While summertime wins the prize for busiest travel time, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's are a close second. In 2012, AAA projected that over 93 million people traveled during the 10-17 day holiday between Christmas and New Year's, while nearly 44 million traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday. During these periods, traveling soars 23 percent over the rest of the year.
Travelers are making their holiday travel plans now. To get ahead of them, let's take a peek into the best word combos for PPC ads for different sub-categories in the travel vertical: Flights, Car Rentals, Hotels and Cruises.
Deep Dive Into Travel PPC
Bing Ads studied 150,000 ads running on the Yahoo Bing Network. These ads generated 50 million impressions for the month of June, 2013.
Today, I'll share the ad word performance visualized in heatmaps for those four travel categories, with the top 5 word combos (by device) for each category (similar to our study done for retail).
The heatmap shows you what works -- and more importantly, what doesn't work. We break word combos down by device so you can understand how user intent should affect ad copy.
In general, travel searchers are very specific and focused on accomplishing their task. Destination, dates and activities are often already determined by the time the searcher begins the hunt for airline tickets, hotel and car rental. Writing PPC travel ads with specific location names is key.
User intent as it relates to device is critical. Putting together different ads for mobile and PC is a must, as users on PCs are more likely to be attracted to official sites, while mobile users want to take action from a "book now" interface.
Airlines & Flights
The word "find" in the ad description ranks high when used with almost any travel-related words in the ad title, from "airfares" to "[city name]" to "deals."
PC users are much more interested in ads that include "official site" than either mobile or tablet users, which is indicative of the different intent depending on device. PC users have a bigger screen and are more willing to navigate a large, official site. Mobile users go directly to action, clicking on ads that include "book" and "flights."
Consumers won't be duped: the words "free" and "upgrade" in any car supplier ad will not be good for clicks.
"Weekend" is king of the keywords regardless of device when it comes to car supplier PPC ads. For mobile, "specials" is especially hot.
"Luxury," in either ad title or ad description, gets low marks except when used in combination with a hotel brand name. This is in line with shifting spending habits across the US since the economic downturn.
"Family" in the ad description attracts a lot of attention when used with either a brand name or a price point.
Two high-ranking words for ad title in the cruise suppliers category indicate a savvy market who knows what to expect in this category: "all-inclusive" and "sale."
Regardless of device, ads indicating a bargain ("sale," "deals," and even "cheap") get a lot of attention in this category.
High Level Audience Insights for Travel Brands
First off, your audience is smart. They're not going to fall for ads that seem unrealistic in their promise. For many people, planning travel is a time-consuming, expensive undertaking and it's not something they do on a daily basis.
They also know what to expect from specific categories, as a result of reputation. It's well known, for example, that cruise suppliers consistently discount cruise packages in order to fill ships. Travelers will search on those specific terms.
Breaking Down the Travel Study
To get a picture of the effectiveness of the ads, Bing Ads looked at the "clickability" of an ad (basically the CTR regardless of position). The Bing Ads study is broken into 4 travel vertical categories: Flights, Car Rentals, Hotels and Cruises. The report also sliced the data according to device: PC, mobile and tablet for further actionable insight.
These insights can be applied to PPC campaigns across engines, but it's worth noting that 15 million searchers use the Yahoo Bing Network exclusively to conduct travel searches (comScore US Search March 2013) and that this audience is not reached on Google. Consider that when applying across engines.
Get Back to Us On That
We'd love to hear your experience with testing word combos in PPC ads for travel. What successes have you had in reaching holiday travelers?
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John Gagnon is a Bing Ads Evangelist (aka “search nerd”) at Microsoft. He has worked for both Bing Ads and Google AdWords, and is a frequent speaker at digital marketing conferences such as SES, SMX, and others. He has advised hundreds of clients ranging from Microsoft teams like Windows and Internet Explorer to small businesses like local garage door repair shops just getting started.
March 19, 2014