There are never a shortage of factors contributing to travelers’ interests in and perceptions of destinations and one needs to look no further than keyword searches to illustrate this point.

Bloom Consulting, which has done previous country branding rankings, took a new approach to ranking which countries have the strongest brand reputations with its latest index released this month. The company used search engine data to rank 180 countries according to their worldwide popularity.  

Bloom Consulting gathered 1 billion online search keywords to rank countries in five categories: tourism, investment, talent, exports and national prominence (see charts below).

Here’s an example for the tourism category:

“Turkey ranks highest for ‘Visits’–does this mean that ‘Visit Turkey’ was a more popular search than ‘visit (any other country)’?” the index states. “Broadly speaking, yes. In the [index], the sub-category ‘Visit’ covers a range of generic search keywords that are related to things to do, places to visit, tourist attractions, etc. For example someone may search for ‘best things to do in Turkey,’ or ‘Turkey top tourist attractions.’  Out of all countries, Turkey has the largest amount of generic visit-related searches.”
 
“In comparison, Austria also has a lot of tourism-related searches, but most of them are specific, for skiing and mountain sports. This gives people a clear picture of ‘what Austria is,’ and a clear idea of its tourism offering. The concept is that all these actions/policies etc. trigger proactive interest. If you don’t Google, who cares? Whatever people see in the first pages of Google will influence their perceptions of a country.”

The U.S. has the overall strongest brand based on search data, but it’s China that dominates with economics searches related to tourism.

Japan ranks in the top five in three of the five categories and is number two overall, number nine for talent searches and number eight for investment searches and has done well with previous country branding rankings in the past. Interestingly, the U.S. is first or second in every category except tourism, which includes keywords related to leisure and entertainment, outdoor activities and religion.

Chart 1: Overall. The U.S. has the overall strongest country brand for tourism when considering all five categories.

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Chart 2: Exports. For export-related searches, China is number one, followed by the U.S. and Japan. Related keywords include company and brand names, export policies and “made in.”

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Chart 3: Investment. As with exports, China, the U.S. and India had the most investment-related searches as it relates to tourism. Keywords part of this category relate to a country’s economy, investment incentive, tax policies, natural resources and overall business environment.

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Chart 4: Tourism. Interestingly, of the world’s four most-visited countries (France, the U.S., Spain and China) only Spain and France are in the top five countries with the most tourism-related searches, though Italy essentially sells itself. Keywords for this category are related to leisure and entertainment, outdoor activities and religion.

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Chart 5: Talent. The U.S., Canada and Australia rank at the top for talent-related searches for work and study and living/expat opportunities. Related keywords include “jobs, internships, universities and housing.”

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Chart 6: National Prominence. The U.S., Australia and Japan had the most searches related to their culture, sports, national celebrations, arts and political stability. Related keywords include “team names, Olympics, political leaders and pop culture icons.”

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Source: Bloom Consulting

Photo Credit: Country flags as brands. Steven Feather / Flickr