Why Search Advertising Is The Best Tool In A Small Destination’s Marketing Toolkit

March 29, 2023

Search advertising is a key way for destination organizations to reach travelers even before they click on a search result. We’ve all experienced search advertising. Just picture those sponsored ads that end up at the top of any search engine results and you understand the concept. In short, search advertising refers to the practice of displaying ads on search engine results pages based on specific keywords or phrases searched by travelers.

It’s not brand new, and it’s anything not random, but understanding search advertising a bit more will help your destination take advantage of its potential, especially if you’re working with a modest budget.

The benefits of search advertising are real for destination organizations because it allows you to reach potential travelers at the exact moment they are searching for travel options. It’s when they are most receptive, and most eager for the right information as they continue down their path to purchase. Reports show there are more than 1.13 billion websites on the internet, and around 93% of internet traffic goes through Google alone. With so many digital resources at their disposal, travelers’ attention is scattered, which is why the right ad at the top of their search results is key to winning their attention.

When more people click on your destination’s site, they are one step closer to bringing in the precious tourism revenue that leads to economic growth for your destination. That’s why developing a comprehensive search advertising strategy now, including keyword research, audience targeting, ad copy development and budget planning, is pivotal.

It’s just one prong of an ever-growing multi-pronged digital approach, but one that small destinations in particular must embrace. These five benefits double down on why your destination needs to establish a search advertising strategy ASAP.

1. Increased Visibility
First and foremost, search advertising can help destinations increase their visibility by appearing at the top of search engine results pages like Google or Bing. For small destinations that are not well-known or are competing with other popular destinations, this gives you the advantage. For destinations that are really well-known, it helps your DMO’s site appear above other destinations that may be using similar keywords hoping for an organic rise to the top of search results.

Remember, however, that you’re also showing up for other audiences beyond travelers, including travel advisors, tour operators, and media professionals who are researching travel topics. If they are looking for the next big ski destination, or a family-friendly adventure getaway, and your destination keeps popping up on their search engine, you’re increasing your ROI.

2. Targeted Reach
Search advertising allows destinations to target specific audiences based on their location, search behavior, interests and demographics. This customization helps to ensure that ads are reaching the right people at the right time, generating an effective return on ad spend, to keep your board members happy.

As a pro tip, be sure to focus on specific keywords and audience targeting – just using your destination’s name will not suffice. Furthermore, consider using retargeting to engage with travelers who have already shown interest in the destination by displaying ads to them as they browse the web. Google recently revealed how their internal search ad keywording works – at least somewhat – through this guide.

3. Measurable Results
Search advertising provides destinations with measurable results, allowing marketers to track the success of campaigns and make adjustments as needed to improve ROI.

While data is a byproduct of search advertising, it’s also its lifeblood. The more metrics a destination organization has and obtains over time, the better the strategy will be. By understanding which search strategies are working, destination’s can tweak their campaigns to maximize results.

4. Increased Website Traffic
This point may seem evident, but it bears repeating. Search advertising can drive more relevant traffic to your destination’s website, which can lead to increased bookings, revenue and economic growth. The higher up your content appears on the first page of a search engine, the more likely it is that travelers will click on it, bringing them one step closer to booking.

It’s not enough that they see your destination name throughout the research process – you need them to click, and first page results are proven to be more attractive to travelers as they search.

5. Competitive Advantage
Finally, search advertising isn’t universally embraced, which means destination organizations that invest in it will have the upperhand. By using search advertising, destinations can gain a competitive advantage over other destinations that may not be using this form of advertising, ultimately helping them stand out in a crowded tourism market where one mountain town or rural community can seem like all the others. Having your destination at the top of the list – quite literally – will be the push that some travelers need to book.

Interested in developing a new search advertising strategy? DCI’s destination digital specialists are able to help get you started. Contact Susan Brake at [email protected] to learn more about how our digital know-how can land your destination in front of the right eyes, at the right time.

Written by

Sumiti Gupta

Director, SEM and Media