Tell-Tale Signs You're Losing in Metasearch

13 Signs You're Losing in Metasearch

Even if you’re happy with your metasearch campaign performance, you might be leaving some opportunity on the table. When onboarding new clients at Koddi, we’ve seen just about every situation imaginable–from some of the most inefficient campaigns in the world to the ones where every possible outcome is covered and proactively automated.

Through all of these scenarios, we’ve identified some common pitfalls and areas for improvement. The following is a list of thirteen signs that you might be losing in metasearch without even knowing it.

  • Bid updates being made through Excel. This indicates a lack of automation and consistent decision making around what to bid, why, and when. We’ve met some of the world’s best Excel gurus and some of them have done amazing things with their campaigns, but we have yet to meet anyone that can run consistent strategies every day using Excel. Who wants to load up Excel every Saturday morning to update bids?
  • Reporting has to be manually compiled. One of my most memorable pitches involved a campaign manager that described his daily management as something along the lines of “I come in, I download all the reports, I make a Pivot Table, my computer freezes, I go outside for a smoke… I refresh my Pivot Table, I go for another smoke…” Automation doesn’t just save time, it saves lives!
  • Campaigns are running exclusively on CPA. Cost per acquisition (CPA) and commission programs have their place, but running on just CPA is basically trading lower volumes for more guarantees. We’ve handily beaten CPA volumes while running at the same or better average CPA time and time again.
  • Using a single and rigid funding source. The most effective advertisers have fluid and flexible budgets that can move across all their digital channels, not just metasearch. If your campaigns are budgeted quarters in advance and you don’t have the flexibility to shift spend to where the opportunity is, you’re simply not driving the most efficient bookings possible.
  • Single, non-localized landing page. This is an easy mistake to make and an easy one to miss because many metasearch engines localize based on where the user is regardless of which point of sale the user is trying to access. The most common conversion sin we see is where a user clicks a rate in one currency and then sees the rate in another currency on the landing page. International travelers need less complexity, not more. People like things nicely translated in their language. Localization matters, especially when users are a little higher in the conversion funnel.
  • Not utilizing differentiated rates. Audience is the new mobile. With all the major publishers giving different users different experiences based on what they know about users – loyalty status, site visitor, new to file or not – any advertiser that isn’t in front of this trend is behind it.
  • Price parity isn’t a high priority. Where are you losing on price? How often? Why? Who is beating you? How are you working with distribution and legal to maximize your parity and win percentages? This is an area where most advertisers are losing today. The smartest advertisers know the answers to these questions and have a clear plan for maximizing opportunity.
  • Unclear price accuracy response process. This is an easy one to get away with, but the costs can be significant. The cost of low price accuracy is no longer just a hit to conversion. It can mean you’re completely dropped from the auction. No clicks mean no bookings. It’s not enough to have a response team alias that you can forward issues to; winning advertisers closely watch price accuracy and have clear processes for restoring it when there is an inevitable dip.
  • Acquisition and retargeting aren’t run in tandem. Sure, it’s not totally in the scope of metasearch, but we maintain that really intelligently run dynamic retargeting is more like metasearch than traditional display. It requires great content, accuracy, and automation. The results can be dramatically improved by leveraging what you know about your business and targeting users with different experiences based on their source and intent. Showing a user a consistent and supportive message after they’ve left your site can only improve results.
  • Tests are light, infrequent, and/or inconclusive. It’s not the easiest channel to test – hey publishers, we could really use some better tools here! – but testing is possible and the results can be significant. Some of our favorite tests to run are around display text, landing pages, and how to handle users with different intent more effectively. For example, a user that comes in on a default date shouldn’t see the same experience as a user that is in-market and looking for a hotel tonight, right?
  • Bidding with default geo/language groups. All Spanish-speaking users aren’t the same. Users from Spain buy differently than users from Mexico, so why bid on them at the same rate just because they speak the same language? We often see this manifest itself in campaigns where key markets are covered by individual strategies and the other 290-ish countries in the world are grouped into another. This isn’t a bad short term solution, but if things have been like this for years, there’s a problem.
  • No process for measuring and responding to market shifts. The auction environment is not incredibly deep, and publisher click curves tend to be pretty steep. This means two things: 1) rank matters and 2) one aggressive advertiser – especially one with a lot of inventory – can move the majority of the market by bidding way up or way down. If you don’t know when and why this is happening, you can be left underdelivering or overpaying or both.
  • No budget shortage or surplus. Clients almost always give me the same look when I make a comment like… “Nobody in the world can predict an annual budget by month, a year in advance, by publisher, and get the numbers perfect.” We’re great at figuring out how much spend is required for a return, but it’s not to the penny and never will be. There are too many moving parts and factors outside of your control. A budget shortage can be a great problem to have if it happens in advance; a projected shortage means there’s more opportunity. You want to hear about that. A projected surplus means someone is watching out for your investment. You want to hear about that too. Conversely, hearing nothing about the budget for months on end while it’s hit to the penny means that there’s some inefficiency in the chain.

Just about every advertiser will be guilty of a few of these things. That’s not necessarily a problem; it’s an opportunity to continue to improve a healthy campaign. The trick is knowing where you’re losing so that you can shore up the business.

13 Signs You're Losing in Metasearch