PPC for Travel – The Ultimate Guide for 2020

Published on: 28/01/2020 Last Modified on: 28/08/2020

What if we told you that PPC in the travel industry doesn’t have to be expensive!

It wasn’t too long ago that booking a holiday involved picking up the phone to call your local travel agent.

Things are very different these days.

From researching your destination to completing your booking, everything now takes place online.

You don’t need to talk to a soul to find the best destinations, flights, accommodation, what to do, where to eat.

And, you can be sure that you’re getting the best price.

Google itself reported that 80%+ of travellers begin their holiday plans online, with the vast majority starting that journey on a mobile device.

Brands know this.

That’s why the travel industry is the third most competitive industry in Google and the third most expensive for paid search with PPC spend exceeding 3 billion USD worldwide.

That’s more than $80Million spent in AdWords every single day!

Why are travel brands spending so much in pay per click marketing?

Because the return on investment (ROI) is so positive!

A Wordstream study revealed that the average conversion rate of travel is more than 2%.

Have you ever wished that your campaigns convert like crazy?

What Will You Learn?

In this article you will learn how to take advantage of paid search marketing to generate profit for your business.

You will learn the basics, followed by some more advanced techniques to ensure you out-perform your competition.

We will cover:

  • How to Track your Conversions and why it’s important
  • How to Find Profitable Keywords within your Niche
  • Create a Scalable Search Campaign that Converts
  • How Seasonality Effects PPC efforts in Travel Industry
  • What is a Dynamic Search Ad and how to utilise the functionality

Whether you are a small business owner or part of an in-house marketing team; if you follow this guide, we will ensure you avoid many of the common pitfalls and will guarantee you success online!

Conversion Tracking and Attribution

First things first. What is a conversion?

It’s not only purchases made online. That’s a common misconception.

For industries such as Travel, a conversion could be a phone call, a call-back request, an email enquiry or a sign-up in your newsletter.

Why? Because it’s hard for someone to book online before he gets more info about your holiday package (especially when you are not a big brand like Expedia).

Why you need to track every possible conversion?

  • Do you want to find out what’s working and what’s not?
  • Do you want to optimise your account to improve performance?
  • Do you want to save money and increase ROI?

If you answered yes to at least one of the above (you should answer yes to all of them) then you absolutely must track conversions.


(Source: http://searchengineland.com/adwords-flexible-conversion-counting-officially-lauched-welcome-converted-clicks-conversions-185235)

We are starting our guide with Conversion Tracking.

It is THAT important!

Often when we take over a new client’s Google AdWords account there is no tracking implemented.

It’s like walking the streets blindfolded. You can see… but you choose not to.

How Do I set up Conversion Tracking?

If you have multiple conversion types (as mentioned above), you are going to need a relevant landing page, a confirmation page and a tracking for each conversion type.

In order to track conversions from PPC marketing specifically, you need to create a code and insert into your online booking or brochure request ‘thank-you’ or confirmation page.

We suggest using Google Tag Manager to implement your tags.

It will save you time and effort by allowing you to easily any number of tags across your website. In case you are not familiar with it, ask for help.


To setup AdWords tracking:

  • Click the ‘Tools’ tab and select ‘Conversions’ from the drop-down menu
  • Click the red button ‘Conversions’ and pick the type of conversion you want to track. In this instance click ‘Website’
  • Name the Conversion, add a value if applicable and then click ‘Save and Continue’

Now that you are tracking conversions, it’s time to let your account run a bit to gather enough data to effectively analyse performance and optimise performance.

The length of time depends upon the search volume for your keywords although two weeks usually is long enough to get a better understanding of performance.

We will show you how later in this guide.

Tracking Phone Calls is Key to Success!

Despite the exponential growth in online bookings, in-bound phone calls (leads) remain one of the most important conversion types for your business.

A phone call most often denotes a user who is looking to ask questions, learn more for your product and potentially book.

