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How Tours & Activities Can Utilize Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to Get Direct Bookings

The Bókun Team • August 13, 2020

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Christy Jobman is a Marketing Manager at Sojern . Sojern is built on more than a decade of expertise analyzing the complete traveler path to purchase. Sojern drives travelers from dream to destination. The company delivered $13B in bookings for its clients to date by activating multi-channel branding and performance solutions on the Sojern Traveler Platform.

As the COVID-19 pandemic wages across the globe, while some verticals in travel are seeing recovery, tours and activities are still facing hardships. As an industry that once encountered overtourism in many parts of the globe, this has been replaced by little to no tourism in some regions and an uncertain future. Tours and activities need to adapt to recover and flourish, and this can often mean adjusting digital marketing strategies to get more exposure on channels you may not currently use.

Do any of these challenges resonate with you?

  • I need to increase advanced online bookings to my website and see a positive return on investment.
  • I don’t have much to spend but I still want to see my marketing budget go a long way.
  • I don’t have my Bókun booking engine in place, but need to increase quality website traffic and brand exposure.

What other channels can help me market my tour or activity?

The first step is getting your tours and activities business online. With Bókun’s booking engine and website builde r , you can drive direct bookings to your website and own the customer experience from booking, to their visit, and beyond. Video, display, a good Search Engine Optimization strategy (SEO) are some ways to get exposure for your brand and drive potential visitors to your website. But have you considered search engine marketing (SEM), or paid search?

I have a good SEO strategy, isn’t that enough?

Before diving in, let’s understand a bit more about SEO and SEM. The objective of SEO is to increase your website visibility on organic search listings to drive more visitors to your site and inspire conversions. SEM, on the other hand, uses paid advertising on search engines to boost your website visibility with higher ad placement. In short, both aim to increase website traffic, but one is paid search and the other organic.

Paid search advertisements have the advantage of higher placement and more prime spots to convert viewers into consumers. Tours and activities operators can boost their SEM strategy to compete with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) and drive more searchers to their site over others.

Supplementing your current SEO strategy with SEM will help you reach your marketing goals. Paid search allows you to have more control over your ad campaign and ad placements because you choose which keywords you want, and what price you pay. Once these ad campaigns are up and running, you can also monitor your success and experiment with different keywords. No matter how good your SEO program may be, there are some keywords your site won’t rank for. To address that issue, you can adjust your SEM campaign to best fit your ad goals.

Why does it matter for tours and activities?

SEM can get you more exposure to travelers as they plan their trip online or look for things to do while in your city. SEM is essentially an auction, where many other attractions and OTAs are bidding to have the link to their website shown at, or near, the top of the search engine results page, as well as in Google Maps. Being at the top of the search results exponentially increases the likelihood that people will click onto your website to learn more about your tours and activities, and ultimately, make a booking on your Bókun booking engine. Google Ads is often the preferred paid search platform for tours and activities marketers as it helps you advertise on the Google Search Network, as well as its affiliate sites, and bid on certain keywords that you believe customers may use when searching for your tours and activities.

Own the Customer Experience and Relationship from Search to Arrival

SEM protects your brand as chances are, third parties are bidding on your branded keywords and phrases to drive potential bookers to their site, instead of your website to book with you directly. For example, if you’ve inspired someone through your display, video or social media advertising efforts, and they later search for your experience, unless you have a strong SEM strategy in place, that person could be driven to a third party site to complete their booking.

When your customers book directly on your website, you own the booking experience, which allows you to connect with them before they arrive to encourage positive online reviews, upsell additional services, and reassure them about the precautions you’re taking to ensure their health & safety. SEM is a fantastic way to drive high-quality traffic to your website, making it one of the first impressions a traveler gets of your tours and activities.

Sojern's SEM Solution

Running SEM doesn’t come without challenges. Some of the frequent issues we hear from our attractions, tours, and activities customers when running their own SEM in the past are they weren’t sure which keywords to use, they didn’t have the bandwidth to optimize their budgets over the month or to test the most effective ads, they didn’t understand the reporting and insights to ensure they were getting the most out of their SEM efforts, or they didn’t have sufficient results that drove more business. This is why working with a trusted partner like Sojern can help.

Sojern makes digital advertising easy. Sojern is the one-stop-shop for attraction and tour operators who want to influence people to learn more about them and book directly on their website. With Sojern, you get access to the most popular digital advertising channels: Facebook, Instagram, Google Display Network, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and more–all in one place with support from a dedicated account manager. Bókun provides you with leading booking management technology and reservation software, Sojern’s digital marketing services get visitors there to use it.

Learn more about Sojern’s SEM solution for tours and activities today.