Top 15 flight searches: Skyscanner leads the way in UK

05/09/2013

Skyscanner and Thomas Cook are most visible air travel sites when people search for flights on Google UK, according to new research.

The study, from Searchmetrics, also identifies those travel brands that are most visible on social media.

The study found that comparison site, Skyscanner.net, is the most visible web site in Google UK organic search results for air travel related searches, while travel deals site, Travelzoo, is most visible in Google’s UK paid search results according to a new study. Content from the Thomas Cook web site is most prominent on social sites including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

And while airlines such as British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet appear in the list of most visible sites in UK organic and paid results for air travel searches, the majority of top positions are taken by broader travel portals and comparison sites.

The findings come from an analysis of the search and social media performance of sites offering air travel tickets conducted 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) in the US, UK, Germany and France.

Searchmetrics analysed 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” (including words in UK and US English and French and German). It used this data to calculate the SEO Visibility and Paid Visibility scores¹ – index scores 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 UK organic search for the flight related search terms on Google.co.uk (based on SEO Visibility scores). Skyscanner.net is the clear leader, dominating visibility with an SEO Visibility index value of 73,801 points. Cheapflights.co.uk (66,736) is second and Travelsupermarket.com, with a significantly lower score (35,292), is in third place.

"Search engine optimisation seems to have been a high priority at Skyscanner over the last twelve months, since our analysis indicates its organic visibility has doubled over this period," explains Marcus Tober, CTO and founder of Searchmetrics.

By contrast, many airlines do not seem to be performing well in organic search against the search terms included in the study with only Easyjet.com (19,964 points), Ryanair.com (19,705 points) and BritishAirways.com (8,854 points) appearing in the top 15.

Tops sites for air travel searches in Google UK organic search

Site/ SEO Visibility

1. skyscanner.net 73,801
2. cheapflights.co.uk 66,801
3. travelsupermarket.com 35,292
4. tripadvisor.co.uk 26,746
5. lastminute.co.uk 21,818
6. easyjet.co.uk 19,964
7. ryanair.com 19,705
8. expedia.co.uk 18,690
9. ebookers.com 13,530
10. opodo.co.uk 13,340
11. justtheflight.co.uk 10,633
12. britishairways.com 8,854
13. kayak.co.uk 7,182
14. travelzoo.com 6,968
15. farecompare.com 6,051

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“Compared with the online travel portals, many airlines could benefit by better optimising their sites for organic search,” said Tober. “Perhaps search engine optimisation is not considered as high a priority among airlines as it is among travel portals, whose business is purely online. 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 will have a positive effect on the SEO Visibility scores.”

In paid search the best performing site for air travel searches is Travelzoo.com, with a Paid Visibility score of 9,661 points (see table underneath). BritishAirways.com is also very visible, coming in at a very respectable third place with 4,643 points, behind Opodo.co.uk (8,098 points).

Tops sites for air travel searches in Google UK paid search

Site/ Paid Visibility

1. travelzoo.com 9,661
2. opodo.co.uk 8,098
3. britishairways.com 4,643
4. ebookers.com 4,360
5. kayak.co.uk 4,120
6. cheapflights.co.uk 3,451
7. travelsupermarket.com 2,826
8. lastminute.com 2,500
9. skyscanner.net 479
10. easyjet.com 341
11. expedia.co.uk 311
12. lufthansa.com 213
13. justtheflight.co.uk 44
14. lowcostholidays.com 16
15. tripadvisor.co.uk 6

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To measure visibility on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest) Searchmetrics uses a Social Visibility score² based on how often content from a web site is shared, liked, tweeted etc on the social sites. On this basis, the travel portals also appear to be dominating what happens on the social networks; Thomascook.com, Kayak.co.uk and Tripadvisor.co.uk are the top three sites with Lufthansa.com the only established airline site among the first five (see table underneath).

Top UK air travel related sites on social media

Site/ Social Visibility

1. thomascook.com 89,522,187
2. kayak.co.uk 27,506,612
3. tripadvisor.co.uk 11,655,007
4. lowcostholidays.com 4,541,062
5. lufthansa.com 4,249,002
6. travelzoo.com 3,649,531
7. easyjet.com 2,167,175
8. lastminute.com 1,050,697
9. ebookers.com 793,519
10. expedia.co.uk 689,509
11. cheapflights.co.uk 557,008
12. skyscanner.net 492,518
13. farecompare.com 285,062
14. travelsupermarket.com 81,098
15. opodo.co.uk 32,363

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“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 Social Visibility score 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 visibi¬lity, it is not the only factor,” explained Tober.

The most frequently shared content on social media included new offers, unusual promotions and interesting flights and travel destinations as well as information on arrivals and departures.
The data for the study was taken in 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 here

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