Why Your Hotel Needs Remarketing Lists for Search Ads


The continued climb in cost per acquisition means your hotel’s digital marketing budget needs to be working harder and more efficiently than ever before. Your digital marketing agency should be obsessed with finding the most cost effective methods to optimize their efforts (and your budget) across all media channels. One of the more exciting and fruitful targeting options to be released by Google this decade comes in the form of retargeting for search campaigns. Officially called remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA for short), creating a remarketing audience list for your hotel’s paid search campaigns is now essential for optimization because it allows you to reengage with previous visitors to your website, which has proven to improve conversion rates and overall return on ad spend for your budget.

First, let’s start with the basics:

How to Set up Custom Audiences for Your Remarketing Lists for Search Ads

We recommend building audience lists in Google Analytics instead of Google Adwords since it gives you a far greater selection of criteria to choose from when building your audience segments. Once you are logged in, just follow the steps below:

  • Go to the Admin tab and navigate to the property for whom you want to create the audience
  • Click Audience Definitions > Audiences > + New Audience
  • Define Your Audience
    • You can choose from a number of different audience definitions:
      • Smart List
      • All Users
      • New Users
      • Returning Users
      • Users Who have visited a specific section of my site/app
      • Users who completed a transaction
SEM remarketing list

You can create unique audience lists based on user behavior on your site and then use those lists for future remarketing campaigns. Before you get started, there are a few things you should know about remarketing audience lists:

    • Audience List Definition: a collection of people who have visited your site
    • Audience lists are used for remarketing
    • The membership of an audience list has a life span of up to 540 days
    • The List needs to have at least 1000 people to target in paid search campaigns

What Audience Segments Can You Create?

The type of audience list you should set up will depend on your client’s objectives.  The most common audience list is “all users” and if you’re new to retargeting or if you have low website visitors, this is where you should start. This is comprised of any visitor to your website.  The real magic and excitement in RLSA audiences comes when you can refine your audience down to more specific lists. Ideas include:

    • All website visitors that have converted in the past X number of days (exclude them from your campaigns – if they just booked a hotel room, you probably don’t want to spend money continuing to market to them)
    • Website visitors to a specific page on your site (such as a list of only visitors who have navigated to a page about weddings)
    • Visitors who have come to the site a specific number of sessions (pick the session number it usually takes to achieve a booking)
    • Website visitors that match a specific demographic – such as gender or age specific
    • Visitors that are on a specific device – mobile, desktop, tablet
    • Visitors that enter the site from a specific source – for example only visitors that came from Facebook or your latest email campaign

To really target your most qualified users, you can segment this list down even further into specific users over a period of time that has not converted.  Typically the more recently a user has visited your site, the more likely they are to convert.

    • All Users Past 7 Days
    • All Users Past 15 Days
    • Cart Visitors
    • Visitors of a certain page on your website

These lists will also allow you to set bid adjustments or remarket with a specific offer or ad set. For example, if a potential hotel guest made it all the way through the booking process but abandoned their shopping cart just before checking out, you could use your remarketing audience list to serve them a new add with an enticing offer in order to encourage them to book their reservation.

What’s the Best Way To Structure Your Campaigns & Assign Audiences?

How you choose to structure your campaign and assign your audience lists really comes down to your personal preference and how you want to manage your targeting settings.  Below are a couple examples of how to do this.

    • If you have a smaller budget to work with and can’t come up with extra funds for a dedicated campaign just for remarketing, you can attach audiences to campaigns as bid only. This will show your ads to members of your remarketing list in addition to the users who match whatever other targeting you currently have set up on the campaign
    • If budget isn’t a hindering factor and you get a good amount of traffic to your website, then you can create remarketing campaigns for all of your custom remarketing audiences you built in Google Analytics and set bid adjustments based on priority and performance

In the hotel marketing industry, we have seen great results when utilizing remarketing lists for search ads. After reviewing data from multiple clients, we have found that they helped decrease average CPC ‘s by 16% while increasing average CTR’s by 62% and ROAS and Conversion Rates by over 100%. To learn more about our internal findings of the benefits of audience lists read our blog post about it.

Need help getting started with remarketing lists for search ads? Reach out to GCommerce today.

Increase ROAS & Decrease CPA


How much are you paying for conversions?

In a world of increasing competition, rising CPC’s, and an ongoing battle over shrinking organic impressions; every click in the Paid Search world counts. As CPCs continue to increase YOY across all industries; the battle over rising CPAs is becoming tougher for hotels to win. Are you maximizing your budget to obtain the most clicks and conversions?


