Digital Marketing for the Travel Industry: What You Need to Know
Being the UK’s 2nd oldest surviving digital marketing agency (and Scotland’s oldest), Ambergreen is a full-service (SEO, Content, Paid Media, Analytics) agency that’s used to adapting to the times and keeping on top of the latest trends.
Over the years, there have been huge changes in the travel industry and our founder, Grant Whiteside, has seen them all. In the lead-up to the World Travel Market, we spoke to him to get his observations.
What’s changed in the marketing of the travel industry over the last 14 years?
“The only constant in the travel industry is change. Nothing stands still. For me, the most striking change I’ve seen over the years is the level of control that has shifted to the consumer. With the rise of sites like Airbnb, consumers have greater granular choice than ever before.
“Mobile has revolutionised things. A few years ago, people may have researched options via their phone, then used a desktop platform to actually convert. These days, mobile offers a single integrated experience. A variety of mobile apps make it simple for people to complete their booking via the likes of Ryanair and Airbnb.
“If package operators are to compete, they have to be able to offer the levels of simplicity and choice that customers expect in today’s market.
“Go back 15 years – travel brochures were king. These days, their role has changed. Where they still exist they’re coffee table items, not items designed to directly convert a sale. The sales funnel for travellers has fundamentally altered.”
Being an integrated, full-service marketing agency, Ambergreen’s different departments all have insights to offer when it comes to effective marketing of the travel sector.
Grant’s key digital marketing takeaways for the travel industry
- Choice is now firmly in the hands of the consumer.
- Your company’s offering must be fully optimised for mobile.
- The new travel sales funnel must be acknowledged and understood if it’s to be capitalised upon.
The technical SEO side – how can an audit help travel firms?
Mark Proctor is Ambergreen’s Head of SEO and brings a wealth of experience to the role. We caught up with him to find out how a technical audit could bring a boost for travel companies.
“Things an SEO audit might reveal would include whether the site is likely to appear for the searches most relevant to the types of holidays they provide (which are therefore most likely to convert).
“A typical example may be that a site includes a page about ‘holidays in Prague’ – which, from a searcher’s perspective is a big broad informational query.
“When we look at the way people search however, we see variations with greater specificity, including “cheap holidays to Prague”, “city breaks to Prague”, “weekend breaks to Prague”, “Prague apartments”, and “luxury holidays in Prague”.
“The high relevancy of these searches typically reveal a potential customer that is further down the sales funnel than one performing the broad informational search.
“If our client offers services to match these types of query, but doesn’t have their site optimised in a manner that communicates that to Google, there’s an opportunity.
“An audit of the site lets us understand which search queries the site is currently likely to be considered for a good rank for by Google.
“When we combine that with search demand analysis, we build a picture of the potential market, build a gap analysis, and ultimately use that information to optimise the client’s site so that it matches the way their market searches for their products or services.
“The technical audit will typically reveal any reasons why a site isn’t performing well for terms that it might be considered to be targeting – there are a lot of factors we look at, but the most common include slow loading speeds, poor page formatting, misconfigured settings and poor site architecture.”
Mark’s key technical SEO takeaways
- Breaking down your approach to cover more granular search terms helps you be found by users who are most likely to convert.
- Even when your content has been produced to service these terms, you have to make sure that this content can be easily found and understood by Google.
- Keyword research can reveal the gaps between what your site is currently being found for and what it should be found for – highlighting opportunities you need to be taking.
- Slow loading speeds, poor page formatting, misconfigured settings, and poor site architecture could all be holding back the performance of your content.
Content – why is this such a crucial part of the travel marketing mix?
Chris Sharp is the Content Marketing and Outreach Specialist at Ambergreen, bringing together research and creativity to deliver content that hits the mark. We spoke to him about the importance of content in travel marketing.
“Travel is always aspirational. It’s the allure and mystique of far-off destinations that get people excited; the opportunities to meet new people, go on adventures, experience different cultures.
“Bringing all that to life in a travel brochure is an impossible task – it simply doesn’t gel with the wealth of factual information that needs to be included. It also doesn’t help to get people in the door in the first place.
“Content is the solution to this dilemma. Regular blogs, videos, emails, and so on, helps fulfill the primary aim of any marketing: show, don’t tell. As the old adage goes: “People may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”
“Words can paint pictures, send people on adventures, activate their own imagination to make the holiday seem more fantastical than you could even dream of. So use them!
“However, content alone isn’t enough to make you stand out, you also need to show customers why you are different, why you even sell holidays. If customers understand the ‘why’ behind your business they will start to identify with your brand, to believe in it.
