Case study: Reeling in new bookings with stunning content

How an adventure fishing company used beautiful content and smart strategy to achieve a 100% increase in reservation enquiries.

wildn-tabletWILDERNESS NORTH operates one of the largest networks of fly-in fishing lodges in Canada, selling epic trips to a very loyal customer base – many of whom repeat book every single year.

But the company wanted to broaden its reach to new customers, reaching other audience groups such as families, and keen anglers who hadn’t considered booking a fishing trip to such a remote location, and weren’t familiar with the destination or the experience.

We knew this huge audience was out there, we just had to find the best way to reach them and fire up their imaginations.

But the new fishing season was just around the corner, we had to move fast.


  • We had to create a piece of content that would resonate with existing, hyper-loyal customers as well as bring in new audiences – people who were keen anglers but hadn’t thought about wilderness or fly-in fishing before.
  • With just months to spare before the new season we had to get the entire project up and running as quickly as possible.

Understanding the market

No-one knows the target audience better than the Wilderness North team – they have been serving the community of keen anglers for many years.

The site was packed with practical, nuts & bolts information on what a fly-in wilderness fishing trip involves. We had to edit that down into a handbook that would carry value for the existing customers in addition to reaching new audiences.

Within weeks our team of editors and designers produced a stunning guide – in both screen and print friendly versions:

travel content marketing example page

Connecting with the right people

We published the guide on a dedicated landing page on the Wilderness North site and began directing highly targeted visitors with Facebook and Google Display ad campaigns.

This gave us everything we needed to start reeling in (groan!) some new audiences.

We started with Facebook ads to send top quality, highly-targeted visitors.

Although the Facebook cost-per-click is usually quite high, the targeting and quality is unparalleled, which gave us some incredible conversion rates.

We then used lookalike audiences with Google Gmail and Display ads to target a broader audience of similar people.

This is a super smart way of taking the advanced (but expensive) targeting of Facebook and combining it with the much cheaper but higher volume of Google Display ads.

All of these people were sent to our landing page, where we saw an incredible 36% conversion rate – almost unheard of in our industry!

All downloads were added to email lists and new remarketing audiences.

Finally, we created search and display remarketing campaigns to recapture visitors at the moment of booking, generating new leads:

travel content marketing customer journey


  • By creating content and ad campaigns that were laser targeted to a very specific audience we achieved an incredible 36% conversion rate on the download landing page.
  • Within weeks we had achieved 1,000+ downloads (and counting).
  • By the end of the first month we’d achieved a 100% increase in reservation enquiries.


There’s a common assumption that “content marketing” is a long-term process that takes months or years before you start to see any results.

As we saw with this project, with the right combination of focused content and laser targeted distribution channels, it’s very easy to hit the ground running and see immediate results.

Have a think about your business – are there new opportunities we can explore together?

travel content marketing example

Case study: Around the world in 80 clicks

How a specialist flights company strengthened ownership of their niche and massively boosted their PPC and email audiences.

rtwf-tablet-coverROUNDTHEWORLDFLIGHTS.COM is a flights and travel agency specialising in round-the-world itineraries and deals.

They’re an established company with strong performance in organic search (SEO), PPC and email. They wanted to build on their strengths by reaching new audiences of travellers who might not have previously considered taking a round-the-world trip.

They already had a dedicated PPC agency, plus some great content on their blog. We needed to find a way of connecting the dots and bringing new value to their digital activities.

Growing email and PPC remarketing audiences was the #1 priority.


  • The target audience is relatively hard to reach and already exposed to lots of “content marketing” style messages. We needed to find new ways to reach and engage these people.
  • At the same time we needed to broaden the appeal of round-the-world travel away from backpackers and younger travellers and into the new territory of career-breakers, baby boomers and retirees – showing these people that round-the-world trips aren’t all about gap year students and backpacker bars.
  • We had to achieve all this with new minimal content investment and in a way that would dovetail with the work of’s existing PPC agency.

Connecting with the audience

We created a content plan for a guide to round-the-world travel that would provide all the practical, nuts & bolts information that a traveller would find useful early in the purchase decision.

We reviewed the large archive of blog posts and articles on the site, identifying all the existing material that would support our content plan.

