Holiday component and package collection Your Holiday Booking claims to have halved its advertising spend with Google in the last year, as it switched focus to SEO from PPC.
The firm, which encompasses hotel operator, tour operator, travel agent and transfer divisions is owned by the Vertical Group and operates 35 websites.
It says the switch away from PPC has not seen any impact on visitor numbers.
“If you talk to a lot of people they say SEO is dead, it’s not. We have spent a lot of time and effort getting technically more effective in the SEO environment,” said Peter Healey, founder of Vertical.
“All of that process has been horrible because we have so many sites but we are grinding to the end of that process now.
“We have been in a state of change for a year and it’s really held us back a bit because you cannot focus on growth at the same time.
“This year will be when we manage to sort ourselves out and get the growth going. I can now see you don’t have to be totally in the pocket of Google.
“If the future of the travel industry is Google we are going to have a very tough time if that’s the only way to market.
“Endlessly paying for PPC is just nuts. We saw last year Cost Per Click double. That became a problem we had to fix or all we were doing was working for Google.”
Healey said the key to SEO was uniqueness and having a detailed knowledge of the priorities on sale, so that customers’ questions are answered.
The homeworker agents in Your Holiday Booking also have intimate knowledge of the properties and leads are diverted to the most appropriate agent.
To help SEO, Your Holiday Booking is launching a direct hotel booking service and it has introduced Club YHB, a loyalty club and affinity marketing business designed to encourage customers of one of its resorts to consider others in the portfolio.
A prize-driven campaign has generated 4,500 email addresses which Healey described as the “lifeblood” of its business.
The firm is seeing 41% of hotel bookings now coming online, achieving an average 20% mark-up.
“That demonstrates that people want to book online and it is more important for them to buy online than to ring up and ask for a discount,” said Healey.
He said the rise in online bookings over the last two years had been driven by improvements to the journey and expects online bookings to be in the majority by mid 2017.
A better payments process, particularly for mobile users, is expected to see a further jump in online sales but Healey said he did not have a particular target in mind.
“Once we get to 50% we almost have to work out a way to engage the sales team with the online booking process, maybe get them to ring someone who has booked and offer them an upgrade or book kids clubs.
“We are going to start developing this as a concierge service. We are now the customers travel arranger so how do we make them feel good about that and make some more money out if it.”