Mar 122014

Getting the Most Out of Google Flight Search Marketing

In September of 2011 Google launched Google Flight Search (GFS) to help travelers search for flights that best fit their needs. Using this Google product moves users from the main results tab to a specific page showing flight information, where both organic results and promoted listings are eligible to show. Additionally, not only can advertisers build out flight-specific “keywords” in AdWords similar to standard search ads, but Google Flight Search also allows marketers to incorporate more information, like flight length and days until departure into bidding.

With 56% of travelers beginning their flight shopping with online search, tools like GFS can help airline advertisers drive more users to their pages. RKG has come up with a list of strategies for airline marketers to take full advantage of advertising with Google Flight Search.


Sync Seat Availability to Be Eligible for Search Results

First off, make sure your flights are able to show in the organic results. In the image above, “organic listings” appear underneath the search options. In order to show, airlines must provide Google with seat availability by route, which Google Flight Search syncs with the airline’s publicly posted route timetables to provide a full list of possible flights. There is no cost per click for these listings. If clicked, Google directs users to the airline’s secure booking process on their site.

Being eligible to show for GFS organic links is especially important if your airline is price competitive or offers low fares. Since GFS lists flights from lowest to highest price, the most competitive fares will show higher on the page and be more visible to price-conscious shoppers.

Making Sure Offers are Above the Fold

Google Flight Search also allows advertisers to show text ads based on the user’s flight search choices. Flight-specific "keywords" live in their own GFS campaign and advertisers can work with Google in order to make sure the campaign has the proper settings and the ads will show within Google Flight Search.

GFS ads show in the top three positions on the right-hand side of the page and are above the fold.  If your airline has a competitive advantage, whether it be a discounted fare, a cheaper upgrade, or a free checked bag, ensure that this offer is displayed in the copy of the ad to improve CTR and thus increase Quality Score and Ad Rank.

These ads are designed to be route-specific, so your offers and advertised rates can be tailored accordingly. For example, a leading low-cost airline periodically offers reduced fares such as “$59 one way from DC to Orlando.” This special fare can be called out in the ad copy for all DC to Orlando searches within GFS. Since GFS ads always show high on the page, these offers will be highly visible on non-branded searches to an interested searcher.

Bidding to Specific Types of Travelers

Google’s general search platform gives marketers the ability to target specific route searches, allowing the advertiser to be selective about which routes they choose to run ads for and which bids they want to set.  Google Flight Search allows marketers to get even more creative in setting even smarter bids. Within Google Flight Search, searches are categorized by different trip lengths: one-way, “short” 0 – 3 days, “medium” 4 – 6 days, and “long” 7+ days.

Assuming that shorter lengths are business travelers and longer lengths are for leisure, airlines can choose to bid differently on business travelers or vacation travelers by targeting certain trip lengths. By combining the data for specific routes with the type of traveler, marketers can set more granular bids and appear for the most relevant and valuable traffic.

An example of how these ads are set up in the Google AdWords UI with the specific origin and destination airports, trip length, and days until departure as a part of the “keyword”


Filling Empty Seats Efficiently

Google Flight Search also allows marketers to bucket flight ads by days-until-departure, ranging from 0-3 days out to 5 or more weeks. If marketers have access to their airline's flight distribution information, bids can be adjusted to push ad spend towards flights that have available seats, and to pull back on spend for flights that are filled or close to capacity. This lever can have a great impact on a paid search budget as it allows marketers to truly push ad dollars toward routes that need help, a function that is more challenging within regular search ad listings.

By taking advantage of how Google Flight Search differs from Google’s main search platform, airlines can use GFS to supplement their current digital marketing presence. Using a combination of the above strategies can allow marketers to efficiently spend within GFS to a variety of goals.  How are you using Google Flight Search?


13 Responses to "Getting the Most Out of Google Flight Search Marketing"
Ryan Park says:
I'm studying about GFS ads. Could you please email me about GFS details such as biddable keywords type and bidding methods, min/max bid, More adwords UI.
Julian says:
How create a campaign to Google Flights? Is it a normal campaign in AdWords?
Ryan Park says:
Sorry to bother you. I'm saying "Google Flights"
rhill's picture
RJ Hill says:
Ryan and Julian, The set up of Google Flight Search keywords, adgroups and campaigns is identical to the regular process except for the keyword formatting. GFS allows you to use all three match types and set bids where you deem fit. I recommend creating a GFS specific campaign so all of your GFS keywords live in one place. There are no unique campaign settings for GFS, but if you want more information about all of the different ways to create these keywords, Google has a white paper that is available to advertisers.
Koen says:
Hi RJ, Thanks for sharing, just to make sure as the screenshot does not show it clearly. Do you parse all the parameters together using _ or do you have to use spaces as well (the red squares just overlay a _ or a potential space :))
rhill's picture
RJ Hill says:
Koen, Thanks for reading. You do need to parse all of the parameters using underscores. Here is the keyword from the screenshot from above so you can see a clearer example: _gt_from_iad _gt_to_mco _gt_length_long _gt_depart_0_3
Koen says:
Hi RJ, Thanks for replying. I am trying to replicate this but so far no impressions :) Did you select specific targeting (US & English)? Which match type did you use? Thanks
As a frequent flier, I’m often searching for flights online. It’s interesting to see this marketing technique from the other side.
rhill's picture
RJ Hill says:
Koen, We have targeting set to the United States, and we have most of the match types set to broad. I am also not sure of Google Flight Search's functionality in Europe at this time.
Koen says:
Hi RJ, Thanks that was my guess as well, that's why I was targeting US/English/Search Network :). Not getting that many impressions (like 2 up to now), hence my questions perhaps I am missing something. Koen
Christian says:
Hi RJ, just tryed to get the whitepaper you're mentioning from Google in Germany. Unfortunately they have never heared about it and could not provide it. Therefrom I wanted to kindly ask you if you have the whitepaper and could please share it with me? Thank you
Anna says:
Hi RJ, Any chance you might share the whitepaper you mentioned that Google published on GFS advertising? Best, Anna
rhill's picture
RJ Hill says:
Anna, Google has asked us not to share the whitepaper mentioned above. If you would like a copy, I would encourage you to reach out directly to Google, and I have been told they are more than willing to send you copy. Thanks, RJ

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