Effective Pay Per Click Strategies to Drive Tourism

By Stamp

Effective Pay Per Click Strategies to Drive Tourism

Pay Per Click is the primary way to “get noticed” online using sponsored link ads. Get a basic understanding of this Search Engine Marketing Strategy, and put PPC to work for your DMO. Read time: 6 minutes

PPC. You’ve heard of it, right? PPC stands for Pay Per Click. Search engines are crowded and competitive, social channels are monetizing and the internet is overflowing with content. It’s harder and harder to get the attention of a potential visitor to your destination. Just because you build a website, doesn’t mean people will find it. Pay Per Click advertising occurs when a web user searches or browses the web and clicks on a sponsored link to your website. In turn, you pay a small fee for the click traffic. Most likely, you’ve seen a Pay Per Click ad when you’ve searched on Google, Bing, etc. (yes, some people do still search on Yahoo and Bing!), or you’ve seen a sponsored ad on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. These are all paid ads and many are using PPC ad placement strategies to get your attention.

Pay Per Click Networks

Since Google has +60% of the search market share, we primarily focus on Google’s ad network. Google AdWords has 3 different campaign types: Search Network, Display Network and Search Network with Display Select.

Search Network

When using the Search Network campaign, businesses pay for text ads to show up in Google’s search engine organic results. Google’s primary method of Pay Per Click marketing is through the search network accessed through Google AdWords. All that is required is a budget, known keywords, demographic data, ad copy, plus a landing page link. Voilà! You’re ready to get started with PPC. Below is an example of a Search Network text ad that appears when you type in the keyword phrase “Fort Benning Hotels”. This search ad campaign received an exceptional 5.18% Click Through Rate (CTR) on average for a 12-month campaign, which is great considering the national average search CTR is 2% for the travel & tourism industry!

VisitFortBenning.com Search Network Pay Per Click Text Ad
VisitFortBenning.com Search Network Pay Per Click Text Ad


Display Network

VisitFortBenning.com Pay Per Click Display Network Banner Ad

When using the Display Network, businesses can place ads (including images, rich media or video ads) on Google’s large network of websites when it is relevant to the ad based on keywords. Google’s Display Network is a group of 2 million websites in Google’s ad network where your image ad can be displayed. This is a visual method of Pay Per Click which allows you to reach over 90% of people on the internet and is accessed through the Google AdWords Account Manager. The Display Network allows you to select your target audience based on interests as well as demographic data and shows a visual banner ad design to compel a potential traveler to click. To the left is an example of a Display Network banner ad that appears when browsing a website in Google’s network. This display campaign received an average CTR of .41% which is comparable to the national average of .47%.

Search Network with Display Select

When using the Search Network with Display Select campaign option, organizations can place ads (text, image, rich media or video ads) with Google’s search engine website as well as related websites on the Display Network, which is the best of both worlds! With Pay Per Click, there are several methods of targeting when placing ads on any one of Google's networks mentioned above. A few to note:

Keyword Targeting

This method of targeting allows you to select keyword phrases relevant to your destination, such as activities or interests that will resonate with your target audience. Highly relevant keywords allow you to increase your chances of reaching your audience. With keyword targeting, you simply select the geographic area to target, keyword phrases and how much you would like to bid on each phrase. An example of this is targeting the keywords “Hotels near Fort Benning, GA” which we placed for Columbus, GA - the home of Fort Benning’s Army Base. The 12-month campaign resulted in 2 million impressions and 20,000 clicks to the website to find and book hotels, thus increasing economic activity for the city.

Location Targeting

Another method is targeting geographic locations. Choosing a Designated Market Area (DMA), or a radius around a specific city, will allow your pay-per-click dollars to go further than advertising nationwide. Google uses individual IP addresses, domains and language to determine where a user is located. An example of this is targeting some of the feeder markets to Columbus, GA, such as the State of Alabama or as granular as the City of Huntsville, AL.

Device Targeting

One method of targeting that has been highly successful is to determine the type of device on which to show your ad, particularly mobile devices. With the rise in mobile use vs. desktop use, targeting devices can be a great strategy. Google will let you select the percentage of the budget you would like to put towards a device type, i.e. desktop or mobile device. We incorporated this into our Pay Per Click strategy for the Fort Benning campaign since the campaign initially received a 60% higher CTR on mobile devices than on a desktop.

Contextual Targeting

Using contextual targeting, you can strategically show your banner ad to potential visitors based on interest (for example, outdoor enthusiasts or military) and within the context of the site, they are reading (for example, a whitewater rafting website). Some interests to choose from might be nature, outdoors, whitewater, arts, history, sports, events, etc. Google's algorithm will evaluate websites and pages based on keyword phrases, along with target audiences to determine the relevancy of your ad, and will then display an ad on the site if relevant.

Site Targeting

Site targeting allows you to select certain websites within Google’s network in which to show your ad. This can be successful if certain interests, habits and sites visited are known about a potential traveler. Keep in mind that picking a specific site out of the network usually comes with a premium PPC price tag. For the right campaign and site, this can be worth it.


Choosing to show your ad to people who have visited your site is a successful campaign tactic that typically results in a higher CTR due to the frequency of content views. Because users have already engaged with the content once, they are likely to click on it again and even more likely to convert after seeing the content a second or third time.

Types of Pay Per Click Ads

  1. Text Ads – typically a headline and a few lines of copy.
  2. Image Ads – banner ads in various sizes.
    VisitFortBenning.com Pay Per Click Image Banner Ad
    VisitFortBenning.com Image Banner Ad
  3. Video Ads – an image ad that includes video instead of a stagnant image.
  4. Rich Media Ads – an ad that includes animation or motion graphics, but is not video.
    VisitFortBenning.com Pay Per Click Rich Media Ad
    VisitFortBenning.com Rich Media Ad

Landing Pages

To generate results, landing pages must be relevant, optimized for search and easy to navigate. A great analogy for search engine marketing is like advertising on the interstate. Visitors drive by and see signs that say “Great food ahead, exit now and turn left” and they see this message multiple times until they get off the exit. It should be very clear to the traveler to turn left and they will find a restaurant with great food. Much like the interstate, your landing pages on the information superhighway should complement your search engine marketing, from keyword targeting to contextual targeting. The landing page for the campaign mentioned above is visitfortbenning.com. If you visit this site you will see it’s relevant, optimized and easy to navigate while providing very clear directions for the traveler.

An ideal landing page should have these 5 things:

  1. Offer a clear call to action without much clutter. “Book your stay”
  2. Provide simple navigation and content.
  3. Repeat keywords that are in your text ads. “Hotels near Fort Benning”
  4. Incorporate images that are in your display ads.
  5. Provide the “pay off” to content searched. "Find Hotels near Fort Benning”

Digital marketing, or more specifically, using the Google Network with its constantly changing algorithms may seem unapproachable or intimidating. My hope is, this breakdown will give you a basic understanding of Pay Per Click strategies and will make you feel empowered enough to take advantage of these tools to attract more visitors to your site, and ultimately to your destination. However, if you’d rather get some help, we have been planning, buying, optimizing, and reporting on digital media for years and we have a friendly digital account service and support team here at Stamp (Cristen, Maghen and Victoria) and they would love to help you solve your digital challenges. So when you’re ready to talk, reach out to one of us and we’ll help you Make Your Mark in digital media.