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How Mr & Mrs Smith Bookings Grew 1068% (in spite of Covid)!

By Phil Jenson – Head of Client Success
December 14th 2022

Search Machines were approached by the luxury hotel website Mr & Mrs Smith who had struggled to get their PPC marketing to work for a number of years. Prior agencies had failed to achieve the growth required and were failing to reliably hit the ROI target. 

In a partnership that has now spanned 5 years, Search Machines have increased Mr & Mrs Smith’s non-brand bookings by over 1,000% percent! 

In this article we share some key insights from this amazing journey.

2017-2020 Client Goal: Maximize non-brand booking growth at ROI of 1.1

During this period their goal was to aggressively grow non-brand conversion volume with a ROI just above breakeven.  

In order to achieve this goal, we started with a detailed analysis of the client’s accounts. This highlighted three significant issues: 

  1. Inadequate keyword coverage of existing hotels
  2. Unexplored areas of new traffic
  3. Inefficient bidding due to poor segmentation of traffic

The Search Machine Solution

The first two issues were resolved using Search Machines’ software ATLAS. We utilized its ability to crawl Google for all the relevant traffic, understand it, and then generate super specific ads. We explored both the existing hotels and new untapped areas of demand.

In tandem with this, we needed to create an account structure to enable efficient bidding. ATLAS can rapidly create optimal account structures and so we were able to deploy fully fledged campaigns within a few weeks. 

The impact was instant with 168% growth in the first month vs May 2017.

We then carried that growth forward achieving 1068% growth by Jan 2020. And then covid happened! 

2020-22 Client Goal: Maximize non-brand booking growth at as high a ROI as possible.   

In response to the pandemic the brief from the client changed.

We needed to help rebuild booking volume but at as high a ROI as possible within their budget.  

Throughout this incredibly turbulent time we helped to bring booking volume back to pre-Covid levels at an ROI of 2.2, twice the previous target.

Online travel agents (OTAs) faced many challenges around the pandemic but the three biggest for search marketing were:

  1. A radically higher and highly volatile cancellation rate.
  2. Limited availability as travel opened and everyone wanted to go on holiday.
  3. How to respond to travel restrictions being imposed and lifted? 

We love a challenge, and this is how we applied ATLAS’ capabilities and our data science expertise.

High and volatile cancellation rates  

We worked with the client to calculate their true cancellation rate taking all factors into account. Our cancellation model then fed into the ROI calculation. That meant we had to absorb a 3x higher cancellation rate into our ROI target. That simple change ensured we were delivering genuine returns that the business could bank on.

Limited availability 

The availability question seems simple: Don’t market hotels that don’t have availability.  

But the hotels were available some of the time. So, what factors made a hotel’s availability too low? How full was too full? What if a hotel was full but website visitors then had go on to book a different hotel?  

A thorough statistical analysis enabled us to develop a simple model to determine when a hotel’s marketing should be paused or re-enabled. Those results were fed into ATLAS so that hotels and destinations would be automatically paused and re-enabled as the situation changed. 

That in turn enabled us to maintain conversion rates and volume even in the worst moments of room shortages. 

Constantly changing travel restrictions 

The changing restrictions were a great example of the need to follow the data not the crowd.  

As restrictions for a country were imposed the knee-jerk response was to pause marketing for that country. Makes sense until you look at the data. It turned out to be exactly the wrong thing to do. 

Our analysis showed customers booking immediately after a restriction were much less likely to cancel.

Why? Because they were booking in full knowledge of the restrictions – they were not going to be negatively surprised.

That insight enabled Mr & Mrs Smith to continue marketing and finding good low cancellation business even in the midst of the chaos. 

We then leveraged ATLAS’ capability to rapidly create new account structures to create an agile structure that allowed us to turn marketing off and on at a very granular level when needed.

This is just one example of how Search Machines works with clients and their marketing teams to drive consistent year on year growth. If you would you like to see what Search Machines could do for your marketing, then please contact us for a free product demo. 

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