Leveraging Vertical Search to Go Direct
By Jeff Navach Vice President of Marketing, MediaAlpha | November 06, 2016
Hotels find themselves in an uphill battle as they seek to increase loyalty to their own brands and recapture market share from OTAs. Many hotels are increasingly embracing digital advertising, recognizing it as a critical channel to acquire consumers directly and compete more effectively with OTAs. But as hotels expand their digital marketing presence and ramp up advertising budgets, they would do well to consider some creative approaches that can help level the playing field and turn the tide in their favor.
One emerging approach is targeting high-intent, bottom of the funnel consumers through vertical search media. Many OTAs have utilized vertical search media themselves as an important customer acquisition channel, acquiring many of the same consumers they send to the brands this way. Which basically means hotels already see vertical search consumers. They just happen to arrive through intermediaries with higher acquisition costs and lower profit margins.
Today's creative hotel marketers have begun turning to vertical search media themselves to more effectively target direct consumers and increase the efficiency of their marketing spending.
What is Vertical Search?
Broadly defined, a vertical search is any online search focused on a specific topic, industry or product. Vertical search examples include product searches on Amazon (nearly 50% of all online product searches now originate on amazon.com), a search for auto insurance quotes, or shopping for hotels on metasearch or niche travel websites. You can think of a vertical search as a more granular and targeted search than a typical keyword search conducted on a search engine.
There are hundreds of travel sites, ranging from large travel destinations to niche destination travel sites that exist to help consumers evaluate travel choices and make purchase decisions. When consumers visit these sites, they're sending a strong message that they know what they want and have an above average likelihood of making a purchase soon.
Search marketing helped revolutionize advertising by flipping the model on its head and enabling consumers inform brands on their intent and interests. In essence, Google and others figured out how to connect brands with customers while they were looking for what the brand was selling. But looking for something doesn't necessarily mean being willing to buy it. Search advertising is very effective in engaging customers in the middle of the sales funnel who are typically researching or engaged in longer cycle buying decisions.