Digital Marketing, Travel & Tourism

Best Digital Marketing Practices – Google vs TripAdvisor

A case study of the best digital marketing practices relating to Google and TripAdvisor in the exclusive safari industry of Southern Africa.

In today’s tech-driven world, there are so many different online platforms competing for your business’s advertising budget. When it comes to marketing safari properties, Google and TripAdvisor are two of the biggest players. The question is, “which is more effective at driving direct bookings?”  To find the answer to this, we conducted a case study over a six-month period looking at a collection of safari industry companies in southern Africa.

Here is what we learned:

TripAdvisor

There is no doubt that TripAdvisor is widely trusted by travellers and having a TripAdvisor profile is essential for all safari properties. It is seen as a genuine research tool and has a key role in the (often long and convoluted) journey a potential guest takes.

Holidaymakers will most likely first do some general Googling, perhaps of destinations if this itself is not yet clear to them, and it is once they have decided upon this that they will often turn to TripAdvisor to research available accommodation options in the area. A basic profile will pop up here, assuming the right search filters have been used, and a good read through of previous guests’ reviews and a glimpse of the star rating usually helps them to decide if they are going to take things further. Therefore, maintaining your TripAdvisor profile by adding images routinely and always responding to reviews graciously is crucial.

To benefit from all the features offered by TripAdvisor, a paid membership is required. However, at approximately $900 per year, a Business Advantage account is not for everyone. If this annual fee is simply a non-starter, then a basic (and free) profile is still a good idea as it is better than not being visible on TripAdvisor at all.

The downside to only having a basic profile is that there is no way of tracking any website traffic that may have been influenced by your profile in your own website analytics. This is because there is no direct link from your basic TripAdvisor profile to your lodge website, nor any phone number or email listed either – you must cough up to get that! So, you will not see any referral traffic from TripAdvisor unless you have a Business Advantage profile.

Why it pays to pay

If budget allows, then the $900 fee is an advisable spend as the Business Advantage listing allows you to include a direct link to the lodge’s website, phone number and email address. It also lets you promote specials that are exclusively available for those that go direct and book with the lodge, as opposed to the other online travel agents. In addition to this, you can select your preferred images, create storyboards, and add video content, all of which is not possible otherwise. Furthermore, you get a whole load of analytical data about your profile, which not only provides evidence of the value of the advertising, but also helps to optimize and strategize your campaign.

The main advantage to having the paid listing is that it helps the potential safari-goer to make that leap from TripAdvisor to your website more easily and therefore more quickly, encouraging direct enquiries. And of course, once they have reached your website, they can be added automatically to your remarketing lists for future social media advertising.

Below is an example of how a special offer can be visible on a paid listing with a link directing visits directly to the website:

Best Digital Marketing Practices, Google vs TripAdvisor, Safari Industry of Southern Africa, WildWeb Blog

Additionally, it will include hyperlinks to the website, email address and special offers like this:

Best Digital Marketing Practices, Google vs TripAdvisor, Safari Industry of Southern Africa, WildWeb Blog

Google Ads

As the most used search engine worldwide, Google’s cost-per-click (CPC) advertising is a valuable tool to make use of when marketing safari companies. For the most part, this is where the customer journey begins.

We see more and more Google Ads pop up when we search, and so it is becoming more competitive. This itself is a result of the fact that organic search is becoming more competitive, particularly in the tourism industry, and so more people are investing in paid ads to remain at the top… literally at the top! However, despite the cost, there is no question that this is an essential part of the digital marketing mix and that there should be a focus on both organic and paid Google avenues. The organic avenues work towards not having to pay so much for ads, and for the authenticity that still surrounds natural results for the user, while the paid avenues work to ensure you remain competitive.

Potential safari-goers might start with a Google search and check out both organic and paid results, from there many then jump to TripAdvisor to research what they want about a location, property or activity (checking ratings and reviews as well as how a property may or may not have responded to negative reviews) and then ultimately, and ideally, end up on your property website.

There are other brand exposure benefits that also affect the value offering of each platform, but using real spend values we found:

  • CPC on Google was 4 x cheaper;
  • Google delivered 4 x more visitors than TripAdvisor for the same spend.
  • TripAdvisor brought 60% more website page views per visitor.
  • TripAdvisor visitors spent double the time on a website than the Google Ads visitors.
  • TripAdvisor provides 10% better booking enquiries than Google Ads.
  • The cost per booking enquiry was 30% cheaper on TripAdvisor.

Our feelings on the subject here at WildWeb are:

  • Both TripAdvisor and Google are essential elements of the digital marketing mix and neither should be chosen over the other.
  • A potential (or repeat) safari-goer will most likely use both Google AND TripAdvisor in their travel planning journey. This journey can be a long one as they narrow down their desired destination, and then research their accommodation, flights, and finally make their way to an enquiry stage, jumping in and out of Google and TripAdvisor (as well as your own website and agents’ sites) along the way.
  • An ideal situation would be to invest in the Business Advantage account on TripAdvisor AND to invest in Google CPC.

At WildWeb, we understand the importance of using multiple tools and platforms to use the best digital marketing practices to create a holistic strategy that supports the individual needs of each client. To chat to us about how we can assist your business, drop us a line on hello@wildweb.co.za.

Want to know more? Here are our answers to 5 frequently asked questions about the best digital marketing practices.

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