With short-term vacation rentals in flux, hotels are in luck. Now’s the time to target travelers with the perfect hotel stay offer through Google Ads.
Here, you’ll find:
- The benefits of Google Ads for hotels
- Strategies marketing managers should consider
- How to implement ad strategies for Google search
- How a digital marketing agency can help
It’s a saturated market out there in the travel accommodation space. Not only do you have to stand out against competitor hotel brands, you also have to compete against short-term rental options like Airbnb and VRBO.
The good news?
Google Ads — FKA Google AdWords — is the most effective way for hotels to stand out and reel in new customers (if you work with a reputable hotel Google Ads company, that is).
See, while pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is incredibly powerful, it takes a team of professionals to yield those profitable results; particularly in an oversaturated market, like hotels and hospitality.
Let’s dive into how hotel brands can get the most out of Google Ads so you can get back to doing what you love: Creating the perfect stay for happy guests.
What are Google Hotel ads?
Google Hotel ads are campaigns that show up in search results when someone searches for a hotel via Google Search or Maps. Hotel marketers can manage ads in the Hotel Center platform that syncs with your properties and rates.
Because these ads are dynamic (aka based on your website’s content to help better target your audience), the search engine needs three crucial pieces of info from you:
- A list of the hotels you’re advertising
- Accurate prices
- Corresponding landing pages connected to your ads
Along with Search and Maps mentioned above, Google Hotel campaigns can also surface on YouTube and offer ways for viewers to easily book with you directly from the campaign.
Why Google Ads are the most effective hotel ads
It’s true. Running a competitive paid search campaign in the hotel industry is expensive.
But 90% of travelers start their travel research online and 82% end up booking online. What’s more, Search Engine Journal found that 25% of online clicks go to the first paid ad at the top of the page.
The math adds up. If you’re looking to increase the number of travelers who book at your hotel, investing in Google Ads is the way to do it. Here are some other notable benefits to creating a Google Ads account:
1. Build relationships with your customers
Your customer’s journey with you begins with their initial hotel search and search query.
When your ads appear above booking engine sites like TripAdvisor, Trivago, or Expedia, you control the customer experience by sending them directly to your booking page.
As an avid traveler (40 countries and counting), I can’t even begin to explain how much more I prefer hotel booking through the hotel’s site. Booking engines have notoriously poor customer service, they’re impossible to get ahold of, and I can never truly trust the listed hotel price.
The added benefit of sending travelers directly to your booking site? You don’t have to share a commission with a booking engine.
Google Ads give hotel campaigns more control over their brand, and therefore the opportunity to build stronger relationships with your customers.
2. Save money with advanced pricing and targeting
Here’s an awesome secret: Google Ads has custom and advanced features for the hotel industry. That’s right! If you operate a hotel, you have more options than advertisers in traditional industries.
These options make it easier to advertise and can save you money. Here’s what I mean:
You choose how to pay for ads.
Google Ads allows you to pay via the commission model or the cost-per-click (CPC) model. With the commission model, you only pay when someone books a stay or completes a payment. With the CPC model, you pay for every click. Test both options and see what works best for you.
You have advanced targeting options.
Decide which travelers you want to target based on several factors, including the type of device they use, how long they would be traveling for, and locations they would visit.
3. Search ads improve visibility
The average conversion rate for Google Ads is 4.40%. While this is a great rate, what about the other 95.6% that aren’t converting? Is that money wasted?
While you aren’t getting a booking from those searchers, all is not lost. You still benefit from search ads as they boost your visibility and brand awareness.
Regular travelers — even if they don’t book right when they click — now know that your hotel exists in that location. They might visit your hotel for an occasional meal or two, book offers like massages and spas while they’re in the vicinity, or book your hotel for a future stay.
And after converting one user, they are much more likely to become a repeat customer through remarketing and earned trust.
Google hotel ad strategies to boost revenue
Now that you know the advantages of Google Ads for hotels, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes. Here are some high-level strategies to get more bang for your advertising buck.
