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Case Study





Travel Ads: How Optimizing Keywords, Bids, Tracking, and Site UX/UI Drove $2.3M in Bookings from Ads


monthly ad spend


ad spend ROI



Case Study Summary

The Challenge

The Solution

The Results

The Challenge

Our client, a regional Transportation Booking Platform (TBP), once enjoyed a comfortable position as the leading transportation service provider in it’s area. As the go-to service for visitors looking for rides to popular destinations, TBP had carved a niche in this tourism travel sector.

However, the industry landscape began to shift dramatically, with rising competition and evolving market dynamics posing new challenges. With the original Google marketing campaigns having functioned at a loss for more than three years, TBP looked to us to revamp their marketing. After looking through their account in detail, we identified three core issues that needed addressing:

Inadequate Revenue Tracking and Delayed Commissions

Initially, they found success with a simple revenue model, earning a 20% commission per ride. However, the process for collecting these commissions was inefficient and unreliable. The company depended on partner vendors to remit commissions long after the services were rendered, leading to a lag in cash flow and liquidity issues.

This delay was further complicated by their conversion tracking setup in Google Ads, which only recognized the occurrence of a booking without accounting for the varying values of these bookings. Such a system failed to show Google the difference in value between a small, less profitable sedan ride and a large, lucrative bus charter, treating all conversions as equal.

This inaccurate data fed into Google's algorithms, skewing the advertising strategy towards quantity over quality and ROI.

Disorganized Google Ads Account and Ineffective Campaigns

The Google Ads account was simply put: disorganized.

Campaigns were structured broadly, targeting generic keywords that lacked focus and specificity. This approach resulted in ads with low strength, relevance, and quality scores, making it difficult to discern which keywords and ads were actually effective.

The lack of a structured setup meant there was no clear insight into what worked and what didn’t, nor was there a foundation for scalable growth. In essence, their Google Ads strategy was flying blind, unable to target the right customers effectively or measure success accurately.

Outdated Website and Limited Booking System

The website, seemed to be stuck in the early days of the internet. Its dated appearance did not inspire confidence or trust nor was it optimized for conversions.

Furthermore, the booking system was constrained by a limited database of destinations. Customers often found their desired destinations missing when searching, leading to potential losses in bookings. This limitation not only impacted user experience but also reflected a lack of adaptability to the diverse needs of travelers visiting their regional tourist hub.


The Solution

In response to the complex challenges faced by TBP, we addressed each challenge with its own unique approach.

Google Ads Revenue Tracking

The core issue with the previous setup was the lack of differentiation between various types of bookings in their Google Ads conversion tracking. This one-size-fits-all approach led to a significant misalignment in advertising efforts, as Google's algorithms were unable to identify and prioritize more profitable bookings.

To rectify this, we introduced the implementation of a data layer within the website's backend infrastructure. This data layer captured detailed information about each booking made on the site. Key data points included the type of vehicle booked, the number of passengers, the distance of the journey, and the total booking value.

With the datalayer capturing the booking value, we then fed that data into Google Tag Manager (GTM), which subsequently pushed the booking value data directly into Google Ads. This integration marked a significant upgrade from their previous system, enabling Google Ads to optimize our ad targeting, focusing on attracting customers likely to book higher-value services, thus increasing profitability.

transportation booking platform google ads conversions

Restructuring the Payment Process

To tackle the issue of delayed commission payments, a significant backend overhaul was necessary. The goal was to automatically split the booking revenue at the point of transaction, ensuring immediate receipt of their 20% commission.

Together with their team, we helped build a payment system that now redirected the commission directly into OSS's account, while simultaneously disbursing the remaining payment to vendors.

transportation booking platform commission

This immediate allocation of funds ensured a steady cash flow, crucial for reinvesting in advertising and other business areas. The implementation of this system marked a pivotal shift from dependency on vendors for revenue to a more autonomous and efficient financial model.

Rebuilding the Website UX & UI

With the website being the only touch point with their users, a complete overhaul was necessary. The primary objective was to create an interface that was not only aesthetically pleasing but that also promoted trust and transparency while being optimized towards conversions.

