Quantifying the results of content marketing: ATTA webinar deck & resources

Just because content marketing is “indirect” in nature, that doesn’t mean you can’t quantify its impact on your bottom line. In this webinar, with the Adventure Travel Trade Association, we explore some of the basics to attribution in the travel customer journey.

View the full webinar here and see the slide deck and the links & further reading below for additional guidance on some of the topics covered.

 

Links and further reading

Slide 6: Alaska Alpine Adventures

Slide 8: Mapping the travel customer journey to purchase

Slide 12: Create, edit, and share goals in Google AnalyticsSet up Ecommerce TrackingCross-domain Tracking [if you’re using an external booking engine], Google Tag Manager [for easier control over your tracking].

Slide 13: When to Use Google Analytics Goal Values

Slide 15: How to Prove the Value of Content Marketing with Multi-Channel Funnels

Slide 16: See Slemma.com for dashboards and data visualisation. (Feel free to contact us for more info on setting this dashboard up.)

content marketing in adventure travel industry

Content Marketing Tops the List – Adventure Industry Peer2Peer Conversations

by Matthew Barker

The Peer2Peer sessions were a highlight at last year’s Adventure Travel World Summit in Puerto Varas, Chile. High on the list of talking points was the question of content marketing – what it is, how it applies to the adventure travel industry, and how companies can measure their results.

© ATTA / Lukasz Warzecha

Matt Barker speaking about Content Marketing at ATWS in Chile © ATTA / Lukasz Warzecha

We covered the subject in detail during my session Measuring Your Content [slides], sparking some excellent questions and much discussion in the Peer2Peer Exchange that followed.

Here are some of the Q&A highlights:

Q: How do we reach consumers with inspiring, authentic destination messages in an increasingly crowded media space where there are many voices, but few credible ones?

This question goes to the root of the problem with “content marketing.”

We are swimming against a rising tide of low grade content, churned out by people with no real expertise or authority, and then blasted out shotgun style to as many people as possible.

 

This is a fool’s game. The best way to beat it is by not getting involved.

Content marketing is most effective when done selectively and with restraint. Adventure travel companies, especially those with limited resources, should aim for quality interactions over quantity – a rifle, not a shotgun.

Instead of mass reach or vague ambitions of “going viral” start with your precise audience and their particular needs and then work exclusively for that narrowly defined cohort.

Ignore everyone else.

Identify where this audience is active at each stage of the customer journey and be there, providing consistent, credible value.

So what is content of value? Deirdre Campbell, President & CEO at Tartan Group, gave a few good examples:

“Practical, useful information: What does it take to get to the stunning view? Is there a local culinary or agri-food tour? Can you bike, hike or drive to adventures? Can you map your own trail and book a local guide? What is the weather like during various times of the year and are there advantages of going in low, shoulder or high season that guidebooks don’t mention? Is there a locals know section – where local ‘characters’ talk about their favourite local experiences?”

“Some clients have even posted blog posts with titles like “Is [name] resort right for me?” where they describe what type of traveler enjoys their experiences the most and which travelers have been disappointed. We believe this type of authentic, transparent information (bring rain boots in July and bug spray in August) builds trust and confidence in a destination, while still inspiring a visit.”

Curate, don’t create.

Instead of contributing to the deluge, recognise the value of curating authoritative content from other credible and reliable sources that your audience will value. (Tip: Outbounding is a good source for content curation.)

Use your expertise to build your own audience of qualified, engaged travellers – people who are actually likely to book a trip with your company. Get as many people onto your email lists and other owned channels (things you directly control – not Facebook followers.)

Treat readers and audiences with the respect they deserve and they’ll value you as an island of credibility in an ocean of garbage.

 

An important approach is to empower your happy customers to help distribute your content and promote your brand to their own networks of friends and families. As Deirdre Campbell wrote in the P2P follow-up:

“Invest in creating outstanding customer experiences with lots of guest/local interaction and you will build ‘brand ambassadors’ who will tell your destination story for you. This is as important for destinations as it is for experiences like hotels, attractions and restaurants.”

Put yourself in their shoes.

Most importantly, as Brendan Mark, Sales and Marketing Director of Heliconia, said:

“Content marketing is about telling stories and sharing information that the traveler wants and needs to dream, research and plan a trip”

“The first thing to remember is that it’s not about you. Engage your target customers with content that elicits an emotion or a feeling, and attach your destination message to this. If you have a great biking destination then you should be telling great biking stories.”

This is an excellent point: Content marketing is about telling stories and sharing information that the traveler wants and needs to dream, research and plan a trip – not what your company wants to tell them about yourself, your brand and your products.

Q: What kind of content distribution channels are available (paid or unpaid) for a travel company?

Part of the problem with content strategy is the sheer number of channels and tools that exist for publishing, sharing and promoting your content. It can feel overwhelming, and even make you feel guilty that you’re not doing everything, or keeping up with the latest channel.

