. Conversely, when it becomes more expensive to travel somewhere because of the exchange rate, holiday booking rates fall.
In response to this, here at Clicteq we developed a forex-rate based script. It will make programmatic changes to your bids based on the exchange rates you are interested in.
The article above provides step-by-step instructions on implementation, but it is very straight forward.
We’d recommend firstly analysing past foreign exchange rates and your conversion rates to assess the level of bid changes that would be appropriate for you, and secondly to set the script to run weekly rather than daily.
Other than bidding based on demand, it’s sensible to explore bidding based on supply.
That is, if you are running a hostel for example and your beds are booked and cancelled on a regular basis, you don’t want to be paying for ads when you’re actually full and no-one can book.
Conversely, you don’t want to stop showing ads when actually you do have room and miss out on valuable bookings.
One form of inventory-based bidding that you can explore is by using this Google-developed inventory-management script.
The link above will give you an in-depth explanation of the full utility of this tool, but for the travel industry it is most useful for enabling or disabling product-specific ad groups depending on levels of inventory.
There is some prep involved, as each piece of inventory (hotel, for example) needs a unique code that is labelled onto the ad groups containing ads for that inventory. That also presupposes a certain structure of your Google Ads account.
It also presupposes that your inventory stock levels are available in a remote or Google Cloud SQL database.
The implementation is a little complex, but it could save you a lot of grief and ad spend. The pausing and enabling is not as prone to human error as manual changes, and does not rely on your PPC manager being available 24/7.
It also means you have real-time control over the value you place on your inventory, depending on availability, instead of relying on humans relaying the information to each other.Landing page scanner
Another type of inventory-based bidding, but not reliant on a feed, is this landing page scanner alert. We’ve used it extensively with ecommerce accounts in particular, but it also transfers naturally across to the travel sector.
Other than just scanning for when a page is throwing a 404 error, it can also alert you for the presence of specific text on a page.
For example, “sold out” or “only 10 beds remaining”. Using this information, you can then adjust your bids accordingly.
Unfortunately it’s not an automated process for bid adjustments, unlike the inventory management tool above, but its use is wide ranging, and it’s extremely easy to set up.
Watch this space for a tool that can link the prevalence of a piece of text on a landing page to bid adjustments.
Ad customiser tool for dynamically changing ads
Besides from adjusting your budget and bid depending on the availability and pricing of your inventory, you want to make sure that that’s reflected in your ad copy.
For example, if there are only a handful of rooms left, you want that urgency to be in front of your potential customers from the start.
With a large or fairly rapidly changing inventory, it’s not feasible to do this manually. Or, at least to do it manually and well. This is where ad customisers are brilliant.
There is some set up involved, as you will need a feed, that you can then upload to Business Data within your Google Ads account. For up-to-date information, unsurprisingly this will need to be updated dynamically.
Get in touch if you want to discuss any of these solutions in more detail, or if you have your own recommendations!