We converted this content into an ultra high value travel guide that travellers can download, save to their mobile devices and share with their friends – a perfect companion to the decision making process that goes into researching and booking this sort of trip:

travel content marketing example


Reaching the right people

We used a combination of Display, Gmail and Facebook ads to amplify our new content asset to highly targeted audiences, bringing them to a new landing page on the site.

We also harnessed longtail SEO traffic to the site’s blog with tactical use of pop-ups that help bring casual “browsing” visitors towards the guide download page.

Each visitor that downloaded the guide was saved onto the email lists and into new remarketing lists that were passed over to the company’s PPC agency to remarket and convert into leads and sales.

Remarketing to warm, pre-qualified audiences is a great way to increase conversion rates and lower the cost-per-acquisition:

case study content marketing travel customer journey


Within weeks of publication we had:

  • Generated 20,000+ visits to the ebook landing page.
  • Converted 2,000 visitors into downloadsa conversion rate of 10%.
  • Added tens of thousands of prospects to remarketing lists for follow-up PPC campaigns.


Travel companies are often sitting on pre-existing content archives that can easily be repurposed into a new asset for powerful but cost-effective content marketing.

When 3rd party agencies are already involved we’re always happy to work together and bring new value to the table, helping improve results across the board.

Have a think about your company – do you have content or expertise we can repurpose into new assets?

The complete guide to paid media channels in travel content strategy

The trick to effective content marketing is being in the right place, at the right time, with the right content and messaging.

Once you’ve defined your audience you can start planning content campaigns to fit their needs at various stages of the customer journey to purchase.

Customer journey to purchase and decision making process in travel

Tactical considerations include how we a) distribute and amplify our content to reach the right people at the right time, and b) how we reconnect with them at a later stage when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Paid channels such as display, search and social pay-per-click (PPC) ads provide some of the most reliable and consistent solutions to distributing content to target audiences and recapturing qualified prospects later in the customer journey.

paid channels in travel content marketing customer journey

Bonus resource! Paid media is notorious for its acronyms – you’re going to see a lot in this article. To help, we’ve included a handy glossary to all the main terms at the end. Enjoy!

Display advertising: alive and kicking (ish)

Display ads (“banners”) are one of the oldest and most recognisable ad formats. Originally a mainstay of online advertising, the utility of banner ads has been questioned in recent years.

While it’s true that click through rates (CTR) on standard display is low relative to other formats, they do retain a role in the content strategy mix.

The biggest platform for display ads is the Google Display Network (GDN), which is administered via the Adwords interface.

They look something like this:

google display advertising in travel customer journey

Common characteristics:

  • Very low cost per click (CPC) – usually between $0.10 – $0.30.
  • Reasonable targeting – you can target basic demographics, interests and contexts. A very useful feature on the GDN is placement targeting i.e. choosing the sites where you want your ads to appear – great if you know which sites your audiences visit.
  • Low purchase intent – people rarely click banners and make a purchase. This means it’s much more effective early in the journey to purchase.

In terms of content strategy and the customer journey, these characteristics make display useful for distributing content, generating high volumes of traffic and bringing moderately qualified prospects in at the top of the funnel.

An example use-case would be using display ads to promote content, such as a downloadable guide. This is an affordable way of bringing high volumes of traffic, which can be qualified and re-captured at a later stage.

Honourable mention: Gmail ads. Gmail ads are a subset of the Google Display Network that offer some slightly different “inbox friendly” ad formats which appear in the “Promotions” tab of the Gmail inbox.

Gmail ad targeting is based on user activity, i.e. displaying ads related to the subjects people are emailing about. This gives them an edge on ‘regular’ display ads as it means we can start targeting users’ travel intentions. For example, if people are emailing their spouse, family or friends about booking a walking holiday to Italy, we can use that context to target relevant ads.

Gmail ads have niche potential – they can have an exceptionally low cost per click and, depending on targeting, can send fairly well qualified traffic. They’re great for distributing free content such as downloadable guides and bringing high volumes of cheap traffic to the site. It won’t convert into bookings on the first visit but it will get people into your ‘funnel’ to be qualified and re-captured later in the customer journey.

