Paid advertising is perhaps the most important tool for letting the world know about your destination. While your organic social channels and website might be pumping out great content, it’s pretty difficult to compete in a digital landscape without dropping some dollars. Whether you’re marketing for an up-and-coming small town or a well-known city that’s been drawing tourists for years, it’s a tool you’ll want to have in your toolbox. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on digital advertising; it just means you need to be strategic.
Your paid advertising strategy starts with identifying your audience and your goals. With these clearly defined, you’ll be ready to devise a path forward in the beginning, and measure your success in the end.
Defining Your Audience and Goals for Your Advertising Strategy
First, define who your audience is. Start by looking at people who currently engage with your content or have visited your destination in the past. A more aspirational audience may come into view as well – an audience with the potential to attract to your destination that you haven’t quite harnessed yet. Consider using a persona tool like this one to identify various traits of potential visitors including their age, background, income level, social media channels they use and their interests. Defining these traits will help you decide where and how to advertise in order to best reach them.
Then, identify your goals for your digital advertising campaign. Do you want to build general awareness about your destination? Drive new traffic to your website? Get people to download a travel guide? Drive lodging bookings? By identifying your goals, you can set metrics to them and see how you fared in the end. You’ll be able to measure your success and decide how to pivot for your next round of efforts.
It’s also important to consider where your audience is in their decision-making process when they encounter an ad from you. Have they heard of your destination before? Are they actively planning a trip, or just browsing destinations for their next vacation a year from now?
Once you’ve set your audience and goals, it’s time to start looking at your paid advertising options. In our experience, the best paid advertising strategy is all about diversification. Don’t pour all of your ad budget into one platform – spread it among many to reach a wider audience and see how each performs.
Not sure which types of paid advertising to dive into? Not to worry – we’ve compiled a list of the best paid advertising avenues for you to try out for yourself.
The Top Paid Advertising Platforms for Destination Marketing
Social Media Advertising
Paid social media advertising is a great way to introduce your destination to new and very targeted audiences. Through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, you can set up paid advertising accounts that make it easy. With the ability to segment your ad’s audience to people’s habits, likes, interests, demographics and geographical areas, you can find new people who are likely to be interested in visiting your destination. It’s very user-friendly, and you can start with virtually any budget.
As you might guess, social media advertising is very competitive. Tons of advertisers are competing for clicks, which can make it difficult to get meaningful views for your own destination. While you don’t need a lot of money to enter this competition, prepare to spend a good amount more than the minimum required if you want to truly compete for eyes.
Check out our blog, How to Utilize Social Media’s Paid Advertising Capabilities, to learn how to harness this tool for yourself.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a model in which advertisers target keywords on search engines so their ads show up on the search result page. Advertisers are charged a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. Through PPC, you’re able to buy visits to your site, rather than attempting to earn them organically. Most often, this refers to search engine advertising – the search engine results at the top of the page with the word “Ad” next to them on the left. You can select a keyword that will bring up your ad whenever that keyword is searched. It’s ideal for driving traffic to your website from those who are already searching for words related to your destination. It ensures that they’ll see the best and most reliable website (yours) before anyone else’s so that you have the power to steer their perception of your destination.
That said, if your destination is still relatively unknown, the keywords associated with it may not draw much traffic. So, it may not be the best option if that’s the case.
Pre-roll refers to the advertisements that run prior to a video on YouTube. They’re short videos, similar to commercials on television, and you can purchase slots for your own to be placed in front of a particular audience. Much like other paid social media advertising, you’re able to select locations where your ad is shown, demographics, interests and more. You also have options in terms of format – whether it can be skipped or not and how long your video is.
YouTube pre-roll ads are ideal if your main goal is brand awareness. There’s no direct call-to-action, no button the viewer can click on to take them to your website. This means your video has to be intriguing and memorable enough to get someone to type in your website address or Google your destination outside of the YouTube page. So, you’ll need to have a compelling video for this to be fruitful.
Display ads are the OGs of digital advertising. They’re visually-based, clickable ads that can be placed on various websites within a network that have sold space on their website for ads. You can purchase them through an ad network, the most popular being the Google Display Network. Display ads can be created in a variety of standard shapes and sizes, and can have a variety of placements, from banner to sidebar and more.
If you’re working through Google Ads, you can easily integrate display ads into your overall campaign. Google Ads will prompt you to select goals for your ads (which, fortunately, you’ve already identified), as well as audiences, and then Google will suggest websites for placement that are most likely to reach those audiences. Like many ad platforms, you set your own budget and then select options within that budget.
Native Advertising or Sponsored Content
Native advertising (also called sponsored content) is an advertisement that’s made to look like other content that’s normally shown on a given platform. The most commonly seen example of this is on news websites. It’s often a headline and description with a “paid post” or “content from our sponsors” disclaimer, but it looks an awful lot like a regular news story. Clicking on it takes you to a story that’s essentially a marketing blog – a captivating story about visiting your destination that points readers to your organization as a resource.
The real perk of native advertising is that your content earns the credibility of the website it’s on. Because it’s being hosted on one of its readers’ favorite websites, the reader is more likely to trust the content and see it as a recommendation. The kicker is that you’ll need to have a good story that meshes well with the website’s current content. If it’s overly promotional, readers will notice and may feel duped.
Programmatic advertising is grabbing a lot of attention right now, and it’s clear why. It allows you to work with a software that can purchase and optimize ads for you, using algorithms and machines to make decisions rather than humans. It takes a lot of the work out of advertising like having several different accounts, calling publishers and developing relationships with different vendors. Plus, it takes the guessing out of decision-making, since all decision-making is based on data.
But, like anything that relies on artificial intelligence, there are some drawbacks to consider. Releasing the burden of doing it all yourself also releases some control, so you have to feel that you can trust it. It removes a lot of the learned nuances, intuition and personal touch out of the process. However, as it becomes more and more sophisticated, it may be worth trying because of its efficiency.
If you’ve used a streaming app on your smart TV, you’ve probably seen a connected TV ad or two. Connected TV simply refers to the connection of the internet and television through a smart TV, an Xbox or PlayStation, or some other internet-capable television. Streaming services like Hulu, HBO Max and Peacock all offer budget versions of their streaming services that are supported by advertisements, and that’s where the opportunity comes in.
We love it because we’re able to run local ads and target audiences that are likely to be interested in a destination based on what they’re watching. This option is a bit more expensive – Hulu advertising starts at $500. But it can be totally worth the cost when you have the right video hitting the right audience.
At PRIME, we use all of these advertising platforms for our destination marketing clients on a regular basis. It’s a lot to learn for many DMOs and CVBs with limited staff and expertise, which is why we’re here to help. Reach out to us to learn more about what a partnership with PRIME looks like.
If you enjoyed this edition of PRIME Pulse, take a look at some of our other related articles:
- Why Blogging is Key to Destination Marketing
- How to Use Social Media's Paid Advertising Capabilities
- The How-To on Facebook Marketing Campaigns