Google is a very important source of direct bookings for tour operators. Running Google Ads campaigns is a common marketing strategy for those looking for faster results than SEO.
However, the expenses with Google Ads can run over your budget if campaigns are not optimized. And after two years of a downturn, most tour operators cannot afford big investments in digital marketing.
Luckily, Google Ads is a flexible platform that offers highly customizable targeting options. This allows you to target your ideal customer, increasing your ROI and spending less.
This article shows how tour operators can reduce their costs with Google Ads by optimizing their campaigns.
According to Google, on average, for every dollar spent on Google Ads, businesses get $2 in return. That is an ROI of 100%, which is not bad at all.
One of the reasons for this high ROI is because people are four times more likely to click ads on Google than on any other ads platform, according to BClutch.co.
Regarding the travel industry, the average traveler spends 13% of their time online conducting travel-related activities. And Google is the preferred channel for it.
Google is an important tool for travel planning, and travelers will rely on it at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Since travel-related businesses have good results using Google Ads, many tour operators and OTAs use it to advertise their products. The high competition ends up raising the cost per click (CPC).
But don’t worry, it is still possible to have good results at an affordable price with the right strategy.
Do you know where your most valuable guests come from? If you did your homework you probably have an ideal customer profile(s), hence, the country they come from.
The location your ads are displayed should vary depending on this information. Are you targeting international or local travelers?
If your main guests come from abroad, use Google Ads’ powerful location targeting settings to limit your campaigns to their countries. You can even target a specific city depending on your strategy.
Even though the whole world is your market, probably certain locations have a higher conversion cost. To save money, exclude them from your campaigns.
If you are targeting local travelers, customize the targeting options to include the locations near you. You can even set a radius to limit your campaigns to a maximum distance from your city.
For local campaigns, make sure to select the option “Those in my area” in the advanced settings section. This will configure your campaigns to be displayed only for people that are physically in your location, and exclude people that are outside it but searching about your area.
TIP: Turn on the location extension on your campaign to run your ads on Google Maps and the local 3-pack. That is an extra push to have in-destination guests booking with you.
By simply limiting the location your ads are displayed, you will save precious dollars at the end of the month.
The more specific a keyword, the better your results and the less you will spend to reach your goals.
To avoid low-quality clicks, focus on long-tail keywords. These are keywords made up of three or more words. Because they are more specific, the competition is lower and the CPC is cheaper.
For example, if you offer a wine tour in Barcelona, buying the keywords “tour”, “food tour” or even “wine tour” could result in less qualified leads. The optimal scenario is to buy the keyword “wine tour barcelona”.
Similar to location targeting, you can also exclude low-quality terms from your campaigns. For instance, the keyword “free” is not interesting if you offer a paid tour and can be left out of your campaign.
TIP: Limit the keyword matching types on your campaigns. Instead of buying broad terms, focus on phrase and exact match keywords. In general, better leads come from queries using the more limited match types.
Google Display Network is a great tool to raise awareness and drive traffic to your website, but, in general, it’s more expensive than an optimized search campaign.
This type of ad reaches a wider audience than search ads, but, usually, users that see your banners are not looking online for what you offer at that exact moment. Because of that, the conversions for display ads tend to be lower.
Nevertheless, Google Display Ads are excellent to raise brand awareness and you should give them a try after you are dominating search ad campaigns.
When you search for something on Google, most of the ads resulting from your query will look the same at first sight. A bunch of text.
How to stand out from the competition?
The answer is to add extensions to your campaigns.
Look at the image below. Do you see how the first ad stands out compared to the one in the second position?
That is because the first one has an image and site link extensions.
Other extensions are:
But campaign extensions don’t have the only purpose to make your ads stand out, they are also meant to give users more information about your offer. This is important to avoid clicks from non-qualified leads.
Add as many extensions as possible, this way you will give more information to the users at the same time your ads will stand out from the competition.
Your ad copy is your only resource to attract web visitors when extensions are not displayed by Google. In this case, you should have a strategy to make your text stand out from competitors.
The first step is to know who are your competitors.
For that purpose you can perform a search on Google for the desired terms, or use the Auction Insights feature inside Google Ads.
Once you have spotted your competitors, check out a keyword research tool, such as SEMrush, to have an idea about their web copy.
The strategy here is to do the opposite that your competitors are doing. If most of them are highlighting prices, write about your flexible booking conditions. If they are offering a discount, write a copy that elevates the quality of your tours.
Other tips to write a top-notch ad copy are:
By writing a good copy for your ads, chances are more qualified leads will click on them.
There is something called Quality Score that Google uses to assess how relevant your ad is to the users. A higher Quality Score equals a lower CPC.
This score is calculated based on the ad copy and landing page. To get a higher Quality Score your landing page should be aligned with what you are advertising.
For example, if you are announcing a hairdresser service and your page is selling pet food, your Quality Score will be very low.
This is an extreme example. In general, users should find on your landing page at least the keywords and conditions announced in your ad. This will increase the time they stay on your page and ultimately book a tour with you.
High converting tour landing pages usually have the following:
You might think that Google Ads is just worth it if your ads are in the first position. Wrong.
Lower positions can still drive quality traffic to your website and at a lower cost.
Let me explain. Google Ads uses an auction system. To be in the first position you should pay more for a click. Therefore, lower positions have a cheaper cost per click.
Moreover, being in the first position could attract less-quality leads. Basically, people who are not ready to buy and are just searching for information online to make a buying decision. That can be costly to your campaign.
To adjust the max CPC for your keywords, the first thing you need to do is to go to the Keywords tab in your campaign. There you should enable the columns “Est. Top of Page Bid”, “Est. First Page Bid”, and “Est. First Position Bid” in order to view the average position of your ads for each keyword.
Now, find the ones you are ranking in the first position and limit their CPC in order to show up in a lower position.
To still drive relevant traffic to your website even in a lower position, you should optimize your ads as suggested in this article. Especially by writing a good copy and adding extensions.
Google Ads is a great platform for tour operators to boost their direct bookings. Nevertheless, poorly optimized campaigns could be costly and drain all the marketing budget returning small or no results.
The suggestions presented in this article to optimize your Google Ads campaigns were:
Improve your digital marketing efforts with our ebook Comprehensive Guide on Digital Marketing in Tourism. Download it here.
on May 11, 2022
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