Original Website:

transportation booking platform old website

New Website:

transportation booking platform new website

Prominent Booking Form: Central to the new design was prominently placing the booking form in the initial viewport on the homepage. By taking up the majority of the screen real estate, it helped ensure that the booking process was straightforward and accessible, while also reducing the number of steps a customer had to take to make a reservation.

Modern Aesthetics: The overall look of the website was modernized to convey a sense of professionalism and reliability. A clean, uncluttered layout was chosen, utilizing a color scheme and typography that reflected their brand identity. High-quality images and graphics were used to visually engage users and provide a sense of the services offered.

Building Trust and Transparency: To build trust, the homepage featured impressive statistics about the number of rides booked through TBP, demonstrating their experience and reliability in the industry. This transparency about their track record helped to establish them as a dependable service provider.

Right below the booking form we also emphasized their unique selling points. This included showcasing their cost-effectiveness, being up to 30% cheaper than competitors like Expedia, and a commitment to no surge pricing, unlike common ride-sharing services.

We also highlighted their policies around having a 100% refund and free cancellation up to 48 hours in advance. This approach addressed common travel concerns, making them an appealing choice for those seeking flexibility in their travel plans.

Broader Destination Booking Form: Addressing the restrictive nature of their previous booking system was a crucial step for us in helping TBP capture a larger audience. With many users needing rides to destinations that were not included in their original list, we sought to come up with a solution that would work for any user looking for a ride in the region.

We started by gathering data on the various destinations their vendors covered and the subsequent pricing between destinations. We then cross-referenced the locations with their corresponding zip codes, allowing us to create a detailed price matrix between destinations through their zip codes.

By doing so, they could now provide accurate and instant quotes to customers looking for rides between virtually any two points within the region. If users could not find their destination through the search function which outputs the destinations from a list, they now had the ability to simply type in the address of where they wanted to go and receive the quote and make their final booking.

Revamping Google Ads Structure

The overhaul of TBP's Google Ads account was a significant endeavor, as we basically had to rebuild their entire account from scratch.

Campaign Segmentation: The first step in this restructuring was the creation of over 50+ new campaigns. Each campaign was designed to target specific transport destinations like hotels, theme parks, airports, cruise ports and more within the area.

transportation booking platform google ads campaign segmentation

Ads within each campaign were crafted to resonate with the needs and interests of users traveling to or from those specific destinations. This included personalized ad copy and imagery that reflected the unique aspects of each location. This segmentation allowed for a more focused approach, ensuring that ads were highly relevant with a user’s searches. This allowed us to appropriately optimize ROAS and CPA bidding targets for each segment to maximize ad profit, while also allowing us to control where ad budget went by focusing on higher ROAS segments.

Campaign Keyword Strategy: A robust keyword strategy was at the heart of every campaign. Each campaign had a mix of broad, phrase, and exact match keywords to ensure maximum search coverage. The broad match keywords helped in capturing a wide array of user search queries, including those that we did not precisely anticipate. To complement the broad match approach, we also built out over 1.7 million phrase and exact match keyword variations across the entire account. This massive repository of keywords was instrumental in matching a wide variety of user search queries with high precision. It played a key role in increasing ad relevance, click-through rates, and conversion rates while concurrently reducing the cost per click (CPC).

transportation booking platform google ads keywords

Ad Extensions: Various ad extensions, such as site links, callouts, pricing extensions and more, were fully leveraged. These extensions provided additional information and interactive elements to the ads, enhancing visibility and appeal, while also improving the user experience by offering quick access to relevant pages.

Bing and Geographic Expansion

After running the campaigns for 3 months, we were able to identify the most profitable segments, which led us to expanding into other search markets and channels.

Given the roughly 5 million international visitors that visit their covered service area every year, we cloned the most successful campaigns and targeted all other English speaking countries around the world (UK, Australia etc.) as well as countries where a majority of the population speaks fluent English (Sweden, Norway etc.).

