SEO vs PPC for Travel Companies: Which One is Right for You?
Google has a lot on its place on a daily basis. In fact, the search engine’s own statistics found that as of 2023, it gets 8.5 billion searches every day. So you can imagine the amount of content it has to trawl through to provide users with the best possible match for their query. But how do you make yours stand out from the crowd?
In terms of travel companies, there are two major search engine marketing methods that are favoured within the industry – search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising. (Or SEO and PPC for short.)
Let’s break both processes down, and discuss their pros, cons, and ultimately help you decide which one is right for you.
Search engine optimisation is an umbrella of techniques that help your website rank higher in the search engine results page (or SERPS). The higher up your site is on Google, the more visible it is to searchers. Plus, it means your content is valued by Google as authoritative, which can help you to earn more organic traffic.
A typical day as an SEO whizz involves optimising web pages, including title and image tags, meta descriptions, keywords, internal links and earning backlinks. (We’ve got a whole blog on why backlinks are so important, btw.)
Good SEO means a website has a good structure, design, domain authority, user behaviour and is easy to navigate (both on a PC and a mobile). Once Google has crawled and indexed a webpage – and deemed it as trustworthy and relevant – you’ll start to notice it climbing higher in the ranks.
However, achieving the top spot on a search engine takes time, so don’t be disheartened when you don’t see results straight away. As the cringey saying goes – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Once you get there though, it’s pretty easy to maintain if you constantly monitor and optimise the page. Many travel companies hire SEO agencies to do the work (like us), as it’s time-consuming and can be pretty confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Pay-per-click is a form of digital advertising that charges the advertiser a fee every time a user clicks on one of their ads. It brings immediate results when it’s working well, and often, paying for the click is not even noticed because it’s worth way more than the fee in the first place.
For example, if you were to pay £5 for a click but the click itself generates a £500 sale, it’s obviously worth it due to the profit you’ve made.
You can utilise different types of PPC ads, from text ones to image ones to video ones, or even a combination. They can also appear on different channels, including search engines, social media platforms and websites.
What’s the difference between the two?
Basically, SEO is a natural (and longer) way to drive organic traffic to websites and help them to rank higher on Google by optimising the pages and making them more relevant to internet users.
In contrast, PPCs are paid online ads that allow website owners and businesses to promote their products/services at the top or bottom of SERPS, plus other online channels.
Benefits of SEO
There are plenty of SEO positives including:
- It generates leads cost-effectively: SEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing methods because its strategies value longevity. It targets users who are actively searching for your services or products online and prioritises inbound approaches over outbound ones like cold-calling to help companies save money.
- It brings organic traffic to your site: The more optimised your site is for search engines, the more likely it’ll rank for the search terms your clientele and demographic are typing into Google.
- It increases brand awareness: SEO makes your website more visible and attractive to users. By improving the user experience through optimising the site speed, content, design, and intent, the faster you can build brand awareness and draw the right people to your business.
- It can improve all of your other marketing strategies: When you add paid or outbound marketing to your organic methods, your SEO strategy may reach new heights. For example, if you’ve got a good SEO team boosting your site onto Google’s front page, and you’ve got paid advertising on the go, your website could potentially appear more than once in the top results.
Drawbacks of SEO
Of course, every positive comes with a negative. While in the long run, SEO is a major benefit, here’re some drawbacks that travel businesses can potentially encounter:
- Sometimes, it can affect startups: Whether you’re a travel agency, store, or involved in the industry at all, if your business is in its early days, it may not be able to invest a significant amount of capital into good SEO because the profits aren’t there yet.
- There’s not necessarily a guarantee: If you’ve hired a bad SEO or attempted to optimise your site yourself without any experience, it’s likely to be game over.
- Success doesn’t happen overnight: Unlike paid ads where you can launch today and see results tomorrow, SEO doesn’t happen like that. It’s a waiting game that not all businesses can afford (especially startups) as results can take a long time to come to fruition.
Benefits of PPC
Thinking of enlisting the help of pay-per-clicks? Here’re some of the benefits:
- It contributes to business goals: From high-level brand exposure and thought leadership to an eccomerce sale, PPC can track almost any type of conversion goal. It’s also super powerful in the content marketing era because it can help with other brand exposure methods like ad content downloads, contest entries, newspaper sign-ups and encouraging app downloads.
- It’s measurable and trackable: Unlike SEO where you can’t pinpoint a results date, PPC is super easy to measure and track. If you’re running through Google Ads, you can use the Google Ads tool with Google Analytics to monitor your ad’s performance with readily available stats.
- You’re pretty much in control: From the keywords and placements you choose to target to the budget flexibility, you’ve got most of the control when it comes to launching a pay-per-click ad. For startups especially, this can be very comforting.
- It works well with other marketing channels: Like SEO, PPC can work a treat alongside other marketing strategies. In fact, SEO and PPC go together incredibly well, as often, the opportunities for traffic are the same, as the searchers using Google are looking to find info, products or services.
Drawbacks of PPC
PPC has some cons, too, including:
Clicks and leads don’t always lead to sales:
Just because someone has clicked on your ad, it doesn’t mean they’re going to follow through and buy from you. You still need to convince the user to click that checkout button once they land on your site.
Costs can add up quickly:
If you don’t constantly monitor and optimise your ads to make sure you’re getting an ROI (return on investment), you could be wasting your money. You need to have a strict budget for PPC campaigns, unlike SEO where time and skills are the main investments.