 

Suddenly everyone is talking about Instagram and we think “Oh crap – now we need a Instagram strategy too!”

This is the wrong perspective.

We need to be thinking from the perspective of the target audience – who they are and where they’re active. Every audience is different, relying on different sources of information for each stage of the journey to purchase.

Here are a few examples:

Top funnel / “inspiration & dreaming” stages:

  • Social media – especially Facebook (and FB ads) but also Pinterest & Instagram for images.
  • Twitter can be useful as an indirect channel, i.e. finding consumer influencers to promote your content to their audiences.
  • Outreach & FAM trips with travel bloggers, media and other consumer influencers.
  • Display advertising.
  • Press and media coverage.

Mid funnel / “research & planning” stages:

  • SEO, especially if you have a large blog archive. If you have other assets (brochures, guides, old email archives etc) try to convert as much as possible into blog content.
  • Content amplification tools such as Outbrain (your mileage may vary).

Low funnel / “consideration & booking” stages:

  • Recapture prospects with SEO.
  • Search remarketing (Adwords).
  • Email can be effective, depending on quality of the offer.

Retention

  • Content curation via social and email.
  • Email newsletters / magazines.

Q: How much should we spend on marketing & advertising as a percentage of sales?

Jillian Dickens, Director at Bannikin, said: “Although there are a ton of different scenarios to consider, in general between 4 – 10% of annual gross revenue is a healthy percentage (10% being quite high). Another formula to consider is cost per acquisition – how much are you currently spending to gain one confirmed guest? This is very wide ranging in our industry.”

Test, review and test again.

Jonathan Burnham, Marketing Manager of Wildland Adventures, said: “You just need to experiment to find your sweet spot. I would try putting some more money into your marketing budget and go until you get the results you want. A lot of different types of advertising campaigns take a good amount of time to mature. Also, if you aren’t seeing the best results, try tweaking things before you give up. Don’t stop, just get better.”

Q: How do I get better ROI on my marketing spend?

The first step is to understand where your returns are actually coming from. Explore your Assisted Conversion reports in Google Analytics and identify which channels are assisting leads as well as sending the last-click. Be sure to configure goal tracking and goal values to get the full data.

Now look at your main traffic sources (“acquisition”). Which of these contribute most to your conversions, either assisted or last click? Which aren’t performing so well? Depending on the source of the traffic (and the nature of the visitors it’s bringing) you can identify new opportunities to “close the loop” and make sure more of those people end up coming back to the site to book.

Close the loop.

Example 1. Maybe you’re getting high-funnel social media traffic but they never come back to book? In which case look at retargeting to try and close the loop.

Example 2. Maybe you get lots of repeat visitors but last click conversion rates are low. In which case optimise your landing pages and re-evaluate how well qualified or targeted the clicks are.

ROI is about connecting the dots over the entire customer journey. Create touch points that bring them back to the site as they progress through the lifecycle, and measure the performance of each one.

In theory, calculating ROI is simple – profits minus costs. As Julie Thorner, President of Liquid Spark, wrote: “You have to know how much it costs, how many people it brings to your website, and how many people actually book a trip due to your initiative or campaign.”

“Focus your marketing on only those campaigns that meet your business objectives for selling more trips. Don’t get distracted by campaigns that you can’t measure or that spread your marketing budget too thin.”

For more on content marketing and ROI, see the slides from our ATWS session: Measuring Your Content: Turning Audiences Into Bookings.

SEO implications of Google’s new mobile trip planner

Another day, another search engine optimization (SEO) wobble. In late January, Google released a major re-design of its mobile search interface for trip planning.

With this change, searches on Google for various destination keywords, such as “where to go in Thailand” or “Thailand destinations”, trigger a knowledge-graph result that leads users into a rabbit hole of Google-controlled content and travel-planning tools.

The move further de-prioritizes once-sacrosanct “organic” placements, causing yet another SEO wrinkle for travel marketers.

Google’s mobile trip planner

The interface looks like this:

Google mobile trip planner SEO

Users can filter destination results by “interests”, such as architecture, beach, culture, fishing, and Scuba diving.

Google mobile trip planner

From there, users can dig deeper into whatever location or point of interest piques their interest.

For instance, doing a mobile search on “where to go in thailand” leads to a horizontal carousel of Thai destinations, with the capital city on top. It pulls a representative airfare by pulling the nearest major airport geo-located to your phone for sample upcoming travel dates — along with benchmark lodging costs.

google mobile trip planner

Clicking on the Bangkok “location card” leads to incredibly long and detailed information. The card links users to other points of interest, maps, info on climate and when to travel, and YouTube videos — all hosted exclusively on Google-controlled digital properties.

google mobile travel

Most importantly – for Google, at least – is the prominent “Plan a trip on Google” section, which allows users to book flights and hotels and find restaurants, again all via Google’s pay-to-play platforms. (Still a bit rough around the edges but I bet that major OTA and metasearch brands that advertise on Google won’t be thrilled…)

google mobile travel

It doesn’t take a Sherlock to figure this out. Google makes more money when people stay on its properties and click on its ads. And these knowledge graph results are presumably a highly effective way of retaining users and channeling them towards ads and paid listings on hotel and flight search.

