May of 2020 brought a surge in travel searches, forcing the travel industry to reevaluate going dark, or staying dark, as the pandemic raged on. As I wrote in my blog, Travel Searches Are Surging: Time To Relaunch PPC in May, a mixture of restlessness, hope, and business needs led to an increase in travel-related searches over the month of April. As the pandemic has continued, the travel industry continues to evolve as the world defines a new way to getaway. This shift has led to a need for new PPC strategies as search terms evolve, travel patterns change, and the industry fights for survival.

How The Industry Has Changed and How PPC Strategy Needs to Pivot Accordingly

Private Vacation Rentals Surge 

Hotels are now struggling to compete with home vacation rentals as the demand for home vacation rentals surges, and some travelers perceive private vacation rentals safer than traditional hotel stays. Once a matter of preference, it is now a matter of safety. Travelers need reassurance more than ever that their travel plans will keep them safe. Hotels must ensure their traditional messaging now includes an acknowledgment that safety is a top priority. This can be done with:

  • Sitelink Extensions on search ads. Use Sitelink Extensions to highlight your safety standards and link directly to your safety landing page. 
travel industry sitelink extensions
  • Callout Extensions on search ads. Use callout extensions to highlight safety certifications and additional safety messaging.
Travel Industry Callout Extensions
  • Reassuring messaging in ad copy across all platforms.
  • The hotel’s safety policy on their landing page.

Travelers who are still hesitant to fly continue to look for options within driving distance of their home. We saw this trend emerge in April and May and travel searches continue to defend this pattern. According to Google Trends, beachfront hotels near me grew by 800% last month and hotels with pools open near me grew by 750%. 

travel near me searches

Vacation rentals also continue to see a growth in local searches with “vacation rentals near me with pool” increasing by 250% last month. 

vacation rental near me searches

Travelers Begin to Fly

As searches for local travel continue to rise, those ready to embrace the safety precautions put in place by airlines are more and more ready to fly again. The number of travelers passing through TSA checkpoints continues to grow, with some daily averages surpassing 700,000 (up over the lowest daily average of 87,534 on April 14. This changes the location strategy referenced in May and means that both hotels and vacation rental sites need to start researching to expand their location targeting beyond 3-4 hour drives. 

The first step in expanding location targeting is to research the top cities, states, or countries visiting your website, by each travel property location you own. You will need this information to guide you as you move beyond regions within driving distance. You will also need to consider local travel guidelines and restrictions as you build your location targeting strategy. Several states, such as New York and Hawaii, have 2-week mandatory quarantine procedures in place, either to specific states or the entire country. You need to consider whether or not you’d like to target the travelers of states that are currently required to undergo a mandatory quarantine upon arrival as they may be avoiding your property location, and the mandatory quarantine, at this time. Break out your campaigns into a local campaign and a national or international campaign, depending on your research findings, and target accordingly. 

Ongoing Keyword Research and Messaging Updates

You need to ensure you are doing weekly keyword research and search term reports as new search terms appear and historical search terms evolve. All travel companies, including hotel and private vacation rentals, should research which of their amenities are a hot commodity, in terms of searches and trends, and focus both keyword and messaging around those amenities. The vacation rental example above shows that pools, beaches, and cabins are 3 features that rank highly in related search terms. 

Consider Competitor Campaigns

Competitor keywords are showing an increase in conversion performance as travelers care less about loyalty and more about proximity, amenities, deals, and safety. Your competitors may also not be open yet so it is an opportunity to capture those searching for a particular hotel and who cannot be serviced by the hotel they are looking for. Consider breaking out competitor campaigns to 1) brand and 2) competitors in proximity to your property location so you cover brand while targeting your local area(s).

This is an ever-evolving landscape and you must stay on top of the trends with:

  • Search Term reports to search for opportunities and negatives
  • Keyword research
  • Competitor research
  • Location targeting research
  • Consumer Behavior (including trending amenities) research
  • Ad copy updates
  • Ad extension creation focused on safety precautions