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Why experimentation was key to Directline Flights’ Google Ads strategy

Back to all success stories

Why experimentation was key to Directline Flights’ Google Ads strategy

  • Uncover profitable new keywords
  • Increase transaction volumes
  • Improve ROAS
  • Google Ads Smart Bidding
  • Dynamic Search Ads
  • Transactions increased by 42%
  • 41% rise in conversion value
  • 6% increase in Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS)

“For us, budgets aren’t important. It’s about whether we’re making money or not. That’s how you scale up, and that’s why Target ROAS and Automated Bidding to a set of objectives is very attractive.”

- Matt Adams, Director, Directline Flights

About the company


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About the goals

Directline Flights has always experimented with new strategies to expand its reach and grow the business. But the company has usually done its Google Ads testing manually, in house. This is because, as director Matt Adams puts it, “manual bidding meant direct control over budgets, spending and return on investment.” However, when their dedicated Google Account Manager suggested trialling Google’s Ads Smart Bidding Strategies to focus on specific business goals, Matt saw an opportunity.

The next stage involved Google “consulting with us about our goals and what we were trying to achieve”. For Matt this was key, because “Not all businesses are the same". The process had to be a tailored approach.” It soon became clear that Directline Flights was less worried about having tight control over budgets and costs, and more concerned about reaching larger numbers of their target market, in order to expand and improve profitability.

About the investment

The first key product in this new strategy was Google Ads Smart Bidding, set to a Target ROAS. This tracks conversions to adjust bid levels and maximise returns, automatically tweaking parameters to deliver the best results. But manual adjustments could still be made: so Directline Flights remained in control of every element.

Dynamic Search Ads were also used to experiment with search terms in order to identify fruitful new keywords, as well as any that had been missed or were being underutilised. This would give the company insights into the types of search that led to conversions for them and the types that didn’t. It also revealed granular trends in searches that occur at different times of year.

Search Ads

Google Ads allows you to place search ads according to keywords, which are words or phrases describing your product or service that you choose to help determine when and where your ad can appear.

Learn more about Search Ads



increase in transactions


increase in conversion value


increase in ROAS

Directline Flights saw an 11% increase in their Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) figure by the end of the first week using the new strategy, settling to a long-term rise of 6%. The quality of conversions also increased markedly, with conversion value rising by 41%. The latter figure particularly surprised Matt, who hadn’t realised the value of some of the keywords identified by Dynamic Search. By taking risks and experimenting, he said, “the automation also uncovered more keywords for us, alongside hidden user intent that we wouldn’t expect from just looking at those keywords.”

Using Target ROAS also helped Directline Flights adapt to the seasonality of their business. The travel industry is usually busier in summer and during the holidays, but by identifying and investing in keywords that deliver customers at times when fewer people typically travel, the process helped build business throughout the year. The sheer volume of experiments required to find those diamonds in the rough is, Matt says, “something we’ve attempted to do with brute force, manually, and it hasn’t really worked. So this has unlocked something we couldn’t do before”. .

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