We’ve enjoyed working with a Washington state kayak tour company managing their Google Ads Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising program for the last few years. We have had success each year growing their business so it seemed natural that we would have the opportunity to formulate and test a number of PPC marketing strategies in our work together. As a seasonal business, their season limited to May through September, we typically pause the campaigns at the end of September and restart with a pre-season budget early in the new year. But then this happened.
We were two months into the 2020 campaign season when the governor of Washington issued a statewide stay-at-home order. The client anxiously reached out to us to ask that we pause the campaigns while we brainstormed how we could support them through this make it or break it time in their business.
Our typical geographic target had been the entire United States and Southwestern Canada. Once COVID-19 hit, it immediately became clear that nobody would be travelling anytime soon. The overnight and multi-day tours were a no-go, and our target audience was limited to those within drivable reach.
The COVID Marketing Solution: Staycation 2020 Campaign
We came up with a solution that ultimately made for quite a successful season. We called it Staycation 2020. We knew we needed to generate all of our business from local consumers within driving distance to our client’s rental location. We developed ad copy that accomplished our goal by:
- Promoting the healthy environment of fresh sea air available in abundance
- The idea that kayaking is inherently a natural social distancing activity
- Focusing on the COVID-19 safety procedures that had been implemented
Adjustments to Our PPC Marketing Strategies Payoff
Once we had the copy strategy ready for launch, we made an adjustment in our PPC strategy by narrowing the geographic targeting to within a couple of hours in driving time to the client’s surrounding metro areas. The results were significant. Conversion activity increased by 150%. Although the client’s revenue was not impacted to this degree since the more profitable overnight and multi-day trips were not allowed in 2020, the pandemic laid the foundation for us to see first-hand how we could adjust the targeting to maximize campaign performance.
Post COVID Learnings: Our PPC Marketing Strategies
With the loosening of COVID restrictions in the 2021 post vaccine era, the client wanted to resume a nationwide visibility campaign. We opened the targeting to the 15 major metro areas that generated the most online traffic in the 2019 season.
Six weeks after the beginning of the 2021 season we studied the results of the geographic targeting, and we made some important and counterintuitive discoveries:
- Despite nationwide targeting, 95% of all online conversion activity was coming from the client’s metro area
- We then looked back at the 2019 season when we were targeting the entire U.S. and discovered that 97% of the online conversion activity also came from the client’s metro area
- We also reviewed the phone call details by location for the two seasons. In 2019, the number of minutes tracked from the client’s metro area represented 40% of the total minutes for the season. To date for the 2021 season, the client’s metro representation is 70%
Recommendation to the Client
The 150% increase in conversions in 2020 coupled with most of the conversions coming from the client’s own metro area made a strong case for us. We recommended that the geographic target be reduced to the “Staycation” model of surrounding geographic areas. The client agreed with our recommendation.
We came away with three takeaways in our work.
- Data doesn’t lie. It can be manipulated but done properly, data will lead you to better PPC marketing strategies and results.
- Your bias or misconceptions can lead to the wrong strategies; ultimately hindering results. Case in point, our client’s belief that they should market nationwide because that geographic area would produce the highest conversion rates. Fact: their metro area is the sweet spot for conversions.
- Collecting, recording, and reviewing data is the backbone for any PPC campaigns.