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 Slemma.com 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.

Quantcast

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!

travel customer journey to purchase

Why you shouldn’t leave “inspiration” and demand generation to the DMOs and big brands

As every travel business knows, the customer journey begins long before they pack their suitcase and head to the airport.

A typical traveller could have been planning their trip for weeks, months or even years prior to making a booking. People draw on a vast amount of online information while they research, plan and eventually book.

Smart digital strategy embraces this reality by nurturing people along the path to purchase. We use content to connect with people and build relationships with potential customers, capturing their attention and retaining their interest as they prepare to book a trip.

Doing this effectively means using multiple channels, fully integrated to work together as they move people through your marketing funnel and towards a sale:

travel customer journey to purchaseIn reality things are rarely this clear-cut. In a different situation you might use display ads in the “inspiration” stage of the customer journey. Email could be used in the “consideration” phase. Ditto for social, SEO, and pretty much any other channel you could name.

An easier way to break this down is by thinking in terms of demand generation vs demand capture. This is a simple concept but it could transform how you plan your digital strategy.

With demand generation we’re trying to inspire and educate our potential customers – informing them about destinations and experiences that they haven’t already considered or started researching.

This activity sits early in the customer journey, long before they start proactively searching for specific services and suppliers. With a travel purchase this could be years ahead of the booking date. Demand generation is usually the domain of DMOs and larger companies – people with the resources to spend on brand advertising and planting seeds of inspiration for long-term purchase decisions.

On the other hand demand capture is about connecting with people once they’ve made a decision and have started to search for a supplier. This is where most travel businesses’ marketing strategy begins – SEO and Adwords are classic demand capture channels and are where SMB travel firms tend to focus their budgets.

demand generation vs demand capture travel content marketing

It’s intuitive that smaller businesses would want to focus their attention on the directly lead-generating channels and leave the “inspiration” heavy lifting to tourist boards and bigger brands. But is it necessarily the case that travel SMBs should avoid spending time and money on demand generation outright?

Although demand generation activity is certainly a less direct and longer-term effort, there are a number of ways that it can pay off – even for smaller firms.

Own your audience

Firstly, demand generation creates opportunities to build your own audience.

Hoovering up purchase-ready traffic from Adwords is fine, but you’re still only buying Google’s audience. As soon as the money is turned off, or the cost-per-click gets too expensive, you’re left high and dry.

By contrast, demand generation activities let you put potential customers onto your own audience lists. Engaging audiences earlier in the purchase decision with compelling but non-promotional content means getting people onto email databases, into your retargeting lists and growing your social media followings. These are owned assets with a much longer shelf-life than an Adwords campaign.

Avoid the rat race

Secondly, building relationships with potential customers earlier in the purchase decision gives you an advantage when they do start searching for potential suppliers. Chances are that people are comparing your prices to a dozen other suppliers, along with TripAdvisor reviews and all the other validation people use to make a big travel purchase.

Getting in early and making an impact with genuinely useful, objective travel content and advice helps establish your brand, your credibility and your expertise. Anything that helps differentiate your company from the rest at the moment of purchase is enormously powerful.

Slash costs

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, building a pre-qualified audience of your own can also help slash your customer acquisition costs and improve your overall returns.

Retargeting to a warm audience is infinitely more effective than throwing your ads out there cold. Use retargeting on both Google and Facebook to show ads to people who’ve already demonstrated an interest by accessing your content.

This one-two approach to audience building, followed by audience conversion lets you cast a tighter net and avoid wasting precious money on less qualified clicks.

Find the sweet spot

Although it’s counterintuitive, spending money on indirect demand generation and audience building can save money further down the line when it comes to demand capture.

The trick is to find the sweet spot, aim for a balance between the two with the available budget and where you’ll get most bang for your buck.

Not sure where to start? Give us a shout and we’ll help you explore your options.

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.