Facebook ads

Facebook’s advertising product has turned the company from plucky startup to corporate behemoth in less than a decade. And once you realise the power of its ad targeting features it’s easy to see why.

facebook newsfeed ads for content promotion amplificationWith its vast amount of user data, Facebook has unparalleled ability to laser target hyper-specific audience demographics and interest groups.

Its main characteristics:

  • Exceptional targeting.
  • Powerful, automated optimisation.
  • Medium-to-high cost per click.
  • Great for highly targeted clicks and results (conversions).
  • Great for reaching mobile audiences.

Facebook ads are controlled and administered via the self-serve Business Manager interface.

The platform’s versatility makes Facebook ads useful at various stages of the customer journey, but it’s worth bearing in mind that people aren’t often purchase ready when they’re using Facebook. They’re more likely to be browsing and chatting than booking.

This makes Facebook ads ideal for soft content “amplification” such as promoting downloadable content, contests, etc.

Other notable features are video view ads which are currently at very low ‘cost per view’ and can be a great source of “inspiration & dreaming” phase audiences.

Another format that is worth a look is Instagram ads, which are also controlled via Business Manager. Again, a good source of early phase “inspiration & dreaming” audiences.

Generic search

As we move further along the journey to purchase we move out of the “inspiration & dreaming” phases and into the “planning” and “discovery” stages. Here people are searching for specific products and services and they overwhelmingly use Google to find them.

This is where “generic” search ads come in handy. As with display (above), this is administered through the Adwords interface. Search targeting is based on keywords – matching ads to the search terms that people enter into Google. Generic keywords describe the products or services that people might be searching for; “cheap flights” or “trekking holidays” for example.

generic google search ads in the travel customer journey

  • Very high purchase intent – people are ready to book and hand over their cash, these ads let you capture them at this critical moment.
  • Exceptional intent targeting – you can match your ads to the specific keywords people are using.
  • Very high cost per click – demand for these ads is sky high, which forces the cost up; travel keywords range from $2 to $10+ per click.

As a result, search ads are best for hoovering up purchase-ready prospects. Their high cost means that campaigns must be properly targeted and configured – it’s scarily easy to burn through your entire budget with a poorly configured campaign.

Brand search

Brand search ads work exactly the same way as generic search (above). The only difference is that here we’re targeting the brand or company name in the keywords.

This is a subtle but important difference. It implies that people are already aware of the company name, and are searching you out specifically.

google brand search ads in the travel customer journey

  • Best converting – you’ll get the best click through and conversion rates from brand search.
  • High CPC – not as high as generic search but still fairly expensive per click.

Brand search is best for capitalising on wider brand awareness and other activities such as offline promotions or PR.

Beware of competitor bidding! If you have a strong brand you might find your rivals are targeting your brand keywords too, trying to scoop up some of your audiences. This is allowed in the Adwords terms of service, but it’s not okay to use trademarked brands in the ad headlines or text without permission.

The secret weapon: retargeting & lookalike audiences

The above channels are useful enough in their own right and can bring a lot of extra value to your content marketing efforts, but it doesn’t stop there.

Wading in to really shake things up is the hugely powerful concept of audience retargeting.

Not strictly a channel in its own right, retargeting (or “remarketing” to Google) is a targeting tool that can be used in conjunction with all the ad formats outlined above.

In a nutshell it means we can show our ads specifically to people who’ve already visited our site and engaged with our content.

This puts the paid channels on steroids and unlocks the secret to content marketing ROI by recapturing the people we’ve previously reached with our content efforts.

Use-case: people who’ve downloaded a travel guide on your site have demonstrated a keen interest in the subject. Showing these people related ads further down the customer journey is a surefire way to turn engaged audiences into leads and sales.

A second powerful retargeting feature is lookalike audiences, i.e. other people who share the demographics and interests of your target audience, letting you reach even more people with your ads.

If 1,000 people download a travel guide from your site then that’s a great result! You can then use a lookalike audience to target audiences that are orders of magnitudes larger with overlapping interests and demographics to the original 1,000 people. This means high volume while retaining the relevance and targeting of your original audiences.

Watch out: Retargeting has earned a bad rap thanks to its ‘stalky’ undertones and the unsettling feeling of being watched and followed as you browse around the web. Generally speaking, if your ads feel intrusive then you’re doing it wrong. It’s a powerful tool and needs to be handled with caution – unfortunately many advertisers go way overboard. Be subtle, offer genuine value and try to provide an enjoyable user experience.

