Is the travel king of Google AdWords? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Did Priceline’s spend the most among travel brands in Google AdWords in 2011?

If an analysis by search engine marketing firm WordStream is to be believed, then indeed was the top dog among Google AdWords spenders in the Travel & Tourism category in 2011.

If you’ve visited the Internet lately, it’s not hard to find a AdWords ad:

WordStream published an infographic (see below) on the top spenders in Google AdWords by industry and, to some extent, by brand. (And, see WordStream’s methodology at the end of this post.)

WordStream pegs Travel & Tourism as the third largest spender in Google AdWords in 2011 at $2.4 billion (behind Finance & Insurance, $4 billion; and Retailers & General Merchandise, $2.8 billion).

And, the top five travel brands in Google AdWords spending, according to WordStream, were:

  •, $40.4 million
  • Expedia, $28.9 million
  • Kayak, $28.7 million
  • Marriott, $20.9 million, and
  • Priceline (which owns, $19.6 million.

Here’s the infographic:


The WordStream breakdown of Google AdWords customers speaks to the spending power of and search-engine marketing commitments of, Expedia, Kayak, Marriott and Priceline, and it is indeed possible that was the top-spending travel brand (not company) in Google AdWords last year.

But, alternative and much higher 2011 estimates provided by Herman Leung, an Internet e-commerce and media analyst for Susquehanna Financial Group, suggest that the WordStream numbers may be low and skewed toward the US.

Leung estimates that Priceline’s brands —, Agoda, and Traveljigsaw etc. — spent about $730 million on Google advertising, including AdWords in 2011, while Expedia’s brands likely chipped in around $714 million — a virtual draw. These numbers are based on overall sales and marketing spend reported for the two companies for the first nine months of 2011 plus estimates for the fourth quarter.

But, looking to 2012, keep in mind that Expedia spun off TripAdvisor in December, which means that Expedia’s Google AdWords spend will decline and Priceline/’s spending stature will rise relative to Expedia’s.

And, think of how large Priceline/’s Google AdWords spend appears when you consider that Priceline doesn’t have a media business as Expedia did with TripAdvisor.

Meanwhile, if Expedia Inc. and Priceline alone spent a combined $1.4 billion on Google advertising last year, as Leung suggests, then WordStream’s estimated $2.4 billion figure on total Travel & Tourism spend in Google AdWords during 2011 could be low.

But, if the outlines of WordStream’s basic portrait are to be accepted, then that means that four out of the top 5 Google AdWords spenders in Travel & Tourism —, Expedia, Kayak and Priceline — are members of the Google opposition group, FairSearch, or belong to an industry organization which is a member.

It is interesting to note that Marriott is the only hotel to make WordStream’s top five Google AdWord spenders in Travel & Tourism and that no airlines make the list.

Perhaps that is one reason that some US airlines are trying to muscle online travel agencies and Kayak out of Google Flight Search. If OTAs and metasearch firms can wield their SEM clout in AdWords, then perhaps Google Flight Search would do something toward leveling the playing field for airlines, or so the thinking might go.

Since Google doesn’t break out a list of its top AdWords customers, compiling the names of the top spenders can be a complex and inexact pastime.

Kantar Media published its own estimate on top Google AdWords spenders for the first nine months of 2011. The numbers are drastically lower than Susquehanna Financial Group’s, but cover the US only.

Note: This is how Larry Kim, WordStream’s founder and chief technology officer, describes the methodology he used to come up with the numbers in the above infographic:

I compiled these revenue estimates by using our own trillion-keyword database and the Google Keyword Tool to determine the top 10 million most popular search queries in 2011, as well as their average cost per click prices as paid by advertisers. I used WordStream PPC technologies to categorize the huge keyword list by industry, such as “Finance & Insurance,” then applied a model that weighed the relative percentages of each industry’s revenue (keyword volume * average cost per click) to Google’s 2011 revenues, excluding non-advertising revenues. The top five advertisers in each industry and their estimated spend was obtained by using data from, then applying the same categorization analysis.

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Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  1. Geeft 40 miljoen dollar uit aan Adwords? · Weblog | Reismanagers

    […] basis van deze cijfers is op Tnooz een interessante discussie ontstaan over het ontstaan van deze cijfers. Hoe dan ook het blijven gigantische bedragen. Google […]

  2. Andrew

    Booking surpassed $40 million spend p.a. on Google a long, long time ago…

  3. Ian

    Dennis – one way to look at the situation is that the travel industry has funded Google’s acquisition of ITA software, yet cries foul when Google goes off to innovate the search experience for Flights or Hotels.

    Travel is one of the most complicated search verticals and you could argue that the industry has invested billions of dollars in search technology already (think, GDS, etc.). Yet for all of investment, the world’s most advanced search engine fails to give the consumer any relevant information on the most basic of travel search queries.

    Is the experience of searching for travel information online really in favour of the consumer? Who is the real winner from all of this? The consumer, the supplier, or Google?

  4. Paul Walsh

    With SPYW, Personal Search and the Panda updates all making SEO harder, as well as Google Flight Search and Hotel Finder changing the landscape, PPC is going to increase in importance in the short term as a way of getting results. This graphic is a good clue as to who is spending how much and on what, and gives hints as to how market leaders maintain their dominance.

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    […] Is the travel king of Google AdWords? [INFOGRAPHIC] I compiled these revenue estimates by using our own trillion-keyword database and the Google Keyword Tool to determine the top 10 million most popular search queries in 2011, as well as their average cost per click prices as paid by advertisers. Read more on Tnooz […]

  6. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Ian: I totally agree that Google results can be inadequate at times.

    I just don’t think it is practical for the travel industry to build its own search engine.

  7. Ian

    Dennis: I disagree – searching for travel on Google sucks and I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this.

    Case in point:

    If I type “holiday to Europe in August” I get a page full of gamed SEO results linking to OTA landing pages and a bucket of Adwords wreaking havoc on Google’s mission to “organise all of the world’s information”.

    The audience clicks on the Ads because the results are terrible!

  8. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Ian: If the travel industry invested that kind of money in their own travel search engine, they’d be throwing the money away. The only reason it is worth investing boat-loads of money in AdWords is because it has an audience and it works.

  9. Ian

    And, if the travel industry collectively invested all that money into it’s own travel search engine….


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