Cheap Flights: Keyword Targeting Challenges

If your business is geared around selling flights to consumers on the Internet, one of the first priorities of your marketing campaign should be to choose the best keywords to target consumers. Google AdWords allows advertisers to choose keywords to represent their businesses, with more popular and obvious keywords costing more each time consumers click on them. For instance, the keyword phrase “hawaii vacation” may cost around $3 each time a consumer clicks on it, whereas the phrase “kauai trip” may only cost 5 cents. [1] By choosing a set of low-cost, highly-targeted keyphrases like “kauai trip” for your AdWords campaign, you can save money while directing more people to your website.

A Long Tail Approach to Keyword Marketing

The concept behind the “long tail,” as it relates to keyword marketing, is that more people will be looking for less popular phrases than a standard probability graph might indicate. The name comes from the fact that a probability distribution graph has two parts – the high-probability spike, and the long tail as probabilities slim. Keyword pricing is based on traditional popularity distribution, but customer behavior indicates that more people choose items in the long tail.

Cheap Flights and Keyword Marketing

This would appear to indicate that when targeting consumers in the cheap flights segment, it is more important to target based on specific desires than on broad phrases. This is often counterintuitive to what a marketer might think. For instance, “cheap flights” might be the first keyphrase of choice. However, this phrase is relatively common and may end up costing more than you want to spend per click. If, instead, you choose specific cheap airlines, such as “air newzealand,” “jet2” and “cathay pacific,” or if you choose nonobvious ways of saying “cheap flights” such as “low cost airlines” and “discount airfares,” you will pay less per click and get more customers. [2]

Lower Search Costs Offers Higher Results

Typically, in an environment where people are not as knowledgeable about a searched-for product (i.e. cheap flights), it is more beneficial to spend money on higher search costs. [3]. However, as the Internet is more prominent in people’s lives, the overall knowledge of what is available and what people want seems to be rising. As a result, lower search costs are more economically sound for businesses to utilize [4 – Bakos], especially when advertising in electronic markets such as the World Wide Web. It follows, then, that choosing less expensive search terms, which rely on customers to be informed, is a smarter marketing decision when marketing over the Internet. This brings us to the notion of intent-based advertising.

Intent-Based Advertising and Cheap Flights Keyword Targeting

When people search for products online, they do so with a certain level of intent. This differs from traditional advertising (content-based) where people don’t have any intention of making a purchase prior to seeing the advertisement. As a result, the customer is already informed to a certain extent of his purchase options. The customer reveals a need through a search engine, which makes targeting much easier, especially when it comes to targeting for cheap flights. Does the customer want to go to a certain location, for instance? Does she want to use a certain airline? Is loyalty program going to affect the decision making [5] Keyword targeting should take the customers’ intent into account. Narrower key phrases are typically less expensive, and a cheap flights provider will be better off purchasing keyphrases like “cheap flights Australia” or “low cost air new zealand flights” rather than simply “cheap flights,” because the customer’s intent to buy increases with narrower keyphrases. [6]


[1] Joshi, A. and Motwani, R. (2006). “Keyword Generation for Search Engine Advertising.” ICDM.

[2] ibid. p. 4[3] Varian, H. R. (1980). “A Model of Sales,” American Economic Review, 70(4), 651–59.

[4] Bakos, Y. (1997). “Reducing Buyer Search Costs: Implications for Electronic Marketplaces,” Management Science, 43(12), 1676–1692.

[5] Greenwood, R. (2011).  “How Frequent Flier Programs Influence Air Fare Choices”

[ 6 ] Cornière, A. (2008). “Advertising on a Search Engine: How to Target Consumers?.” Paris School of Economics.

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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