You do need to have some skills:
You can’t wake up one day, run a PPC campaign and expect to make loads of money. While it’s not as time-consuming (or as complicated) as SEO, you do need some practice to achieve an effective outcome.
Travel companies that have used SEO
It’s always good to have examples of similar companies that have utilised marketing methods well. In terms of SEO, these travel businesses have been very successful:
We’ve been working with the global online visa service for a while now, so we know they’ve had major success on the SEO front.
Last year, we ran a campaign that went viral – securing over 100 pieces of coverage across eight countries.
Basically, we built an index that detailed the happiest cities to travel to. Looking at five different happiness factors (cost of living, the friendliest locals, sunshine hours, working hours and life expectancy), we gathered numerical data on each of these categories and used it to rank each of the 50 chosen cities from the highest (happiest) to the lowest (unhappiest).
We then wrote it up into a blog and multiple press releases and outreached the heck out of it. When writing up this case study, at the time, the Metro article it was featured in had 34,200 estimated views.
Flight Network compares thousands of cheap flights and helps you plan every detail of your trip. They’ve focused on the SEO side of things and created great content that’s attracted equally great links.
Look at their 50 Best Beaches project – it’s been featured on major travel sites like CN Traveller, plus Metro.
Their top festivals piece also gained a lot of traction and links from the festivals they featured, which goes to show that good outreach to the right people and newsworthy topics are a recipe for success.
Granted, many of Expedia’s implementations will be too costly for startups and smaller businesses. But it doesn’t cost anything to check out their ideas and angles to come up with your own viral campaign.
With great data, they can consistently create content that attracts links from some of the strongest and most authoritative sites on the website.
Their Discover Mythical Creatures project was a standout campaign as it gained links from over 50 domains.
Travel companies that have used PPC
PPC pros in the travel world? Take a look at how these guys have scaled up:
Last year, Love Holidays were ranked the second fastest-growing company in the UK – the majority of their success coming from a clearly better understanding of their brand.
Apparently, 16% of search visits came from branded phrasing, which no doubt will have happened through PPC advertising.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights have over 500,000 subscribers to their cheap flight list. All they did was give people an incentive to sign up – ‘give us your email and we’ll drop you the cheapest flights all over the world straight into your inbox.’
This simple email marketing process gets users to engage with you over a long period of time, which makes the money you spend on advertising go even further.
What should be considered when deciding between SEO and PPC?
Looking at the benefits and drawbacks of each marketing technique, businesses should be able to tell which method is for them. If you’re still on the fence about which to choose, let’s look at some other considerations:
How much money do you have upfront to be able to spend on marketing? If you’re a startup, you need to think about this wisely, as spending too much at the beginning can have a catastrophic effect on the future of your business. Do you opt for PPC at the start and build a buzz around your biz and then go for long-term SEO, or do you bite the bullet and enlist the help of a top-notch SEO agency to yield strong results over a period of time?
How long have you got realistically until you need to start seeing results? Do you need to boost your ROI straightaway or have you got a longer period of time allocated for your marketing strategies? If it’s the latter, SEO is a solid choice, as a good company will be able to help you increase and maintain your position on Google, while boosting your authority as a brand over time.
What kind of travel company are you? Do you have a lot of competition within your niche? What kind of marketing techniques does your field use? If the majority see success via PPC methods, it’s worth trying this out first, and vice versa. Do your research and implement what’s been tried and tested (successfully) by similar companies.
Tips and advice on how to implement an SEO or PPC strategy
Decided on your preferred strategy, or opting for both? Here are some simple steps for each. (We recommend hiring an expert for the best possible outcome, though.)
- Know your keywords: If you don’t know the keywords or phrases your demographic is searching for, you’re not going to get very far.
- Write high-quality content: Engaging content that incorporates key SEO features (kws, paragraphs, inbound and external links, heading, subheadings, etc.) will put you in Google’s good books.
- Don’t ignore page titles: Interesting and engaging web page titles are key, as they’re the few words that are going to grab your audience’s initial attention. URL slugs need to be enticing, too, plus feature those keywords!
- Make sure your site is optimised: Before you launch your campaign, make sure that all of your landing pages will work in conjunction with your ads.
- Choose your bidding strategy: There are several to choose from, and the one you opt for will depend on your budget, experience with PPC and your overall goals.
- Set a budget!
- Keyword research is important here, too: Without keywords, how will a search engine know when to display your ads?
- Make sure your actual ad is short and to the point: You don’t have a lot of room to convince users to click on your ad. You need to find a way to convince them to follow through with the process, too.
- Don’t forget a CTA: Call to actions are so important. Why? Because how will a searcher know what to do once they’ve clicked on your ad? Something as simple as “buy now” alerts the customer that they can purchase the product or service, and more to the point, shows them exactly how they can do it.
- Test your ad: Before you run it for real, test your ads to make sure you’re happy with their performance.
Up your digital marketing game
To SEO or not to SEO? To PPC or not to PPC? These are literally the questions you need to ask yourself before curating your marketing campaign. Both are tried and tested strategies in their own right, and we’ve used them in soooooo many campaigns we can’t even count them on both hands.
So, if you’re looking to give your travel company a little love in the marketing department, we can absolutely help to take your strategies from a one to a million.