Insider tips from Bluetent’s Digital Advertising Manager, Alex Moshenskiy
March was a wild month – we saw an accelerated spread of COVID-19 and governments taking quick measures to contain the global pandemic. Our vacation rental industry has been hit hard and everyone has been feeling the effects. There is a difficult road ahead, and Bluetent is here to advise and help drive your digital marketing strategy.
During this unstable time, many vacation rental managers are choosing to pause campaigns and suspend advertising on Google Ads. Unfortunately, that can have negative repercussions on a company’s long-term digital strategy. Pausing your Google Ads means effectively losing your quality scores and dropping out as a competitor in the market, potentially setting your presence back by three to six months. That loss could be devastating because the next three to six months are pivotal: you need to be preparing now for the uptick to come, when you’ll begin making up the losses incurred during the global pandemic.
Instead of fully pausing ad campaigns, we recommend significantly cutting advertising budget – by as much as 75% to 90%. Because all advertisers are currently either pausing ads or lowering budgets, the competition in the market is thinning out. If you continue to maintain a small presence, you’ll see less competition, higher click-through-rates, a decrease in cost-per-click, and improved quality scores. Continuing your Google Ads helps you maintain presence on the first page of Google search, where travelers begin their consumer journey. When people are ready to take vacations again, those that continued to advertise with Google will have the opportunity to emerge as a top competitor in their market.
Additionally, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, has announced that they will be providing support to small businesses during this unprecedented time. You can find the article here. They are offering ad credits to small businesses with active Google Ads accounts that have been advertising since 2019. The ad credits will start becoming available to eligible customers in phases starting in late in the second quarter of 2020 and can be used to offset advertising with Google until the end of the year.
If you take one thing away from this blog post, remember that it’s important not to disappear. Property managers need to continue to maintain an online presence: keep communicating with travelers so that your business is front of mind when the COVID-19 situation begins to normalize. What does that online presence look like? Things are changing day to day and it’s necessary to adapt digital advertising strategies to reflect those changes. Here are some things to consider:
- Significantly lower your advertising budgets but do not pause campaigns that have historically driven online bookings and revenue.
- Create new remarketing lists to capture user data after COVID-19 had started to spread. Make users stay on those remarketing lists for up to 90 days so we can retarget them with display ads until they are ready to book a rental for their vacation.
- Change ad copy to remove any messaging that provides urgency to book and assure you will be there for guests when they are starting to plan their vacations.
- Add negative keywords around COVID-19, cancelation policies, beach and ski closures, etc. This will ensure your ad budget is not used towards any Corona–related searches.
- Link to your COVID-19 landing pages through Sitelinks in your Google Search Ads.
- Target or bid more aggressively on in-market travel audiences such as accommodations, vacation rentals, trips to Florida, beachbound travelers, etc. Focus on people that are currently looking for opportunities to travel and making sure we are in front of them until they start booking vacations.
- Create a geo-fencing display ad campaign targeting local communities and property owners. This is an opportunity to manage your reputation, provide messaging to your community, and do some homeowner acquisition.
- Use email lists to target past guests with display ads to let them know you love your community and are here to stay for when they are ready to travel again. Google requires a minimum of 1000 emails.