Paid Search Strategy for Hotels: The Importance of Branded Keywords
Ask any hotel marketer what their paid search strategy is and you’ll end up discussing one thing; key words. Selecting the right words to bid on is an essential part of paid search (at least that’s half – the other half is bidding strategy).
When hotel marketers think about their search strategy, they usually think of the generic “unbranded” keywords they want to rank for, such as “hotels in Seattle.” But in the process, they may overlook the most important keywords of all – their own.
You may think bidding on your own behalf is a waste of money, since it’s basically paying for people who already know they want to stay at your hotel. Unfortunately, in a world where online travel agencies (OTAs) exist, this is not the case. If you don’t bid on your hotel name keywords, they will.
The concept of “brand hijacking” – when OTAs bid on hotel brands and use them in online advertising – is not new, and it is not necessarily specific to the hospitality industry, but recent changes to Google’s algorithm have increased the effect this is having on hotel bookings and revenue. Unfortunately, OTAs often have the legal right to do so due to certain contract terms.
A study on paid search by travel agencies revealed that OTAs Booking.com, On the Beach and Trivago dominate this traffic acquisition channel. The study, conducted by Kantar Media, found that three out of four desktop clicks for hotel keywords are captured by OTAs. Unsurprisingly, this huge traffic grab is backed by huge budgets.
And big budgets are not lacking in OTAs. Expedia Group’s sales and marketing budget increased 150% year-on-year to $1.3 billion at the end of 2021. Booking.com’s investment in marketing also saw significant growth in the third quarter, nearly doubling year over year to $1.38 billion. CEO Glenn Fogel said the company also benefits from performance marketing, which includes channels such as paid search, indicating that a large portion of their budgets will be spent here.
Why is this such a problem?
Bidding bigger allows OTAs to earn those coveted higher rankings. Most searchers aren’t able to distinguish between paid and organic listings, and likely won’t notice if the URL they clicked on actually leads to your direct website or an OTA. Therefore, appearing in the top listings allows OTAs to funnel traffic away from you, claim bookings that should have been yours, and reinforce the (often incorrect!) belief that they have cheaper prices.
This is why branded keywords are sometimes referred to as “brand protection” keywords. It is important that you bid on these keywords, if only for insurance purposes.
So what is the best strategy to achieve this? We asked digital marketing and PR expert Alex Velazquez – National Marketing Director at Westgate Resorts – to share his expertise in our hotelier’s guide to paid and organic search in 2022. Here’s what he had to say.
Branded keyword advertising strategy
First, when it comes to your overall search strategy, Metasearch should always be the first port of call for every hotel when determining where to invest.
“If you think you’ve maxed out your Metasearch, think again.” Alex explains, “Not only is it proven to generate the most returns, but it can also power many of your other channels. Make sure you get all the impressions and clicks you can because, in my experience, the return on ad spend (ROAS) you’ll get from Metasearch is typically 20-30% higher than the return you’ll get on a typical search ad.”
Alex’s advice is that once you’ve got Metasearch in place and you’re getting over 90% impression share, go back and spend all of your budget on brand ads and brand protection. . Run this for 30-60 days and you will see your overall ROAS numbers much stronger.
It’s important to look at the impression share and context of that particular market. Metasearch ads should grow 85-90% in impression share (as long as your direct prices are at par!), and your brand ads should be in a similar zone.
Be sure to forecast every two weeks or so. There is a forecasting capability in Google Ads that allows you to calculate whether hitting 100% impression share would get you what you want in terms of returns. If the answer is no, then you’re probably already where you need to be – but even then, Alex suggests adding a few extra percentage points of impression share, as these are the most paid search ads. efficient.
As mentioned at the beginning, your keyword strategy is only half of your overall paid search strategy. The other half is when you announce how much you choose to bid.
Even if “branded” keyword searchers indicate that they are at a lower point in the funnel, there will still be varying levels of intent within this segment. For example, those who have already visited your website several times or even searched your booking engine will be even more likely to convert. Given the seemingly unlimited budget and resources available to OTAs, they are able to blindly bid for all traffic and raise all costs in the process. This is when it’s important to work smarter, not harder.
With Triptease Paid Search, you can leverage your unique on-site data to identify the most valuable traffic and raise your bids for that traffic only – ensuring you attract customers most likely to convert and improving your returns global. Download our guide for more tips on how you can earn on paid and organic search in 2022.
Triptease is a SaaS startup that creates cutting-edge software for the hospitality industry. The company was co-founded in 2015 by Charlie Osmond, Alasdair Snow and Alexandra Zubko and has offices in London, New York, Barcelona and Singapore. Triptease’s most recent funding was led by British Growth Fund alongside Notion Capital and Episode 1.
The Triptease platform is designed to help hotels regain control of their distribution and increase direct revenue. The platform identifies a hotel’s most valuable guests, then works across the entire customer journey – from acquisition to conversion – to ensure they book directly at the hotel.