“Is generating that belief worth the effort? Consider the fact that the only thing that impacts upon the perceived quality of wine is the price point. You can give people two glasses of the same wine, tell them that one is worth much more than the other, and they will report finding the ‘more expensive’ wine as being tastier. Neuroimaging backs this up – people actually enjoy wine more if they think it’s more expensive.
“So the belief in your holidays affects not just the amount of people buying them, but the price they will pay and their actual enjoyment when they arrive!”
Chris’s key content takeaways:
- Bring your holidays, destinations, and service to life with creative content that activates the imagination of your customers.
- Tailor not just the content, but the tone and style to fit in with the type of holiday or destination you are promoting.
- Use data to align your marketing around what the customer wants and what they aspire to. A graduate on a gap year will want cheap fun, adventures, and to meet great people. An OAP will tend to favour culture, history, and safety.
- Use your content to generate belief in your holidays as well as your brand. If people buy in to your brand vision, they will enjoy their holiday more and become a strong brand advocate.
Analytics – what do the mean for the travel industry?
Yana Trofimenko is a Research & Data Analyst at Ambergreen, dedicated to showing brands how capturing, understanding and utilising their data can add to their bottom line. We asked her to identify the information that travel companies should be focusing on.
“Travel is an extremely complex sector because of the number of factors which could affect a customer’s decision to purchase. Selecting a destination is something which will usually require a good deal of consideration, requiring return visits to travel websites.
“The decision is also likely to have been made by more than one person as there can be several different stakeholders with potentially conflicting interests and desires. A lone traveller’s experience in making a choice will differ from that of somebody booking a family break. Also, holidays can take a number of different forms – beach holidays, city break, adventure break – and can be taken around different occasions – New Year, honeymoon etc.
“This all means that travel companies have an amazing opportunity to collect detailed data about customers.”
Why does Yana advise that travel companies do with their data?
- Leverage on search and comparison micro-moments and encourage visitors to log in with the option to search/receive updates on their preferred destination.
- Collect detailed data about all customers’ searches and show them their personal search history and recommended destinations.
- Optimise on-site conversion paths for better navigation and tracking micro-conversions.
- Employ a cross-channel marketing strategy to make customers come back (PPC, SEO, direct mail).
Paid Media & PPC – how can you ensure that your adverts are optimised for conversion?
Colleen McCaskell works in Ambergreen’s Paid Media department and took time out to give us the benefit of her travel-related experience.
“With the complex purchase decision process for travel companies, the role different channels play in helping drive sales and revenue can be the difference between having a solid campaign and having an amazing campaign!
“If you’re only trying to convert users on search then you’re basically saying you believe users will convert the first time they visit your website or your brand and offering is that memorable that users will come back without prompting. That’s a huge assumption in today’s multichannel, multi device, multi touchpoint world.
“It’s therefore vital to understand your customer, leveraging data from your site as well as third parties, to help you make invest the right level of budget in the right places in order to outflank the competition and fuel the growth of your business.
“Another important aspect of creating a winning paid media campaign is writing ads and creative to ensure you’re speaking to your customer appropriately as different things are going to appeal to different people.
“For example, if I was tailoring ad copywriting to demographics of older folks / empty-nesters, it wouldn’t be relevant to focus on how family-friendly the holidays are.
“There’s also the issue of price brackets. For travel packages aimed at people operating on a budget, mentioning “prices start from just £300” could be a great thing as the customer will realise it’s within their price range.
“However, discounts and prices don’t typically hold that much appeal to customers specifically looking for an upscale, luxurious holiday. So, first and foremost, we have to bear the potential customer in mind.
“Secondly, you need to know what the competition is offering. There’s not much point in saying, ‘prices start from £300’ if all the other guys who run similar tours are undercutting you — your ad will just look silly.
“If you aren’t able to make your prices more competitive, you need to find other USPs to flag up. Mentioning numbers (20% etc.) is a known tactic for grabbing attention, but if every other advertiser is doing this, then you should probably find another approach or you’re just going to blend into the landscape.
“Finally, with holiday ads being super-competitive in the SERPs, good ad extensions can make or break you in terms of actually catching people’s attention and getting them to click. Star ratings, reviews, callouts, and structured snippets are all indispensable on top of well-written copy and will help you take up more real estate in the results. The ads without the star ratings in the example below probably a have far worse click-through rate (and they’re in lower positions, as well).”
Colleen’s key PPC takeaways
- Ad copy has to be optimised to suit the target demographic. Focus on the travel factors that matter to them.
- Only lead with information or angles that will positively differentiate your brand from its competitors.
- Have extensions on your ad such as star ratings / reviews. These (if positive) will improve click-through rates.
Want more helpful tips like this? Get our quarterly newsletter straight to your inbox.