Alongside Google Ads, campaigns on Bing were also initiated. We selectively only launched our top 3 performing campaigns based on ROAS while exclusively focusing on phrase and exact match keywords, as broad match keywords were shown to be significantly less effective.

Bidding Strategy Optimization

To maximize the efficiency of our advertising spend, we employed and tested different bidding strategies on Google and Bing. This involved a careful balance between Target ROAS and Target CPA bidding strategies, supported by A/B testing to determine the most effective approach for each platform.

As a quick recap, Target ROAS focuses on achieving a specific return on ad spend. It's ideal for campaigns where the primary goal is maximizing revenue relative to the amount spent on ads. Target ROAS bidding uses historical data and machine learning to predict future conversions and adjust bids accordingly to meet the desired ROAS goal.

transportation booking platform google ads bidding strategies

Target CPA bidding aims to acquire new customers at a specific cost per acquisition. It's beneficial for campaigns prioritizing consistent cost per conversion over maximizing revenue. Like Target ROAS, this strategy also relies on historical data and machine learning to optimize bids.

In order to find the desired bidding strategy per platform, we split our campaign budget into two different sets to A/B test the performance of each bidding strategy across the account. We monitored multiple KPIs to find a winning strategy, which included conversion rate, total conversion value, average cost per acquisition, and ROAS.

For Google Ads, Target ROAS emerged as the more effective bidding strategy. After weeks of testing higher and lower ROAS targets, that would either increase/decrease volume with lower profit, we found that a ROAS bidding target between 190% to 205% was the sweet spot to generate the most profit, while still allowing to slowly scale.

For Bing, Target CPA proved to be more effective. Our A/B testing showed that a Target CPA of $35 was optimal, achieving the best balance between acquiring new customers and maintaining cost-effective ad spend.

Naturally these bidding strategies are not set in stone. As with any advertising account, we continuously monitor the performance of campaigns and adjust the settings as needed.

Display, YouTube and Social Remarketing

To capture potential customers who had not completed bookings, we also launched an extensive remarketing campaign across multiple platforms, including YouTube, Google Display Network, Facebook, and Instagram. This strategy ensured that their transportation booking service remained top-of-mind for in-market customers, increasing the likelihood of conversions.


The Results

By strategically overhauling various aspects of their business, we marked a significant turnaround and helped them gain more market share and revenue than ever before.

transportation booking platform google ads metrics december 2019 to nov 2023

Immediate Return to Profitability

The most immediate and striking result was the return to profitability in just the first month after implementing the changes. This rapid shift was a testament to the work done across every facet of their business.

Dominance with 4.8x Higher Click Share

As we continued to manage the account over the years, we transitioned TBP from struggling to compete to becoming the largest transportation provider in their region (outside of ride share apps). We increased their click share of the market by 4.8x making them the defacto leader in online transportation bookings.

$2.3M in Booking Commission Revenue

Through our work together, we helped TBP achieve a total booking revenue of $11.5 million across advertising channels, of which they retained $2.3 million in booking commission revenue. With tight margins on travel bookings, we still managed to drive 199% ROAS on average meaning they kept $1.1M in net ad profit after all expenses.

33% Lower Cost Per Booking (CPA)

The comprehensive ad strategy and optimized campaigns led to a reduction in CPA from $52 to $35, indicating more efficient customer acquisition and better use of advertising budget.

Expansion into New Geographies

With the newfound success, we recently started expanding their services to new destinations across the US. This expansion was facilitated by the scalable nature of their improved business model and the insights gained from their advertising and operational strategies.



booking commissions


net ad profit


increased click share

About the Author

rob castellanos founding partner headshot

Rob Castellanos

Founding Partner and President

@Mookie Digital

Rob founded Mookie Digital after managing a $90M+ book-of-business while employed at Google.

He leads advertising strategy and operations at Mookie Digital and is an expert in omni-channel account management across search, social, e-commerce, and video/display channels.

Date Published: 02.02.2024

Date Modified: 02.02.2024

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