1. Sell on the intent
Different customers have different intentions when purchasing a hotel room. For example, customers might search to get the cheapest deal, enjoy a luxury stay, or book a business conference.
They may be looking for specific amenities, such as a pool, free breakfast buffet, parking, or better connectivity to public transport.
To get the most out of your Google Ads, subcategorize each customer base and create relevant ad copy to capture that unique intent.
Inside your Google Ads account, you can pick your own custom audience or select Google-suggested custom audiences. Google recommends users add at least 15 keywords in custom audiences to ensure you reach the right mix of customers.
Other ways to target your customers through search ads are to segregate them through affinity segments, in-market segments, life events, demographics, and data segments.
2. Consider niche details
Traveling to new destinations or trying out new hotel names can be tricky for your customers. For one, they don’t know the lay of the land, the hotel’s architecture, the rules and customs of that location, and the policies the hotel groups might have.
Aspects that might not be a consideration to one person can make or break the entire stay for another traveler (e.g., alcohol use, accessibility, smoking policies, pet policies, or whether it’s LGBTQ+ friendly).
Consider highlighting other factors in your hotel listing that win sales, such as:
- Do you provide airport shuttle service for your guests?
- What about an awesome concierge service?
- Do you have amenities like a hotel center or meeting rooms for business travelers, or banquets for destination wedding travelers?
- Does your hotel allow last-minute reservations?
Consider all the ways you make the stay better for your guests and show this off in your ads.
3. Target your ads to avid planners
A Google study found that customers who book hotel rooms before leaving their home country are likely to spend 48% more than travelers who don’t. So, focus your ads on catering to planners.
You can target these customers in several ways. Research where your high-spending travelers come from and geo-target your ads to those locations. Then, bid for highly relevant keywords based on their location, intent, and preferences.
The last piece of the puzzle is to create ad copy that matches the audience you’re targeting. For example, if your high spenders come from Canada and they’re looking for a luxury stay, consider something like, “Luxury hotel stays in London for Canadian travelers.”
4. Add incentives to sweeten the deal
Many customers shop around to get the best deal for the lowest possible price. So, if you want customers to book rooms on your hotel website without checking out 50 other online travel agencies (OTAs), add incentives to sweeten the deal.
Incentives like best rate guarantee, one day free on two days worth of booking, a massage free on a stay, last minute deals, no booking fee, free upgrades, and discounts are often bound to result in direct bookings.
Make sure you enunciate what a great deal they’re getting in your ad copy. When a traveler books, add numbers or percentages to show them how much they’d save.
5. Make the experience seamless
Once you capture a potential customer’s attention, ensure they are met with a seamless experience on your hotel’s website.
A general template would be an effortless user interface (UI) that incorporates all details and information they might need, like high resolution photos, a list of all features and amenities, contact information, links to social media pages, and offers you’re running.
Go one step further and customize the experience to users’ preferences. For example, if Indian customers visit your site, ensure that they can see prices in INR and have the option to change the language to Hindi (speaking of which, check out the language interfaces supported by Google Ads).
Also, ensure that all your payment providers accept payment from different countries so that there’s no issue for the end user to book stays instantly.
6. Sustainability measures matter
Many hotel marketing campaigns currently have a serious gap in grabbing the customer’s attention. The gap? Sustainability initiatives.
According to a recent Booking.com study, people said they’re more likely to book hotel rooms if they know the company focuses on sustainability measures. In fact, some said they’d even be willing to pay more for the hotel rooms or get annoyed when they don’t see a hotel room with sustainability measures.
Many hotels also agreed that they don’t know how to communicate their sustainability efforts with customers.
This presents a unique opportunity for hoteliers to make the prospects happy and have a higher chance of booking if they focus on writing about their sustainability initiatives in their ad copy.
You don’t need to cater the entire ad to advertise the sustainability measures you take, but you can mention something about it in a line or two.
