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Who is top for air travel searches on Google US and Google UK

04 September 2013, 11:41

A new study of the online air travel sector highlights the sites that are most visible when people search for air travel/flights on Google UK. It also identifies those travel brands that are most visible on social media. Skyscanner, Thomas Cook and British Airways are among the brands included in the study which covers the UK, US, German and French travel markets.


Expedia.com
is the most visible web site in Google US organic search results for air travel related searches, while Cheapoair.com is most visible in Google’s paid search results according to a new study. Content from Kayak.com is most prominent on social sites including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

And while traditional airlines such as Delta, American Airlines and Southwest appear in the list of most visible sites in organic and paid results for air travel searches, the top positions are taken by broader travel portals.

The findings come from an analysis of the search and social media performance of sites offering air travel tickets by digital marketing software and services provider, Searchmetrics. The study is Part 1 of a detailed three part report on the travel sector (with the parts 2 and 3 focusing on hotels and auto rentals respectively) analyzing the search and social visibility of brands in the travel sector in the US, UK, Germany and France.

For its study of the air travel providers, Searchmetrics analyzed which sites rank in the top 15 positions in Google’s organic and paid search results for a list of the 1,439 most popular search terms related to “flights” in US and UK English and French and German. It used this data to calculate the SEO Visibility and Paid Visibility scores – index values developed by the company to measure how visible and prominent sites are within organic and paid search results, respectively – for each site.

The table underneath shows the top 15 sites that are most visible in US organic search for the flight related search terms on Google.com (based on SEO Visibility scores). Almost the entire center field is occupied by airlines, with Delta.com followed by Southwest.com, American Airlines (aa.com), United.com, USairways.com, and Alaskaair.com. However, the top positions are taken by travel sites, with Expedia.com ranking highest, followed closely by Kayak.com, and, lower down in the rankings, Cheapflights.com.

Top sites for air travel searches in Google US organic search


“Compared with the online travel portals, certain airlines, which are ranked in the middle of the pack, could benefit if their sites were better optimized for organic search,” said Marcus Tober, CTO and founder of Searchmetrics. “Perhaps Search engine optimization is not considered as high a priority among airlines as it is among travel portals, whose business is based purely on online business. In fairness, it should also be said that online travel agencies and price comparison sites offer a broader range of flights than individual airlines. So as a result, they rank with more keywords, which have a positive effect on the SEO Visibility scores.”

“However, research shows that nearly two-thirds of US Internet users will research travel via digital channels in 2013, so it’s key for all air travel ticket providers to fight for online visibility,” added Tober.

For paid search a total of five airlines rank among the top 15 sites that are most visible in US flight related searches. However, broad travel sites – led by Cheapoair.com (15,169 index points) and Orbitz.com (13,073 points) – dominate the Paid Visibility score too (see table underneath).

Top sites for air travel searches in Google US paid search


“Some websites that achieve very good placements in the organic search results and exhibit a high level of visibility do not appear to have very much of a paid search budget at all if you look at the list of search terms in our study,” said Tober. Searchmetrics measured visibility on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest) using a Social Visibility score based on how often content from a web site is shared, liked, tweeted etc on the social sites.

On this basis Kayak dominates interactions on social networks, with an outstanding Social Visibility score of over one billion. Second by some distance is airline, Delta.com, while online portals such as Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com bring up the rear. American Airlines is the second airline to make it into the top 6.

Top US air travel related sites on social media


“Too often success on social networks is measured purely on the number of followers and fans a brand has. But social media is primarily about interaction, which is generally initiated by the users themselves. Our measure of Social Visibility takes into account all mentions of the company - regardless of whether the recommending user follows the company page or not. Although having more fans and followers can help drive social visibility, it is not the only factor,” said Tober.

According to the analysis, the most frequently shared content on social media included new offers, unusual promotions, particularly interesting flights and travel destinations as well as information on arrivals and departures.

The data for the study was taken end of June 2013 from the global search and social media database which Searchmetrics operates to power its online software tools. This is a regularly updated store of millions of data points related to web sites and their visibility in search engines and social networks.

Skyscanner tops air travel searches on Google UK
Comparison site, Skyscanner.net is the most visible web site in Google UK organic search results for air travel related searches, while travel deals site, Travelzoo, is most visible in Google’s UK paid search results according to a new study. Content from the Thomas Cook web site is most prominent on social sites including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
And while airlines such as British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet appear in the list of most visible sites in UK organic and paid results for air travel searches, the majority of top positions are taken by broader travel portals and comparison sites.

The findings come from an analysis of the search and social media performance of sites offering air travel tickets conducted by digital marketing software and services provider, Searchmetrics. The study is Part 1 of a detailed three part report on the travel sector (with the parts 2 and 3 focusing on hotels and auto rentals respectively) in the US, UK, Germany and France.

Searchmetrics analysed which sites rank in the top 15 positions in Google’s organic and paid search results for a list of the 1,439 most popular search terms related to “flights” (including words in UK and US English and French and German). It used this data to calculate the SEO Visibility and Paid Visibility scores[1] – index scores developed by the company to measure how visible and prominent sites are within organic and paid search results, respectively – for each site.

The table underneath shows the top 15 sites that are most visible in UK organic search for the flight related search terms on Google.co.uk (based on SEO Visibility scores).  Skyscanner.net is the clear leader, dominating visibility with an SEO Visibility index value of 73,801 points. Cheapflights.co.uk (66,736) is second and Travelsupermarket.com, with a significantly lower score (35,292), is in third place.

"Search engine optimisation seems to have been a high priority at Skyscanner over the last twelve months, since our analysis indicates its organic visibility has doubled over this period," explains Marcus Tober.

By contrast, many airlines do not seem to be performing well in organic search against the search terms included in the study with only Easyjet.com (19,964 points), Ryanair.com (19,705 points) and BritishAirways.com (8,854 points) appearing in the top 15.

Top sites for air travel searches in Google UK organic search


“Compared with the online travel portals, many airlines could benefit by better optimising their sites for organic search,” said Tober. “Perhaps search engine optimisation is not considered as high a priority among airlines as it is among travel portals, whose business is purely online. In fairness, it should also be said that online travel agencies and price comparison sites offer a broader range of flights than individual airlines. So as a result, they rank with more keywords, which will have a positive effect on the SEO Visibility scores.”

In paid search the best performing site for air travel searches is Travelzoo.com, with a Paid Visibility score of 9,661 points (see table underneath). BritishAirways.com is also very visible, coming in at a very respectable third place with 4,643 points, behind Opodo.co.uk (8,098 points).

Tops sites for air travel searches in Google UK paid search


To measure visibility on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest) Searchmetrics uses a Social Visibility score based on how often content from a web site is shared, liked, tweeted etc on the social sites. On this basis, the travel portals also appear to be dominating what happens on the social networks; Thomascook.com, Kayak.co.uk and Tripadvisor.co.uk are the top three sites with Lufthansa.com the only established airline site among the first five (see table underneath).  

Top UK air travel related sites on social media   


“Too often success on social networks is measured purely on the number of followers and fans a brand has. But social media is primarily about interaction, which is generally initiated by the users themselves. Our Social Visibility score takes into account all mentions of the company - regardless of whether the recommending user follows the company page or not. Although having more fans and followers can help drive social visibility, it is not the only factor,” explained Tober.

The most frequently shared content on social media included new offers, unusual promotions and interesting flights and travel destinations as well as information on arrivals and departures.

The data for the study was taken in June 2013 from the global search and social media database which Searchmetrics operates to power its online software tools. This is a regularly updated store of millions of data points related to web sites and their visibility in search engines and social networks.

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