When it comes to increasing direct bookings, everyone should already know about Paid Search as an effective marketing solution. Target users in the midst of their vacation rental search and get them to your direct booking website. But what about Paid Social? Are there effective strategies there to increase bookings and produce solid ROIs?
Nowadays people are spending more and more time on their social media apps, and advertisers are taking note. By targeting specific users at the right time, also known as media buying, sellers of all sorts of products are using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to drive loads of revenue. And while the vacation rental industry is quite different from most other direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce industries, the sheer fact the people are spending more and more of their dollars via Paid Social ads means that with the right strategies (and expectations), Paid Social ads can be a great way to create an additional source of revenue.
Right off the bat, it’s important to note that your Paid Social ads are not going to produce as strong of an ROI as your Paid Search ads. The reason being, with Paid Search, you are targeting users as they are ACTIVELY planning their vacation. They are doing a search for vacation rentals in your area on Google, you’ve decided to bid on users who input that search, and thus you are attempting to drive traffic to your site that is searching for your specific product, keeping them away from competitors’ sites.
With Paid Social, the strategy differs. It’s near impossible to target users on a social network as they are ACTIVELY planning a vacation. More likely, they’re browsing memes, commenting on friends’ photos, interacting with influencers, etc. Thus, you are higher in the conversion funnel, and the likelihood of each individual user booking a property or signing up as a new homeowner is lower.
Social relies on demographic targeting and appealing to people’s interests. With Google, results can be immediate, whereas with Paid Social, we’re trying to create that sense of urgency within an individual to get them further down the sales funnel. Paid Social may require more visits to the site before a user eventually books, as well as additional marketing strategies (i.e., Remarketing) to eventually get them to that point.
Because of all of this, your ROI is expected to lag behind Paid Search. The likelihood of generating a booking is lower, and the likelihood of a booking being attributed back to Paid Social, as opposed to one of the later clicks to the site prior to the booking, is also lower. These are important facts to keep in mind when mapping out your Paid Social strategy.
Now that expectations have been set, what strategies should be utilized to see the strongest returns from your Paid Social efforts? The two main strategies we’ll discuss here are Remarketing, where you target users who have previously interacted with your company, and Custom Audiences, where you target users who fit certain criteria that you believe can lead to a booking.
Remarketing is a strategy that is widely used in PPC, but extending your efforts to Paid Social can be an effective way to keep your company top of mind and get users back to your site while they are still in their booking window. Two things to keep in mind are how frequently you serve ads to the same users, as well as how long you serve ads to users before you take them off your list.
In terms of frequency, you want to make sure that the users on your remarketing list see your ads, while also not overloading them with excessive impressions. Serving ads to the same users 5-10 times during the duration of their time on your remarketing list is typically fine, but serving the same ad to the same user 50 times in a week is probably not the best strategy. In terms of remarketing list duration, it really depends on the type of list you’re running. If you’re targeting an email list, you’ll probably want to pause those ads periodically to give your list a break, before starting ads back up again with new ad copy. For site visitor lists that are constantly changing, serving ads to users for a week or two is a good rule of thumb. If they aren’t interested anymore, they won’t return to the site and will be removed from the list, but if they are still interested and do return to the site, they will be re-added to the list and start seeing ads again.
There are a few key Paid Social remarketing strategies we like to use at Bizcor, beyond your standard “All Website Visitors” or “Email List” targeting. First, Dynamic Remarketing. With Dynamic Remarketing you target users who visited specific properties on your website, and actually serve a responsive ad that promotes those specific properties and sends them directly back to the property page if they click. This gets users closer to the checkout process for the properties they’ve already shown interest in and increases the chance of generating a booking.
A similar strategy is targeting “Checkout Abondoners”. With this strategy, we create a remarketing list of users who got all the way to the checkout page on your site but did not complete a booking. You can add specific promotions to your ads to increase the sense of urgency to book and get them over the finish line.
