We have seen some big shifts within the local search landscape this year. We've had the removal of right hand side ads, lengthier character limits for both paid and organic, changes in map pack results etc. Although these shifts affect a variety of industries, the hotel industry in particular saw some of the biggest impacts. As mentioned in our previous posts, among these changes is the increasing dominance of OTAs within organic and paid results.
So with all of these changes and increased competition, how does search work to drive direct bookings?
Search Force to the rescue!
Combine the power of your PPC and SEO channels to really increase your visibility across brand and non-brand terms. Our top three recommendations are:
1. Drive consistent messaging
Both channels can really help cut through the OTA noise for both brand and non-brand searches. Updating your page titles to coincide with the PPC ad copy can actually improve overall CTRs. The example below shows how we emphasised Hotel du Vin’s presence on the SERP through consistent messaging with both paid and organic results promoting the January sale:
We’ve seen a 7-8% increase in CTR when testing this strategy across a hotel offer by ensuring the price point and messaging was consistent across all locations. No OTAs will have the same messaging, meaning you can easily grab the user’s attention and capitalise on traffic with a change as simple as aligning paid and organic copy.
2. Test keywords through ads
Ad copy itself can also be a great way of testing what keywords will generate the highest CTRs for organic search results. Creating ads that utilise your keywords can help you identify which ones will drive the highest CTRs and even improve your CR.
Create ad groups based on your chosen keywords and set the ad delivery to “Show the best performing ad most often”. It’s also worth focussing this strategy on high volume keywords to get the most accurate data as quickly as possible. Set these ads to the landing page you’re looking to optimise to see what this does to you CTR.
An article from Search Engine Land recommends testing this with two or three ads per keyword and letting these run.
3. Double your presence for strong visibility
Having a strong visibility in search overall is key to combatting the OTA presence. Google studies (taken from the Impact of Ranking Of Organic Search Results On The IncrementalityOf Search Ads from research.google.com) that having both paid and organic within the first page of search can have a positive impact on overall CTRs.
Google has released its findings which showed that 82% of ad clicks are incremental when the associated organic result is ranked between two and four, and 96% of clicks are incremental when the brand’s organic result was five or below.
Using the Google study as a model, we’ve had a look at some non-brand terms for one of our larger hotel clients and what these incremental improvements can do based on the different organic positions.
We found that having both paid and organic (dependent on organic positions) within the search results would equate to an additional 2,500 visits a month (a massive 82% uplift in traffic) for non-brand terms. These incremental increases will work with brand searches too and should be implemented within your overall search strategy.
Sometimes the reason is the season
Our three key tips for making your budget go even further throughout the year:
1. Plan your strategy around seasonal trends
Don’t forget to take seasonal trends into account when creating your search strategy, as this can be very impactful. These insights will ensure that you are using budgets efficiently but are also addressing both a long and short term strategies. Remember that search is a ‘pull’ channel; investment in paid should mirror seasonal demand.
Refocus investment towards your organic activity when there’s a dip in seasonality. This means your content will be optimised when the demand increases, helping your overall search strategy.
Testing seasonal messaging or keywords within your ad copy can help dictate what to use for your seasonal content. Helping you to drive a higher CTR overall by using seasonality to your advantage.
2. What does availability look like?
Using data from Google Trends, Analytics and even room availability data can help you build a strong search strategy for the upcoming year.
Up weighting and down weighting bids based on the room availability in certain locations will help to manage your budget more efficiently. This can also help protect your CR in terms of managing any fluctuations in increased demand for certain dates/locations. For example, if there’s a big event near one the hotel locations and there is no longer availability, you can focus that spend on locations where there is plenty of availability.
3. Be budget efficient
Looking at the seasonal peaks and troughs will also help to guide you in terms of where to up weight and down weight your bids. Improving budget efficiency and ensuring you are visible on SERPs at peak times. Lower search volume periods are the ideal time to shift budget from paid to organic. You’ll drive less traffic during these periods, so use your CPC savings to focus on optimising your organic performance (and your long term game plan) even further.
Research is vital: the more you do, the better informed you will be when it comes to seasonal trends!
Many of the challenges we’ve seen this past year have helped us to look at our search strategy in a different way. As we move into 2017, we need to look at PPC and SEO as a combined effort rather than individual channels. Using the tips in this blog post, you can help improve performance, reclaim users from OTAs and drive direct bookings. Make 2017 the best year by bringing the Search Force into your strategy!
Written by Jessica Bazinet PPC Manager & Luke McGregor PPC Team Leader.