Paid Search (PPC)

There are many different digital marketing strategies you can utilise to build your customer base these days. While organic and free marketing is beautiful, it is often best to supplement these methods with some paid advertising.

One of the most effective online marketing strategies is a Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign.

What is a PPC campaign?

In a nutshell, a PPC campaign is a marketing strategy in which you have ads displayed, and you pay a fee each time a user clicks your advertisement. Essentially, you are paying a search engine or social media platform to provide you with sales leads. When your ad is clicked, the user is redirected to your landing page, and you are charged the per-click fee. This acts as a “finder’s fee” of sorts for the search engine in exchange for providing an active lead to your sales funnel.

On most platforms, you will set your price per click. On the surface, this sounds simple. However, note that the price you set can be considered your “bid” on the ad space for the keyword(s) you have chosen to target. You will likely have to set your price high for highly competitive keywords to get a good share of the ad rotation.

This competitive environment makes your keyword selection critical to a successful PPC campaign.

How should you choose a PPC keyword?

We know the importance of keyword selection, but how exactly should you go about choosing which keywords to target?

First, there is an element of simply using logic. Think about your potential customers and what makes the most sense for them to search in Google if they have a need that you can fulfil. Make a list of possible keywords that fit this criterion.

Next, you want to narrow down your keyword list to be as specific as possible. We may best explain this through an example.

Let’s say you run a hotel located in Liverpool, England, and are setting up a PPC campaign. You may be considering the following keywords:

  • Hotels
  • Hotels in the UK
  • Hotels in England
  • Hotels in Liverpool

All these keywords can provide you with leads, but the prudent choice would be to use the more specific search terms for a couple of reasons.

First, it ensures that those who click on your ads are strong leads. If you were to target the keyword ‘hotels,’ you are likely to get many more eyes on your ad, as this keyword will indeed have a higher search volume, but only a tiny percentage of those who see your ad are looking for hotels in Liverpool. Regardless of whether they are high-quality leads or not, you will still pay if they click your ad, and because they are not looking for a hotel in Liverpool, this will not lead to a conversion.

The other element to consider here is the per-click spend. The more competition for a keyword, the higher you will need to set your cost to get your share of ad impressions. The broad keyword ‘hotels’ is likely to be heavily targeted, but ‘Liverpool hotels’ should see far less competition and thus a lower cost per click.

In this example, your best bets are using Hotels in England and Hotels in Liverpool for the most high-quality leads and the lowest price per click. You could even get more specific and use the keyword’ luxury hotels in Liverpool’ if this happens to be your target demographic.

Now that we know what PPC is and how to select keywords, let’s discuss why PPC is a perfect marketing strategy for hotels and restaurants.

Why Should You Choose PPC for Hotels and Restaurants?

When the average user is trying to find a hotel to stay in or a restaurant to eat at, where do they go first? Google, of course. This means that Google is where potential customers are actively seeking precisely the type of service you offer. It stands to reason that if you want to find active leads, then Google is the ideal first place to look.

Just utilising Google organically, though, is often not enough. The hotel and hospitality industry is very competitive, and this means it can be challenging for your business to come up on page one of Google search results. Just because users are searching Google for what you offer does not mean that they will be able to find your business among the competition.

This intense level of competition in the industry is precisely what makes PPC such an appealing option. When you run a PPC campaign, your ads are displayed right at the top of Google’s search results, ensuring that they will be seen. Not all your competitors will be utilising PPC advertising, so running Google ads gives you an advantage.

You still, of course, need to also seek an advantage over those competitors who are running PPC campaigns of their own. This means it is essential to plan, tweak, and improve your pay-per-click strategies carefully.

How Can You Improve Your Pay-Per-Click Strategies?

There are, really, three steps that must occur for a successful PPC conversion:

  1. Your ad is displayed. How frequently this happens, again, has much to do with your keyword’s level of competition.
  2. The user clicks your ad. Whether this happens or not depends on the lead’s quality (i.e., was the targeted keyword highly relevant) and the quality of the ad content.
  3. The Conversion. The user ends up on your landing page and converts to a paid customer.

We’ve looked at keyword selection as a method of improving your strategy to get impressions and clicks, but there are other things you can do to guide potential leads through your sales funnel. Tightening up your ad copy, for example, will go a long way toward moving users from simply viewing your ad to clicking. Ad content writing can be tricky, and sometimes it is difficult to predict what will work and what won’t until you test it on real users.

