Back in 2009, I looked at the standard of PPC ads being displayed on Google in Australia, using the travel industry as an example. I found that the majority of PPC ads being presented on Google by Australian businesses were poorly targeted and unengaging, and concluded that considerable opportunities exist for Australian businesses who take the time and effort to develop tailored and effective long-tail Google PPC campaigns.

Then again, in 2012, despite Google PPC marketing becoming more widespread among businesses in Australia (and arguably more competitive and expensive), there still appeared to be very few Australian businesses providing high-targeted and tailored ad messages to cater for the growing long-tail of search. Despite a huge amount of valuable keyword and search query data existing for every PPC advertiser (and the advancements of Google AutoComplete to help businesses better understand their customers’ specific needs), most PPC campaigns in Australia consisted of only a few hundred keywords and only a few hundred ad messages.

Several years later, in 2019, Australian businesses still don’t appear to have caught have caught up to the needs of their customers. Even in 2019, with the huge amount of data at their disposal, most Australian businesses are failing to provide tailored search ads to engage with the specific demands of their target audience. A huge missed opportunity for Australian businesses to increase sales, revenue, and profitability from Google AdWords.

A fussy bunch of searchers

Here’s what Google looked like back in 2009. The searcher has typed a specific phrase into Google (hotel near The Rocks), yet few PPC ads fully cater for their needs. Only 1 of the top 5 Google ads make any mention at all of ‘The Rocks’, even though the searcher has specified this as an important consideration.

9 years later, ads have improved. 3 of the top 4 ads now mention ‘The Rocks’.

But searches have evolved. People expect more from search results and ads. People are now typing a wide range of specific searches into Google, and are expecting more relevant and helpful search results and ads. Even today, in the age of big data, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, the general standard of PPC ads in Australia is still extremely poor.

Times have changed

In 2009 expectations were basic. People searcher for hotels near The Rocks either wanted a cheap hotel or a 5-star hotel:

9 years later, customer demands have become more fragmented and specific:

Cat and Mouse

Yes, ads have evolved. But so have customer expectations. It’s a game of cat and mouse, with a decade delay.

Most Google Ads, even from big advertisers, are still stuck back in 2009 and 2012. People are now searching by theme, service, amenities, price and style:

People no longer search Google for ‘hotels in Melbourne’. They search for hotels with spas, parking, indoor pools, free wifi, conference facilities, airport shuttles,and bathtubs:

Looking through hotel listings, it seems hundreds of Melbourne hotels offer spas, parking, indoor pools, wifi, conference facilities, airport shuttles, and bathtubs. Yet you wouldn’t think so searching Google:

People want more from Google. They want more information, more suggestions, more helpful advice. When they ask Google a question, they expect an answer:

Hundreds of empty rooms between Melbourne and Sydney. Hundreds of people searching for a place to stay. And yet hundreds of hotels, motels, resorts, apartments, campsites and bed and breakfasts between Melbourne and Sydney refusing to appear on Google. It’s either a conspiracy or complacency.

It doesn’t make sense. Fancy hotels spend a fortune on fancy concierge services. But searching Google, you think hotels would struggle to arrange a simple room decoration for Valentine’s Day:

People want more, and businesses aren’t responding. Gyms, saunas, tennis courts, vegan food – hundreds of people searching, but no-one appearing ☹

Parents with young kids are fussy too, but businesses aren’t listening. Proximity to theme parks, water parks, and indoor play centres – a bit of luxury over the weekend wouldn’t go amiss, but no-one’s there on Google 🙁

Childcare, hot tubs, single rooms, ski passes – the list of searcher demands just keeps on increasing, but where are the businesses?

Ski holidays with a difference? Forget it. Custom ski holidays don’t exist 🙁

It’s a huge missed opportunity for Australian businesses. $1,000s of wasted advertising dollars which could be so much better spent.

According to Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, it’s no wonder Australian businesses are slipping behind:

We have to look at today’s economy and say, “What is it that’s really scarce in the Internet economy?” And the answer is attention. [Psychologist] Herb Simon recognized this many years ago. He said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” So being able to capture someone’s attention at the right time is a very valuable asset. And Google really has built an entire business around this, because we’re capturing your attention when you’re doing a search for something you’re interested in. That’s the ideal time to show you an advertisement.

People are becoming impatient. Their attentions are limited, their expectations are higher. They want more, and they want it now. They don’t want to wait another 9 years for your business to catch up. They want a Google experience of 2021 and they want it today.

Hotels and travel businesses in Australia – don’t despair. There is still time to bring your campaigns up to date. Instead of displaying only a handful of ads, the single best thing you can do for your business is to raise your standards. Demand thousands of tailored ad messages, and thousands of well-organised keywords. Measure, segment, tailor, and optimise. Delight your customers and reap the benefits for years to come.

Here’s a handy checklist to set you on the road to success:

Checklist for 2021:

  1. Thousands of tailored ad messages targeting thousands of relevant keywords
  2. Separate ad messaging for key geographical segments
  3. Clear visibility on how different locations are performing, and which locations can benefit from their own separate strategies
  4. Demographic bid adjustments and tailored ad messaging aligned to age, gender, and parent status
  5. Measurement processes in place to measure and refine demographic performance
  6. Separate campaigns for people who have and haven’t previously visited your website
  7. At least 50 audience segments based on level of engagement, key page views, goal completions, and recency of visit
  8. Audience segments used as bid adjustments, separate dedicated campaigns for key audience segments
  9. Positive and negative audience targeting used to control messaging for users in multiple segments
  10. Separate campaigns for previous customers, groups of previous customers, and people in your database
  11. Tailored ad messaging based on your previous relationship with that searcher, how they interacted with your business, what they purchased, how recently, and how frequently
  12. Separate ad messaging for regular customers, and people who signed up to your newsletter
  13. Separate strategy in place for people who made an enquiry but haven’t yet converted
  14. Intelligence from the enquiry or booking used to personalise your ad message to that user
  15. Time-decay campaigns set up to display search ads based on how recently the user became a customer
  16. Milestone campaigns targeting pre-defined periods such as 12 months after original sale
  17. Seamless flow of data from Google AdWords and Google Analytics to a CRM such as Salesforce, and vice versa back to AdWords and Analytics
  18. Processes in place to measure, refine, and expand the AdWords strategy to respond to changing business needs

While such a tailored and segmented campaign structure will naturally take more time and effort to set up and maintain than a generic poorly-targeted campaign, a highly-targeted long-tail PPC strategy can deliver fantastic results in terms of increased click through rates (CTR), lower CPCs, and higher conversion rates and bookings.

It’s never too late to transform your PPC marketing. Stand out from the crowd, invest in a high-quality strategy, and reap the benefits for years to come.

Alan Mitchell

16 Years Experience. 10,000 Hours Research & Innovation. Exclusive Self-Built Technology. World-Leading PPC Marketing by Alan Mitchell

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Melbourne, Australia