When you’re trying to tempt customers to book summer holidays, timing is everything. Here we answer the crucial questions about the strategies UK market leaders employ to promote their summer travel deals – the what, the how, and the all – important when
January – grey, frosty, never-ending January. The holidays are over, a new work year has begun, and little by little, everyone begins to dream about the distant summer. Booking a holiday early in the year gives us something to look forward to.
It also allows time to make preparations, whether that means learning a new language, starting a new fitness regime, or simply putting aside the necessary cash.
Holidaymakers tend to fall into one of two categories: those who follow this line of thinking and prefer to book way in advance, and those who jump in to swipe the hottest last-minute deals.
Better Late than Never?
A 2014 report on the UK’s holiday industry from BDRC Continental revealed a decrease in lead times between actual and expected holiday bookings, implying that a growing number of Brits are choosing to book their summer holidays later than you might originally think.
The attitudes behind this growing trend ignore the clear disadvantages of booking last minute, not least of which are the dwindling choices of flight times and accommodations. Late booking is not for everyone, especially since the customer has relatively limited control over what their holiday package will ultimately entail and cost.
Because prices are subject to constant fluctuation, booking later doesn’t always guarantee scoring the better deal, and waiting until the last minute is always something of a gamble.
As it stands, late December and early January remains the peak booking time for summer holidays, with Hotels.com revealing the most searches for summer holidays happening on December 30, at 8pm, to be precise.
This trend is partly driven by the widely held belief amongst travellers that purchasing in January will allow them to take advantage of the bonuses tour operators tend to offer early in advance, such as free spots for children and low deposit schemes.
That said, the best marketing teams will take advantage of the full spectrum of prospective travellers and ensure that PPC campaigns are running at full throttle not only in early January, but throughout the year as well.
So Who Got it Right Last Year?
We looked at the ten online travel companies who maintained the strongest search presence between December 2013 and December 2014, reviewing their use of keywords and PPC and determining how they measured up in terms of reaching the nation’s holidaymakers.
Far from holding steady in terms of spend and traffic, online travel markets experienced a considerable amount of turbulence in 2014.
Online Travel Market Trends
Our initial analysis of trend data reveals that On the Beach took the lead in the paid share of voice (SOV) rankings at several points throughout the year. Their targeted success tells us that where the company invested its budget, it reaped the rewards in its ranking on search results pages.
On the Beach enjoyed its most significant advantage during the summer months, when it captured almost 30% of the market and towered over even its closest competitor. This dominance shows that the company decided to invest its budget in capturing those last minute travelers’ attention, as well as the awareness of those looking to plan trips in autumn and early winter.
That said, the company also performed extremely well in January, retaining around 25% of paid SOV. This figure is particularly impressive in light of the fact that the competition appears to be far stiffer around this time of year, with industry giants like Thomas Cook investing significantly more in PPC campaigns to get more travellers onto their sites.
While the trends show that On the Beach did quite well, Thomas Cook and Sunmaster were the year’s best performers overall; the British high street institution’s 14.95% share of the paid search market gave it the slimmest of victories over Sunmaster’s 14.42%, with On the Beach trailing the leaders with 11.16%.
It’s important that we view these figures in light of the spend used to generate them. Yes, Thomas Cook earned the greatest visibility on search results pages, but it also spent the most money by far – 22.19% share of spend, compared to the 16.89% posted by the second biggest spender, Sunmaster, and On the Beach’s 11.06% share.
The Most Effective Keywords
Following Thomas Cook’s lead and spending a high percentage of your budget on paid search can be a sound business strategy, so long as you know what you’re doing and who you’re up against.
Companies trying to perfect their PPC campaigns should use Google’s Keyword Planner, or for a more sophisticated look at the market, Adthena, to make sure they’re bidding on keywords that promise to generate traffic for their site. For example, the most popular keywords these companies bid on included cheap summer holidays, summer holiday deals, summer holidays 2014, and summer sun holidays.
Remember that the popularity of the keyword in search needs to be evaluated against cost. For example, the high competition key phrase summer 2015 holidays has generated 4,400 average monthly visitors over the last year, with bids costing around £2.02, while early booking only generates medium levels of competition with a suggested bid rate of 33 pence.
So summer 2015 holidays might drive more total traffic to your site, but you have to consider at what cost you earn those results.
A Competitive Strategy
While diligent use of Google’s Keyword Planner is a great starting point, it’s not unreasonable that you’d look for an even greater advantage. Here at Adthena, keeping you competitive is what we do. Our unique competitive intelligence algorithms gather all the data you need to see where you stand against your competitors, allowing you to navigate PPC markets with objectivity and effectiveness.
With our services, you can see what strategies and keywords are working for the competition, alter your thinking accordingly, and save money that can be ploughed back into the all-important budget. If your company provides a good service, that’s a great start. If your company provides a good service while retaining a competitive edge, that’s much, much better.