Home  › Marketing › Strategies
travelairport

How Travel Brands Can Better Compete With OTAs

  |  May 23, 2013   |  Comments

Travel brands have a huge opportunity to circumvent the OTAs and connect directly with consumers searching for their products and services through paid, earned, and owned media strategies.

The travel sector continues to be highly competitive in the digital landscape as consumers flock to search engines to book travel plans. In 2012 comScore reported online travel spending surpassed $100 billion for the first time, a 9 percent increase over the previous year. The big booking winners aren't just airlines and hotels, but also online travel agents (OTAs) such as Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity. Currently the OTAs dominate the search engine results pages (SERPs) when popular non-branded keyword phrases are searched. However, travel brands can take back some of this business by adopting paid, earned, and owned media strategies to compete head-to-head with OTAs.

Non-branded searches are queries where a consumer does not have a brand preference, such as "Denver hotels" or "flights to Denver." If a sale is captured from one of these phrases on either the organic or paid sections of the SERP it is considered incremental revenue. Phrases like these are gold for travel marketers, because consumers without a brand preference start their path with an open mind.

Google has recently become an OTA itself, which makes this vertical even more competitive. The search giant purchased travel software company ITA in 2010, but just recently won a ruling that allows it to have a similar engine used by the OTAs right inside the search results. Consumers can now find fares right on the Google results page.

denver-hotels

Major travel brands pay a high price to have their reservations come through OTAs. Brands pay approximately 20 percent in commissions, and in some cases have to guarantee a large sales volume for exposure on OTA sites. An even bigger downside is the fact that the brand doesn't capture any consumer information that would allow them to build consumer loyalty with personalized offers, display retargeting, or other strategies.

Travel brands have a huge opportunity to circumvent the OTAs and connect directly with consumers searching for their products and services through paid, earned, and owned media strategies.

Here's how:

SEO and Content

Many travel brands are missing basic SEO strategies that would help them compete with OTAs. These include creating individual location pages cross-referenced with local attractions, tagging pages by interest, and creating onsite content specifically for high-volume search phrases.

Hotels and airlines can benefit from storytelling through videos, blog posts, testimonials, and resources for travelers both on- and offsite. These content pieces help increase search engine ranking in many ways. They provide additional opportunities to use SEO keywords, generate backlinks, and can increase search engine ranking if consumers find them valuable enough to share socially. This is how a brand should live in today's digital world.

Paid Media

Travel brands must invest in non-branded keyword phrases and build quality content around those terms. They must also dig deeper into keyword targets and get a better focus on the query strings - a one-to-one match with actual consumer search phrases.

Lastly, brands should build a first-party cookie data pool to remarket to those prospects. Say a consumer searches "Denver to Vegas" and clicks on a Southwest Airlines ad. She browses several pages, selects a ticket, but abandons the cart. A thorough display advertising program will show a Southwest ad featuring deals on flights from Denver to Vegas as she browses the Internet, reminding her to book the ticket.

There's no doubt that online travel is big business, but for travel brands to claim their fair share, they need an integrated digital media roadmap.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

Tags:

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, August 29 to take advantage of Super Saver Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Beckman

As CEO, Andrew Beckman oversees the strategic direction and business growth of Location3 Media. Andrew founded Location3 Media in 1999 as a media buying agency and has since expanded the portfolio of services to include PPC management, SEO, local search marketing, landing page optimization, social media, web analytics, creative design, content marketing strategy, and more.

Prior to founding Location3 Media, Andrew was an international sales manager for DoubleClick, Inc. where he was charged with opening new sales offices, as well as training teams on U.S. search marketing strategies. Andrew is an active member of DMA's Search Marketing Council, a governor for the DMA ECHO Committee, and is a frequent presenter at industry conferences including SES, SMX, PubCon, IFA, and DMA.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

Resources

Jobs

    • Product Specialist
      Product Specialist (Agora Inc. ) - BaltimoreDescription: The Product Specialist is hyper-focused on the customer experience and ensures that our...
    • Partnerships Senior Coordinator
      Partnerships Senior Coordinator (Zappos.com, Inc.) - Las VegasZappos IP, Inc. is looking for a Partnerships Senior Coordinator! Why join us? Our...
    • Assistant Product Listing Ads (PLA) Manager
      Assistant Product Listing Ads (PLA) Manager (Zappos.com, Inc.) - Las VegasZappos IP, Inc. is looking for an Assistant Product Listing Ads (PLA...