Lastly, you can create a remarketing list of users who made it to your property management page but didn’t fill out a lead. You can assume these users are homeowners in your area, looking for property management, and target them on Facebook to a) remind them of your services, and b) let them know you market aggressively which will lead to them getting more bookings.
While Remarketing should net you a solid ROI, targeting Custom Audiences will increase your click volume and get more users into your booking funnel. With Custom Audiences you are targeting new users who haven’t interacted yet with your business, hoping to generate interest in your location to eventually get them to the point of booking. You can target users based on interests, locations, income, or even create lookalike audiences to try and mimic your remarketing lists.
The key with Custom Audiences is to try and fine tune your targeting based on how users are interacting with your site. If you’re noticing high bounce rates or low time on site, it’s important to make adjustments to try and pinpoint where users are dropping off. Maybe it’s important to narrow your geo-targeting to specific metro areas or remove a specific interest that isn’t quite relevant enough for your offering. There is a lot of trial and error with this marketing strategy, but once fine-tuned, you should be able to add a lot of quality traffic to your booking funnel, with a percentage eventually leading to bookings and revenue.
While we’ve reviewed some key Paid Social marketing strategies thus far, there are a good number of additional strategies and management tactics to consider. These can be often overlooked strategies when attempting to run an effective ad account.
For starters, brand awareness campaigns are a great way to increase your social media presence and a great avenue to lock in repeat guests. These campaign types are an excellent channel for lifting your brand name, while ensuring your content reaches as many people as possible. You have the ability to get your content in front of people who didn’t even realize that they needed or wanted it, ultimately trying to pique their interest in your business.
Facebook is an easy and efficient way to maintain your brand’s reputation as well. Positive reviews are obviously the most desirable, but unfortunately negative reviews do come into play as well. Having your reviews set up on Facebook is a great way to communicate with your client base, addressing both positive and negative comments. Furthermore, you can enable suggestions on your page and take into account people’s actual feedback on your business. This shows your company’s willingness to listen to any potential constructive criticism and influences the way your brand is perceived.
Another important consideration is post engagement, which ties back directly to reputation management. It’s important to hide or delete negative comments, as well as respond to positive comments on your ads. Periodically monitoring comments is vital, especially if you have a large audience size and robust budget.
Boosted posts is another Paid Social strategy that can increase your reach. Boosting a post essentially turns an organic Facebook post into a paid ad. This way you can reach people who don’t even follow you. Boosting can generate more messages, video views, event inquiries, follows, etc.
Messenger ads & chat bots are great for direct response when someone needs answers or assistance right away, without having to leave Facebook. With messenger ads, you do need an employee to be logged into Facebook to receive notifications and respond to potential customer inquiries quickly. If you don’t have a dedicated employee to do this, messenger bots like ManyChat can prove useful. Bots allow you to create conversation threads based on what you think your customers are likely to say. This provides immediate responses, as if the person was actually having a real live conversation.
As you can see, Paid Social ads can be a powerful way of gaining bookings, exposure, followers and so on. The sky’s the limit. Depending on your company’s size and your business goals, implementing some, if not all of these tactics gives the highest likelihood of a solid return on ad spend. For more information on Bizcor’s Paid Social services, feel free to email us at [email protected]!
The truth is that the metrics discussed in Part 1 of this blog are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to PPC data. To be able to make continued account improvements over the long term, you’ll need to dive deeper into your Google Ads and Google Analytics data to better predict where and when you have the best chance to make a sale. You will still be using your basic metrics and conversion data as your benchmark for success, and bid adjustments as your method of optimization, but to truly dial in your ads you’ll need to look beyond your campaign and keyword data at some more nuanced metrics.
Three often overlooked optimizations you can make to your PPC account are ad scheduling, location targeting, and device bid adjustments. Each allows you to set bid adjustments beyond your original keyword bid, allowing you to bid more or less depending on when a user searches, where a user searches from, and what device a user is using.
After your ads have been running for a bit, and have generated some solid data, Google Ads provides a lot of very valuable information for each individual click. You can segment your data by both time of day and day of week to understand when users are searching, when they are clicking, and when they are booking. By taking ROI data for each of these time slots, you can set up an optimized ad schedule with bid increases during the hours and days that a user is most likely to book and bid decreases when a booking and strong ROI seems less likely.
