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Why Travel & Hospitality Businesses Should Embrace Performance Max

Why Travel & Hospitality Businesses Should Embrace Performance Max

Brian Fitzgerald
Brian Fitzgerald July 9, 2024
Why Travel & Hospitality Businesses Should Embrace Performance Max

TLDR: For the hotel and hospitality industry, Google’s Performance Max ad platform offers a completely new way of thinking about digital ad placement and driving bookings. It’s highly automated and fine-tuned for zeroing in on your most likely clients. Performance Max can run a dizzying range of ad types. And, it learns from your successes.

Marketers who understand how to manage these campaigns have gained a powerful tool for leveling the playing field when marketing distinctive, independent hotels and destinations. Because when you’re not offering something for just anyone, finding that special someone is now easier than ever. 

Independent Hotels are Feeling the Squeeze in the Digital Ad Market

Independent hotel operators are in a tight spot. Your guests today have more options than ever for discovering and booking travel destinations. While those businesses with truly unique and distinct offerings find themselves crowded out on the supply side, they’re squeezed from the other as commissions-based booking engines dominate searches. 

In digital marketing, all of these hotels and marketplaces — from the big chains to VRBO and AirBnb to Expedia — are all in a bidding war for ad real estate. Each is looking for an angle. This drives up costs for everyone, and reduces visibility for those who don’t have deep pockets. At O’Rourke, we believe that hotels and destinations with something truly special to offer deserve the attention of people who appreciate them for what they are. We’re excited that Performance Max enables us to give these clients the attention (and revenue!) they deserve.

Why We’re Having Conversations with Hospitality Clients About Performance Max vs. Google Display Ads

Hotel and Hospitality marketing fundamentally comes down to bookings and revenue. If we can’t show an independent hotel that our efforts have led to earnings growth, we aren’t doing our job. However, many hospitality businesses rely on the widely used Google Display Ad platform for a significant amount of their advertising. Google Performance Max offers precision and direct booking performance that Google Display Ads often lacks, along with a wider array of placement and format opportunities. This has led to many conversations with our clients about making the transition, resulting in some success stories in recent months.

The Role of Google Display Ads

Google Display ads remain a heavily used ad platform for many businesses. Think of them as the “billboards of the internet,” banners squeezed on most websites. Marketers love to use them to target visitors to a hotel or restaurant’s website, reminding them to come back and buy. We build them by the dozen in a variety of sizes and let Google place them wherever they fit the campaign. They’re inexpensive and effective for maximizing brand exposure, flooding key demographics with catchy messages. However, they don’t necessarily lead to direct bookings. Pretty, yet imprecise. 

How Performance Max for Travel Goals Differs from Display Ads

Google Performance Max for Travel Goals is a platform developed by Google to specifically serve ads for the hotel & hospitality industry. It hosts a wide range of ad units that it centrally manages, including Google Display Ads, with a greater attention to return-on-investment. But it does much more than simply serve ads: 

  • Performance Max for Travel Goals integrates directly with a hotel’s booking engine, measuring and learning from direct revenue performance as it goes.
  • Performance Max uses Google’s anonymized customer data to serve ads to specific individuals based on intent signals and browsing history. I.e., it’s very good at finding people who look like your customers today or who might enjoy a restaurant or travel experience like yours.  
  • Performance Max ads can also show up in search results, pop up in a Gmail inbox, and even serve video. It achieves this through assembling the ad creative itself using copy, images, logos, and other elements supplied by marketers. 
  • Performance Max enables measurement from clicks and engagement all the way down to bookings and revenue, giving marketers unprecedented visibility into ways that visitors interact with your business. 

How to Get Started Using Performance Max for Travel Goals

This is an ad platform built to increase bookings for travel & hospitality providers. However, managing campaigns is not for the faint of heart. As a highly automated platform with black-box audience targeting, it requires giving up a certain amount of control in terms of audience targeting and budget allocation. Fortunately, O’Rourke has developed best-practice strategies for managing hospitality campaigns to keep them on budget while exceeding performance and revenue goals. 

Setting up a Performance Max campaign for hotels, restaurants, and travel destinations requires a few elements, including:

  • Integrations: In order to measure and optimize ad performance, Google must integrate with your booking
  • Creative: This can range from images and copy elements to video served on YouTube, all managed and optimized through Performance Max. We organize these elements into Asset Groups based on offerings, special offers, packages, whatever support a client’s business goals. 
  • Audience Signals: We’ve talked about the end of third-party cookies, and audience signals are one answer. Performance Max campaigns assess audience intent based on factors like website visitors, app users, habits and affinities, and purchase intent.
  • Budgets: While we carefully manage client budgets, Performance Max can be more fluid than other platforms in how it spends. Fortunately, it does so in the name of what it believes to be your biggest opportunity, and it’s usually correct. 
  • Time: Machine learning algorithms take time to assess audience signals and find your ideal customers. 

Let’s step back and consider the final ingredient: time. Boutique hotels, destination restaurants, and other distinctive travel operators aren’t looking for just anyone. Your ideal customers appreciate what you have to offer. As such, preparation and strategy are important. Consider when your guests start to do research for the season ahead. Work back a few weeks, and give yourself time to launch marketing to capture that moment. 

Not sure where to start? We can help. Schedule a time to talk with the experts at O’Rourke about how a campaign powered by Performance Max could help your offering find customers in the most crowded of marketplaces.