turkish airlines marketing strategy
eCommerce Intelligence

Turkish Airlines Growth and Its Global Expansion Strategy

December 3, 2018 | Updated July 5, 2022
  • Turkish Airlines has sacrificed attention to its home country in favor of expansion to Russia, Germany, and other countries.
  • The airline shifted its paid acquisition strategy by decreasing its investment in paid search and increasing display ads.
  • Offline focus on brand in countries where it seeks to grow has yielded positive results, with a 42% increase in direct traffic.

Turkish Airlines, the national airline of Turkey, has become one of the biggest airlines in the world. They have recently suffered a slight decrease in worldwide traffic. In the past three months, they have accrued 13M monthly visits, down from 14.3M monthly visits over the same period of time last year. However, that might just be due to an adjustment of focus. Most of that loss has actually come from its local market, but they are showing significant growth in other geographies.

Expanding Beyond Turkish Borders

While Turkish Airlines currently flies to 230 international destinations in 119 countries and was the airline that serviced the most countries as far back as 2013, there has been a recent uptick in web traffic stemming from outside Turkey. In fact, the US, Germany, France, and especially Russia, all sent more traffic to turkishairlines.com than they had before. This may have come at the expense of their local traffic, which decreased 20% over the same three-month period a year before.

Over the past year, Turkey went from bringing the airline’s website 63% of its traffic to just 55%. Other countries have increased by upwards of 2.5 percentage points of traffic share, with Russia showing the most growth when it comes to share of traffic.

To gain a better understanding of what happened to turkishairlines.com, we can dive deeper into its user acquisition strategies both at home in Turkey, and abroad.

Turkey: Less Focus at Home

Over the past year, turkishairlines.com lost 1.9M visits per month in its core geo. Upon analyzing their traffic sources, we find that this decrease is a result of a variety of changes, but mostly because of a significant decrease in paid search. The traffic from this source dropped 74%, from an average of over 600K visits a month, from August 2017 to August 2018, to no traffic at all from September to October 2018.
Most of this loss in paid search traffic was related to branded searches, with only 11% of paid searches being non-branded. However, this remains a significant change in strategy, which has had a clear effect on the business.

The airline might have been relying on their established brand recognition to pick up the slack, but they didn’t find success there either. The strength of the brand usually correlates to direct traffic, which dropped 34% YoY.

There is a chance that this is all part of the company’s global strategy. Turkish Airlines is clearly focusing its attention and budgets on other countries and, if losing some traffic at home is what it takes to become a global brand, then they might be willing to make that sacrifice. Backing up this assertion is the overall increase of web traffic to Germany, France, and Russia, who have gained 21%, 54%, and 200% respectively.

To Russia With Ads

Turkishairlines.com has had Russian traffic triple over the past 3 months, compared to the same time period in 2017. Web traffic going to the site from the Russian Federation is up from 160K monthly visits in Aug – Oct 2017, to 488K in the past 3 months.
On top of that, traffic growth in Russia is multi-channeled. Every one of the site’s top traffic sources is showing significant growth, especially direct, search and display ads.

The most impressive change comes from the direct traffic source, which increased 40.6% YoY. We hypothesize that this may be due to an investment in offline branding, like television commercials, billboards, or radio advertisements.
Combining this with an increase of 22.6% in organic search and a 16.5% increase in paid search, it becomes apparent that Turkish Airlines is investing in growth both online and offline in Russia. Additionally, while negligible in total volume, display ads showed a 660% growth, which means that the company is ready to spend big in order to garner more traffic in the region.
While search traffic showed the most significant growth in absolute numbers, the type of search traffic remains the same. There remains a high proportion of search traffic coming from branded keywords, which is approximately the same as it has been over the past 12 months.
On the other hand, display ads have seen the most significant relative increase and have in turn changed the most strategically. Most of the site’s display networks have changed over the past year, with its primary partner, Adriver, being completely dismissed altogether. The display network was replaced by several others, especially ADFOX, Yandex Direct, and medialand.

Germany & France: Tapping Into Western Europe

Both of these countries sent much more traffic to turkishairlines.com than they did in the year prior. Web traffic from Germany increased by 21% and France grew by 54%. These percentage increases may not match that of Russia, but the absolute numbers are staggering.
Looking deeper into traffic sources in these two nations, we spot a familiar pattern. There is an abrupt and absolute halt in paid search traffic, coupled with an over 5X increase in display ads traffic. This is similar to the trend seen in the site’s home country, Turkey. Although, unlike in Turkey, this wasn’t accompanied by a decrease in direct traffic.
In both countries, we also see a significant increase in organic search traffic. However, when you consider the concurrent decrease in paid search traffic, this may simply be the same searches moving from paid to organic.

The increase in direct traffic, by 11% in Germany and 42% in France, highlights that the site is making some significant offline efforts to maintain traffic. Turkish Airlines is balancing that out with an increase in display ads in both countries, with web traffic from the source increasing 517% in Germany and 753% in France.
However, the ad networks used in each country vary. In the last 3 months, they have been using a distinct mix of ad networks in each neighboring country, showing a diverse and complex display strategy, specifically molded to each country where they advertise.

Going Global Takes Sacrifice

Looking at all factors together, it becomes clear that turkishairlines.com is in the midst of an attempt at global expansion. The airline is focusing its marketing budget on countries outside of its primary region, with most of its top 10 countries showing dramatic growth.
While completely dropping paid search has been a part of this strategy, it has been coupled with an increase in display ads.  This increase has allowed the site to utilize country-specific tactics, using the display networks that work best for them in each country where they seek to expand.
While a core growth geo is Russia, Turkish Airlines shouldn’t lose focus on Turkey, because traffic from the country is declining dramatically, and not just from paid sources.

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