The search marketing pros at Ayima have been monitoring the state of SEO in the US/UK travel industry over the past year – and it’s ain’t pretty for the legacy brands.
The proliferation of travel aggregators in 2012 has delivered a body blow to the entrenched travel concerns, making it increasingly difficult for airlines and hotel brands to secure a sizable SEO market share. Price comparison websites are also doing a fastidious job at staying ahead in the vaunted SEO rankings.
The report, released earlier this summer and available here, provides an in-depth look at the SEO rankings of some of the biggest travel brands in the industry.
By accumulating and parsing endless reams of search data, Ayima has been able to provide the competitive rankings according to specific search terms. Each website is assigned a Traffic Score metric for every relevant term, which is calculated using the ranking position, estimated clickthrough rate, and Google-reported traffic.
The most trafficked terms are below, and the sites that ranked highest for the most searched terms have a higher Traffic Score. By assigning a value to each term and each position, Ayima is able to track position over time.
The results are deliciously geeky, and provide some very micro insights into the SEO landscape.
The travel aggregators and price comparison sites are doing an excellent job with their on-page SEO, something that the legacy carrier and older companies with legacy systems have more trouble with.
The hotel sector is up first, with the clear winners in the United States being Choice Hotels and Marriott. They have seen giant increases in their relative scores and positions, whereas La Quinta and Hilton saw enormous drops in the efficacy of their respective SEO strategies.
When considering the top 10 hotel websites in search, only one actual branded hotel website maintained a position in the top 10. The OTAs are simply destroying hotels in search.
The news isn’t much different across the pond in the UK. All of the websites have a negative score, demonstrating that they have all dropped in domain authority and search rankings.
When considering the change between 2011 and 2012, the UK chains maintained spots in the top 10, but dropped considerably. This slide in position is a warning sign, especially when compared with what happened in the US. In 2013, it’s likely that all hotel websites will have dropped out of the top 10 in the UK.
Moving on to the airline sector, the airlines look a bit healthier on the surface. Link authority is derived from the number of backlinks, which the legacy carriers are dominating – likely because they have been around much longer.
However, the overall SEO dominance of the OTAsÂ diminishesÂ the importance of domain authority in a cohesive SEO strategy. The online booking engines are simply doing a better job at maintaining a defensible position in search engine rankings.
SEO is also a continually evolving process – this is a channel that must be managed as any other, and is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Successful travel companies optimize regularly, and look to the following strategies for improvement.
For on-page SEO succes, companies should:
- fix website issues, such as internal redirects, bad URLs and errors, optimizing URL structures
- consider international SEO, and optimizing translated content for local markets
- generate content that promotes an SEO strategy
While for off-page SEO, companies must consider:
- fix broken links to renew their SEO value
- develop programs that leverage PR and outreach to generate the valuable backlinks that drive off-page SEO
- citation link conversion
- future impact of social media likes, +1, and follows as signs of authority and trust – in addition to backlinks
David Burgess, of Ayima, explains further:
“The major brands have huge authority in the eyes of the Search Engines but suffer from technical issues relating to ageing websites, CMS platforms and multiple site migrations over time. Understanding how to harness the domain authority, resolve the technical issues and devising long-term SEO strategies is the best way to halt the power shift and return a brand to a market leader.”
Travel websites, including airlines, OTAs, startups and any other company that derives profit from search traffic, must use all available data to analyze the impact of their SEO strategy on their business goals. Rankings change quickly, and a gentle slip can quickly develop into a free fall.