Since the popularization of the internet, people have been spending more and more time online, and less time consuming “traditional” media channels.
Once marketers and salespeople realized this, they turned their efforts to building a strong online presence and finding ways to capitalize on the virtual world. In short, that’s how digital marketing was born.
Today, businesses of all sizes and industries use platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn to create brand awareness, connect with potential customers and sell their products and services.
Tourism couldn’t be left out. By the way, this is one of the sectors that has most benefited from the internet. Travel inspiration is now at the fingertips of anyone who is connected.
But we can’t talk about digital marketing without mentioning Google. The big tech is a pioneer in this space. It went so big that sometimes it is referenced as the internet itself.
The question is: how tour operators can use the power of Google to boost sales? This is what you will find out in this article.
Since its launch in 1996, Google has not given signs of being slowing down, in fact, it has only grown since then.
Due to all websites indexed and all the information gathered over the years, 51% of shoppers say they use Google to research a purchase they plan to make online.
Considering that travel planning starts with research and inspiration, that’s no wonder that most online experience bookings originate from a Google search.
Nowadays Google is much more than a search engine. It offers a myriad of digital products and is a well-established and recognized tech brand.
Many of those products were built around Google’s search core, which makes them great marketing tools for tour operators. Worth mentioning, some are free to use.
Check out now four ways you can use Google to drive direct bookings to your travel business.
Former Google Places, Google My Business (GMB) was developed to be the central hub to manage how businesses appear on Google Search and Google Maps.
Basically, in your GMB listing, you can add useful information and content related to your business. That includes photos, videos, links, working hours, and location. This information will appear every time someone searches for your brand or keywords related to your business in Google Search and Maps.
GMB is a free tool, which means all you need to do is claim your profile in order to start using it. That is great, isn’t it?
If you don’t know how to start with GMB just take a look at this article which explains how tour operators can set up an account.
Although being a free tool there are other advantages in creating and updating your profile there:
The key to turning your GMB listing into a booking driving tool is to make your listing as more complete as possible. Add a bunch of images, videos, posts, products and offers. Also, try to get as many reviews as you can, they are very important during the buying decision process for tours. Remember, all information should be accurate and relevant.
The more complete is your profile, the higher you will rank on Google and the bigger are chances for an ideal customer to find your business.
Before filling out this tab, it’s highly recommended that you know the most relevant keywords to your business. Those are terms that people looking for your products search on Google.
For tours, activities and attractions it’s usually a combination of the name and location of the experience. For example, scape rooms in New York. Or if you offer something more niche, kids scape room in new york.
You can use tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs to help you find the ideal keywords for your business. Check out our article about how to find the best keywords for travel websites to get insights on this topic.
Tip: Special attention to your business description. Make it clear about what is your company, its differentials, what your offer is and to whom you are selling. Here is the place to use the keywords you’ve searched previously.
Reviews and images increase the credibility of your offers, and travelers pay a lot of attention to them.
Make sure to answer all good and bad reviews. This shows that your company cares about customers in the after-sales. Good customer support is gold.
Learn how to get tour feedback and reviews from your guests on this article.
Regarding visual material, add high-quality images and videos. Showcase the experience you are selling and make a proper presentation of your staff and infrastructure.
Inside this tab, there are two main sections that tour operators should explore that will help them sell tours. These are What’s new and Offers.
The first one can be used to publish information about your tourism company, make announcements, share blogs and give other relevant information related to your business.
Use it to nurture your potential customers and to push traffic to your website. Also, posting regularly improves your search ranking.
The Offers tab is the right place to announce a tour promotion or another special offer with a start and end date. In this section, users can click “view offer” and check out any available coupons.
Here is where you showcase your tours. Add a photo that will inspire the viewer to book. Also include the price range and, most importantly, a link to your tour page.
If your website is connected with a reservation system your customers can even place a direct booking with you.
Use the description to give more details about your tour, including the itinerary and any other relevant information. You have only 1000 characters, so be brief. And most important, don’t forget to add keywords!
Tip: Once “Products” is displayed as a carousel in GMB listing, make sure that you have your top 3 best-seller tours visible.
This is Google’s most promising feature for the tours, attractions and activities segment since the company decided to shut down its previous project Reserve With Google.
Basically, Google Things To Do is a new way to display experiences on the search results pages. Now when people search on Google for things to do, booking links and other ticket information will be displayed in different formats. It can be a list of ticket prices inside the Google My Business listing or a new carousel ad format at the top of the page.
Over time this will be one of the main features for tour operators to sell online. There are many benefits of using it and the sooner you submit your offers to Google, the sooner you will have them indexed and displayed for thousands of potential customers.
The top advantages of Google Things To Do for tour operators are:
Google Things To Do is not available at the moment for tours and activities, only for attractions. Even though, tour operators should be ready to have their offers indexed, since Google has announced the expansion to this segment soon.
Right now, only operators that are reselling tickets to attractions can have an offer displayed on Google Things To Do.
In order to use this functionality to sell your tours you have two options: have a tour page on your website or list your offer on an OTA.
Each option has its pros and cons, but if you want to pay less per booking, the first one is definitely the best solution.
Direct offers are called “In-person tickets” by Google Things To Do and they are displayed inside Tickets, a new section that will be added to your GMB listing.
To have your link at the top of Tickets, you will need to sign up for a reservation system that has the required integration with Google Things To Do, as Orioly does.