Google of course is crafting a broader, more altruistic, narrative around this. They’re talking about mobile usability and “micro moments,” i.e. customers using their phones in many, short sessions while searching for “immediate answers” in the journey to purchase. In a recent report, it said:

“Today’s travelers are turning to the web to be inspired and take action—and the brands that help them at those moments will win hearts, minds, and dollars.”

The author forgot to mention that increasingly, the only way for brands to reach these travellers through Google properties is by paying for ad listings.

So what does it all mean? Is it yet another nail in the SEO coffin? Well, not so fast.

The biggest losers in this particular update are likely the top-tier sites and publishers who’ve dominated destination search for a long time: TripAdvisor, Yelp, Lonely Planet, major news and travel sites, etc.

More than anything else, this is a play against the short-tail or “head” keywords that hoover up the lion’s share of individual queries and have long been dominated by the biggest travel sites.

The other losers are likely the OTAs and metasearch sites competing for big flight and hotel queries. With this new interface, Google is channeling more users directly to its own paid hotel and flight search tools.

At the very end is a very inconspicuous link to organic (i.e. non-Google owned) results: (Blink and you’ll miss it…)

google mobile travel seo

Where this doesn’t necessarily impact is further down into the longtail of search queries. A query like “Things to do in Bangkok” may be off limits, but for anyone outside of the top-tier that has long been the case anyway.

On the other hand “Visiting Bangkok with young children” and any of the infinite number of longtail keywords are still fair game.

These aren’t always purchase-intent queries and you might not convert them into bookings on the first visit, but used strategically within the rest of your marketing strategy they can be an important top-funnel source of traffic and prospects.

If this interface change has hit mobile share for short tail results, then I’m sure the big beasts will be smarting.

But for mid- to small-tier players, long-tail SEO as a traffic acquisition tool remains reliable, provided it’s used strategically and in conjunction with other conversion channels.

I&I announces new addition to leadership team

jeremy-profileI&I Travel Media is excited to announce the addition of Jeremy Head to our team – as Strategic Business Advisor. He will be helping the leadership team to develop and expand the I&I Travel Media product portfolio and continue to push the boundaries of innovation in travel content strategy.

Jeremy has many years’ experience in travel publishing both in print and online. He is a well-regarded authority on digital media and marketing and is frequently invited to speak at travel industry events.

As a freelance travel journalist he has written for UK National newspapers, authored guidebooks for Frommer’s and presented travel reports for ITV’s Holidays Undercover. More recently through his work with digital marketing agency iCrossing, Jeremy has helped major travel brands like Visit Wales, Virgin Atlantic, P&O Ferries and Visit London create compelling, data-informed content strategies for their websites and digital campaigns.

Jeremy is at home and among friends with the I&I Travel Media team, sharing our passion for defending the quality and credibility of travel media as it transitions into the digital landscape – exploring innovative ways to unify the new economics of branded content with the traditional high standards of editorial publishing.

Read Jeremy’s online travel writing blog: http://travelblather.com/

Follow Jeremy on Twitter https://twitter.com/jeremyhead

Mobile travel market continues to grow, big variations by segment and devices

New research on the size and value of mobile travel bookings has thrown up some interesting insights, as reported today by Tnooz.

The research, conducted by advertising company Criteo, shows that both the share and value of mobile travel bookings have grow, with certain segments such as air travel and car rental growing at a significantly higher pace than others, such as accommodation and hotels.

Mobile travel bookings grew 20% in the first half of 2014, compared to just 2% for desktop bookings, with mobile devices now accounting for over 20% of hotel bookings.

mobile booking value vs desktop in travel industry

Average booking value by device and category, USD, H1 2014, worldwide

The research also illustrated stark variations in the average booking value by device, across different segments. For example the value of packages booked from desktops are still overwhelmingly larger than with mobile devices, although those booked from iPads were notably more valuable than those booked via Android platforms.

Unfortunately the research didn’t address the issue of mobile assisted bookings, i.e. the numbers of consumers that researched their purchase from a mobile device before making a booking from their desktop computer.

If assisted conversions were factored into the equation it’s likely that the value of mobile traffic would be even higher, particularly among segments that typically entail a large amount of pre-booking research and browsing, such as packages, cruises, apartments and hotels.

In those instances having a mobile-friendly site and presenting plenty of opportunities for mobile browsers to engage and follow up with your site can be critically important in securing the final booking.

See our whitepaper “The Mobile Revolution” for more insights on the mobile travel market.