We have all heard of remarketing lists for search and audience targeting, but are you effectively utilizing these tools to maximize your campaigns’ CPA and ROAS performance? If your answer is “no” or “I don’t know”, then you’re missing out one of the most effective ways to segment and target your campaigns to get more conversions for your budget.

Reviewing audience data from multiple clients, here are the results:

  • 16% decrease in cost per click
  • 62% increase in average click-through rate (CTR)
  • 103% higher return on remarketing audiences then non-remarking lists search user traffic
  • 161% increase in conversion rate

Still wondering about your bottom line? COST PER ACQUISITION (COST PER RESERVATION SPECIFICALLY) WAS 64% lower for remarketing lists for search audiences versus all search traffic.

Search Engine Marketing for Hotels


AUDIENCE TARGETING AND ITS INTRODUCTION TO SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING: As advertisers, we have the option to add specific audience targeting to paid search marketing campaigns. Google’s audience targeting was originally only available on display networks and YouTube campaigns, but in May 2017, Google expanded audience targeting to its paid search ad network. For advertisers in the hospitality industry, the in-market audience targeting options include demographics, such as age and gender.

AUDIENCE TARGETING FOR HOSPITALITY PPC: Age plays a vital part in marketing for the hotel and hospitality industry. The legal age to book a hotel room in the U.S. is 18 years old, but many hotels have the option to limit the booking age to guests who are 21 years and older. When evaluating previous traffic and booking behavior, we noticed a higher ratio of spending to revenue in people under the age of 25. Based on this information, we decided to focus our audience targeting for men and women above the age of 24. Currently, there are two different options for including audience targeting for hotels:

  • Focusing on specific demographics
  • Remarketing to the hotel’s returning guests

We focus on a few different types of remarketing. One type of remarketing is website targeting, which delivers ads to people who previously visited your website. Another form of remarketing through Google AdWords is audience retargeting to the hotel’s email distribution list. This is called Google AdWords Customer Match and includes any customer who stayed at the hotel or signed up for a newsletter. Targeting an audience that focuses on specific demographics requires an extensive knowledge of the property and the demographic groups that have the highest conversion rates. Google Analytics will track the conversions and separate each demographic group, based on age, gender, income, or location. Based on the information that we gathered for this hotel, we determined it would be most effective to target age demographics for our audiences.

THE LENOX HOTEL RESULTS: Our team at GCommerce Solutions ran a test for using audience demographic targeting within PPC campaigns for The Lenox Hotel in the Back Bay area of Boston. We completed the following bid adjustments:

  • Added negative bid adjustments of 90% to their audiences that had the lowest conversion rates (18-24 year-olds not searching for Name Terms)
  • Added positive bid adjustments of 25% to their audiences that had the highest conversion rates (45-54 and 55-65).

Our study includes data from June 11, 2017- July 20, 2017, compared to July 21, 2017-August 29, 2017. With changes in demographic targeting, we were able to better control our budget with a 5% decrease in cost per click and 7% decrease in total cost, while capturing a 4% increase in revenue for the property. The results of this test conclude that utilizing age/ demographic bid adjustments is a more accurate way to target the most qualified audience for this hotel, and allows us to increase our overall Return On Ad Spend. GCommerce recommends tracking data at the audience level to understand performance before implementing any bid adjustments. Specific adjustments and test parameters should be unique for your hotel, based on historical data. Please contact us if you have any questions about audience targeting and how you can better utilize this feature to improve performance.

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Google Hotel CPC & Metasearch for Hotels


In the world of online travel first came the search engines, then the OTAs (online travel agencies, i.e. Expedia) and most recently the metasearch engine websites such as Trivago and Kayak. Hoteliers are forced to evolve and utilize new online channels to be visible and compete effectively online.  But what is the most effective way for hotels to use these channels? Since the launch of Google’s Hotel CPC program, hotels must now use a combination of search engine and metasearch campaigns just to be visible throughout Google’s search engine features. What are you doing to ensure your hotel is visible and driving qualified traffic across these online channels? Let’s break down what metasearch for hotels means, where it fits into your online marketing strategy and how hotels can be successful using this marketing channel.


Unlike OTAs such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, metasearch engines don’t hold their own inventory of hotel rooms. Instead, metasearch engines pull data from other search engines to provide information to users about rates and availability. The metasearch engine will then direct the user from their website to the original source (i.e. OTA or hotel website) to book their stay. The metasearch engine will then receive a referral commission or CPC charge for sending the traffic to the hotel or airline website.

