Rough guide to improving travel web advertising to get more bookings

NB: This is a guest article by Ryan Bifulco, founder and CEO of TravelSpike.

We all know that nobody clicks on banner ads, right? A decent banner will net you only one click for every 1,000 impressions. So even if you bought one million impressions that is only 1,000 clicks.

After you blow through your budget you might end up with one or two bookings from those 1,000 clickers. But what about the other 999,000 people who did NOT click your banner?

It turns out many of them end up going directly to your site weeks later to book.

A so-called view-thru booking occurs when a user views a banner but does not click. The user then might visit the airline or hotel website directly to book days later.

Most travel suppliers use a view-thru window of time to give credit for bookings made after the banner was viewed.

Typically that window ranges from seven to 30 days, but can be 120 days for an international tour or cruise. The travel supplier simply places view-thru tracking pixels on its booking engine confirmation page.

Those pixels match up to the banner ad that was served to the traveler so that travel suppliers can give credit to the right advertiser that influenced the booking.

I have seen 25-100 times more airline and hotel bookings from view thrus compared to bookings that happen after a direct banner click.

Case study

For example, let’s take an airline called XYZ, whixh runs a banner ad promoting a $99 fare sale on a travel website called Travel Site #9.

A user would view that airline’s $99 banner ad but not click on it. The user would recall the ad and visit the airline’s website directly 11 days later to book.

Using view-thru tracking, XYZ airline would know that the booking was made by a traveler from Travel Site #9. This is called a view thru booking.

Tracking bookings can be a bit confusing since you must also track the bookers that clicked on your banner ad or textlink and then booked later.

Some of you are familiar with post-click bookings as they have been around for quite a while.

In our example above what if a user from Travel Site #9 actually clicks the $99 banner ad from XYZ airline? The user then might book directly on the airline website 17 days later. That is called a post-click booking since the user clicked the banner and then booked on the airline’s website.

I have seen a travel supplier get ten bookings from post-click activity. But then that same travel supplier would see an additional 500 bookings from view-thru tracking.

You can see tremendous value and benefit from tracking both post click and view thru bookings. It will increase your ROI and allow you to see what is working and what is not performing.

The cons are very few but some critics make the case that users tend to shop around across six websites or more before they purchase.

While this may be true, the user would not have booked if it was not for seeing your $99 banner ad on Travel Site #9.

Just because the user visits six websites does not mean he will see your travel offer on all six sites without you promoting it.

Some travel suppliers will give partial credit for view-thru bookings compared to giving full credit for post-click bookings. But the ROI is still amazing when you factor in even partial credit on view-thrus plus the post-click bookings.

So how can you get started? There are many advertising platforms and tracking tools that can track both view thru and post click bookings.

What to do

Some of the top vendors that I have worked with include: Adtech, ZEDO, DART, Atlas and Mediaplex.

If you cannot afford to use one of these vendors, you can ask the advertisers that you buy banner ads from if they can track view thru bookings for you.

You would simply place their tracking code from their ad server on your confirmation page of your site before the campaign went live.

Then you run some banner ads on various websites and monitor the reports to see your ROI. Make sure to target as much as possible.

If you only fly from LAX, for example, then do not run banner ads to people living in NY. If your hotel is in Memphis and most of your visitors come from a five hour drive radius, then target users living in those cities or users looking to visit Memphis.

Keep in mind that view-thru tracking can work for both B2C and B2B travel organizations. So even if you sell travel technology or services in the industry, you can still run banner ads on B2B websites like Tnooz for example.

You would place the tracking code on your website where a prospect would purchase or perhaps fill out a contact us form.

If that user has viewed a banner ad on a B2B website, and then visited your website later on, you would know where that user came from.

I like to think of a banner ad as an outdoor billboard on the Internet.

You drive by that billboard and of course cannot click it. But you do read it, remember it and take action later on.

A banner ad it turns out has the same effect as it clearly influences purchases both online and even offline. One study from Comscore showed that running banner ads leads to a 274% boost in the number of searches for your brand on search engines.

This concept makes sense as people are more likely to type your product into Google after they have been exposed to your brand online. Another study from Media Post showed that a banner ad impression influences 70% of all user conversions or bookings.

Even beyond bookings you also should track anyone who signs up for your loyalty program or email newsletter after they have been exposed to your banner advertising.

So if you are not able to track all these bookings and traveler actions, then I highly recommend that you do not waste your money buying banner ads.

You will be disappointed if you only measure success based on banner clicks so make sure you track the full extent of your banner campaign.

NB: This is a guest article by Ryan Bifulco, founder and CEO of TravelSpike.

NB2: Image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Nick Vivion

    Can you share the links to the two studies from MediaPost and ComScore that you mentioned?


    Nick Vivion

  2. Geert-Jan Brits

    “While this may be true, the user would not have booked if it was not for seeing your $99 banner ad on Travel Site #9.”

    Says who?

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding the concept, but all you measure is a possible correlation between bookings and people that have come across your view-through tracking ads. There’s no way to attribute a sell to a particular view-through ad, since there’s just no way of telling if the ad actually persuaded the customer to buy.

    Of course, when piling up the data you could convincingly say things like: customers with a view-tru tracking ad in their 30-day history converted 20% better once they visited the site, compared to visitors without. But, again, this doesn’t allow for attributing a sell to a particular ad (and thus makes paying out a commission based on that unreliable imho) .

    Interesting concept, so like to be proven wrong.


  3. Ali Yılmaz

    You can use Google Display Network for View Through Conversion Tracking as well.


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