Fortunately, most PPC platforms, including Google, make it simple to do A-B testing with your PPC campaigns. Start with two different versions of your ad, give them the same keyword targets and cost-per-click, then see which performs better.

Ad quality is critical on Google for another reason: Google rates its ad partners on the quality of their ads. The better your ad quality score, the better your ad positions will be, and you will also be able to lower your price per click. A surefire way to improve your PPC strategies is to focus on ad relevance, which should lead to a higher click-through rate and improve your ad quality score.

What Should You Do with Your PPC Results?

Now that you’ve done some testing with different ad content and various keywords, you should have some data to go over. The key factors to look at and compare are impressions, clicks, and conversions.

The first metric to analyse results is the number of ad impressions received for each running campaign. This number, more than anything, will tell you how successful you have been in choosing high search volume keywords. If you are testing multiple campaigns with different per-click spends specified, it is an excellent way to identify the optimal per-click spend to ensure your ad is seen.

Next, you want to look at the number of clicks received for each ad. More specifically, you want to determine the number of users who see your ad for each click. If you have 1000 impressions and 100 clicks, this means that your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is 10%. When A-B testing two different ads, tracking the CTR is a good way to determine which ad is more successful. After all, the job of the ad is to get users to click on it to ultimately end up on your landing page. The higher the Click-Through-Rate, the better the ad.

The final and the most important metric to look at is your Conversion Rate (CVR). This is the ratio of clicks to actual sales, hotel bookings, or whatever your end goal is for visitors who end up on your landing page. If you have 100 clicks on your ad, and 10 of those users book a stay in your hotel, for example, your ad has a 10% Conversion Rate.

Your Conversion Rate has more to do with your landing page than it does with the ad itself. A great Click-Through-Rate with a poor Conversion Rate suggests that your landing page is in need of some optimisation.

Why are Landing Pages So Important with PPC?

Your ads can only do so much. Your keyword choices make sure you’re showing your ads to the right people, your ads make your offering sound irresistible and encourage them to click, but after that, the user ends up on your landing page. It’s here that conversions occur, so your Conversion Rate is usually directly correlated to the quality of your landing page.

You may have done everything perfectly with your PPC campaign. You chose the perfect keywords for highly targeted traffic, your per-click spend is just right for optimal impressions, and your ad copy is strong with a high Click-Through-Rate. However, none of this will make a difference if you have a poorly designed landing page that does not lead to conversions.

It’s critical to put the time, effort, and money into a landing page that is optimised for conversion, with attractive design, strong copy, and a very clear and effective call-to-action (CTA). Ideally, it’s recommended that you focus on one primary call-to-action on a landing page. This means that your potential guests are focused towards that one goal and there are fewer distractions to tempt them away from taking the desired action.

Having one primary goal for each landing page has other benefits as well. Your landing page(s) content should be highly relevant to the ads and keywords that point your guests to the page. This not only helps your potential guests find exactly what they’re looking for, but will also help with the Page Quality Rating that Google assigns when you have a great landing page that’s really relevant to your ads. This will help with your Ad Quality score as well as your organic SEO efforts.

We’ve covered a lot of information to this point. You now know what PPC campaigns are, how to put together a strategy, how to measure success, and the importance of your landing page. Now let’s get into the different options for PPC platforms.

What are My Options for Pay Per Click?

There are many platforms that offer PPC advertising. Of course, we will start with Google, which is the PPC platform we’ve been referencing in our examples to this point. Google is the king of all search engines, and it is where people are searching for places to eat, shop, sleep, and seek entertainment. With a market share of 86.31% in June 2021, if you focus your PPC efforts on only one platform, Google should be the one.

However, it’s important to consider other options to add to your PPC portfolio. Social Media offers a great opportunity to reach your target audience. Facebook ads are highly successful and can be run on a PPC system similar to Google’s. With Facebook, though, you can go beyond keywords and get highly specific with your target market.

Because Facebook is a social media platform, there is so much information available to advertisers, such as age, location, gender, profession, and interests. These targeting options can all be added in any combination to your Facebook PPC campaign to curate a target audience of the highest quality leads.