Examples of Hotel Metasearch include:

  • Kayak
  • Trivago
  • Google’s Hotel Ads
  • TripAdvisor
  • Hipmunk
  • Skyscanner


  • IT IS IMPORTANT FOR HOTELS TO BE VISIBLE WHERE CONSUMERS ARE RESEARCHING, FROM THE TOP OF THE FUNNEL TO THE BOTTOM. This requires a strategy that incorporates multiple channels including search engines, metasearch engines, OTAs, social media and more.  Metasearch should be viewed as another tool to gain exposure to new customers and drive conversions. Just like all tools in your hotel’s marketing strategy it should be tested and analyzed to assess if it is successful in achieving your business goals and objectives.
  • TO COMPETE WITH OTAS AND THEIR COMPETITION FOR DIRECT BOOKINGS. Similar to paid search campaigns, metasearch campaigns allow hotel’s to compete with OTAs for ad space that is critical in driving direct bookings through the hotel website. If you’re not present with ads in metasearch you are losing out on bookings to competition and OTAs. If the consumer books through an OTA you’re losing out on critical information needed to market to those guests in the future and increase the lifetime value of the guest.
  • VOICE ASSISTANT TRAVEL SEARCH IS CURRENTLY POWERED BY METASEARCH. Voice assistants, such as Alexa and Google Home, are the newest channel for search powered exposure to consumers. Currently, these devices are partnering with metasearch engines such as Kayak to provide hotel, flight and travel search results. The metasearch and OTAs are going to be the first to provide a way to enter this channel. My prediction is that if you want your hotel to be present in these voice assistant searches you’ll need to be visible through metasearch channels.
  • LOCAL SEARCH IS MOVING TOWARDS A PAY-TO-PLAY MODEL. Google is continuing to monetize search results, the most recent changes being seen in local search within the Google My Business listings and map pack. Just a couple weeks ago Google changed their map results to show rate cards directly on the map, as shown below:

Here’s another view, taken directly from inside Google Maps:


In the above screenshot, you can see two different ways Google’s monetized the local search results for hotels. The first is the ads on the far right for Cambria Hotel and AC Hotel. These ads are managed directly through Google Adwords paid search campaigns. The second is shown in the details view for Omni Chicago Hotel, which are the OTA channels displaying with rates – these ads are populated through Google’s Hotel CPC program. Google’s Hotel CPC program is a form of metasearch and managed separately from Google Adwords paid search campaigns.


Hotels can participate in Metasearch directly through their Google Hotel partner booking engine providers. The Google Hotel program requires a direct API with rates and inventory feed directly from booking engine to Google. Google Hotel CPC partners include Synxis, TravelClick and more. You can find a full list here. Pricing through your booking engine is typically set up on a commission based model that charges you a percentage based on revenue from reservations driven by the campaigns. Some also charge CPCs on top of this commission. Review contracts with your booking engine partner to ensure it will be a profitable model for your hotel.


Just like all other marketing channels and campaigns, it is important to closely monitor key performance indicators from your metasearch campaigns.

  • Work closely with your booking engine partner to ensure you are receiving reports that detail clicks, CPCs, costs, reservations and revenue attributed to these campaigns.
  • Monitor KPIs through each metasearch channel – which channels are performing best? Which ones are costing you money? Not all metasearch channels will perform the same. Make sure your booking engine partner that is managing your campaigns are shifting budget to the ones that work best for your hotel.

Have a question? We can help.

5 Perks of Using Search Keywords in Display Advertising Targeting



While advertising efforts at many companies are siloed within the different departments, the search and marketing specialists at GCommerce have been working at a more cohesive, full-funneled marketing approach. In an effort to have our search and display campaigns work more symbiotically, we’ve been utilizing search terms in our display prospecting campaigns. While bidding on paid search terms can be quite costly, our display platform allows for the ability to target up to 10,000 keywords to include or exclude for a lower average CPM than paid search efforts. While there are many advantages of using keywords for display advertising, here are a few:


Market terms tend to be more competitive and expensive – especially in highly – competitive markets such as Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. A hotel could blow through their entire budget trying to compete for terms such as “hotel in NYC” or “resorts in Miami.”When building a keyword list for a display network, it’s important to include these terms in your display advertising targeting, providing hoteliers the opportunity to serve a display ad to users who have searched for these terms within a recent window. If the user clicks on the display ad or visits the site later after remembering the ad, they will now fall into the “remarketing” category. After this occurs, hoteliers can serve these users remarketing ads in the form of social media, paid search, or another, more compelling and targeted, display ad.


