Hoteliers often question why they should even bid on their own hotel name in paid search

HeBS Digital, headquartered in New York City, is a top digital marketing firm in the hospitality industry. HeBS employs Adobe SearchCenter+ to manage the paid search marketing of hotel brands, resorts, casinos, and boutique hotels.

Study Questions

  • How do paid search campaigns results compare before and after bid rules were introduced?
  • Is rules-based performance on paid search the way to go?
  • Can bid rules improve the outcomes in the management of SEM campaigns?

Study Methodology

This pre/post study covered a 12-month period. We randomly selected three independent hotels and evaluated the keyword performance of the hotel name campaigns for six months. After introducing bid rules, we then compared results at the end of the next six months. As these tests are very progressive, preliminary research returned no insight into best practices, conditions or parameters for these campaigns; therefore, we used intuition and years of Internet marketing experience to set three different sets of conditions.

We first created different sets of bid rules to see if there would be any meaningful results. For the first hotel case, we set the bid rule as follows: only if the keyword appears in the third position or lower (4th, 5th, etc.) on average in AdWords and has recorded 10 or more bookings initiated over a 90-day period, the budget should increase by 25 cents. Conditions for the second hotel were simpler. If the average position is lower than second on AdWords in any seven-day period, the budget should increase by 10 cents. For the third hotel, if the average position was 2.5 or lower over a seven-day period, then increase the budget per keyword by 15 cents. An example of the actual bid rule implementation in Adobe SearchCenter+ can be seen below.

Everything was kept as consistent as possible as to not influence the results. During the course of these 12 months, the overall budget did increase because there was no overall fixed budget in our study, and the campaigns were monitored, but not modified in any way to influence study outcomes. For hotel name campaigns we used ad copy that simply announced the official hotel website. By specifically testing hotel name campaigns, we limited any biases that seasonality might have played. Lastly, these hotels have small marketing and PR budgets and had no significant promotions or other activities that would have influenced the traffic to the hotel in one part of the year over the other.

Study Results

The pre- and post-bid rule performance for each hotel is illustrated in ‘Table I’ below. The results appear unanimous for all three hotels. Using bid rules in SearchCenter+ for the hotel name campaigns positively influences outcomes. Indeed the difference is dramatic when compared to the prior six months.

‘Table I’ below describes the percent change from before to after bid rules were introduced at the end of the sixth month in this 12-month study. All three hotels generated positive results from the use of bid rules after the introduction. In all cases, clicks, return on advertising spending (ROAS), cost per click (CPC), click-through rate (CTR) and average position improved dramatically.

An increase in the campaign budget was expected since the bid rule conditions set the price per keyword to increase if the search term in the campaign performed well. In each case, terms performed well and more of the budget was added to bid for higher positioning and more exposure as conversions rolled in. After applying bid rules, each hotel experienced an increase in revenue from177% to 1600%.

Also, the CPC for each keyword declined, even as much as 67 percent for one hotel. Although more money was spent for the overall campaign, the average CPC declined. The drop in average CPC suggests two things: first, the ad copy ad was strong and generated more clicks, and second, the quality score by Google rewards better performance with lower CPC.


Using evidence-based data from SearchCenter+, HeBS Digital confidently recommends that hotel marketers bid on the brand terms. The ability to manage all this was only made possible by using SearchCenter+. It is the only way to have an organized, cogent, and coordinated bid management process.

About the Author

Jason Price, EVP, and Toby Torney, Manager of the SEM Dept., at HeBS Digital, the industry’s leading full-service hotel digital marketing and direct online channel strategy firm based in New York City (  HeBS Digital has pioneered many of the “best practices” in hotel digital marketing, social and mobile marketing, and direct online channel distribution. The firm specializes in helping hoteliers build their direct Internet marketing and distribution strategy, boost the hotel’s Internet marketing presence, establish interactive relationships with their customers, and significantly increase direct online bookings and ROIs.

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