The same goes for geographic and device data. Google Ads shows you the precise locations from where your users are searching, down to the zip code. Zip codes or states with high ROIs and strong booking numbers deserve bid increases, whereas locations with low ROIs deserve bid decreases. With more and more users searching and booking from mobile devices, it’s also important to analyze device data to ensure that you are not overspending on mobile, where search traffic is often high, but ROI is generally low.
By adding these more advanced bid adjustments to your account, you can really start to optimize your ad spend, focusing more on proven ROI winners while limiting your wasted spend. For example, imagine you have a $1 Max. CPC bid for a keyword. You also know that searches from San Francisco produce strong a ROI (+25% bid adjustment), searches at 6pm on a Wednesday produce a strong ROI (+50% bid adjustment), and searches from desktop computers produce a strong ROI (+25% bid adjustment). All of these bid adjustments add together, so if someone searches for your keyword from SF at 6pm on a Wednesday, on their desktop, your $1 max CPC increases to $2 (+100%), as you actively set bid increases for these conditions. Remember when we said there were many factors that come into play when determining CPC?
Not only do these more nuanced metrics help you optimize your account, but they can help with other areas of your business as well. You can find the perfect time to send an email blast to maximize bookings. You can determine pain points on your mobile website to find areas of improvement. You can determine the best locations to focus your print advertising or place billboards. All of this info is additional value added from your PPC campaigns beyond your ROI.
Congratulations! That’s everything there is to know about PPC data. Just kidding, if we were to cover everything, this would probably be a 20-part blog series. Instead, let’s go over some final metrics that can help you truly understand your PPC account.
Quality Score (QS) is an important metric that Google uses to determine where your ad shows vs. competitors, also known as ad rank. While your keyword Max. CPC bids (as well as additional bid adjustments) determine how much you are willing to spend per click, QS is equally as important to determine how high in the search results your ad shows. It’s Google’s way of saying “I think this is a relevant ad for this search,” and is a rating from 1 to 10. Ad Rank is calculated by multiplying your Max. CPC bid and your QS. Thus, a $2 keyword bid with an 8/10 QS (16) will show higher in the search results than a $10 bid for the same keyword with a 1/10 QS (10).
Many factors go into determining QS, and it’s important to try and optimize for QS as much as possible. Historical performance for keywords plays a big role, so if Google knows a specific keyword performs well in your account, it will get a better QS. Additionally, a high CTR on your keywords and ads improves QS. If Google knows that people see your ads and click them, they know they must be relevant. Landing page performance is also important. If users click your ad and immediately bounce from your website, Google will deem this as a problem and reduce your Quality Score.
Speaking of website performance, looking at your on-site Google Analytics metrics is a very important step towards improving your PPC account. You can make as many account optimizations as you’d like, but if searchers have a bad user experience once they get to your site, you are leaving money on the table. You should be looking at things like bounce rate, average time on site, and pages per session, making sure users are getting to your site and staying there. Additionally, you should make sure your checkout flow is going smoothly, so that users who are getting to the checkout page aren’t having issues completing their booking.
Running a competitor analysis is also beneficial in understanding where you stand vs. your competition for ad space. Google allows you to see your own search impression share, as well as competitors search impression shares for your keywords. If you have a 60% search impression share for your keywords, that means your ad shows 60% of the time someone searches for one of your keywords. The other 40% of the time you’ve either run out of budget for the day, or competitors outbid you for the ad space. By checking competitors’ search impression share, you can see how aggressive they are for your keywords, and how their aggressiveness has changed over time. If you see competitors getting more and more aggressive, and thus increasing their search impression share, it may be time to increase bids to remain relevant.
There are also conversion attribution models, search term reports, A/B testing, ad extension analysis, etc., etc. The moral of the story is that there’s no shortage of ways to analyze your keywords and ads and improve your ROI. Understanding each metric is time consuming, but important towards ensuring your account is running like a well-oiled machine.
