With spring having well and truly sprung and temperatures reaching a balmy 20 degrees this weekend, it’s hard to remember that this winter it rained for almost three solid months.

But we were quickly reminded during our annual review of travel search data, when we spotted a huge leap in CPC and impression figures over January and February 2014. 

It’s not unusual to see an uplift in impressions and CPCs at the start of the year as the British public looks to escape the freezing winter but such a significant leap was certainly worth a second look.

It isn’t difficult to understand why. The greatest deluge in 250 years was clearly driving fed-up Brits to book their escapes in droves.

Even more interesting from an industry perspective is that, although impressions for January and February skyrocketed, clicks and CPCs didn’t show the same jump.

This suggests that advertisers didn’t quite maximise the opportunity to target consumers searching for holidays online. 

Beyond suggesting advertisers increase spend over this period as a matter of course in the future, which is not a very sophisticated approach, how can this information be used?

The key is to be reactive. Once you have this valuable insight into how UK consumers are reacting to changes in weather, it’s important to act on it quickly.

Make sure that you’ve reduced budget on keywords that might not be performing as well and use this saving to boost those that are doing better. It’s also important to match your creative copy to the user, reflecting external events that might impact whether they click or scroll, such as the weather. 

We know the more hyper-targeted and personalised an ad is to a specific user, the more likely they are to click through and convert. This could explain why we didn’t see the same uplift in clicks that we saw in impressions.

The story could have been very different if this sort of data had readily available to advertisers. We’ve already seen the first step towards audience data being combined with biddable media through the success of Facebook Custom Audiences, where advertisers could target individuals on Facebook based on their gender or age. 

Google’s move to Enhanced Campaigns has also signalled a shift towards targeting users based on the device they’re searching from, giving advertisers an additional layer of insight.

This is a good start, but we expect this to be the year that we see search bids combined with an even richer level of real-time contextual data.

For example, travel companies could automatically bid up if they know there’s been a drop in temperature or if it’s raining heavily in one area for a long period. For January and February 2014, this could have significantly boosted CTRs.

With search marketers always looking for the next way to squeeze additional ROI from their search campaigns, we will also see the integration of this kind of contextual data into search.

Users don’t search in a vacuum and are influenced by a range of different factors, including time of year, season, weather but also events going on their own life. This can affect how they react to an ad and the advertisers who succeed in the next couple of years will be those who can predict these reactions and serve ads based on this. 

There are tools that can offer this level of real time information so advertisers aren’t caught out in the rain again.

But it doesn’t just stop at weather, data about TV schedules, sports scores, stock market fluctuations, and other contextual data can be incorporated into digital marketing campaigns to make sure brands are maximising their spend.

Brands like EasyJet are already doing this well. By identifying which times of day their customers are searching and using this insight to optimise bids accordingly, it was able to grow bookings by 29%.  

As contextual data becomes more and more readily available and consumers demand a more personalised experience online, advertisers will have to rise to the challenge and to use this data to capture their attention.

So the next time it rains cats and dogs, they’ll be ready to optimise their bids in the right areas and make the most of the opportunity.