Instagram is owned by Facebook and therefore has very similar PPC options. There is even the option to run the same ads across both platforms. The hospitality industry, whether you’re a hotel, a restaurant or a wedding venue, is highly visual with some incredible potential to display beautiful images and videos of your offering. This lends itself perfectly to Instagram as a platform and with emerging trends of guests actively seeking out ‘gramable’ locations for meals out, holidays and special occasions, Instagram might be a treasure trove of conversions just waiting to be unlocked.

In addition to Google, Facebook, and Instagram, there are many more options for running your PPC campaign:

  • Microsoft / Bing Ads
    • With 9.61% of the market share, Bing is the second most popular search engine in the UK and could provide a totally new and untapped audience.
  • LinkedIn Ads
    • While this may not be the right platform for ads to entice guests to your hotel or restaurant, it could be the perfect place to advertise for the very best talent to join your team.
  • TikTok
    • An emerging Social Media that has taken the younger generations by storm, TikTok is filled with short video content and ads that seamlessly blend into a users experience on the platform.

All of these options should be explored while pulling together your Pay-Per-Click advertising strategy. What works for one business might not work for another. Google is king when it comes to potential guests who are actively searching for your offering, and if you are a hotel, you should also explore Google Hotel Ads.

Using Google Hotel Ads

Millions of people worldwide use Google to search for hotels when traveling so it’s unsurprising that the tech giant has developed an advertising platform specifically for this industry. Google Hotel Ads is distinct from traditional Google PPC ads in that it provides extra information on your rates and availability in real-time.

With Google Hotel Ads, you can get your hotel ads to display on Google Search, in Google Maps and Google Assistant. This is a game-changer for the hotel industry. It puts relevant information about your hotel front and centre where travellers are actively seeking hotel accommodation.

With Google Hotel Ads, you can specify your bid and set your preferred commission. Google then uses machine learning to maximise leads and bookings, all while staying within your specified budget. The beauty of this advertising program is in the ability to make direct bookings right from Google without travellers ever having to even navigate to your website.

How Does PPC Work with SEO?

Now that we’ve gone through how PPC works, looked at some strategies, and even touched on the Google Hotel Ads programme, we need to consider how this ties in to the rest of your digital marketing efforts. This means considering SEO, PPC, and how the two work together.

SEO is a vital aspect of your marketing efforts, and rightly so. If you’re not quite sure what SEO is or where to start, take a look at our Guide to Hotel and Hospitality SEO. Driving traffic to your webpage through organic search results is always a good thing. It’s free, and if you rank well for the right keywords, you will see lots of relevant traffic coming to your website. You may be wondering if it is necessary to consider SEO in your PPC ad campaigns, and vice versa! The short answer is: no. It’s not necessary ​​but it helps.

There are some rumours around whether running a PPC campaign will help to boost your website’s organic ranking. Unfortunately that’s not the case, and your website’s ranking will not directly affect the results of your PPC campaign. However, the key is in using these two marketing strategies together to reach the greatest number of high-quality leads possible.

Here are some great ways to use PPC and SEO together for maximum search engine presence:

  • Test SEO Keywords – Climbing the Google search results to page one and, hopefully, to the top of page one takes a lot of time and effort through organic SEO. As a long-term strategy, this is crucial, but it is sometimes difficult to determine if a certain keyword is worth the effort. This is where your PPC campaign can help. Running PPC ads for the same keyword that you are thinking about incorporating into your SEO strategy can give you an insight into how well that keyword performs for you. This gives you hard data to decide whether that keyword is worth the time and effort to add to your SEO strategy.
  • Re-marketing PPC – We haven’t gotten into re-marketing (also known as retargeting) PPC in this guide, but this is a particular type of PPC campaign that Google allows you to run to target your ads to people who have previously visited your website. Say you have put in the effort to get your business’s webpage near the top of google search results through your SEO efforts, and you have a customer that visits your page but is not quite ready to buy. You can run re-marketing PPC efforts to show ads to these customers who have at least shown an interest in what you offer but didn’t buy the first time around. This is a great way to combine your SEO success with PPC to recapture missed sales.
  • Dominate Search Results – The more visibility you have on Google, the better. If you target the same keywords with your SEO efforts and your PPC campaigns, you can have your website show up twice on the first page of Google. Your organic search result will show up, and along with it, your PPC ad will appear near the top of the page as well. This gives the user two different targets to click.

