Search trends: How Page 1 of Google has changed for travel brands

Jun 21, 2018 | Search engine marketing

In both mobile and desktop searches for travel, Google now shows on average 8.8 organic blue links on page one (down from the traditional ten), according to new travel sector-specific research.

The study, by Searchmetrics, indicates that more and more space on the first page is taken up by universal search box-outs such as Knowledge Graphs, images, mobile apps and maps, which catch the eye and often attract high click-throughs from travel searchers.

18% of desktop searches for travel related keywords include images results on page one and 65% show Knowledge Graphs¹ (which can include facts, images and links that Google pulls from websites it trusts). 23% of mobile searches for travel trigger maps results while 32% include AdWords ads appearing at the top of the page.

The following is a list of the most important box-outs and integrations that appear on Google’s first page for travel searches, according to the Searchmetrics study: Universal Search – Travel. The research analyzed the search results for thousands of manually verified travel related search terms (such as ‘last minute flights’, ‘vacation rentals’, ‘vegas hotels’, ‘cheapest flights to Europe’ and ‘budget rental car’) and noted how frequently the various universal search box-outs appear.

Google Universal Search in the Travel Industry


Desktop Mobile
No. of organic results 8.8 8.8
Images 18% 15%
Videos 6% 6%
News  20% 16%
Maps                                  17% 23%
Google Shopping 0% 0%
AdWords (top) 15% 32%
AdWords (bottom)  9% 7%
Knowledge Graph 65% 22%
Direct Answers 4% 0%
Mobile Apps n/a 4%

“Getting onto Google’s first page for important search terms is a necessary goal for all travel brands, and the universal search elements offer an additional way of appearing there,” said Marcus Tober, Founder and CTO from Searchmetrics, “Travel marketers need to understand which universal search integrations commonly appear for the keywords and topics their target customers are searching for and optimize their web content to increase the likelihood that Google will feature it.”

Here are five key findings from the Searchmetrics study.


23% of travel search results include at least one maps box-out on mobile phones (nearly 17% on desktops). The information in maps usually comes from companies’ Google My Business pages so travel marketers need to make sure their page is well optimized. This includes ensuring all fields are completed with comprehensive up to date information, including images and videos. You can also create posts to the page − to highlight special events or sales periods − which can sometimes show up in Google maps. The more reviews and comments you get, the more chance of Google listing your Google My Business page in maps results.


18% of desktop travel searches include at least on images box (15% on mobile). To optimize for images, travel brands must use high quality images on their site and ensure that image file names, image titles and alt attributes include words that are relevant to the topics that are being displayed (so that Google’s web crawlers can better understand what they depict). Images file sizes should not be too big as this slows down page speeds and puts Google off including them. And images should be integrated in the website’s sitemap, which makes it easier for Google’s crawlers to find them.

Knowledge Graphs

Knowledge graphs appear in 65% of travel searches on desktops (22% on mobile) so they represent a significant opportunity for travel brands to get onto page one. Google pulls the information and images used within knowledge graphs from Wikipedia, an organization’s own website or Google+ page and its Google MyBusiness listing as well as including links to its social channels and contact details. As a brand, you need to be sure to have an up to date, active presence on these sites with good quality, relevant information. Information that is well structured, with headings and bullets is more likely to be used. Encourage reviews and ratings as they are often included in a company’s knowledge graph listings

News results

Google displays news results for 20% of travel searches on desktop (16% on mobile). If you are a travel business, it’s important to recognize that your competitors in search are not just your direct business competitors but also sites such as travel publications which provide travel related advice, information and news.  You should try to build relationships with key media in your part of the travel industry and send them your news and information. That way you’ll have a chance of featuring in news results.


32% of travel searches on mobiles include at least one AdWords ad at the top of the page (15% on desktops). If you are not a big travel brand with large budgets to devote to paid search advertising you need to be smart about finding search terms to bid on that are not highly competitive but are just right for the audiences you are targeting. Continuously test and adjust your landing pages to make sure the content generates high conversion rates from AdWords traffic. But in the end, the more successful you are in organic search, the more you can spend in paid search to leverage both channels and gain the maximum in terms of traffic.

¹Google Knowledge Graph is a system that Google introduced to enhance search results by providing popular facts, images and links about people, places and things alongside its traditional results. On desktops and tablets the Knowledge Graph is displayed on the right next to the organic search results; on smartphones the display is above the search results.
As well as the travel-specific universal search study, Searchmetrics has released similar universal search studies for a number of other vertical industries including retail, media, finance and medical sectors. These can be downloaded at [registration required]:

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