Meta-search site Skyscanner and digital marketing specialist Kenshoo say their collaborative 'sandbox' approach to keywords has helped them achieve some remarkable early results.
David McLean, head of search at the Edinburgh-based flight comparison site, said this has given it greater confidence in pursuing its ambitious international expansion plans.
Earlier this month Skyscanner announced a trebling of its Asia Pacific numbers and plans to open an office in the US on the back of a 65% jump in revenues.
Central to the Kenshoo strategy was a ‘keyword sandbox’ concept - basically a virtual play area in which keywords are tested.
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Skyscanner had a number of key objectives, the main one being increasing traffic while reaching marketing spend limits and ROI targets.
Secondly, the firm was targeting rapid overseas expansion meaning PPC campaigns had to be easily replicable in new markets.
McLean said: “Most partners will be very good at either getting you traffic or ROI but adding in this spend target and not exceeding it was a third element.
“Additionally to that we needed to expand into new markets very quickly and carry over learnings from the current markets in which we operate.”
McLean said with a small in-house marketing team of six people Skyscanner needed technology that was collaborative, and that formed the background of how the concept of the keyword sandbox was devised.
The Kenshoo Portfolio Optimizer (KPO) bid manager automates a process that is traditionally carried out manually. McLean said there was some sensitivity at Skyscanner about its account structures, which this keyword sandbox addressed.
“We developed this thought of let’s have a sandbox, and we can play with it, do it for a little while and see if it works,” he said.
What it allowed Skyscanner to do was determine which terms it should be including in its more structure, more cost-effective exact match campaigns.
A process of throwing thousands of terms into the sandbox is gone through every month of the year, except January when turn of year advertising campaigns set the scene for what customers will be searching for.
“The first time we did this for some of the markets we had 20,000 or 30,000 keywords we were adding to the sandbox every month.
“Because we have honed the process that’s down to under 10,000 keywords we are looking at. The ones that perform well we move into a structured campaign. Every time we go through this process there’s a step change in ROI.”
To prove the results were no fluke Skyscanner looked at its business in France where, due to stiff competition, it had always struggled to achieve good ROI.
“It has completely changed our strategy in France. Previously we were restricted in what we could spend because we were not making enough money.
“Now we are able to put in three or four times the amount of spend because we can see that return.”
Skyscanner has implemented Kenshoo’s technology on 20 of the 50 markets it currently works in.
Not all of those markets are managed and some the site is more interested in growing its profile and presence before adopting a more structured approach.
The strategy is also helping Skyscanner benefit from second language sites in existing markets, like Polish in the UK and Catalan in Spain.
Kenshoo chief marketing officer Aaron Goldman said the partnership with Skyscanner showed how technology can speed up the way new opportunities can be exploited.
“But at the end of the day we still need to bring knowledge of the business to bear. We can build a race car that drives super fast but without a skilled driver you are going to veer off a crash.
“Skyscanner are among the most sophisticated and innovative users of Kenshoo. The way that the tech is built is to continue to learn, change and adapt. What works today may not work tomorrow but the same principles continue to apply.”
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