Now that you have all the data you could ever want, what do you do with it? How can you possibly keep track of it all? For starters, Google Ads provides a great user interface, with access to each and every data point. You can segment your data however you’d like, adjust timeframes, compare year over year, and make all of your budget and bid adjustments in one place. You can also import your conversion data from Google Analytics to bring in online lead and booking data.
That being said, Google Ads has its limitations as well. For starters, despite being a user-friendly interface, it still takes time and effort to truly understand all of its capabilities. It’s meant more for full time PPC specialists than your average business owner. Additionally, you are limited to bringing in your online lead and booking data, meaning you are potentially missing out on some offline conversions that can give you a more accurate picture of your ROI and CPL. It certainly is able to provide usable data, but your best data should be housed elsewhere, in easy to visualize reports with blended data.
Data blending allows you to bring in data from multiple sources to give yourself as accurate a picture as possible of your account performance. You can bring in data from Google Ads, Bing Ads, Google Analytics, call tracking services, CRMs, property management software, as well as any other data source you have. Then, using your preferred method, you can blend all of your data together to give yourself the full scope of what you are spending on your ads, and what you are getting in return. With this data automatically updating on a daily basis, you now have all of your most important metrics in one place, allowing you to do with it what you’d like.
Once your data is all in one place, it’s time to visualize it in an easily digestible format. Google Data Studio is a great free option for this. You can customize your reports to your liking and focus in on your most important metrics while leaving out the fluff. Start out with your basic metrics and conversion data to ensure things are running smoothly and you are producing a solid ROI. Then, progressively go into more and more detail that can be used to improve the account. How are search campaigns doing vs. remarketing campaigns? How do our metrics stack up against the same dates last year? Including week over week and month over month data is also a great way to show continued progress, as well as alert you to any seasonality changes that may occur in your specific market.
As your report goes on, you can get deeper into your data. Campaign and Keyword performance, with every conversion point you can imagine, can get you closer to your true ROI and allow you to better focus your spend. Deeper dives into your most important Google Analytics metrics can teach you how your website is performing and whether adjustments need to be made. Visualizing geographic click and booking data makes it easy to identify top performing locations, as well as locations that eat up spend without producing results.
A well-made PPC report should be your one-stop shop to understand how your account has been performing in both the short and long term, how that performance compares to previous years, what areas of your account are specifically driving your conversions, and what optimizations can be made to improve performance further. At the same time, it needs to be easy to digest, something that doesn’t require a PPC expert to understand. See below for what a sample interactive Bizcor PPC report looks like (use the arrows in the bottom left corner to navigate through the pages):
Hopefully this blog helps you make sense of your PPC data! If you have any questions, we’re always happy to help. Reach out to [email protected] for more information!
To begin understanding PPC data, you first need to understand your basic account metrics. These are the numbers you should be reviewing on a daily to weekly basis, to ensure that a) your account is running smoothly, and b) that you’re staying on budget. Impressions, clicks and spend are the key things to look at here. How many times have your ads shown? How many clicks did they generate? What was the total cost of those clicks? If anything looks out of the ordinary here, it’s important to troubleshoot right away.
Digging a little deeper, you begin to look at things like click-through-rate (CTR) and cost-per-click (CPC). CTR tells you the percentage of people that click your ad after seeing it. A low CTR lets you know that you have room to increase and generate more clicks, and it may also mean it’s time to update your ad copy. A high CTR tells you that your ads are communicating well with your searchers and they are interested in what you have to offer. It also means you have competitive bids and are showing high in the search results.
CPC is the average cost for each ad click to your site. And while it may seem like a basic metric, it’s all important when it comes to optimizing your account. You want CPC to be as low as possible, while also driving as much quality traffic to your site as you can. You don’t want it to be so low that you miss out on quality traffic that may now book with a competitor instead, but you also don’t want it so high that you are exhausting your budget before the end of the day. The main factor in determining your average CPC is your Max. CPC bid, which you set for each individual keyword in your account. You are essentially setting the maximum you are willing to pay for each ad click, depending on the keyword. As you’ll learn later, however, there are many other factors that come in to play when determining your actual CPC.
