Google makes headway in travel search.
Thursday, 21st June 2007
Source : Sales and Marketing in Travel Asia Pacific 2007
The digital advertising market in Australia had crossed the $1billion sales barrier, for the first time last year -

And search led the way, as per the Online Advertising Expenditure Report from the Audit Bureau of Verification Services (ABVS). Search and directories advertising shot up by 81.4 percent to $399 million, resulting in 40 percent market share.

In the travel search market, significantly, Google was recently in news for building a team dedicated to the travel industry in Australia.

Sharing information about the same, Claire Hatton, Google's Head of Travel for Australia/New Zealand, said, "Our team of industry experts in travel and search marketing work closely with Google's travel industry customers and their media agencies. The Google Travel team provides marketing solutions to a large range of travel-related businesses, including Transportation (Air, Car, Cruise, Bus, Rail), Hotel Accommodation, Tours and Package Holidays, Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) / Tourism Boards and Travel Publishers."

Hatton, who was previously Director of Marketing and Product Management, Pacific for Travelport, spoke to EyeforTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta about company's operations in Australia and NZ, approach of travel advertisers in the region etc. Excerpts:

How do you assess progress made by Google in travel sector in Australia and New Zealand?

Google's travel business has grown successfully in the past few years. There is a growing awareness by businesses in the travel sector in Australia and NZ of search marketing and of site targeting using the Google content network.

Lots of our travel advertisers are exploring exciting and innovative new ways of using search and Google's platforms to provide targeted and highly effective marketing campaigns. For example, British Airways ran a Google Earth themed campaign, incorporating search, banner and rich media ads on the content network, themed BA websites and offline marketing, to convey an exciting and innovative campaign.

How is your relationship with travel suppliers evolving?

We have developed deep and close relationships with major companies across the travel sector. We are now enhancing our industry knowledge to provide more relevant and tailored solutions for these clients, and their agencies. By building up our travel industry team, we will help these clients to further maximise the impact of their advertising campaigns.

The Google travel team provides in-depth marketing solutions to all companies that supply, sell, or promote destinations and online travel-related services.

Suppliers have been working with optimisation partners and beginning to build their natural search presence, which is vital to minimise paid for expenditure. What trends have you witnessed in this arena?

Both natural and paid listings are important. Many travel businesses in Australia and New Zealand are just discovering search marketing, its accountability, transparency, the incredible results that it brings compared to other forms of advertising and its importance as a central plank in broader advertising campaigns.

Sites that offer intuitive navigation along with compelling and unique content or highly useful tools tend to naturally do well in search engines such as Google. Google offers webmaster expansive tools to assist websites improve their relevance to users: google.com/webmasters/

One thing we've been seeing is sites adding more valuable content to pique more interest and create more links. Sites that create something that grabs readers' interest and that engages with them will do well in natural rankings.

With more companies advertising on search engines, bid prices rising and there being saturation of high-volume keywords, in this scenario, what according to you is the key to search marketing?

We don't comment on bid prices, which are determined by advertisers themselves.

We encourage travel advertisers to experiment with their campaigns as results vary for each advertiser depending on their campaign structure, landing page, ad text and keyword.

The way to most effectively target your relevant audience is to use 3-4 word keyword combinations to find the right niche audience.

PPC is no longer the end all be all of online marketing. Internet users still only look at the first few pages of search results, so bids have increased for PPC ads. Like all fluid economic markets, demand and offer balance each other. How do you assess the situation?

Our online advertising platform is very dynamic, transparent and fair to all advertisers regardless of size.

Our growing Australian and NZ content network (which includes thousands of sites) are great ways for advertisers to increase their exposure to highly targeted audiences.

Our goal is not for ever travel advertiser to vie for the highest position on the page, but to be in positions that perform and convert for them best, be that third or fourth position. Our bid-to-position tools, as well as our keyword discounter, help advertisers achieve that.

Volume keywords are generally not quality keywords. The trend, the direction of all this is specialisation, targeting and keyword management. What's your take on this?

We provide many options to help advertisers reach their target audience and improve their ROI, including site targeted campaigns and geo-targeting. Advertisers can be incredibly granular in their targeting through Adwords. Rather than bid on volume keywords, we advise many advertisers to bid on 3-4 word keyword combinations to find their niche audience.

Claire Hatton is scheduled to present during the forthcoming Sales and Marketing in Travel Asia Pacific 2007 to be held in Sydney on 18-19 July. More information can be obtained at: www.eyefortravel.com/apac2007/agenda.shtml
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