If you are using Orioly, for example, all the information of your products with a page on your website will be automatically sent to Google, once the product passes quality control, and will be ready to be displayed in your GMB listing.
Once your customers click the link for “In-person tickets”, they will be sent to your tour page to finish the booking.
That is the solution to have your offers displayed on Google Things To Do without having a website.
You just need to list your tours on OTAs that are Google’s partner and the search engine will do the rest. The downside as mentioned is the big commissions behind an OTA booking.
If you go for this solution you can also use Orioly’s channel manager to synchronize all availabilities and bookings in multiple partners.
This is Google’s advertising platform, there you can set up paid campaigns to show up on Google Search, Google Display Network and Youtube.
What makes Google Ads different from traditional media is that you pay per click or per impression on an ad. Due to its auction system, the campaign cost varies depending on how popular is a keyword or the website your ads are being displayed.
Since you are bidding on search terms you can “buy” the ones with transaction intent. That will attract clicks of users ready to book a tour with you.
Despite being a paid channel the ROI pays off if you plan well your campaign. According to Google, advertisers can make $8 for every $1 spent on ads using Google Ads. That’s not bad at all.
These are other benefits of using this platform:
As you are paying per click, you want the biggest conversion rate possible in order to optimize your budget. For that reason, you will need a strategy and a conversion-oriented tour page.
Knowing your ideal customer and the most valuable keywords for your business is the first step in creating a winning strategy for your ads.
Make sure tour pages are simple to navigate and contain everything a user needs to book with you. A comprehensive tour description, the itinerary, photos, videos, reviews and most importantly, a book now button. Check out this link for an example of a well-structured tour page.
If you don’t have a tour page or if you want to improve your current one, take a look at this guide.
Another important thing before starting with your campaigns is to connect your website with Google Analytics. This way you can set up goals to measure the success of your strategy and make changes to it if necessary.
Once your strategy is clear and your website ready to convert visitors into bookers, it’s time to set up your Google Ads campaigns. Four types of campaigns stand out when we talk about tours and activities, they are:
Search ads are text ads displayed on the Google Ads results page. If you sell bike tours in Paris for example, anyone searching the term “bike tours in paris” could see your ad at the top of Google’s results.
Setting up a search campaign is simple. The secret lies in choosing the right keywords and writing a catchy copy for your ads.
Tip: Create copy variations for your ads, Google will automatically select and display more often the ones with a higher conversion rate.
If this is your first time creating Search Ads, is worth reading this guide on How to Set up a Google Search Network Campaign.
Unlike search campaigns, display ads are visual. They are banners to be displayed in the Google Display Network, a group of more than 2 million websites, videos, and apps where your Google Ads can appear.
Among this plethora of websites there are travel blogs, news portals and many other places your ideal customer has a chance to navigate and see one of your ads.
Before creating a display campaign, you must have your graphics ready. Create a banner with appealing text, a “Book Now” CTA and an amazing image of the tour you are advertising. Google has a guide with creative best practices to follow that you should check.
Also, check out this professional designer’s advice on how to create the best banners for your campaigns.
There are different banner sizes that Google accepts. If you want your ads to be displayed more often, upload variations of your banners to your campaign. Also, A/B test your banners by changing the images, text and color.
Imagine someone is watching a video about the best sights in your destination. That is perfect timing for an ad about things to do at this destination, don’t you think?
Many people use YouTube to search for travel inspiration, which makes it an excellent channel to advertise your tours.
Is your budget tight to create a video but you still wanna show up on YouTube prime time? Don’t worry, you can always invest in non-video ads.
There are two types of non-video ads, display ads and in-video overlay ads. The first has an image and appears on the right-hand sidebar. The second appears floating on top of video content from monetized YouTube channels.
To understand better all YouTube ad formats and best practices in creating one, read The Complete Guide to YouTube Ads for Marketers.
This is one of the best ad formats for tour operators. According to Google, 48% of experience bookings are happening once travelers arrive at their destination.
When those travelers search for something local to do they will likely check Google Maps. That is the place where your ads will be displayed.
To set up a local search campaign, the first thing to do is to complete and update your Google My Business listing. The reason is that your Promoted Pin displays the information from GMB.
Next, you need to turn on the location extension in your Google Ads. This will enable campaigns to show the name, address and distance to your business, as well as a “call” button in your ads.
For this campaign, the physical location of your customer is very important. For example, you can use a strategy to display your ads only to people in your destination. This will save your budget and increase the chances for a conversion.
Finally, add the keywords that will trigger your ads and you are good to go with local search campaigns.
The work is not done after kicking off your campaigns. The setup and follow-up are equally important.
Take at least one day per week to study your campaigns data. Use what you have learned to fine-tune the configurations that are not optimal and to apply the many Google Ads filters to exclude demographics that are not converting.
Optimizing your campaigns takes time and effort, but will save you a lot of money over time. Learn how to manage your Google Ads campaigns with this guide.
Due to its relevance on the Internet, Google is and will be key to any digital marketing strategy for the next years. For this reason, you should learn how to deal with it, like it or not.
Getting results with Google is all about patience and persistence. You will always need to keep your Google My Business listing updated and Google Ads campaigns optimized.
Remember to always ask your customers how they ended up booking with you. This way you can measure if your efforts are paying off.
In addition to Google tools, you can also use other channels to market and sell your tours, social media is one of them. Download our Comprehensive Guide on Digital Marketing in Tourism for 2021 and learn the path to thrive with online sales.
on November 10, 2021
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