Travel aggregator sites dominate airline brands for both natural and paid Google rankings, according to a new report looking at search visibility.

The analysis by Searchmetrics also found that brands achieving high natural search rankings are taking the opportunity to limit their investment in PPC.

The study is based on analysis of how airline brands performed on Google for the 1,439 most popular search terms relating to flights. It examines results for the US, France and Germany, but for this post I’ll focus on the UK results.

And for more information on this topic, check out the Econsultancy Paid Search Marketing Best Practice Guide or our UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report.

SEO visibility

As is the case with a number of other industries, travel aggregator sites are the most visible brands on Google with Skyscanner.net and Cheapflights.co.uk topping the list by some distance.

The highest ranking airline brand on the list is easyJet which appears in sixth place, just ahead of Ryanair in seventh position. British Airways is the only other airline to rank among the top 15 most visible travel brands.

The report’s authors suggest that airlines have effectively chosen to outsource their online strategy to travel portals and invest little in boosting their own prominence in Google search results.

Paid search

Interestingly, none of the brands that appear in top five for natural search visibility achieve a similarly high ranking for paid search.

For example, Skyscanner topped the natural search ranking but comes in ninth for PPC. Clearly the brand doesn’t feel it’s necessary to invest heavily in paid search due to its strong SEO performance.

In contrast, British Airways is clearly relying on paid search to boost its search visibility and appears in third place on this list.

Link building

Tripadvisor dominates the competition when it comes to building backlinks, racking up 876,696 links compared to Opodo’s 477,485.

The report states that in the last six months Tripadvisor has reduced its number of harmful links, while disproportionately many more backlinks have been built. 

Opodo.co.uk and Travelzoo.com rely on a slightly restrained link strategy, but isolated spikes suggest that since February measures have been taken to reduce harmful links and to build backlinks that strengthen the sites.

And how not to do SEO in the travel industry…

To finish off this post, here’s an example of a travel company (an airport to be precise) implementing dodgy SEO practices. 

Whoever created this dropdown on one of Luton Airport’s pages is potentially guilty of keyword stuffing…