Expedia is top for air travel searches on Google US says new research

Cheapoair is most visible in paid search and Kayak is top on social media according to Searchmetrics’ air travel sector study

New York, New York, September 3, 2013: 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 scores¹ – 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.

 

Tops sites for air travel searches in Google US organic search

Site

SEO Visibility

expedia.com

         51,401

kayak.com

46,981

cheapflights.com

37,599

travelocity.com

30,822

orbitz.com

29,341

onetravel.com

20,917

farecompare.com

15,899

cheaporair.com

10,607

delta.com

9,790

southwest.com

8,541

aa.com

8,419

united.com

5,258

usairways.com

4,306

flightaware.com

3,859

alaskaair.com

2,528

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 2013², 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).

Tops sites for air travel searches in Google US paid search

Site

Paid Visibility

cheaporair.com

         15,169

orbitz.com

13,073

onetravel.com

9,190

kayak.com

3,261

southwest.com

2,954

aa.com

2,897

expedia.com

2,350

travelocity.com

1,424

cheapflights.com

1,133

united.com

390

usairways.com

71

delta.com

7

alaskaair.com

5

flightaware.com

0

seatguru.com

0

              

“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 score³ 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

Site

Social Visibility

kayak.com

1,287,000,000

delta.com

199, 192,000

expedia.com 

    41,661,616

orbitz.com

23,219,719

travelocity.com

     12,104,080

aa.com

10,855,197

flightaware.com

2,113,336

cheapoair.com

1,903,805

southwest.com

1,035,719

boardingarea.com

633,590

alaskaair.com

514,350

cheapflights.com

490,800

farecompare.com

285,062

seatguru.com

254,031

onetravel.com

195,746

“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 attractive 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. 

The full study can be downloaded at here.

-Ends-

¹How Paid and Organic search visibility is measured 

The study analyses the most visible websites providing air travel across Google.com’s paid and organic search results, where visibility is defined by Searchmetrics’ ‘Paid Visibility’ and ‘SEO Visibility’ scores.

Searchmetrics tracks the paid and organic ranking of millions of keywords every week.  For this analysis it calculated the ‘Paid Visibility’ and ‘SEO Visibility’ scores based on:

The number of times a domain appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs) across the keyword set related to Flights

Its prominence within those SERPs (a higher ranking equates to a higher visibility score)

The competitiveness of the keyword (higher search volumes equate to a higher visibility score)

While SEO Visibility and Paid Visibility can relate to a website’s real traffic, it is important to remember that traffic can come from many different places online. Therefore SEO Visibility and Paid Visibility are only indicators of visibility that comes from a website’s organic and paid search channels.

²eMarketer: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Slow-Steady-Continued-Gains-US-Digital-Travel-Sales/1009909

³How social visibility is measured

The Social Visibility score is based on the total number of social links (shares, likes, tweets, pins, plus ones etc) of pages from a web site by users of social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. So in the case of the air travel sector it is based on the number of links to the sites that are shared by people through social networks (the Social  Visibility score is not dependent on the links the air travel sites themselves share on their own official social pages on Facebook, Twitter etc).