Some display efforts only encompass more surface level targeting: geo-targeting, device targeting, and content verticals (i.e. the “types” of websites you would like your ads displayed on, such as technology, sports and entertainment, and music) By using search terms in your display targeting, you can ensure you’re reaching viewers who are in the research phase of their travel journey. For example, viewers searching for “flights to LA,” “Hollywood Bowl tickets,” or “hotel in Hollywood” would be more likely to book than someone who has not searched for those terms.


Who doesn’t want the opportunity to get in front of one of their competitors’ prospective clients? Keyword targeting in display ads provides our clients the opportunity to show one of their own display ads to someone who has searched for a competitor’s name. If your ads are compelling enough, this provides hoteliers the chance to make a great first impression on someone who would have booked elsewhere.



This is extremely helpful for very targeted and specific campaigns. For example- targeting for weddings can be difficult with traditional display efforts. Out of the million ad impressions you pay to serve, it is likely that only a fraction of those impressions were served to potential brides, grooms, or wedding planners. However, with keyword targeting, you can reach very qualified viewers searching “wedding venue in New York” with a beautifully crafted display ad showcasing the breathtaking venue.



If you’re a luxury brand, you don’t want to waste impressions on a viewer who is searching for a the cheapest rate– and if you’re a value-focused property, you don’t want to waste impressions on viewers seeking a luxury experience. The ability to exclude search terms is just as valuable as the ability to target them, especially as hoteliers’ average cost per acquisition continues to rise.


10 Search Engine Marketing Trends Hotels Need to Know in 2017


The top search engine marketers in the world met over 3 days in Seattle to discuss and present current and future trends within the industry, covering everything from how to obtain position 0 in the SERP to the exciting future of Voice Search and everything in between. Here’s a breakdown of what all hoteliers need to know about the present and future of search engine marketing for hotels.

  1. ROBOTS ARE TAKING OVER! EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY AND START USING CHATBOTS. It’s been proven for many years that live chat on your website boosts conversion rate but many hotels run into operational limitations. Independent hotels are stretched thin on operational staff and typically don’t have someone available to monitor and respond on their website’s live chat. There’s a solution and it’s called CHATBOTS. It’s not a new concept but platforms such as Bing are making it easier than ever to build your own. Just take a visit to The North Face or Skyscanner websites. These two sites are actively using chatbots to interact with visitors – helping them shop, find content and products as well as make purchases.
  2. START USING ADWORDS NEXT AS SOON AS YOUR ACCOUNT IS ELIGIBLE. Google Adwords is slowly rolling out access to their new version of Adwords called Adwords Next. It features a completely new user interface. While it does take a bit to get acquainted with the new layout, using the new version gives you access to important new features you can’t access in the old Adwords UI, such as promotion extensions & call bid adjustments.
  3. THE FUTURE OF SEARCH IS VOICE, BUT MOBILE IS NOW. The question on everyone’s mind and a breakout topic at this year’s SMX Advanced was “how do I optimize for voice search?” Alexa, Siri, Cortona, Google Home; there’s a smattering of new technology built upon voice search commands. The fact remains that this technology is still in its infancy and has many limitations. In an industry such as hotels where consumers rely so heavily on visual results to assist them in their research and purchase funnel, other devices continue to be more important for hotels. While voice search is something to be considered in search strategies for hotels moving forward (and there are a few tactics to help you now), hotels should be more focused on optimizing their mobile and desktop experiences before focusing on voice.
  4. LOCAL SEARCH WILL MOVE TOWARDS ADS – YOU’LL NEED TO PAY TO PLAY TO BE VISIBLE. Google reported a 53% increase in paid clicks YOY on their Q1 2017 earnings report. It’s no secret that they’re in this business for the money, they have to answer to shareholders and the majority of their income comes from advertising dollars. They’re constantly looking for ways to monetize the search results, which is evident from the evolution of the SERPs page year after year. One thing that was agreed on by every member of the Local Search Braintrust of experts at SMX Advanced was that Local Search results are going to become pay-to-play. This is apparent from the changes to the knowledge panel with Google’s Hotel CPC program that allows OTAs and hotels to present sponsored ads showing current rates, the launch of local ads on Google Maps, and their recent tests that show rates directly on map results.
  5. THE MOST EXCITING, NEW FEATURE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RIGHT NOW FOR PAID SEARCH IS AUDIENCE TARGETING. On the last day, during the last session of SMX Advanced, a panel of SEM experts sat down for a Q & A session with the audience. One of the best questions to round out the series was “what is one thing you want to do to your paid search campaigns but haven’t had time to yet”. All of the experts voiced their excitement and goals for their paid search campaigns focused on better use of audience targeting. This includes:
    1. In-market (coming soon to Google & Bing)
    2. RLSA
    3. Customer match