Pro Tip: If you’re registered on Google Travel, the company allows hotel groups to advertise themselves as an “eco-certified” location if they have a certification for practices such as water conversion, sustainable sourcing, waste reduction, or efficient use of energy.
7. Add visual clues to make your hotels look more accessible
Adding visual clues on landing pages will grab the audience’s attention. But, if you want to increase conversion rates, we suggest you add visuals of people’s faces, instead of pictures of objects.
Taboola reported that landing pages with people’s faces have higher click-through-rates (CTR) by 66%. Katelyn Bourgin, the founder of Customer Camp, agrees with this statement. “Your buyers are instinctively drawn toward faces, which is what makes them such a magnetizing part of advertising,” she says. “Ads and content featuring faces are 11x more likely to get noticed.”
Here are a few strategies Bourgin recommends adopting to grab the prospect’s attention with faces:
- Being strategic with the placement of eye gaze. If the person on your landing page is looking left, readers are likely to look to the left, too. So, put the eye gaze in line with your highest value proposition (e.g., CTA, social proof, product).
- Feature diverse ethnicities and body types. If users only see one type of person on your landing pages, they might subconsciously believe that the product/service you offer is for that customer type only. Featuring diverse faces and body types creates a relatability factor that allows them to feel more included.
8. Bank on social proof
Social proof is a potluck of gold that, when used carefully, can help you build trust and enhance your brand image. In fact, social proof is so powerful that 98% of customers agree that they’d check out reviews of local businesses before making a purchase decision.
Social proof can include customer testimonials, information on how many hotel rooms were booked in the last hour, and ratings from Booking.com, Hotels.com, or TripAdvisor. Alternatively, you can also feature case studies of when they hosted meetings/events for weddings and businesses.
Here’s an example of a landing page that features customer reviews on its landing page. Aside from landing pages, it also adheres to best practices such as a multi-language interface, adding details such as photos, a list of amenities, offers, contact information, area guides, as well as a clear call to action (CTA).
This landing page also featured a Google map on the website, which showed prospects exactly where it was located and how far it was from famous tourist attractions.
9. Make sure the landing page matches the ad copy
If your customers are on your landing page, then one thing is clear: your offer worked. So, why create a different offer on your landing page?
A mismatch between the landing pages and ad copies happens mainly because hotel groups use the same landing page for all offers. We recommend creating custom landing pages for custom audiences.
Ensuring that you retain the customer’s attention and match their intent is just as important as getting their attention. Here are a few strategies to retain the reader’s attention:
- Highlight your value in your title. Out of 10 prospects, only two read your entire landing page, whereas eight of them read your headline. So, highlight the value you offer and try to capture the reader’s attention in the title.
- Personalize CTAs. After analyzing over 330,000 CTAs, HubSpot observed that personalized CTAs see a better conversion rate by 202%. So, instead of writing “book now,” maybe write “book now to get the best offer.”
- Ensure that you add strong visuals and social proof on your landing pages and reduce the site’s loading time, so customers don’t bounce.
10. A/B test ads for optimization
While your current ads may work perfectly well, you might see better success if you try other strategies to see what resonates more with your target audience.
When working with Google ads, you can consider A/B testing CTAs, headlines, the site’s user experience, layout, design, ad copy, buttons, and keywords. Use heat maps and Google analytics to make more data-driven decisions on what areas should change and which should remain the same.
Whew. We just gave you a whole lot of strategies to help you improve your hotel marketing efforts and produce terrific results.
But, if you wish to attain the maximum benefit of Google Ads, you’ll benefit from hiring a digital marketing agency to create a hotel marketing strategy for you.
For the best possible ROI on your Google Ads campaigns, get in touch with HawkSEM. We can help you perfect your digital marketing strategy and present you with the best return on investment (ROI). We’re also equipped with tools like ConversionIQ that help us make more data-derived decisions.
This article has been updated and was originally published in December 2022.