With the travel landscape becoming ever more competitive, brands face increasing challenges when it comes to developing a successful search marketing strategy.
Smaller brands particularly struggle to keep up with the major players such as Expedia and EasyJet.
So what tactics should smaller brands and travel companies look to adopt in 2014?
Take a look at some of the trends we expect to impact the Travel search industry
1. The Increasing Power of Metasearch
Metasearch sites are the fastest growing channels in travel, with a study by PhoCusWright revealing that 36% of holidaymakers now use metasearch sites to discover holidays, which is an 8% increase since 2010.
So it’s not surprising that many of the large online travel companies are now investing heavily in metasearch to increase their revenue through advertising.
And for traditional travel companies, the benefits can’t be denied; metasearches help cut out commissions that they would otherwise pay to travel aggregators, and lead users straight to the hotel website where they can book directly.
This development shows that there is a huge potential for travel suppliers to increase their direct bookings and the involvement of metasearch should definitely be part of their marketing strategy in 2014.
2. More industry-specific Ad formats
Although this is nothing new, having being introduced by Google in 2010, Hotel Price Ads (HPAs) represent another trend to watch out for this year. HPAs are sponsored price listings that appear amongst others on Google Hotel Finder.
The introduction of Google’s Hotel Finder has had a detrimental impact for hotel websites as hoteliers whose hotels aren’t listed have lost parts of their traffic. This is because the Google Hotel Finder does not refer users directly to the hotel website but to the OTA (which then means commission fees for the hotels), so it is becoming increasingly important for hotels to use HPAs.
There is however the possibility for OTAs and large hotel chains to use HPAs. Unfortunately, the service is not directly available to smaller independent hotels. The only way for those hotels to use these HPAs is through working with their Central Reservation or Global Distribution System. This approach could open some valuable opportunities for hotels to drive traffic directly to their sites and should definitely be taken into consideration in their future marketing efforts.
3. Rise in mobile bookings
The growth of mobile usage when booking a holiday can’t be denied; and with more than 52% of mobile users booking their holidays through a mobile device, and an expected further growth in the next couple of years, travel brands need to consider an appropriate mobile strategy as part of their overall marketing activities.
But not only do mobile campaigns increasingly book users their holidays on their smartphone or tablet, they also use it to research, compare, watch videos and ask for advice on social networks and use their mobile device when they actually spend their holidays to share experiences with their friends.
Taking all these aspects into consideration, brands should focus on making their content mobile friendly. When researching a holiday, mobile users are much more likely to switch to a new site if they arrive at a booking site that isn’t mobile friendly and/or doesn’t enhance the user experience.
4. The growth of Google+ Communities
If you haven’t heard of Google+ Travel Communities yet, you should definitely check them out. They can help brands to reach, engage and share photos with a large target audience. Not only does this allow brands a more targeted approach to outreach to a specific group, it is also a great way to showcase themselves as experts and provide useful resource.
Below is an example of different travel-related communities on Google+:
Also in terms of SEO, these G+ communities offer some real benefits. Any shared posts within a community are indexed by Google and thus can be found in the SERPs. And needless to say, the more information brands display, the higher the likelihood there is of getting more shares.
It remains to be seen how big the power that lies in those communities actually is as they are still in their infancy, however marketers should definitely keep an eye on their development and incorporate them into their strategy.
5. The undeniable importance of visual content
In the travel industry, images are the most valuable asset, so it’s vital that the creation of visual content is a top priority for travel websites.
We all know how important it is for any brand to invest in the creation of compelling content which provokes a reaction or emotion from consumers. Yet there are many travel brands that are lagging behind when it comes to putting emphasis on content, missing a huge opportunity for customers to engage with their brand.
A study by Eye for Travel has shown that last year, 81% of online travel bookers watched videos before booking a holiday. This figure can’t be denied by travel companies and efforts should be put moved towards creating the kind of visual content that persuades customers to book a holiday.
Social networks such as Pinterest and Instagram can help brands become visual storytellers; we’ve discussed in the past how certain brands in the tourism industry have created successful campaigns through Instagram.
If you’re interested in reading more about developments in the online travel industry in 2014, check out this in-depth report.
Which of these trends do you think is the most important?
Are there any trends you think travel brands should pay particular attention to?
Let us know in the comments below!