However, anyone looking to spend a few thousand pounds on their next holiday needs to be convinced by both your product and service. In short, they need to trust you!

Call tracking, the process of attributing value from a sale to a specific channel (such as PPC) is essential.

If your business doesn’t currently track phone calls … you need to start now!


Google now offers a call-tracking feature which is free to use and offers a good place to start for anyone new to call-tracking.

We would recommend setting up a third-party call tracking system such as Infinity or ResponseTap.

These third-party platforms allow you to go deeper when analysing the conversions, allowing you to attribute value for sales even at keyword level.

Keyword Research

The most important, valuable and revenue-producing activity of a search marketer is keyword research.

Putting your business or client at the forefront of Google for a related keyword can make or break your business.

When we are talking about keyword research – especially in a niche industry such as travel – we are referring to phrases which have value to our business.

This essentially refers to the phrases that people type into Google to find the products or services related to your business.

Getting Started With Keyword Research

The starting point for your keyword research in PPC should be the landing pages for your products or services.

We will assume that you did some initial keyword research when you were building the website and have a structure which adequately represents the full range of services your business offers.

If not, that’s where you need to start. Check out our blog on SEO keyword research tools.

Let’s see an example from a ski holiday company with a landing page for the St Anton ski resort.

The company uses the page to target people who are researching for ski holiday accommodation in St Anton (Austria) which may include hotels, chalets, self-catered apartments, catered apartments, catered chalets and so on.

Using Google Keyword Planner

To see accurate data you need to have an active campaign.

The process by which you can work out the most valuable search terms includes:

  1. Go to Google AdWords Keyword Planner
  2. Type the keywords which you feel most closely relate to the context of your target landing page (in this particular example the most relevant phrases would include ‘St Anton accommodation’, ‘St Anton hotels’, ‘St Anton ski’ etc)
  3. Make sure that the targeting is set to ‘United Kingdom’ and the language is ‘English’.
  4. Click ‘Get Ideas’ and review the results

First you will see search volume for your key-phrases.

You will also see additional keyword suggestions by relevance.


Create an Excel spreadsheet and put your Landing Page at the top and beneath that the keywords that you want to target.

Repeat this for every landing page in your website.

This will allow you to understand the best landing pages for each key-phrases and also highlight any gaps for which a new landing page may be required.

Start small

Once you start researching keywords it’s very easy to create a list of thousands upon thousands of keywords.

It’s important to focus on the quality of keywords rather than the quantity.

The best keywords are the ones that are most relevant to your products or services and accurately reflect the content of your website.

Let this small list of keywords run and then see where your PPC account has opportunities for growth. Focus on the best-performing keywords.

Don’t be too general

General keywords are going to have a lot of competition (if you are a big brand ignore that), which means a higher cost-per-click.

Unless you have a large PPC budget, stay away from very general keywords and focus on more specific keywords that better describe what you offer.

Now you have a list of keywords related to a landing page, how will you use them?

Search Campaign Setup

It starts with the red ‘CAMPAIGN’ button.


Choose Search Network only.

What you want to look for in this step is the Campaign Naming (it is important), have all features selected.


You want to target locations that you can actually serve. Not everyone in the UK -unless you can serve everyone.

Let’s say for example you have flights from London only.

You want to exclude Wales, Scotland etc.


In terms of Languages click edit and add them All.

You don’t want to filter out possible clients because they have a different language setup in their browser.

After all, they keywords you are targeting are in English.

They search in English. They want to book in English.

Bidding strategies

If you are new to Adwords and you setup a new Account you probably want to use Manual CPC.

It is the bidding format which gives you full control of your Cost-Per-Click.

You are able to input a default bid (you can use the Keyword planner’s recommendations mentioned above) and a set budget-per-day.

To start with … divide your projected monthly budget by 30 and put the number you find in the daily budget input field.

Keep the Delivery Method as Standard and don’t bother with the Ad Extensions.

We will add them in an Ad Group level.

