by Max Starkov and Evan Rosenblum
Tracking return-on-investment (ROIs) and the effectiveness of your hotel’s paid search marketing campaigns has always been important. In this economic environment, however, it has become essential. 50%-70% of hotel website traffic and website bookings are directly attributable to referrals from the main search engines—which means that any smart hotelier must make paid search, and tracking revenues from paid search spend, a major part of the overall Internet marketing strategy.
We receive numerous questions by hoteliers about how to most effectively track and measure ROI of paid search campaigns (PPC, CPC, local search, mobile search, etc). What metrics should hoteliers measure and pay attention to? What are the best practices in measuring ROI from paid search efforts? What are the best analytical tools and paid search management and tracking approaches out there?
A recent article by an Internet marketing firm suggested that reverse proxy constitutes the “best-in-class for PPC” (paid search marketing). To begin with, this is not a new approach. Proxy site marketing has existed for many years (since the early 2000’s) and was popular until new powerful website analytics tools like Omniture, Coremetrix, WebTrends, Google Analytics, etc. were introduced.
How does reverse proxy PPC work? When a visitor clicks on a hotelier’s sponsored listing on a search engine site, reverse proxy technology directs the visitor to a mirror image of a hotelier’s website. This mirror image site (i.e. “proxy site”) is an exact copy of the existing hotel website, and is the one the visitor interacts with. It is argued that because many hoteliers lack the resources, knowledge or clearance to place third-party tracking codes on their websites or booking engines, this approach provides an advantage over other forms of managing and tracking paid search campaigns.
Unfortunately these arguments for the reverse proxy PPC being “best-in-class” sound like a one-sided sales pitch and are far removed from the industry’s best practices. Here are just a few of the disadvantages of the reverse proxy PPC approach:
• The creation of a mirror image of the hotel website creates the potential for massive confusion for online travel consumers and search engine bots alike.
o These mirror image hotel websites are picked up by travel directories and destination sites; users bookmark these sites, etc. What happens tomorrow when the proxy site disappears when the contract expires?
o If not executed well (“robots” content=”NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW”), these proxy sites may be perceived as spam by the major search engines.
• The argument that it is difficult to install tracking codes on the hotel website or third-party booking engine is incorrect. Example: SynXis, the leading hotel online booking engine provider, supports tracking codes from over 50 third-party analytical vendors including Omniture, Web Trends, Google Analytics, etc.
• The reverse proxy PPC approach usually only tracks how many times the reservation confirmation page has been served. It cannot track how many roomnights have been booked, number of rooms, exact booking revenue, length of stay, etc.
• The reverse proxy PPC approach cannot track post-click activity. For example, what if you want to know what happened after the user clicked on your PPC or CPC listing and did not book right then, but came back a week later and booked? All leading website analytical tools (i.e. Omniture) track the post-click activity of up to 30 days, which is the industry’s accepted duration.
• There is no real time ROI tracking with the reverse proxy PPC approach.
• This approach lacks transparency: the hotelier cannot actively monitor Internet marketing campaigns 24/7 and provide opinions, suggestions, or complete reports on how precious marketing dollars are being spent.
Which paid search management and tracking marketing approaches are up to par with industry’s best practices? What are these crucial elements hoteliers need to demand from their paid search marketing vendors?
Here are the main requirements:
• Full transparency: 24/7 access to the paid search marketing management platform
• Intelligent paid search management technology that can:
o Track post-click activity up to 30 days after the user has clicked on the PPC or CPC listing. This is the only way to gain perspective of the true ROI and results of the hotel paid search efforts. The 30-day post click tracking is the standard widely used to measure online advertising.
o Automatically adjust bids lower or higher for keywords based on ROAS, business rules and objectives.
o Remove or pause keywords and campaigns based on performance (conversions, ROAS, other business rules).
o Track campaign “stacking” (i.e. which campaigns contributed to the booking in cases where the customer is exposed to more than one of the hotel’s campaigns).
• Real-time tracking of ROAS (Return on Ad Spend), impressions, clicks, conversion data (bookings, roomnights, booking revenue) as well as sales leads, completed and initiated RFPs, etc.
There are several state-of-the-art paid search management technologies that can do all of the above and are available to hoteliers today. One of them is Omniture’s SearchCenter. Omniture is the industry’s leading website analytics and campaign tracking company today, utilized by many major hospitality and online travel companies like Marriott, Starwood, Choice Hotels, Mandarin Oriental, Expedia, etc.
Hospitality eBusiness Strategies has been using Omniture’s SearchCenter since its introduction a number of years ago. All HeBS clients are given 24/7 access to their Omniture account where they can monitor—in real time—how their paid search campaigns are performing, revenue, ROAS, etc.
Omniture’s SearchCenter helps organizations drive success by automating keyword bidding and by combining multiple search engines in one easy-to-use interface. Automated bid strategies and alerts help marketers evaluate and respond to changing bid conditions. Omniture’s SearchCenter helps marketers target the right audience, measure and achieve tangible ROI all in one easy-to-use solution.
About Omniture’s SearchCenter:
• Campaign Efficiencies
Measure ROAS (return-on-ad-spend) and cost per acquisition across millions of keywords and ad groups from a single interface.
• Flexible Bid Management
Automated bid engine support for popular bid management approaches, including manual, rules-based, and portfolio bidding.
• Optimize Online Display Effectiveness
Improve the return on display campaigns taking measurements alongside search.
Omniture’s SearchCenter Helps Search Marketers with:
• Consolidated Management Interface
o View multiple accounts, campaigns, ad groups or keywords
• One-click Account Management
o Change bids, budgets, match types and publication status
o Create new accounts, edit ads and keywords
• Email & Account Budget Alerts
o Track cost per acquisition increases
o Guard return on ad spend decreases
• Automate keyword strategies and processes based on performance
• Maximize keyword performance with integrated Web analytics
• Improve cross-channel marketing results
• Improve overall effectiveness
• Create deep insight reports, drilling down to the keyword or ad level
• Set alerts to be notified of underperforming site metrics and campaigns
• Compare data month-over-month or year-over-year in one report
• Calculate ROI or ROAS or even ADR in the reporting interface
• Reporting & Analysis
o Prebuilt and user-definable metrics and reports that include: ROAS for return on advertising spend by keyword, Conversion funnel demonstrating which impressions and clicks contribute to orders and revenue, Customer loyalty displays revenue from new customers versus returning customers, and Search engine detailing revenue performance by each search engine
o Reporting for multiple search engine accounts
A single intuitive user interface helps marketers manage keyword campaigns by avoiding the time-consuming process of managing multiple search engine tools.
Integrated Web analytics gives marketers behavioral information regarding keyword success and conversion related metrics allowing for greater optimization of campaigns. Real-time reporting, dashboards and alerts allow marketers to report in real-time on keyword performance, create and share dashboards, and automate notifications and alerts on bid conditions based on defined thresholds.
Every hotelier knows that in this economic environment, there is no justification in spending marketing dollars without analytics showing exact ROI and sources of revenues. Proxy PPC marketing, with its limitations and fundamental shortcomings, does not conform to today’s best practices in paid search management. With the industry’s latest PPC campaign management and ROI-tracking tools readily available to hoteliers, such as Omniture’s Search Center, there is no justification for going back to a tool that was introduced in the early part of the decade.