While SEO and PPC do not directly affect one another, combining the two to maximise your digital marketing efforts can result in even more success.

Promoting Google Business Listings

We are now on our way to a well-rounded digital marketing campaign with Pay-Per-Click. We’ve looked at the basics of PPC advertising with Google and touched on some alternatives, and we have looked at the strategies we can take to improve on our PPC campaigns and our overall Google marketing efforts.

The next tool you should be using, which can be useful when used with PPC, is Google My Business (https://www.google.com/business/). Adding your business listing through Google allows you to create a business profile, appear in search results, and appear in Google Maps. This is vital for businesses in the hospitality industry who are (almost) always tied to a particular location.

When used with PPC, features like Location Extensions in Google Ads open up some opportunities for more finely targeting your customers. When you have a Google My Business listing linked to your Google Ads account, you can add the address for your location on the line directly below your advertisement. This makes your ad take up more space on the page, making it harder to miss, and ensures that customers know your exact location. This means that customers looking for a hotel or restaurant in your specific area are more likely to click your ad because it’s clear exactly where you are.

You can also promote your business listing in the Local Pack, the business results that appear below the map on the Google search results page. Up to three organic listings will always appear below the map, but your paid ads will appear directly below the map and above these organic results for higher visibility.

Finally, using a business listing in your PPC campaign allows you to show user ratings/reviews along with your ad. This is a massive benefit when it comes to promoting your Google Business listing, as it shows customers immediately that you have a high-level reputation. In the hospitality industry especially, trust built on customer reviews goes a long way to convincing others to visit your hotel or restaurant.

A Google Business listing for your hotel or restaurant is a must-have to unlock the full potential of your paid advertising strategies.

Beating Online Travel Agents and Booking Sites

So now you are using PPC, along with SEO, for high search engine visibility. You’re also utilising the Google Hotel Ads program as well as your Google My Business listing. You’re doing everything right to this point, but you will notice that many of your search results are being dominated by travel agents and booking sites.

While these agents and websites do bring guests to your establishment, it is always better for your guests to book directly for a higher ROI due to these bookings being commission-free. But how do you go about doing this? Here are a few steps you can take to compete with OTAs and booking sites.

  1. Beat Them at Their Own Game – These agencies thrive on a combination of SEO and PPC advertising. While it is difficult to compete purely on budget, as these agencies tend to have massive marketing budgets, you can still beat them by simply being better with your keyword research and putting together higher-quality ads.
  2. Offer a Loyalty Program – It is easier to keep an existing customer than gain a new one. Use this to your advantage by putting into place a customer loyalty program that they can only take advantage of when they book directly through your hotel.
  3. Give Customers a Reason to Book Direct – Loyalty program aside, you need to provide your customers with a good reason to book directly through you and make this exclusivity clear in both your ad and on your website. For example, offer a small discount on the price when booking directly through you.

Travel Agencies may have the advantage of large marketing budgets and departments, but you can fight back to reclaim a portion of your bookings by leveraging special offers and exclusivity in your ads and by drilling down to more specific keywords to target.

Top 5 Takeaways for Hotel and Hospitality PPC

We’ve gone over a lot of information, and you should now be well on your way to a successful PPC campaign for your hotel or restaurant. To recap, here are the top 5 takeaways to get you off on the right foot.

  1. Use Narrow Keywords – You don’t want to be too broad in your keyword targeting. To get the best conversions, you should very specifically target your keywords to your market.
  2. Ad Quality Score Matters – Google will rate your ads. A lot of thought needs to be put into putting these ads together to improve your quality score. This will get you more impressions, a lower per click price, and hopefully more conversions (especially when combined with killer landing pages).
  3. Use Google Hotel Ads – Any hotel should be using this program. The ability to include real-time rates and availability in your advertising is a massive advantage.
  4. Offer Incentives over Travel Agencies – You want those direct bookings. Use every advantage you can find to take back a portion of their bookings for your hotel. Discounts, loyalty programs, and other special offers can get travellers to book directly through your website.
  5. Do A-B Testing – Always run multiple ads for the same keywords and at the same price point. This is critical to ensure that you are getting the best possible results.