It’s a Bumpy Ride for some on “Cheap flights”

The travel sector is one of the most competitive arenas on the Internet and for the most successful sites it’s certainly one of the most lucrative.

The Internet has perhaps changed the travel industry more than any other. We no longer need to visit the travel agent to help us book a holiday and a flight. We conduct the research ourselves and regularly buy separate flights either for a city break or business trip.

With the advent of budget airlines such as Ryan Air and Easy Jet, price has become one of the main purchasing factors for the online user, and the airlines and online travel agencies know it. Unlike almost any other industry, the word “cheap” is one of the most sought after and prized keywords. (“Cheap” on Google)

Dominance and Fluctuation
As you can see from the chart below, Skyscanner and CheapFlights, two of the biggest names n online travel agencies have been consistently in the top 10 over this period. Travel supermarket has enjoyed similar success other than a slight blip in November 08, a fall that Easyjet also succumbed too. What did Google dislike at that time?

Keyword: cheap flights, search engine: Google UK | period: 01/04/2008 - 14/12/2008

More gradual success has come for flights.monarch which has been climbing since it went through a URL rename in the Summer of 2008, losing ground from its previous high before that time. Most surprisingly is Ryanair, who has not appeared in the top 100 of Google UK since July for this keyword.

The dramatic drop for Ryanair may be connected to this policy to punish 3rd party screenscrapers (Screen Scraping article).

However there are other reasons we have identified that have and will continue to significantly effect their positions until modified. – Line Tracker

url:, search engine: Google UK | period: 30/06/2008 - 31/07/2008

It is interesting to note that a few similar search terms on Ryanair produced very similar trends, a climb in early July and then a drop on 24 July. This would suggest that there is a site wide issue.

Bumpy Ride
Looking more closely at the November fluctuation, we notice that a lot of brands took a hit on 8/11/08 and then more so on 12/11/08. What was Google looking at?

Keyword: cheap flights, search engine: Google UK | period: 25/10/2008 - 26/11/2008

Google Trends

Google Trends
Below shows that “Cheap Flights” as a search term has a similar search rate as “Airlines”. This shows that the market as a whole has split into two sectors. The conventional carriers tend to position themselves in the Airline section, and the travel agents and budget airlines fight it out for “cheap flights”.

What we can tell from this data however is that both keywords are on the decline from their peak in 2006. One factor could be the fact that today the online searcher is more knowledgeable and undertakes more a descriptive search hoping to get a more accurate return.

If you would like to find out more and to receive a PDF of the IP-SEO Travel Sector watch, please contact us.