America is heading to Disney…or Vegas ?

January and February have traditionally been strong months for catalog shopping, and now e-commerce, but they are also a time when thoughts turn to spring break and summer vacations as antidote to the mid-winter blues. According to AdGooroo’s research, 943 travel keywords (KWs) were ‘Googled’ in the US over 10,000 times per day during the months of January and February 2012. In fact, these leading travel terms yielded an estimated 2.4 billion searches (!) during the period, or more than 7.5 searches for every man, woman and child in the US (not counting searches on Bing, AOL or Ask).

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This search activity reveals much about where and how America hopes to unwind in the months ahead. For instance, the two most popular searched locations occupy polar opposite positions in the American psyche: Disney and Las Vegas. Fully 6.0% of the searched terms corresponded to a Las Vegas attraction or hotel, versus Disney properties at 5.2%. But Disney led in terms of total searches (7.3% vs. 6.3%) and paid search click-throughs (7.3% vs. 4.3%). Las Vegas searchers had a distinctly lower CTR (3.2% vs. 4.8%) perhaps reflecting a lower need to conduct detailed research and the likelihood that the organic ads contained sufficient information, i.e. the phone # of the hotel or box office, to satisfy the searcher.

Almost a third of the KW terms searched during the first two months of the year specified attractions or destinations in the Lower 48 states, while 14.6% pertained to ‘overseas’ locations (including Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean). The Lower 48 states enjoyed 2.45 times as many search impressions as the overseas locations, but only 2.04 times as many paid search visits due to a lower average CTR (3.4% vs. 4.1%). Presumably, the more exotic and less well-known locations required more online investigative research.

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Caribbean locations, including Puerto Rico, registered more searches and paid click-throughs (3.5% and 3.3% of the top KW total, respectively) than any other overseas locations, while Nevada and Florida dominated the domestic searches and paid click-throughs.

Transportation—planes, trains & automobile (rentals)—was the most-searched and clicked Travel topic, ahead of Lodging and named Destinations. Cruises ranked in fourth place, ahead of specific Attractions, travel Packages, Booking sites, Passport issues and named Events, e.g. Mardi Gras. The highest click-through rate (9.8%) belonged to travel Packages, perhaps driven by comparison shopping and return site visits. The lowest click-through rate (2.7%) belonged to Booking sites (Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity), probably because these services enable comparison shopping within site and, once registered, visitors would be likely to bookmark such sites to simplify their return visits.

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Finally, the lingering impact of the recession was clearly evident, as 10.0% of the terms searched and 13.3% of the actual searches implied deal-seeking, containing words like coupon, discount, cheap, low price and deal. The Transportation searches were the most likely to include deal-seeking language (31.7%), while the Package searches were next (27.9%) at 2.4 times and 2.1 times average, respectively.