Traditional marketing saw companies aim to hit the jackpot, make that perfect ad and sell you their product in an instant. Even if they left you with little more than an annoying, unforgettable jingle, they succeeded. The seed was planted.
But that was advertising before the internet. In the dawn of the information era, where everything is accessible to customers and catchy jingles no longer swing sales to the extent they once did, companies must develop new methods to be discovered and remembered by customers.
Discovered is the key term there. Particularly in the case of the travel industry. We know that smaller travel agencies struggle to compete against the industry’s big players. And that a handful of platforms dominate search engine results and therefore bookings. That’s the downside to having a system that allows well-funded companies with astute business models to gain a global stranglehold. It’s tough on startups, but everyone has to start somewhere.
But it’s also an opportunity. A frenetic market has its own possibilities.
We know that the majority of travellers are now researching, planning and booking trips online using every device you can imagine. Smart TVs, mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Even voice assistants.
In part that’s out of convenience. These devices are now our gateway to the online world. It’s also because E-commerce is more trusted than it was. Not to mention the sheer amount of content and travel guides online. Organising your travel experience online has become a no-brainer.
However, this move toward digital has a downside: It’s hard for travel agencies to grow and get noticed when people have so many potential options for flights, accommodation, tours and more. Especially when a small number of players dominate the online travel game.
SEO has long been a major determinant of lead generation. However, Google’s Adwords platform provides a way for operators big and small to bypass all of those SEO hoops and put their links directly in front of potential customers.
Google is comfortably among the most popular websites in the world, with 28 billion visits every single month. Its many travellers’ gateway to the internet. So generating leads through the search engine - whether through organic SEO or by paying for them using the Adwords platform - is vital if a travel agent wants to survive and thrive.
Which explains why smaller agents such as Secret Escapes are looking for ways to refine their Adwords techniques, doing whatever they can to lower their Cost Per Lead (CPL) and ultimately, increase the efficiency of their marketing efforts
British travel agent Secret Escapes is seeking to solve these problems through the use of machine learning.
Hang on, you might be thinking. What is this vaguely AI-related buzzword all about?
Well, very briefly, machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that uses algorithms to scan huge piles of data in search of patterns and trends. Patterns and trends that a human couldn’t otherwise spot. It’s being applied already in the travel industry, it’s being used for various things, from fraud detection to developing intelligent travel assistants.
You get the idea: Machine learning is capable of doing a lot of the heavy lifting in a short time frame.
Secret Escapes thought they could use the technology to reduce their CPL.
The membership-only online travel agency, which specialises in luxury packages, decided to adopt a Google Ads Smart Bidding approach called tCPA, or Target Cost Per Acquisition. This is a dynamic, automated approach to bidding that uses advanced machine learning to optimise bids automatically, and tailor bids to each auction.
The test started in Google AdWords’ Draft & Experiments with a seven-day learning phase, then continued until the results reached significance. The team tested across multiple markets at the same time so they could compare outcomes and collect more insights.
When the test was complete, they found that using tCPA bidding on average produced a 23% better click-through rate, 65% more conversions and an overall cost per lead that was 38% lower than their previous bidding setup. In some accounts, they even saw 100% greater impression volume.
So what do those numbers mean in practice?
Well, no doubt a 23% better click-through rate granted the company’s products and packages significantly higher exposure than they would have done otherwise. The devil in the detail also suggests that the ads were improved in the sense that they were better targeted, too.
Which of course contributed to a whopping 65% more conversions.
A 38% lower CPL is also music to the ears of any marketing boss.
Rumyana Miteva, Head of Search at Secret Escapes was certainly happy with the results. “Machine learning is evolving and automation within Google Ads is getting better and better, which give us the confidence to continue using automated bidding at scale,” she said.
Secret Escapes have proved that you don't have to spend a fortune to get great results through GoogleAds.
And there's certainly a lot to be gained from using the platform cleverly. However, here at Travelshift we favour a more organic approach to winning business.
Our marketplace software empowers small operators to dominate their travel niche by banding together, creating awesome content and connecting travellers with the information they need and local experts. It's packed with tools and pre-made solutions to help your marketplace get off the ground and seamlessly attract both buyers and sellers.
It all adds up to a software platform that naturally creates the quality and quantity of content that search engines seek out. Not to mention an informative, go-to source for those curious about your travel niche or chosen destination.