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Does advertising with Google Ads work for Accommodation and Tourism?

The Google Ads game

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve more than likely heard of Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), and you might have even had a chance to publish some of your own ads for your business. It seems like nearly everyone is running some sort of Google Ads campaign these days; whether you’re searching for a new iPhone 12 plan, trying to find cheap flights to New Zealand or browsing for a new fuel-efficient car – someone out there is paying for your clicks. But, does Google Ads work in the tourism industry?

Like all things in the field of digital marketing, everyone has tried out pretty much every tool you can think of. Whether it’s Facebook Advertising, Snapchat Ads, Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) or Google Ads. These companies have made it really easy for just about anyone with a computer, an internet connection and a credit card to get started.

This is where things get a bit difficult.

With more participants in the PPC (Pay-Per-Click) marketplace, we have more bids. More bids in an auction can only mean one thing – we’re paying more. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you’re paying $2 per click and one of these clicks lead to a booking at your luxury 5 bedroom beach house, but it does pose a problem if these ads are attracting the wrong traffic, who might not be interested in your accommodation.

Now we have another issue, if there are mountains of advertisers jumping onto Google Ads and bidding for high traffic keywords, without really understanding how they can sculpt a campaign to ensure only searchers who have a high likelihood of converting are clicking on their ads, then not only are throwing their money away, but they’re making your clicks more expensive.

So should we be focussing our attention exclusively on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and email marketing? Absolutley not.

With the right attention to your unique offering, extensive research on the competition, and most importantly a thorough and comprehensive understanding of what your guests are searching for, you can build a profitable and effective Google Ads campaign. Google is most concerned with presenting searchers with the most relevant websites, content and information. Which is why even if you’re a small operator, if you’re an authority on a town, an experience or a tourism offering, there’s no reason why you can’t go up against a global Online Travel Agency like Airbnb and appear before any other content on the Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

How to get better results with Google Ads for Accommodation and Tourism

Keywords

The most important thing in Google Ads is your keyword selection. Google Ads is all about keywords. To be effective, you need to do your homework and find out what your guests are searching for, what terms they’re using and what they expect to find when they enter them into Google. But don’t forget, Google Ads is an auction so the more popular the keyword is, the more cash you’ll pay to present your ad alongside it.

So how do we minimize spending and maximize bookings? If you pick more specific keywords, instead of the more popular ones, the clicks will cost less and you’ll attract visitors to your website who are far more likely to book. These keywords have to be relevant and tailored to your guest. If I own a cheap and cheerful backpackers with 8 bed shared rooms, do I want my ad to show for the searchers who are looking for that luxury beach house? Probably not. So I’d be looking to rank for search terms with “cheap”, “hostel” and “backpackers” instead of bidding to show up when users are looking for “accommodation” or “overnight stays”. Granted, my guests may be looking for what I’m offering with those more general searches, but the likelihood of capturing their search over those looking for hotels, holiday homes, caravan parks and more, is exceptionally low. Whereas working towards showing ads for the more specific keywords is going to ensure I’m connected with them nearly every time, making every click I pay for money well spent.

Match Types

Now this is one that catches a lot of new Google Ads advertisers and very quickly exhausts their budget with little results. Google doesn’t just match searchers by aligning their search term with your keywords – if only it were that easy! Google has several different methods for directing your potential customers to your ads, and they’re based largely on the match type you select for your keywords. So, what is a match type? Google offers three main match types:

  • Broad Match: In the case of broad match, Google will show your ad to the people who not only search for the keywords you used in your keyword research, but also different variations of it. For example, if someone searches for “Holiday House in Cairns”, Google will show your ad to searchers who look up things like “Cairns Holiday Homes” and “Vacation Rental in Cairns”. Now that sounds ok, right? But your ad might also present to searchers who type in “ Cairns Holiday house for sale” or “How to renovate a holiday house in Cairns”, not ideal. Now some of these errors can be curtailed through a “Negative Keywords List” (one for another post, but essentially a list of what you don’t want your ad to show up for), but Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and you will always be surprised with the matches it can make, even with an exhaustive negative keywords list.
  • Phrase Match: this one is where we start to claim a bit more control over the search experience. Phrase match allows you to specify an exact phrase that must show up in a search query for your ad to show up. So you might have a phrase match keyword like “Castlemaine Accommodation”, or “Holiday House Castlemaine”, and your ad will only show up when users have put one of these phrases in – but it will still show up if there are more words on either side, which can introduce a similar dilemma. Searchers might type in “Cheap Castlemaine Accommodation”, which doesn’t work if you’re running ads for a luxury 5 bedroom home with a private swimming pool.
  • Exact Match: finally, we can really narrow things down to specific keywords. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, not exactly. Yes, if you have accommodation in Port Fairy and you want to run your ads exclusively on “Port Fairy Accommodation”, but what happens when that dream guest who’s ready to book your finest property for 4 weeks types in “Holiday Accommodation Port Fairy” – would it be worth trying to get in front of them? Well, you could keep expanding your list – but there will always be something else – “Holiday Homes in Port Fairy”, “Luxury Accommodation in Port Fairy”, “Port Fairy House Short Term Rental” – the list goes on.

Although the above just scratches the surface of match types, it illustrates that there is no silver bullet with Google Ads for accommodation and tourism. It takes time to research, sculpt campaigns, adjust keywords and match types, as well as update ad copy to ensure Google thinks your ad is worth running (ideally up the top).

Ad Relevancy

So, now you’ve got your comprehensive keywords list, you’ve worked out your match types to ensure your ads don’t display in front of those who are unlikely to book, and you’re ready to go and put your feet up as the bookings roll in? Sorry to say, but there’s a bit more work involved. To achieve success with Google Ads, you need to make sure your ads are as relevant as possible to the user who is searching. This is where your quality score becomes important.

Your quality score is determined using three main factors:

  • Expected CTR (Click-Through-Rate): this is an estimate on how likely it is that your ads will get clicked on when they’re shown for a particular keyword. Remember Google wants to give the users the right content! It’s not all about making money off clicks.
  • Ad Relevance: how relevant is your particular ad to the keyword that’s being searched for? If you’re bidding on “Byron Bay Accommodation” and your ad is all about Murwillumbah because your resort is actually located in Murwillumbah, do you think Google will deem your ad relevant? Probably not. It might still show up though, but you’ll pay more.
  • Landing Page Experience: this is grossly underestimated in its importance – both from a Google Ads sense, but also in general. What happens when a user actually lands on your page? Does it load straight away? Is the content valuable and interesting? How many clicks are required to actually reach their objective (hopefully booking your accommodation)?

So there’s a lot at play in ad relevancy, and we’ve only just scratched the surface. Relevancy is so important, it’s one of the harder aspects of Google Ads and digital marketing in general, but get it right and you’ll be booked out till next Christmas.

So does Google Ads work for Accommodation and Tourism?

Absolutely. Google Ads can get a bit pricey if it’s not managed properly, but it’s still the only digital marketing tool that can give you the option of presenting your business in front of your dream customer specifically when they are searching for you. There’s a lot to think about here, and the advice above will help you get better results from your Google Ads campaigns, but it’ll take time to implement, test and evaluate the results.

If you’d like any assistance with putting together a Google Ads campaign for your accommodation, tourism or experience business, then feel free to email me at samuel@headsonpillows.com or fill in the contact form below and a member of our experienced team will be in touch.

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Author avatar
Sam
https://headsonpillows.com
Head of Digital at Heads on Pillows

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