Last week, during the Google Performance Summit 2016, Google announced a wide number of new features, changes and capabilities to AdWords, Google Analytics and Double Click, including the official release of the Analytics 360 Suite and “mobile-first” interaction with users and advertisers.

Google Performance Summit is Google’s annual event for key AdWords and Google Analytics customers, where new features, products, and research are shared.

With mobile being the focus, there were several takeaways that will have major implications for both airlines and the travel industry as a whole.

Destinations on Google

Google launched a mobile-only search tool called Destinations on Google that functions like a digitized travel agent: fast, comprehensive, and scary intuitive. It will allow users and future travelers to narrow down where, when and how to travel.

Google is trying to reach those users in the initial phase of the purchase funnel, providing the “best option” of where to go. Destinations provides travel suggestions based on real-time pricing data coming from Google Flights and Hotels search for the most affordable fare in the next 6 months. It allows the user to input budget parameters and sort by interests to offer an unparalleled source for trip ideas all in a scrollable mobile experience.

Google Destinations Functionality

Source: Google

Users have the ability to book their flights and rooms on Google’s Flight and Hotel search tools with options from Google’s direct partners. Currently Hotel Ads are available in this search tool, where advertisers have the option of showing Ads beside what Google is presenting as the best option. The question here is, are Flight Ads next? Will OTAs and MSEs be able to reach Destinations on Google to get flight bookings?

Book on Google

Since July 2015, travelers have been able to book hotels on Google Search, Google Maps and Google+. The “Book on Google” initiative allows users to select the property and rate they want, and then book the room directly with the hotel without ever leaving the page.

This capability will be available now for flights with a “branded” experience from the airline. Despite the fact that the airline will keep the customer information, the customer won’t potentially get lost in the switch from Google to the airline’s booking engine. This will limit the user to experience the branded experience from the airline, and more importantly, the airline won’t be able to offer any ancillary products and services. Will improvements in conversion rate – Google’s main goal of this initiative- compensate for any possible decline in ancillary revenue and branded experience?

Google has become increasingly present in the airline industry, and is clearly looking to make itself known as a power player.

New Ad Formats and Capabilities

For the last month, EveryMundo’s airline clients have been testing longer text ads across devices. Last week, Google announced Expanded Text Ads will be available to advertisers later this year and are here to stay.

Expanded Text Ads

Source: Google

By  having two 30-character headlines, the messaging strategy of an airline can be emphasized more than the description, which will allow airlines to more accurately convey their intent in those headlines.

As for the new 80-character description line, it acts similarly to how an organic meta description would. With text ads now having more characters, the description line can be more of an actual description rather than just including the targeted keyword and value-ads.

In addition to Expanded Text Ads, Google presented new capabilities for Ad Customizers. Currently, Ad Customizers, which integrate dynamic price insertion for our customers leveraging FareNet, need to run concurrently with static Ads. In the near future, static Ads won’t be necessary and advertisers will be able to set a default variable just in case the dynamic value is not displayed.

Finally, tailoring a message for different audiences and abandonees though RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) will be possible without duplicating campaigns. “Ad Variations” will now allow advertisers to target Ads to specific audiences lists.

New Bidding Capabilities

Finally, advertisers can include bid adjustments by device type, including tablet. In addition, instead of desktop being the only base for bid modifiers, mobile and tablet can be the origin. Also, bid adjustments will also have a wider range, from -100% up to +900%, compared to the current +300%.

In theory, Google is not advocating going back to having multiple campaigns targeting different devices. This change will just give advertisers more control over device-level bidding.

Different features that were available only for Display, will now be leveraged in Search. The first new feature called Similar Audiences for Search will give advertisers the capability to create new audiences based on existing ones that are related to the user behavior, interest and affinity from those users that already visited the advertiser site.

The second format is called Demographics for Search Ads. This feature lets advertisers set bid modifiers on the Search Network for both age and gender.
Controlling device-type strategies will be also available with Google AdWord’s flexible bidding strategies. Advertisers will be able to set up different CPA and ROAS targets by device. In addition, a new feature called “Black-out dates” will give the option to exclude specific dates, such as promotions or tracking issues, to avoid the algorithm to take into consideration while setting up bids based on historic performance.

Redesigned AdWords User Interface

Google presented a full redesign of the Google AdWords Interface based on Google’s design language, Material Design. Today they will begin introducing a small number of changes to that interface. However, over the next 12 to 18 months, areas of the redesign will roll out to select advertisers — big and small — for testing and feedback based on the capabilities they are using. The official, global release is expected by the end of 2017.

In addition to a more dynamic and user-friendly platform, the new interface will also offer new capabilities such as:

  • Graphical snapshots of performance, including dashboards integrating custom dimensions at a glance such as Day & Hour, Ad Scheduling, Location and device performance
  • Historical Quality Score Reports
  • Campaign groupings with performance target integration to evaluate how advertisers are performing relative to their targets
  • Conversion Integration from CRMs such as Salesforce

Here Comes Google (Again)

Each of the changes that Google announced last week at the Google Performance Summit 2016 will be rolled out in the coming months. While these advancements are exciting to advertisers, Google is also sending a strong message to airlines and online travel sites that mobile is the backbone of their current and future strategy and that they intend to be a major player in the world of air travel eCommerce.

Google is now diving head first into the travel space and will be directly competing with the OTAs and MSEs for traffic and ultimately conversions.  With their expertise in digital technology, don’t be surprised to see Google quickly become the leader in online travel traffic acquisition and ultimately, conversion.