Ad scheduling

You’ve got to love this feature.

You can use this to tell Google when to show your adverts and when not to.

You can also adjust the bids for a specific time during the day.

The Ad scheduling is a bit tricky.

In order to optimise your campaign this way you need Data.

If your account is new, you probably don’t have the data to understand peak times when people are more likely to convert during the day.

So you might want to run the campaign without any optimisation until you have enough data to optimise and see when people search and convert.

After some time you will be able to go back and optimise using the Dimensions tab.

One more step and we are ready to click the “Save and Continue”.

Start your campaign with a “Rotate Evenly” ad rotation.

It will show ads more evenly and then you can optimise using efficient A/B testing.

Adwords Search Campaign Setup

A few tips on scheduling your account:

  • Increase bid when your sales team is in
  • People convert better in Monday morning and Friday morning
  • Reduce bid levels from midnight to 8am
  • Don’t think that Sunday is not a good day to bid – It’s a “research” day for your customer

How to create your Adgroups

Organising your Ad Groups is essential for your account’s health and scale up.

Failing to organise your Ad Groups by following best-practises, could cause wasted budget and wasted time in management.

Remember the keyword research we did for the ski holiday company relating to St Anton?

We’ve found related keywords including ‘St Anton Hotels’, ‘St Anton Chalets’, ‘St Anton Accommodation’ and other variants.

Now jump on that Excel sheet we created and pick a keyword. Let’s say we pick ‘St Anton catered chalets’.

This keyword has only 90 searches per month (140 in January) but you need to be that specific.


Now create an AdGroup.

Name it something like ‘Resort – St Anton Ski Chalets‘.

Add keywords under SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Groups).

This means you will have three keywords targeting variants of the same keyword, such as:

  • [st anton ski chalets]
  • ‘st anton ski chalets’
  • +st anton +ski +chalets

As a result, we will cover every search including our targeted keyword.

Even long-tail keywords that we can’t see in the Keyword Planner.

One of the key benefits of using Single Keyword Ad Groups is the ability to align your search terms and your ad copy.

In this case we can create something like that:

  • Headline: Include Keyword
  • 2nd Headline: Powerful USP
  • URL: Include Keyword
  • Description: Talk about benefits. Include CTA


Now you have a highly targeted message for someone who is looking for this specific product.

We are not done yet though!

It’s really important to A/B test the ad copies so we’d suggest to create one more Ad in this AdGroup.

Make it unique. Different than the first one.

For example

  • Headline
    • Powerword + Keyword
  • 2nd Headline
    • Emotional Trigger (i.e. Ending offer)
  • URL
    • Include Keyword (nothing changes here)
  • Description:
    • Change your CTA. For example, instead of “Learn more” use “Book Now!”

Now let the AdGroup run for sufficient time – rotating ads evenly as we’ve seen in the Campaign section – and the make decisions by pausing lower performing ads.

When you do that don’t forget to create another A/B test. It’s a never-ending process of optimisation.

Repeat this for every Keyword you’ve uncovered. It takes time, yes, but it’s totally worth it.

You think you’re done with the Ad groups? Ha! …

Utilise Ad Extensions

If you want to:

  • Stand out from the competition
  • Improve your CTR
  • Improve your Quality Score

Then it’s time to utilise Ad Extensions.

Ad Extensions are snippets of relevant information about your business.


While automated extensions are pulled by Google itself, manual extensions offer you the opportunity to add information in your Search Ad.

Types of Ad Extensions

It is important to use:

Site links extensions

By adding relevant links to deeper pages in your website.

For the St Anton ski chalets AdGroup you can add links to offers applied, for example promoting a specific chalet.

Callout extensions

These are non-clickable phrases that will make the searcher more keen to click your ad as opposed to a competitor.

You could add ABTA and ATOL protection, Travel time to resort, Low deposits etc.

Call extensions

Obviously a click-to-call functionality for mobile ads.

Note: Enable the extensions when your sales team is there to pick up the phone. You don’t want to waste clicks.

