Summer travel is in full swing. Travel marketers want to capitalize on the high season in a competitive market and parlay current demand into off-season bookings. This means you’re likely looking for new ways to make your brand stand out. So how do you reach travelers to convince them to choose you instead of the competition? The answer is Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
Travelers are finding their trip inspiration online, and reaching them with the right message at the right time can be what tips them in your direction. There are several ways to generate traffic to your site, but SEM is an incredibly effective method. Google processes approximately 9 billion searches and Bing processes nearly 900 million every single day. This means there are millions of opportunities for you to use SEM to reach travelers on any given day.
Let’s dive into SEM to help you drive more conversions for your travel business.
What does the current travel landscape look like?
Currently, 71% of consumers want brands to provide personalized experiences, and travelers are no exception. Travelers are looking for different things, including:
- Seamless discovery and booking processes
- Special offerings and robust loyalty programs
- Sustainable systems and destinations
- Wellness activities and amenities
- Fun and adventurous activities
- Off-the-beaten-path itineraries
Meanwhile, travel marketers have their own list of wants and needs, including:
- Extending marketing budgets
- Staying competitive against OTAs and other travel options
- Increasing quality website traffic and brand exposure
SEM is not only one of the most important channels travelers use before and during their trips. A strong SEM strategy is the ultimate win-win. You can deliver the experiences and messages travelers want while making the most of your marketing efforts and budget.
What is search engine marketing and how does it work?
Let’s start by breaking down what SEM is. The SEM process is an auction where brands—anything from destinations to hotels to OTAs—can gain exposure to travelers as they plan their trips online. Google Ads is the most common paid search platform because it allows marketers to advertise on the Google Search Network and affiliated sites.
With SEM, brands bid to have their website link shown at, or near, the top of a search results page, as well as in Google Maps. You determine the cost-per-click you’re willing to pay for your ad to display when a traveler searches for terms relevant to your site. Then, you bid on those keywords.
The higher the bid, the higher the ranking in the final search result. For example, a hotel marketer in Florence may bid on keywords such as “lodging Florence,” “hotels in Florence,” or “Italy boutique hotels” to ensure their property shows up at the top of the list. When a potential traveler clicks on your site in the search results, you’ll pay your bid price whether they book or not.
Once you enter the auction, Google looks at two factors to determine where your ad should rank: your maximum bid for the keyword and the quality score. The quality score is a metric used to determine how relevant and useful your ad is. The best combined CPC bid and the quality score determine how high your ad will display in the search results. When budgeting and creating your bidding strategy, you’ll need to consider both parts of the equation.
What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?
While SEM and SEO methods seek to accomplish the same thing—displaying your page at the top of the search list—they use two vastly different strategies.
Unlike SEM, search engine optimization (SEO) is a non-paid, organic method for optimizing a brand website for search engine rankings. Your site’s ranking in the search results is determined by the content you place on the site. For example, if you use relevant keywords and phrases throughout your site, travelers who search for those terms on your website will appear higher on the results page. While SEO drives organic or free traffic to your website, you should pay continual attention to your content to keep your site high in the rankings.
Why is SEM a big deal?
Often, search engines push organic search results down the page in favor of paid ads, which means travelers are far less likely to see your site. On the other hand, the right SEM strategy can help you secure the top spots on the search engine results page, making your site far more visible to potential travelers.
SEM also helps you stay competitive against third-party booking websites. Third-party sites will bid on your property, destination, or attraction, which means their listing will show higher on the results page than your own listing. Even if potential travelers are searching for your brand by name, if you don’t have a strategy in place, your direct site will appear lower than other brands.
With the right SEM strategy, you can ensure your brand’s website is visible to potential travelers as they search for their next trip.
At Sojern, we’ve helped travel brands all around the world create and refine SEM campaigns that meet their goals. Contact us to get started today.