By Ian Howie Co-Founder & CTO of specialist search agency, 1upDigital.co.uk.
It’s exciting times for the travel vertical and paid search. New innovations in mobile search mean that you as a travel brand can reach potential customers in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.
Despite the recession travel queries on Google began to grow steadily at the beginning of last year, with travel searches up 20% Year on Year (YoY). The other good news is that clicks on travel ads are up by 13% YoY and Costs Per Click are down 6-10%.
Recent months have seen some big challenges in travel, notably the volcanic ash cloud that continues to invade our air space. Bad news for some – BAA airports saw a 22% drop in traffic during April – but a great opportunity for others.
So how can travel brands move forward and squeeze more out of search marketing. Does it go beyond Google AdWords and the search network?
New Innovations – Mobile
Picture this: You’re stuck in Spain with thousands of other passengers. You need to get home. There are no flights. What are the alternatives? You pull out your mobile phone and you start searching for buses, Eurostar tickets, and cross channel ferries. And if all else fails and you have to stay put, local hotels.
But how many bus companies, ferry operators or hotel chains had mobile search campaigns running? Not many!
Of course, mobile search marketing isn’t just reserved for natural disasters and strikes. For years, marketers have been saying that “this is the year for mobile”, and it hasn’t quite come true until now. Mobile search marketing has had a profound effect on the travel industry over the last 12 months.
Some mobile search stats:
• It is predicted that in the next four years, searches made on Google from mobile phone devices will overtake searches from desktop computers.
• Travel queries on mobiles have rocketed - 350% YoY growth in travel searches on mobile devices
• Any Google product developments are now built with mobile in
mind. The focus is on high-end devices like iPhone, Android and
Palm Pre, that have full HTML browsers, rather than Blackberries that use WAP
• easyJet and BA, to name but a few, run highly successful mobile campaigns that are driving real sales
• Recent events like the volcanic ash cloud and BA strikes have highlighted mobile search opportunities
Developing Your Mobile Strategy
Building your mobile campaign is easier than you think and can be set up within your AdWords account. Key things to remember are:
1. Be found
Just like your “normal” search campaigns, mobile search uses keywords to answer the user’s query, driving them to a landing page.
You also have the option of including a phone number in your ad that the user can click on to call your business from their mobile. Tests of the “Click to Call” numbers in ads have shown on average a 5-30% increase in Click Through Rates (CTR).
2. Be targeted and precise
When you are setting up your mobile campaign, you can target users based on the device or mobile operator. For example, if you have a mobile site and want to target business travel users, you could choose to target Blackberries on Vodaphone.
Google mobile search also allows you to target specific locations that can be pinpointed with frightening accuracy – up to 2 metres if the device has GPS.
This means you can target or tailor your message according to location, and show your customer relevant information like the nearest hotel in your chain, or the nearest travel agent. Then you give them addresses and phone numbers so they can take immediate action.
3. Be relevant
Just like you would with any search campaign, give the user the most relevant information, and if you’re driving them to a landing page, make sure it’s what they are looking for.
If the user is looking for ‘flights to Amsterdam’, give them a mobile friendly page with flight information, special offers and related travel information like hotels or local events.
4. Be easy-to-use
Having a mobile campaign doesn’t necessarily mean building a whole new mobile site. This is especially true if you are targeting high-end devices like the iPhone. They use full HTML browsers so you don’t need to build a whole new site. But you might need to make some changes. Check what your site looks like on a mobile device.
There is a really easy-to-use tool where you can check how mobile friendly your website is: http://validator.w3.org/mobile/
And remember to test a Click-to-Call phone number in your ads. From there you can connect with the user straight from your ad.
5. Be ready
Next time there’s a volcanic ash cloud or BA strike action, you should be ready to offer people an alternative way to get to their destination, or a place to stay, or some help and advice, through their mobile phone.
Be ready to seize opportunities by building campaigns now and having them ready to go when you need them.
As the mobile Internet grows, it will offer new, exciting and innovative search opportunities, and a cost effective way to target users in a time when marketing budgets are under scrutiny.
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