Update: An obvious (but surprisingly overlooked!) way to keep things subtle is to remove or exclude people from your retargeting audience once they’ve converted. Otherwise you’re wasting budget and potentially upsetting people at the same time. (h/t @travelfish).

Some other important considerations

Paid channels can be a cash burner: When you’re paying for your traffic you need to make sure every click counts. Use the right tool for the job and be conscious of how different formats are more (or less) suitable at different phases of the customer journey.

Watch your quality/relevancy scores: All the channels outlined above use some form of relevance score to ‘grade’ the quality of your ads and their suitability for the target audience. Poor quality signals such as low click through rates and unfocused targeting will force up the cost per click and can ruin your ROI.

Be granular: Maintain high relevancy scores by being focused and granular, breaking your campaigns out into as many segments and audience groups as is practical. Don’t try to squeeze everyone into a ‘one size fits all’ campaign. Tailor your targeting and ad messages to specific groups.

Test, optimise and test again: Never just switch on a campaign and leave it on auto-pilot. You need to continually test, adjust, and optimise to prevent ad fatigue and declining relevancy scores.

Neither Google or Facebook are your friend: Both ad platforms are deliberately confusing and offer “automation” features of dubious value. Tread very carefully – their #1 goal is to get you to spend more money, not necessarily help you get the best outcomes.

Bonus: Glossary of online advertising and paid channels

Adwords: Google’s self-serve advertising platform. This is where you create and manage all your Google ad campaigns, and includes both Google search and Google display ads.

Business Manager: Facebook’s self-serve interface, the equivalent to the Adwords dashboard.

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA): The amount you spend on each acquisition – which could be a sale, a lead, an enquiry or any other action. CPA is the main metric of campaign performance.

Cost per click (CPC): The average you spend on each click. This is how most ad campaigns are charged for – you choose how much you’re willing to spend for a click. Travel CPCs depend on the platform, ranging from 10 cents for display ads to $10+ for high competition search keywords.

Cost per thousand impressions (CPM): The average you pay for 1,000 views of your ad. This is most relevant for display and Facebook advertising and is an alternative way of charging for ads.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO): The process of testing and optimising results (conversions) from paid campaigns. This can involve adjustment to ad design, audience targeting, and landing page design.

Click through rate (CTR): The % of clicks on an ad per total impressions (see below). A low CTR indicates poor ad design and targeting, which can push up the average cost per click.

Impressions: The total number of times an ad has been viewed.

Google Display Network (GDN): The vast network of 3rd party websites that display Google banner ads – in the region of 2 million websites. These 3rd party sites earn a share of the cost per click that Google charges the advertiser.

Pay per click / cost per click (PPC/CPC): A catch-all name for any online advertising that is charged on a per-click basis. Sometimes (confusingly) used to describe Google search ads.

Programmatic: Automated campaign management tools that continually adjust your bids in real time to get you the lowest cost per click and higher click through rates. Mostly applicable to high volume, large budget campaigns, and generally administered via 3rd party services.

Retargeting / remarketing: A tool for targeting audiences who’ve previously visited your content. Offered by both Facebook and Google.

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 for dashboards and data visualisation. (Feel free to contact us for more info on setting this dashboard up.)

Simple ways to understand and empathise with your target audience

Understanding the audience is at the heart of all good content marketing.

Fundamentally, content marketing is an exercise in empathy: understanding and appreciating the audience’s needs and providing content that they’ll find useful prior to making a purchase.

The better you know your audience the better you can serve them great content that nurtures them towards a booking.

Much has been written about creating “buyer personas” (see here for a good primer), although at its most basic this is simply an exercise in empathy – putting ourselves in their shoes.

You can use audience mapping exercises like this one to explore your audience’s needs at different stages of the purchase decision, using those insights to plan your entire content strategy.

travel customer journey to purchase

Most travel businesses already have a fairly intimate connection with their target audience. Your knowledge of your own customers gives you an intuitive grasp of the types of content and information they respond to. You can supplement that with qualitative feedback from your sales and operations teams – what are the most commonly asked questions prior to sale, what are the areas of concern and other friction points?