Enhancements to audience targeting have been a focus of Google for a while now, most likely to compete with the incredible targeting options available within Facebook advertising. If you haven’t started testing different audiences in Google and Bing don’t wait. Options like RLSA and customer match are already proving successful for many advertisers. We can’t wait to test the new in-market audiences Google and Bing will be launching this year.

  1. YOU SHOULD ALREADY BE USING SCHEMA/STRUCTURED DATA. A common theme across many SEO sessions was the use of Schema structured data markup to improve your presence within search results. From local search to voice search, all SEO experts agree – if you’re not using schema structured data throughout your site, you’re missing out on having the best-optimized pages for search engines. With such a low adoption rate by hotels so far, now is the time to implement schema structured data on your website and get ahead of the competition.
  2. GOOGLE IS NOT QUITE READY TO MOVE TO A MOBILE-FIRST INDEX. The two sessions where Google’s Gary Illyes stood up to speak were both packed to the brim, standing room only. Since what Google says is considered the holy grail of the search marketing world, a room full of SEOs waited with baited breath as he delivered cryptic statements about Google’s stance on a variety of questions. The biggest topic being the recently announced Mobile-first Index. If anything was apparent from the bits and pieces of information Gary would give up, it was that Google isn’t close to being ready to transition to a solely mobile-first index. If they made the switch now, it would risk poor results – considering many websites are still not providing a mobile-friendly experience. Gary also stated that Google may smear over desktop signals to mobile to fill in gaps of knowledge for the index. All of that being said, Google is still a ways out from transitioning to a mobile-first index and it probably won’t happen until 2018 at the soonest. So if you don’t have a mobile-friendly experience for your consumers – fix it now.
  3. SEM’S ACROSS ALL INDUSTRIES ARE SEEING INCREASES IN CPCS. It’s an unfortunate trend we’ve been seeing for clients over the past year and we’re not alone. CPCs keep going up. This was a concern voiced throughout the conference; SEMs across all industries are continuing to see a rise in CPC, most alarmingly for exact match branded keywords. These are supposed to be your most qualified, lowest cost-per-click keywords but they keep rising. One thought was that it came from a recent algorithm update in May but no one has an exact answer. It remains to be seen how CPCs will continue to rise and how much of an impact that might have on hoteliers.
  4. YOU NEED TO BE WORRIED ABOUT PAGE SPEED. There is a reason Google is pushing AMPs so much, they are worried about page speed – specifically for users on mobile devices, but it’s a true concern across devices. Any page taking longer than 5 seconds to load is too slow. Do what you can to minimize scripts, compress images and more to improve your page load time. Even minimal improvements in speed can make big differences in bounce rate and conversion rate of your website. Users’ expectations are getting even tougher; if your page doesn’t load fast enough, users are going to leave. According to a study by Kissmetrics, a 1-second delay in page response time can result in a 7% reduction in conversions (Kissmetrics Blog). Do you want to risk losing that revenue?
  5. CONTENT MARKETING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER. Content has always been important for SEO. The recent buzz word for content marketing is just a new packaging for something that SEO’s have been pushing for years. Google even came out and confirmed last year that content remains one of the top 3 ranking signals. It remains extremely important to have substantial, relevant content on your website that is valuable to your consumers. But, it’s important to remember there are no one-size/one-kind-fits-all solutions. The type of content that’s important for success differs by industry. Word content remains an important factor, with pages that rank in the top 10 consistently having at least 1,900 words (Search Metrics – Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors 2017). But it’s not just size that matters; the content and messaging also need to be relevant to the user’s intent. According to Search Metric’s 2017 ranking signals for hotel and travel websites, success is found with more image content. For hotel websites, success is more closely tied to having great visual content and great word content. Are there ways for your hotel to have more compelling visual and word content that better speak to your audience? If so, now is the time to implement it!