Tim Frankcom – Web provides window of opportunity

While the web is now widely acknowledged as a fantastic way to reach a mass audience, to look at the web purely as a distribution channel is a myopic view of Internet marketing. Travel advertisers who are using it in this way are only seeing part of the picture and failing to see the long-term benefits.

One example of this is the travel marketer who only looks at the immediate conversion on a search term. Recent research from ComScore, Media Contacts and Yahoo! Search Marketing in the US shows that in around 40% of cases the consumer process from initial research through to purchase can exceed one month. So, it is crucial to keep your brand front of mind and to use a variety of marketing channels to highlight its distinctions.

What Yahoo! believes, and a recent Harris Direct study has now confirmed, is that viewing branded adverts has a direct impact on search behaviour and interaction with the brand’s site. This isn’t necessarily anything new, but it is concrete evidence that proves advertising on websites which possess an engaged audience can provide huge benefits to the advertiser.

The research revealed the following results: 61% increase in sponsored search ad views; 249% increase in clicks on sponsored search ads; 139% increase in clicks on sponsored and algorithmic search listings; and 91% increase in activity on the advertiser’s site.

Of course, ad placement and targeting remain critical success factors. The Internet has significantly evolved since its key selling point was solely the ability to track advertising response rates.

One of the next developments due off the Yahoo! product conveyer belt is behavioural targeting. In a nutshell, this means exploiting expertise in both search and content and being able to provide advertisers with a more holistic view of how users spend their time with us, based on a combination of terms being searched on, pages being visited, and ads users are clicking on.

As 75% of Internet users are online everyday, the web now plays a key part in most aspects of the user’s life. Online travel companies can monitor user interaction across the whole spectrum of online products and channels – from photos to search, games and communications and community-based activities – and can offer the advertiser an incredible opportunity to target a precise consumer group that fits with their brand. And advertisers can now refine their advertising strategy to achieve very specific objectives.

Some 63% of the UK population is now online, and people are spending 26% of their media time online on an average weekday, making the Internet the third most-consumed medium. At the same time travel research and booking are among the most popular online activities. Yet, still, online advertising only accounts for around 8% of overall ad spend, although this is likely to increase again significantly in 2006, with one report suggesting a jump to more than 13%, overtaking national newspapers.

Advertisers who take advantage of the new opportunities Internet advertising offers and adjust their ad spend to fit with consumer media engagement patterns will benefit from lasting relationships with their audience.

What’s more, those who seize this opportunity will gain a massive long-term advantage in terms of market share. New tools such as behavioural targeting will mean that initial intelligence will generate further insights ad infinitum.

Those who continue to view the Internet purely as a distribution channel and fail to see the further benefits of online advertising will be left playing catch-up for a long time.

Tim Frankcom is general manager for Yahoo! Travel Europe

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