5 Travel Websites that Are Killing it with Search

The online travel industry is extremely competitive, and that’s an understatement. Margins can often be small, so companies tend to generate their revenue from maximizing the highest volume of transactions possible. That’s why organic and paid search traffic plays such a critical role in this industry vertical.

At SimilarWeb we often analyze the travel industry, as it’s such a lucrative, rapidly-growing industry that provides a wealth of opportunities for performance analysis. For this particular study, we looked at U.S. organic and paid marketing traffic data of travel websites for the 6 month period from (March – August, 2015). Here’s a look five websites that saw their results pay off from a combination of paid and organic search marketing.

travel sites search right


Trip Advisor

Massachusetts-based TripAdvisor holds the lead for the travel industry’s online organic search traffic. This travel recommendation site nailed it, with 205 million visits, more than 72% of TripAdvisor.com’s U.S. traffic, stemming from search. Roughly 93.5% of that traffic (193.4 million visits) was organic. The website saw serious results from its frequent use of the phrase: ”things to do in,” followed by the name of a major city.


Seattle-based travel booking site Expedia is doing something right with their SEO efforts. It received more than 29.7% of its traffic, roughly 58 million visits, from search. Some 73.7% of this traffic was organic. The company’s search engine optimization strategy focused on words and phrases that included ‘cheap,’ ‘flights,’ ‘hotels,’ ‘cruise,’ and ‘tickets.’ Expedia spent big bucks to acquire users for 26.3% of its search traffic (16.1 million paid visits) over the last 6 months, heavily targeting travelers interested in taking a cruise.

Southwest Airlines

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is doing a bang-up job generating visits from organic search. The low-cost carrier (LCC) received a sizable 24.2% of its search traffic from a combination of organic and paid search. Those searches in the recent 6-month period between March and August 2015 generated 33.7 million visits. The majority of these (90.7%) were organic, while the remaining 9.3% was heavily focused on PPC for the brand’s own keywords ‘Southwest’ and ‘Southwest Airlines,’ along with ‘airlines’ and ‘flights.’


Travel site Kayak.com generated 28% of its Web traffic from search, totaling some 32 million visits over the last six months. More than 93.5% of that traffic was organic. The company’s SEO strategy focused on words and phrases like ‘flights, ‘car rental,’ ‘airline tickets,’ ‘cheap flights,’ ‘cheap airline tickets,’ and ‘cheap hotels.’ Another 6.5% of Kayak’s search was from paid traffic. Search ads targeted keywords for hotels in Las Vegas, New York, Orlando, as well as U.S. and international destinations with beaches.


The Dutch-based Booking.com e-commerce travel site snagged 22.4% of its e-commerce traffic from search for approximately 35 million visits.  The company placed a huge emphasis on paid search campaigns that accounted for 42.6% of its total search traffic. It focused on paying for keyword search phrases like ‘cheap hotels’ and the word ‘hotel’ along with the name of a popular city or travel destination like Disneyland. Booking.com also chose to bid on its competitors’ branded keywords like ‘hotels.com’ (owned by Expedia) and ‘kayak.com.’


organic v paid search travel

Organic search is leading over paid search.  Trip Advisor is clearly the winner when it comes to this metric, followed closely by Kayak and then SouthWest Airlines. Their competitors would do well to analyze the respective marketing strategies of these three travel industry leaders in order to see how they’re each dominating a particular niche in terms of organic keyword searches.

About the Author -

Pavel Tuchinsky is a marketing analyst and blog editor at SimilarWeb. He came from the world of International Economics, passionate fan of e-commerce and technology.

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