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When promoting a self catering business online, at SCRUMPY we know a thing or two, especially when it comes to direct bookings. Our many years experience of providing Property Owners and Agencies with advertising has given us a great understanding into what works.

Getting visits to a website

On a basic level, a website can be accessed by either typing in its URL or by finding it via a search engine, and with 3.5 billion search requests made everyday, a vast majority use Google to find what they are looking for.

For a Property Owner or Manager who is marketing their own or another's business, it’s important that your website is as prominent as possible and discoverable in a search. Especially as this is how a majority of your new customers will attempt to find you. So getting your website to first show and then be near the top is vital.

Organic & Paid

Within a Google search you may notice that some of the results appear slightly differently. Often at the top, but also sometimes at the bottom of a page, are paid listings. These are known as Google Ads and are identified with ‘Ad’ in a small green box underneath its title.

The other results are referred to as organic listings, and exist more on merit; with a page from a website and it’s relevant content appearing for the search. Various factors can contribute to it showing, such as the technology used by the site - more commonly known as SEO or search engine optimisation.

Whilst you may appear organically for some search queries, it’s worth taking into consideration that a Google Ad will often appear at the top and is likely the first thing a potential customer will see. So if you have an organic listing or are even the first, there is no guarantee you’ll be clicked, especially if a competitor has paid to appear before you.

Google Ads

A majority of Google’s core products are free, so how are they one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies? Advertising. Google Ads makes up for approximately 90% of their revenue and it’s easy to see why. They have developed a highly intelligent platform that allows users to create, customise and control effective adverts, that really work.

Take a quick look at why Google Ads can be perfect for promoting your holiday lets:

  • Advertising starting for as little as £0.01

  • Only pay when someone clicks your Google Ad

  • Easily measure your performance and your Ads effectiveness

  • Specifically target your audience

  • Grow your brand awareness

  • If you are a new business, without an existing reputation, get instant visibility

  • Compete with commission charging OTA’s (online travel agents) to get listed at the top

  • Remarket to those who have visited your website without booking

  • Turn your Ads on or off at any time

Unlike most adverts, you only pay for a Google Ad when someone clicks on it. This pricing model is relatively risk free and often very cost effective. It flips the convention of paying for advertising up front, compared to lets say a magazine or radio advert, where you typically make a financial commitment for something you are not guaranteed to see a return on. There are also significantly higher chances of getting a conversion with a Google Ad, as you are able to target those who are interested and actually searching for accommodation, instead of a blanket approach addressing everyone.

The Auction

For a Google Ad to appear, it must first be eligible. There are various factors that determine whether it will show, based on a competitive ranking system - referred to as the Auction. During this process it is potentially going up against other Ad’s, with the outcome deciding which result shows (if at all) and if so in what order. The below criteria is initially taken into consideration:

Keywords - Each Google Ad can have specific keywords associated to it. If someone’s search matches these terms, then your Ad is in contention to appearing. For example, a search for “Holiday Cottage in Somerset”, or “Short stay accommodation near Yeovil”.

Relevancy - Google will also whittle down results by only suggesting the most relevant Ads. Such as whether the search has been conducted in your target country and the device used. It has to be deemed specific to the search and beneficial to that individual searching.

If the Google Ad has passed the initial assessment and ticked the above boxes, the next step in selection takes the bid into consideration:

Bids

This pricing structure is what makes Google Ads so unique and at the same time so effective. In a simplified way, you essentially set the maximum amount you are willing to spend - to get someone to click on your link.

If no one else is bidding for the particular search term, or other Ads are not deemed relevant to the search, you will ‘win’ and your paid listing will appear. In some cases at a very low price.

If someone is competing against you, and they successfully out price your max bid, then you simply won’t show (or get charged) OR you do appear, just below the winning bidders result.

Whilst there are also other factors that can determine who wins, you are always in control of how much you spend. By setting a Maximum CPC (cost per click) bid, you can cap the most you are willing to pay, to win a bid. But don’t worry, at SCRUMPY we’re experts at getting you the most for your money.

Is it worth it?

There’s no question that Google Ads can increase traffic to your website. They can grow your online presence and put your business in front of potential customers. If implemented well, they can also be a cost effective way of advertising and generating bookings. However, there is a right and wrong time to use them.

The most likely reason you are wanting to advertise is to fill dates in your calendar. Now let’s assume that your Google Ad has been successful and a customer is on your website - just consider that the chances of converting them into a paying guest are far greater if:

1. You have availability

2. You have more than one property to choose from

We wouldn’t suggest that you spend money on promoting the last remaining week of the year, if that is the only option you can offer. There is a very slim chance that this is what the guest wants and as they have clicked the link, you will subsequently have to pay for the Ad.

Best practises

So yes, Google Ads can truly be an effective way of advertising, but we would recommend that they are used in the below scenarios or if you are:

  • A brand new business - this will allow you to get instant visibility, get your name out there and build awareness. With a blank calendar, there is also a great opportunity to get a high return on your ads.

  • A multi property owner - if you have a selection of dates available at a range of properties, then you can offer choice. This will offer higher chances of conversion, and a greater likelihood of your online visitor becoming a paying guest.

  • Agencies - if you are looking to expand your portfolio, then Ads are a great way to attract prospective owners and their properties. It’s also likely you want to give greater exposure to your company name and can run specific brand awareness campaigns. You can of course promote specific properties, areas or Counties as well; the possibilities are endless.

It’s worth noting that Google Ads can be easily amended. You can easily adjust spend, what you aim to achieve and turn them off at any time. So once you have reached your initial goal of lets say ‘filling dates for the year’, it would make sense to be proactive and look to your next target. Whether that is to continue to push direct bookings through your website (and not via commission charging OTA’s) or to start promoting your holiday lets for the next season.

Success

Regardless if you run one holiday cottage, manage a few or run an agency, looking to your calendars availability is a sure way of knowing if you’re doing a good job or not. Yet, do you know how much it cost to get those customers to you in the first place?

If an online Travel Agent took a commission, it may have proved more cost effective to have marketed yourself, as opposed to letting a ‘big player’ do it for you on your behalf. Just remember that most OTA’s charge your guests booking fees and they will be wanting to find you, so they can book direct.

Measuring success is all about return on investment. Using Google Ads alongside SCRUMPY allow you to easily see where your bookings and enquiries are coming from, and whether you are getting a ROI. Your advertising shouldn’t cost you the earth, and should be weighed up alongside other outgoings like the changeover, cleaning and any complimentary gifts etc. But with such a small risk and a lot to gain, if you’re not already using Google Ads, why not give them a go?