Now that you understand your basic metrics, it’s time to figure out what you’re getting in return. Beyond clicks to your website, you need to know how these users are interacting with your site, and whether or not they are converting. You can generate a ton of clicks to your site, with a very low CPC, but if none of these users are converting into leads and bookings, it’s all wasted spend.
Setting up conversion tracking is one of the first steps you should take when launching a new PPC account. You should make sure that you are tracking all lead points on site, as well as booking and revenue data, making sure that there is no double counting. In addition, call tracking is highly recommended, both for call leads and bookings made over the phone. The key with PPC data is consistency first, accuracy second. If you’ve been tracking data consistently for years, it has meaning. If your tracking methods are constantly changing, things start to lose their value, and year over year comparisons become skewed. Accuracy is also hugely important, but the truth is that numbers will never tell 100% of the story, no matter how accurate you are. Because of this, consistency holds the most importance, followed closely by accuracy.
Another important thing to consider when setting up conversion tracking is that conversions aren’t a standardized metric. CPL (cost per lead) and ROI (return on investment) metrics are not only unique to the industry, but also unique to each individual company. Each company should be tracking things their own way, with many factors differentiating their data from the next closest competitor. This means it’s always important to take cross company comparisons with a grain of salt. If one company is spending heavily on their own branded terms, which drives up ROI, and another doesn’t even bid on their own branded terms, there won’t be too much to learn when comparing the two until you can isolate NonBranded traffic for both.
Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to understand your booking data. Ultimately, no other metric is a better benchmark for success than ROI. ROI simply takes your booking revenue generated from your ads and divides it by your total ad spend to determine how much revenue you are generating per $1 of ad spend. To be as accurate as possible, you should take your total revenue generated and multiply it by your management fee percentage (20% is a good industry average). So, if you see $100,000 in booking revenue, of which your company receives 20% (the rest goes to owners, taxes, fees, etc.), you are looking at $20,000 in actual revenue. And if it cost $5,000 of ad spend to generate that revenue, ROI becomes $20,000 / $5,000 = $4.00, or $4 in return for every $1 of ad spend.
Other important booking metrics include transactions (you want to make sure your booking volume is where it should be), booking % (the percent of clicks that turn into bookings), CPB (cost per booking), and average order value. Booking % is a metric you always want to increase, meaning your ads are targeting increasingly more relevant users, who have a higher likelihood of completing a booking. In the same respect, you always want to decrease your CPB, and it’s always nice from an ROI perspective to increase your average order value as well. If you know that a user who searches for a “luxury vacation rental” typically produces a higher average order value (despite a lower booking % and higher CPB), you’ll still want to bid higher on that keyword assuming it leads to a higher ROI.
Beyond bookings, it’s also important to track leads. Property inquiries, contact form submissions, phone calls, property management leads, etc. Tracking these provides valuable additional data, allowing you to better optimize at the keyword level. CPL is the main metric to look at here, and you always want to drive CPL lower. If a specific keyword only has a couple of bookings, and thus not enough data to make actionable optimizations, lead data and CPL can provide enough additional information to determine if you need to increase or decrease bids.
One last thing of note: It is important to keep your account organized and efficient to make it easier to filter your data and implement optimizations. Things like Property Management campaigns should be kept separate, as they are not ROI focused but instead CPL focused. Likewise, Branded and NonBranded campaigns need to be kept separate to easily determine the ROI for each. When grouped together, ROI will be inflated as Branded campaigns tend to drive very high ROI’s, as the user is searching for your specific brand. There is a high likelihood that this user would’ve booked with or without the PPC ad. By being able to separate out your NonBranded campaigns and determine your NonBranded ROI, you are increasing the accuracy of your ROI metric allowing for better optimizations.
Stay tuned for our next update as we take a deeper dive into some more nuanced PPC metrics, and more importantly learn how to digest everything, visualize it, and turn your data into actionable improvements!