Consumers increasingly search for information on travel destinations and book reservations on the Internet, but folks in the travel industry have been slow to adopt online marketing. No so for Scott Schult, EVP of marketing for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, who identified the trend several years ago and quickly began reallocating ad budgets online.
As part of the Chamber of Commerce, Schult oversees marketing for the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB), promoting the coastal region of South Carolina as a family travel destination. The advertising and marketing campaigns focus on enticing people to visit the area, local restaurants, hotels and attractions.
The CVB began working with the Google Display Network a little more than a year ago. Since then it managed to build several unique niche markets, reaching audiences through fun graphics in display ads, as well as more than 4,000 keywords in search ads.
Some campaigns were so efficient that Schult "will likely push the online ad budget to 60%," up from 50% of the total this year, and 10% just a few years ago. Of course, not all will go to Google. The CVB work with a variety of ad networks, as well as search engines like Bing.
Success, however, with display ads across the Google Display Network serving up on YouTube, Google Finance and Gmail, as well as a network of partner sites, prompted the increase in online marketing funds.
The CVB defined goals and targets for each campaign, crafting relevant messaging, creating custom content pages, and optimizing and modifying the ads based on performance. In one year, the Myrtle Beach CVB increased its investment in Google display ads from 5% to 25% after achieving favorable prices for cost-per-clicks (CPCs) on the Google Display Network.
In fact, several Google display campaigns served up at a lower CPC than the CVB's average search campaigns. Schult paid on average 65 cents for a consumer to click-through a paid search ad, but the price for display ads cost much less.
One initiative promoting a winter beach house stay generated 75,000 clicks at an average CPC of 54 cents, 11 cents below aggregate search. "Our goal was to get generate clicks for slightly under $1, but this one came in at 54 cents," Schult says. "We did one another smaller type of campaign that came in at about 65 cents. We've been able to stay under $1 for most campaign."
Solid results for paid search keeps clicks at less than $1, about 65 cents, but Schult realizes all online search and display ads won't meet that goal. "We're not going to get everything down to 54 cents, but know we can do it," he says. "It's a great barometer to know you can beat your goal based on targeting and focusing campaigns."
Helping to support campaigns, A/B testing, serving up two ad variations to the same audience for one week provided real-time insight into what worked and didn't. It could mean changing something as simple as a word. Based on performance, the CVB can make real time changes through AdWords Editor and the help of their Google team.
Schult says the CBV will soon expand the focus to mobile handsets and devices, taking lessons learned from online and adapting them into mobile campaigns.