The battle of search keywords is still the biggest battle in online travel
In rush for social efforts, hopefully travel brands are not forgetting search, which is the biggest direct funnel for transaction conversion.
The battle of search keywords is a decade old, especially in a big keyword-driven category like travel bookings, but with the rise of social the din is louder on social efforts of travel brands than the now-old-school-SEO effort. But it is worth a reminder, especially considering that travel brands — especially hotels, after airlines’ own efforts for some years — are stepping up and pushing their own brand sites in opposition to third-party booking sites like Booking.com, Travelocity, Expedia, and others.
All driven by two key macro numbers:
- Nearly two thirds of travelers are booking hotels online, with 43% of business travelers and 39% of leisure travelers booking directly from a lodging website.
- Direct bookings via brand websites are three to five times more profitable for hotels than bookings secured through online travel agencies or bricks and mortar travel agents.
So why wouldn’t you want to capture customers through the biggest customer funnel on the planet?
In the newly released L2 report on digital competence of hotel brands, the numbers on the search battle between brands and booking sites present some stark differences.
- 56% of travelers start their travel planning with search
- 62% of brands surveyed in L2 report captured more than 40% of the first page Google brand search results. Which should be obvious if they do it right and Google’s doing its job.
- While brands on average capture more than 45% of the real estate of the first page results, booking sites such as Priceline, Expedia, and Orbitz seize 15% of organic search results for hotel brand keywords.
Below is the brand wise share in search on Google, as sampled in December 2012 by L2:
Then on the big paid search engine marketing money spend side, the battle of keywords:
- Seventy-four percent of brands are purchasing against branded keywords
- Brands command 49 percent of real estate for brand terms, booking sites are not far behind garnering a third of the search results.
The chart below shows that, for now, brands are outspending booking sites on search, but Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, and their peers are also spending big money on television advertising that collectively outspends any one brand, so they can outflank the hotel brands in other ways than just search.