With Memorial Day come and gone, the unofficial start of the 2014 summer travel season is here. That means it’s time for AdGooroo’s annual look at the Travel category and Paid Search.
In all, nearly 12,700 travel advertisers spent $750 million sponsoring more than 50,000 travel-related keywords on U.S. Google AdWords in 2013, averaging a 4.18% clickthrough rate and an average cost per click of $0.86.
Interestingly, in what may be a measure of Americans’ predilection for vacationing compared to other countries’, we found that Travel is only the 7th highest-spending category on Paid Search in the U.S. (see Figure 1) but is #2 in the U.K., Canada and Australia, and #3 in France and Germany. (The #1 category in the U.S. is Shopping, of course.)
Figure 1 – Travel ranks 7th among the Top-Spending Categories in U.S. Paid Search
The Top Travel Advertisers in Paid Search
The 2013 ranking of the Top 10 travel advertisers based on U.S. AdWords desktop/tablet impressions contains the exact same companies as the 2012 list. However, the order has changed.
Most prominently, hotel booking portal Booking.com shot up to #1 in 2013 from #7 in 2012, while travel-comparison site Kayak.com dropped from #1 to #5. Notably, both sites are owned by Priceline, whose flagship site, Priceline.com, came in at #3 in the ranking, a drop from #2 in 2012. Between all three sites, Priceline accounted for more than 35% of all paid search travel impressions garnered by the ten sites in the ranking.
Given its spate of U.S. television commercials over the last year, it would appear that Booking.com is making a concerted effort to gain a foothold in the American market. The Amsterdam-based Booking.com has historically been a larger player in Europe and other countries. According to AdGooroo data, for instance, in 2013 Booking.com was the #2 highest spending company on Paid Search among all advertisers (not just travel) in both the U.K. and France, the #3 highest spender in Australia, and the #4 highest spender in Germany. For comparison, Booking.com was ranked 11th in Paid Search spend among all advertisers in the U.S.—behind Expedia.com at #10.
The 20 Most Clicked Travel Keywords in Paid Search
Switching gears, we next looked at a ranking of the Top 20 most clicked travel keywords from January to April, 2014 in an attempt to gain insight into consumers’ travel plans for this summer.
Although Expedia.com was only #4 in Paid Search impressions (and spent more than any other travel advertiser on Paid Search — see previous paragraph), its branded keyword “expedia” was clicked more times by consumers than any other travel keyword. Similarly, Travelocity.com did not make the Top 10 ranking for Paid Search impressions, but its branded term “Travelocity” was the third most clicked travel keyword behind the generic term “cheap flights”.
Although shut out of the Top 10 Travel Advertisers based on impressions, brand terms for specific airlines were among the most clicked on travel keywords by consumers in the first few months of the year, including Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, US Airways and Alaska Airlines. Malaysia Airlines also made the list, although it is more than likely consumers were clicking on ads in search of information about the airliner’s Flight MH370, which has been missing since March, rather than for vacation plans.
Keywords for other travel providers made the list as well, including Enterprise (2013’s most clicked travel keyword), Amtrak, Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean.
Notably, the Top 20 most clicked travel keywords also include the terms “vrbo”, short for HomeAway’s VRBO.com (vacation rental by owner) and “airbnb”, short for Airbnb.com. Both sites enable travelers to connect with home owners wishing to rent out their properties for vacations. The inclusion of these two terms in the Top 20 ranking suggests this form of travel lodging is becoming increasingly popular, especially given that “vrbo” ranked #16 in 2014 compared to #51 in 2013 and #78 in 2012.
Where Are Americans Going This Summer?
Although none of these terms made the Top 20 most clicked travel keywords, the following ranking of most clicked destinations does give a strong indication where U.S. travels may be headed this summer. Namely, Disney theme parks, which accounted for 4 of the Top 5 terms. Also offering theme parks in Florida and California, Universal Studios was #2 on the list. For those who are perhaps not interested in a family vacation, Las Vegas came in at #6 on the list. And for travelers wishing to leave the continental U.S., Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Dominican Republic were top clicked destinations as well.