Audience targeting is key to driving direct hotel bookings

This year, audience targeting via paid search will offer huge opportunities to reach the right customers who will ultimately book direct and drive more dollars to hoteliers’ bottom lines.

“It’s a no-brainer for the year ahead to get as many direct bookings as possible, and audience targeting will be the game-changer for you,” Ed Lines, VP, industry manager, Google, said during a recent webinar hosted by TravelClick and Google.

Related Story: 5 ways to drive direct bookings on your hotel website

“It’s the ability to target people who have previously engaged with your site,” he said. “Maybe they are on your [customer relationship management] list, a loyal customer or they have been to the booking page. That, plus knowing what device they are on and their frame of mind, can help you refine your marketing tactics.”

Lines called out some ways hotel marketers can use paid search to reach a mobile audience:

  • use data to identify and target a driving audience and local visitors with mobile-only campaigns;
  • offer mobile-only deals and ads that serve mobile searchers;
  • make use of voice search phrases such as “near me” to target audiences in high-demand areas; and
  • use call tracking for mobile-only campaigns to capture data on phone calls and bookings.

Lines said users can be put into three categories for targeting purposes during these campaigns:

Your customers: This is your current customer base whom you can upsell and cross-sell. You can use your offline and CRM data to target these customers.

Lines said that users who are already familiar with your site, products or brand are 20 percent more likely to convert—and that’s where remarketing can come into play and help with the next bucket of people.

Hot leads: These people have engaged with your brand before but have not converted, so it’s time to close the deal.

“With hot leads, we think about remarketing. The best way to target them is based on which page they are on on your site,” Lines said. “Make sure to place the [Google] Adwords remarketing tag across your site. Someone who has been to the homepage and to the booking page will be two different prospects, so think about adjusting your bid accordingly.”

For instance, Rachel Trimble, enterprise media strategist for TravelClick, offered a case study for a large vacation resort that used remarketing lists of search ads (RLSA) to target people who abandoned their shopping carts and who were still using Google search. An audience was created from these people, and in-market audience targeting was used to refine the list to include people searching for “trips” and “vacations” to the resort’s location. The efforts led to 419 more conversions with $164,000 in additional revenue.

Related Story: Marketing analytics necessary to drive revenue

“Since these people had already visited the site, the probability is way higher they will book,” Trimble said. “That’s why it’s important to get these hot leads. We bid more aggressively from searches of RLSA because they are more high value.”

Lines said it’s important for hoteliers to engage with audiences—and it’s something online travel agencies can’t do with your visitors.

“This is specific to your hotel. The OTAs can’t see who has been visiting your site,” he said. “You know what keywords you can bid on.”

To implement RLSA, hoteliers must have a RMKT/GA/Container tag placed on their websites.

Prospects: This bucket is filled with those who are searching for inquiries similar to your offering, and they often have the intent to purchase.

Lines said you won’t know anything about these people, but they have the potential to be similar to your customers or hot leads. Here, Google’s Similar Audiences tool can help hoteliers learn more about prospects.

Trimble offered another case study for a luxury hotel in a major city. The hotel was trying to expand the reach of search campaigns by reaching out to site visitors and those whose behavior was similar. The team targeted abandoners with RLSA and removed those who bounced from the list. Bids for keywords were increased for those people who visited the booking engine within the past seven days. The team used the Similar Audiences tool to target similar searchers to the hotel’s previous customers within its CRM data and booking-engine visitors.

The moves resulted in a 52-percent increase in click-through rate, a 32-percent decrease in bounce rate and a 7-percent gain in RLSA conversion rate.

Trimble said there is one requirement to use this tool, however: Your website needs to have at least 1,000 active users within the past 30 days.

Related Story: Why hotels need to pay attention to social media to drive revenue