Digital travel and SEO: how Skyscanner dominates the SERPs

The digital travel market has grown rapidly over the last decade. Sales in Western Europe totalled $152 billion in 2015, with the worldwide figure more than $533 billion.

Taken from the PI Datametrics Digital Travel Report, here are some stats on digital travel and SEO, as well a look at the organic search dominance of Skyscanner in this market.

What do people search for and when?

Here are the major search terms by volume. As we can see ‘holidays to..’ and ‘flights to..’ dominate.

holiday search terms

There are key seasonal trends here too. Searches tend to peak in January and July, the times when people are most likely to be planning ahead for the summer, or looking to pick up last minute deals.

search trends travel

SkyScanner’s dominance

One thing which comes out of the research is that Skyscanner is picking up much of the organic visibility around search terms in this sector, especially for flight-related terms.

The chart below uses the most valuable search terms in the online travel sector and looks at which sites are most visible across the range.

As we can see, Skyscanner is by far the most visible brand. TripAdvisor comes second, while British Airways is the only flight operator to make the top 10, the rest being aggregators.

Compt discovery

The chart below shows a number of key terms where Skyscanner (mainly) tops the organic rankings, on Bing and Google.

POSITION EXPLORER TABLE

It also has a large number of backlinks to its pages:

skyscanner backlinks 2

Here are the links to the Skyscanner New York flights page, for which it ranks at number one. Plenty of exact anchor text links there:

skyscan links NY

For comparison, here are the links to some of the rival sites for this term:

skyscanner backlinks

The caveat here is that organic dominance doesn’t necessarily mean that you become the most visible site. This is a sector where paid search plays a big role.

Indeed, though Skyscanner tops the organic rankings for many terms, it is often driven below the fold.

The recent removal of right hand side ads from desktop results and the addition of an extra paid result has made organic results less visible in competitive SERPs like these.

For the term below (flights to New York) Skyscanner has the top organic result, but has been pushed down by four paid ads and Google’s own comparison service.

skyscanner serps

According to Sam Silverwood-Cope from PI Datametrics:

“When you’re looking at individual markets (rather than just ambiguous total visibility scores, which is almost pointless), Skyscanner is possibly the best performer we have seen across any market in organic search. They own the flight sector and have near omnipresence. They’re obviously doing a fantastic job, and it’s up to the competitors to replicate the best practice and the elements behind Skyscanner’s success.”

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