Location extensions

Linked to Google My Business can show your physical location (if you want to).

Review your extensions every month or so and optimise accordingly.


A key factor that impacts Travel PPC industry is seasonality.

Of course, this depends on the destination and the type of holidays.

So unless you selling holidays all year round you need to consider seasonality within your Adwords strategy.

The question you need to ask yourself is:

How can I adjust my strategy based on my businesses seasonality?


We would recommend having separate campaigns for different destination/type of holiday.

That will give you full control over settings and budget.

Let’s say for example that you are selling ski holidays.

You could have a campaign named i.e. Ski | France | St Anton.

Why? Because you might want to sell holidays in St Anton during summer as well (BTW summer in the Alps is magical!).

Assuming you are not new in the business, you have enough data to make decisions defining when people actually search and convert on a specific type of holiday.


You figured out the seasonality for your business.

Now what?

Peak season

  • Utilise remarketing to bring in users that seen you but didn’t convert
  • Strong push offers and last minute deals – they convert like crazy!
  • Make your ad copy stand out of your competition.

Low season

  • Find new customers through display and generic search
  • Remind them the existing USPs. What makes your business different than the competition
  • Convert early bookers with tailored offers

Carefully plan the budget for each period of time.

Obviously you want to spend more when there is demand but don’t hold back if your audience is keen to book early.

Use historical data to make strategic decisions in budgeting.


The world is full of events.

How can you use them?

People are traveling to an event and they likely need somewhere to stay.

They also need information about the area and similar events.

So you need to be there for them.

Be there when they search … answering their questions and covering their needs.

If for example you own a Chalet in Les Gets you want to take advantage of the Tour de France event.

Thousands of people are visiting Tour de France and they need accommodation.

So …

  • Use the event in your ad copy (be careful with copyright issues)
  • Define when people are ready to book for the event and increase the bid
  • A/B test the ads and optimise


Travel and Tourism niche is the 3rd highest spending industry through Google AdWords, and through PPC generally.

So you probably already know that you need a decent budget to jump in and compete with the giants.

Even if you are a giant you probable spend more in PPC than in any other Marketing Funnel.

On the other hand, PPC is an auction. Which means … if someone is bidding a lot he obviously has a decent ROI. No one wants to waste money.

So when it comes on deciding how much budget to allocate to your Adwords campaigns it all comes down to what can you afford.

Note. You need to allocate a decent amount to actually see what works and what doesn’t.

Are you Limited by Budget?

This orange annoying status indicates that there is much more search volume than your budget can afford.

Which means you are losing potential customers.

Limited by Budget

Ideally, if a campaign is well-optimised the ROI is very good to justify maximum spend. But…  It’s not always like that.

Budgeting is not something we can really dig much more than you. You own the business and you know how much you can spend.

Our main key takeaway here is: If you are buying a customer for £1 and your profit is £10, then don’t limit the campaign – spend as much as the search volume/Google wants.

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA)

Some might disagree with us but let me say this: DSAs perform extremely well when optimised properly.

Think of DSA campaigns as the Machine Learning Executive in your account.

You’ve got a lot to do but you don’t have a lot of time. Whether you optimising ads or finding new keywords it’s difficult to stay on top of each and every campaign.

DSA let’s you focus on your most valuable campaigns by automate ones you don’t have time for.

Here it is how it works.

Using advanced machine learning crawling, Adwords will scan your website determined which search queries to show your ads for. Automatically creates an Ad tailored to the query and your landing page.

Should you use DSAs?

  • Yes, if you have lots of unique landing pages
  • Yes, if you have lots of products
  • Yes, if you often update your inventory (new products, updates, discontinued etc)
  • No, if your website is not well-optimised for search engines. I.e. Page titles and headers (H1 & 2’s) are essential for DSA campaigns
  • No, if your website is changed rapidly with, for instance, daily deals. DSA needs time to “learn” your website.

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