Your website and other digital properties can yield a wealth of quantitative insights, too. Here are a few techniques to help explore your audiences and understand what makes them tick.

Low-definition: Google Analytics & social insights

For an extremely low-definition picture you can start with the Demographic and Interests sections of Google Analytics, but chances are it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know:

google analytics audience mapping travel content marketing

No real surprises here for most travel companies…


Your organic keywords report might offer hints of the types of questions your visitors are asking when they find your site, although this report has diminished in value over the years due to Google limiting organic keyword data. (To get around this, set the date range to several years to gather as many keywords as possible.)

google analytics keyword data audience mapping travel content marketing

Tip: Use an advanced filter to highlight keywords including the main question words – how, what, when, why, etc. These will often be ‘research’ phase questions that your visitors are using while planning a future trip, and might offer some good ideas for content topics.

Social insights

Your social media properties might offer some new insights, although these are also fairly limited. Facebook Page Insights will give you some basic demographic information.

Keep in mind that these are people who follow your Page, not necessarily those who visit your site (much less book a trip).

facebook insights audience mapping travel content marketing

Ditto for Twitter Analytics – again this isn’t particularly high-def, and it’s only for your followers, not your visitors or customers.

On the other hand combining Twitter data with some external tools like Followerwonk can yield some more useful results – see here for a great step-by-step from Rand Fishkin at Moz.


Try Quantcast for a more detailed picture of your actual website visitors. This is a free analytics tool, aimed mostly at publishers who want to provide rich audience insights to potential advertisers.

But since content marketing is all about businesses acting like publishers, there’s no reason this tool can’t be useful for us, too!

Quantcast gives us rich demographic information as well as shopping habits, media interests and all sorts of other lifestyle and purchase insights:

quantcast insights audience mapping travel content marketing

Set up involves adding a tracking code to your site, similar to Google Analytics. A major drawback is that data can be patchy for smaller, lower-traffic sites.

High-definition: Facebook custom audiences

Although the free Facebook Insights tool (above) is fairly limited, advertisers on Facebook are rewarded with access to a much more powerful range of tools.

With Audience Insights (note this is a totally different tool to Page Insights) we can analyse the entire Facebook user base in much more detail, drilling right down into very specific audience segments.

A useful technique here is to think about some other large Facebook Pages that your target audience might follow, and analyse those Pages’ followers (as opposed to your own) to learn more about their interests and preferences.

facebook insights custom audiences mapping travel content marketing

Another powertool for Facebook advertisers is to set up a Custom Audience of Facebook users who’ve visited your site and use the same Insights tool to analyse their data.

As with Quantcast, you’ll need to reach a certain threshold of visitors in your Custom Audience before you can access any useful data.

facebook insights custom audiences mapping travel content marketing

4K ultra high-def: Ask them!

Unsurprisingly, the most old-fashioned approach could also be the most effective. Some well-written (and well-timed) questions might tell you more about their interests, needs and purchase behaviour than any of the approaches mentioned above.

Surveys can be useful, although you’ll need to be careful with the wording of your questions to get genuinely useful information. A better approach is to ask sales reps and the people who have the closest relationships with your customers to interview them on their travel planning, researching and booking preferences. Just a handful of simple questions can reveal a wealth of insights.

But it’s what you do with it that counts!

These data sources are only as useful as you make them – once you’ve gathered these insights you need to figure out how best to apply them.

The starting point is to build these observations into your content strategy and editorial calendar(s). Once you know what people need, you can plan your content to serve those requirements.

This shouldn’t just be an infinite calendar of blog articles and Facebook posts. Plan your content strategically and with a defined purpose. It could be based around a single resource – for example, a downloadable travel guide created to address some core travel research and planning needs of the target audience early in the journey to purchase.

Another application is to identify the other websites that your audience visits, and run them through Similarweb to find similar sites elsewhere on the web.

This will give you a list of sites that should be highly relevant to your target audience, which you can then use with the Google Display Network to target placement of your display ads.

In the process you should get a feel for the types of content and topics that your audience is reading and engaging with – use this as inspiration for your own content creation efforts, particularly with information aimed at people early in the purchase decision.

Armed with these insights you’ll be able to create a laser focused content strategy targeted at the audiences most important to your business. Need help planning it all out? Give us a shout any time!