Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to Drive Business for Attractions, Tours, & Activities

July 30, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic wages across the globe, with some verticals in travel seeing recovery faster than others, attractions, tours, and activities are still facing hardships. As an industry that once encountered overtourism in many parts of the globe, this has been replaced by little to no tourism in some regions and an uncertain future. So, attractions need to adapt to recover and flourish, and this can often mean adjusting digital marketing strategies to get more exposure on channels you may not currently use. 

Do any of these challenges resonate with you? 

  • I need to increase advanced online sales and see a positive return on investment.  
  • I don’t have much to spend but I still want to see my marketing budget go a long way. 
  • I don’t have an online ticketing system, but need to increase quality website traffic and brand exposure. 

Search Engine Marketing Can Help 

Search engine marketing (SEM), or paid search, can get you more exposure to travelers as they plan their trip online or look for things to do while in your city. SEM is essentially an auction, where many other attractions and OTAs are bidding to have the link to their website shown at, or near, the top of the search engine results page, as well as in Google Maps. Being at the top of the search results exponentially increases the likelihood that people will click onto your website to learn more about your attraction, or book a ticket online or offline. Google Ads is often the preferred paid search platform for attraction marketers as it helps you advertise on the Google Search Network, as well as its affiliate sites, and bid on certain keywords that you believe customers may use when searching for your attraction. 

Keywords are frequently used terms that people search for. There are two types of keywords: 

  1. Brand keywords: Phrases related to the attraction’s name (e.g. Eiffel Tower) 
  2. Non-brand keywords: Generic search terms (e.g., things to do in Paris)

Search is one of the most important channels that travelers use before and during their trip, so a strong SEM strategy is imperative for attraction, tour, and activity marketers. Last year, eMarketer estimated that advertisers spent $5.84 billion on search, and attraction marketers allocated 17% of their digital budgets to SEM in 2019, according to Sojern’s 2019 State of the Travel Industry Survey. That 17% is the second largest chunk of advertising budget spent on any channel, following social media. 

“The attraction to Sojern was that it’s a smarter way of advertising with excellent return on investment. In our competitive environment, you have to work a bit better and smarter than the rest, and that’s where Sojern comes in.” – Reiner, CEO, Overland Ireland

Own the Customer Experience and Relationship from Search to Arrival 

SEM protects your brand as chances are, third parties are bidding on your branded keywords and phrases to drive potential bookers to their site, rather than yours. For example, if you’ve inspired someone through your display, video or social media advertising efforts, and they later search for your experience, unless you have a strong SEM strategy in place, that person could be driven to a third party site to complete their booking.

When your customers book directly, you own the booking experience, which allows you to connect with them before they arrive to encourage positive online reviews, upsell additional services, and reassure them about the precautions you’re taking to ensure their health & safety. Even if you don’t have a booking engine, SEM is still a fantastic way to drive high-quality traffic to your website, making it one of the first impressions a traveler gets of your tour or activity. 

What Makes Sojern’s SEM Solution Special? 

Running SEM doesn’t come without challenges. Some of the frequent issues we hear from our attractions, tours, and activities customers when running their own SEM in the past are they weren’t sure which keywords to use, they didn’t have the bandwidth to optimize their budgets over the month or to test the most effective ads, they didn’t understand the reporting and insights to ensure they were getting the most out of their SEM efforts, or they didn’t have sufficient results that drove more business. This is why working with a trusted partner like Sojern can help.  

  • Sojern’s SEM campaigns are run and optimized through machine learning that generates 100s of keywords for each campaign. This constant optimization swaps out poor performing keywords for new ones in order to drive the best performance.
  • We can ensure you’re influencing people at each stage of their path to purchase. With non-branded keywords, we can influence people to learn more about you as they begin searching for things to do in your destination, while leveraging branded keywords to ensure your website is among the first listed in the search results when someone searches for your brand name. 
  • Your SEM campaign will have a set budget each month so you’ll never have to worry about running out of budget mid-month. The campaign will be always-on, ensuring consistent brand defense against third parties and driving direct bookings to your website.  
  • Sojern is the only Google Marketing Platform Partner in travel (Google Ads Certified). This means we’re always staying up to date on best practices, new features, and updates, so your SEM campaign is always performing at its best.
  • You get 24/7 access to reporting & insights via your online Sojern account. We’ll share in-depth insights into SEM campaign performance on a keyword level so you can learn more about the ways potential customers are searching for you, including the top 10 keywords used.

“We differentiate ourselves by providing visitors with the hidden history of New York, so a strong SEM strategy is vital for my tours. There’s a lot of competition, with a lot of things to do and see in the city, and I want to make sure that if anyone is looking for a pub crawl, I’m at the top of the list. With this SEM campaign, we were focused on brand awareness, and in a short amount of time, our website traffic increased by 8%.”– Bobby Heaney, Owner & CCO, New York Crawling

Learn more about Sojern’s SEM solution for attractions, tours, and activities today.


About Christy Jobman

Christy is Sojern's Marketing Manager, US, Canada, & LATAM. She loves all things communications and she's so happy to be using the Communications/Journalism degree she earned at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. When she's not building relationships and cross collaborating to build out collateral for the sales teams and account managers at Sojern, she's coaching at her gym, dabbling in the non-profits world, exploring, and cooking new dishes.

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