How PPC Ads Gave a Hotel Near the Super Bowl an Amazing Return on Ad Spend



Ever wonder how your hotel can best take advantage of popular events coming to your area? Check out how this hotel did so, and ultimately drove a $16 : $1 ROI!

Situation

One of Blue Magnet’s San Francisco area hotels was excited to learn that the National Football League’s championship game (which is notorious for restricting the use of the copyrighted, official name of said championship game) was coming to a nearby stadium in February 2016.

Task

The hotel hoped to sell out for the entire weekend of “The Big Game,” and wanted to leverage digital marketing to accomplish this goal.

Action

Blue Magnet created and implemented a custom digital marketing strategy, namely a unique landing page and a PPC campaign, to drive leads to the hotel’s independent website.

Limitations

  • Can not use the official name of the championship game in the ad copy
  • Can not use the official name of the championship game in the landing page copy

Timeline

We used Google Trends to determine when relevant search volume would start to pick up online. With this data and the goal of getting a head start on the competition, we launched the hotel’s PPC campaign in late September 2015 and ran the ads right up until game day.

Keyword Strategy

After performing keyword research, we decided to bid on broad match modified keywords like +super +bowl +hotels / accommodations / lodging, and the misspelling +superbowl +hotels / accommodations / lodging. This enabled our ads to display in search results for the various phrases people would use to find accommodations for “The Big Game.”

We also added a variety of campaign-specific negative keywords to prevent paying for irrelevant clicks. A few examples of the negative keywords we added were “tickets” (ie: “hotels with super bowl tickets and packages”), “parties” (ie: “hotels with super bowl parties in the lobby bar”), and “in santa clara” (ex: “hotels in santa clara for the super bowl”, since our hotel is not directly in Santa Clara).

Targeting Strategy

With the understanding that most folks who attend the championship game are football-loving Americans, we targeted searches from all over the USA. Once the two participating teams were announced in late January (Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers), we added bid adjustments for searches from Colorado, North Carolina, and South Carolina, assuming that fans from those states were most likely the people who would be booking last minute hotels to support their teams. By bidding up for searches from these three states, we were essentially saying that we were willing to pay more per click (lead) since these folks were more likely to convert (book a room) than someone searching for the same thing, but from a different state.

Ad Copy Strategy

The objective of our ad copy was to include as much information as possible to help users make purchase decisions prior to even clicking on our ads. Like all good advertisers, we only wanted the hotel to pay for clicks that were most likely to convert into booked revenue. With this, we wanted users to know upfront that our hotel was 30 minutes away from the stadium (ie: not just across the street), that we had a three-night minimum for that weekend, and that our rates were starting at $X per night. By including this type of relevant information in the ad copy, we were able to better qualify the clicks before paying for them.

  • Headline: included hotel’s name
  • Description: included minimum length of stay requirement, proximity information, hotel lead rates, and non-copyrighted language about “The Big Game”
  • Display URL: added “/football” after the domain

A/B Test: Including vs. Excluding Lead Rate in Ad Copy: We ran a set of ads that included the lead rate in the copy, and another set of ads that did NOT include any mentions of room rates. The objective of this test was to determine how including / excluding rate information would impact CTR and check rate conversion rates. (See results for this ad copy A/B test in the Results section.)

Landing Page Strategy

When the campaign first launched, there was no landing page on the hotel’s independent website specifically about “The Big Game.” So, for the first few months of the PPC campaign, our ads linked to the hotel’s Home page. Then, in mid-November, we launched a landing page all about Levi’s Stadium and included information about accommodations at the hotel for the championship weekend. Once this page was live, we ran a separate set of ads (using the same ad copy) that linked to the new Levi’s Stadium landing page, rather than the home page. The objective of this test was to determine how different landing pages would impact check rate conversion rates and other on-site quality metrics (like bounce rate, avg. session duration, etc.). (See results for this landing page A/B test in the Results section.)

Results

After five months, this PPC campaign resulted in estimated $16 : $1 Return on Ad Spend (“ROAS”) for the hotel; nearly 12x stronger than their usual return!

Top Findings

Timing

The two months prior to the actual game saw the most impressions and strongest check rate conversion rates. This wasn’t surprising, considering many football fans don’t start getting serious about booking their travel until they have a better idea of which teams will be playing in the championship (something that typically doesn’t happen until late in the season).

Impressions: The last two-three weeks in January saw the most impressions.

weekly-impressions-graph

Check Rate Conversion Rate: The last week in December saw the strongest conversion rate.

weekly-conversion-rate-graph

A/B Test Results

1. Ad Copy Test: Including vs. Excluding Lead Rate

Including the lead rate in the ad copy (ie: “LR” ads) helped pre-qualify clicks. Overall, it cost us more to drive clicks from LR ads vs. the non-LR ads, however, the LR ad clicks were more likely to actually convert into reservations & revenue for the hotel than non-LR ad clicks.

  • *CTR: -43%
  • CPC: +19%
  • **Check Rate/ Conversion Rate: -30%
  • ***Cost / Conversion: +69%
  • Bounce Rate: +19%
  • Pages / Session: n/a
  • Session Duration: +24%

Interpretation of Results:

It is important to understand that this situation required a three-step conversion process:

Step/Conversion #1: Click hotel’s ad in search results (“CTR”)

Step/Conversion #2: Check rate on hotel’s independent website (“check rate conversion rate”)

Step/Conversion #3: Book a room on hotel’s brand website (“booking conversion rate”)

*LR ads had lower CTRs since the ad copy was providing information to weed out clicks from people who were not willing to pay the hotel’s lowest room rates. Thus, even though our ads were showing up for all relevant searches, our LR ads only paid for & received clicks from people who were more likely to actually book a hotel room.

**The check rate conversion rate was lower for LR ads likely since the LR ad clicks came from people who already knew what the rates were. The non-LR ad clicks were likely occurring earlier in the user’s buying process. The potential guests still didn’t know how much a hotel room would cost, so they were more likely to check rate on the independent website to get that information.

***The cost per check rate conversion was higher for LR ads than non-LR ads. This is likely because clicks from LR ads were more likely to convert into booked revenue (ie: a generally higher cost per acquisition) while clicks from non-LR ad were less likely to convert into booked revenue right away (ie: a generally lower cost per acquisition).

2. Landing Page Test: Home page vs. Levi’s Stadium page

Ads linking to the Levi’s Stadium page, which had specific information about the upcoming championship game and the hotel accommodations during that popular weekend, led to an improved user experience on the site, costed less per check rate conversion, and had an overall stronger check rate conversion rate than similar ads that linked to the hotel’s home page.

  • CTR: -4%
  • CPC: +2%
  • Cost / Conversion: -8%
  • Conversion Rate: +10%
  • Bounce Rate: -11%
  • Pages / Session: +13%
  • Session Duration: +93%

Interpretation of Results:

These results were right in line with what we expected to see. In general, the more relevant the content on a landing page is in relation to the original search query, the better the results. When users land on web pages that have specific information about whatever it was they were searching for, they are more likely to find the answers to their questions, and take the intended next step (which, in this case, was to check rate).

Conclusion

This campaign was a perfect example of how individual hotels can leverage the power of PPC to drive incremental revenue. Not every hotel is located within a 30 minute drive of “The Big Game”, but just about every market has a few major events that can help draw in guests. Next time a major sporting event, concert, or conference in your area, reach out to your Blue Magnet Account Manager to strategize a way to leverage that opportunity for your hotel!