Travel website roadtest – Generations

We evaluated eight travel websites that targeted different age groups, focusing on search friendliness, content and PPC assessment


Studenttravel.com
Page rank: 4


This site is aimed at a student audience. They are generally looking for low-cost air travel and working holidays. Competitors include websites such as STA Travel, Student Universe or Student Flights.


Search friendliness
The website appears fairly well-structured and does not present any issues for the search engine crawlers – and most of the web pages are indexed in Google. However, some of the basics have not been implemented, such as the title and meta information. Most of the pages on the site have titles with no keywords for the target audience – eg. student travel, working holidays etc. The website also only has eight inbound links.
Score: 10/25


Content
The website navigation and booking process are straightforward. It may be good for the user experience but not for search tools. There’s very little content for search engines and therefore it is difficult to achieve good organic positions. The most important keywords are not well emphasised for the search engines and meta information is poor. However, the content is relevant to the student population, like visas and volunteering etc.
Score: 10/25


Pay-per-click assessment
The site is currently running a sponsored links campaign on Google, but not on Yahoo! and MSN. It uses Google Analytics to monitor traffic sources, return on investment and performance of sponsored links campaigns. The site’s only landing page is the home page, which can lead to a longer and more complex booking experience for the visitor.
Score: 10/25


Online Summary
The site is quite fresh and organised with good use of white space. However, it lacks some of the fundamentals. Use of keywords in the meta information is virtually non-existent and the site could benefit from more content explaining about the experience of working in a destination like Australia. It could also supply information and content on students forums and blogs as a way of driving extra traffic to the site.
Score: 15/25


Total score: 45



Statravel.co.uk
Page rank: 7


A well-established long-standing website, STA Travel is targeted at students wanting low-cost travel, gap years and student travel community information.


Search friendliness
The website does not show any crawling problems or issues that prevent search engine robots browsing its pages. Most of its pages are listed and indexed in Google. The website has ‘dynamic’ meta information that uses good keywords relevant to the content. Evidence suggests some of the URL’s have been rewritten in order to highlight relevant keywords. There’s a high number of inbound links making it a popular website in SEO terms.
Score: 20/25


Content
It provides rich content which, of course, will benefit the search engines crawlers when indexing the website. The content is well presented for the search engine crawlers, however it could be further optimised to improve the keyword layout and density. There’s also social networking content, (blog, review, photo sharing, video sharing) and also podcasts, RSS and even widgets.
Score: 16/25


Pay-per-click assessment
The site is currently running sponsored links campaign on Google, Yahoo! and MSN, but it doesn’t use Google Analytics to measure the performance. Landing pages are available for each continent and booking selections are clearly indicated on the home page. STA currently shows a telephone number on its ad copies, which can encourage telephone booking. It is also using a range of ad copies to enhance the click-through rate – analysis of the results can help determine how effective each copy is in driving traffic.
Score: 20/25


Online Summary
The STA website benefits from good popularity and page rank from 1,700 inbound links. There is also good enhanced information and features, such as planning your trip, sharing experiences and information via blogs, podcasts and events. The content is comprehensive for the student population. Affiliate marketing and more targeted e-mail marketing are other areas STA should consider.
Score: 20/25


Total score: 76



Club18-30.com
Page Rank: 5


Club 18-30 offers holidays to clubbing destinations in Europe.


Search friendliness
There are no crawling problems or real issues that prevent search engine robots browsing its pages – most are indexed in Google. Keywords are used in the URLs, however they are complex and need simplifying. There is some evidence of page/URL duplication, which can have a negative impact when it comes to the ranking.
There are around 130 inbound links and a linking strategy would help the website to improve its page rank and popularity.
Score: 15/25


Content
The meta information needs to be improved on the home page and internal pages with better use of keywords and improvement in the areas of layout and keyword density. There is not enough emphasis on the relevant keywords and sentences in the HTML code of the pages. The site is not very rich in content and the website is too focused on ‘clubbing/partying holidays’ – there should be more information about the destinations and activities. This will increase the range of keywords and hence its visibility. 
Score: 15/25


Pay-per-click assessment
It is currently running sponsored links campaigns on Google, Yahoo! and MSN. The ad copies used in Google are achieving a good quality score. There are no Google Analytics currently in place to measure campaign performance. There are good landing pages utilised for each destination offered, but there are no booking forms on these pages. Fixing this would decrease the number of clicks needed to book and hence increase the conversion rates.
Score: 18/25


Online Summary
The keyword relevancy and link popularity are certainly areas of improvement for the website’s optimisation. The content for the clubbing and partying scene is good. However, it has not maximised the site’s potential by providing further information and content for the visitor and the search engines. Other online opportunities include development of its Web 2.0 activities. Affiliate marketing is another area that Club18-30 should look into further.
Score: 15/25


Total score: 63



TeletextHolidays.co.uk
Page Rank: 6


Teletext Holidays offers all types of holidays and flights to a wide range of destinations. Traditionally, the brand has strong links to bargain and last-minute holiday deals advertised on TV.


Search friendliness
The site does not show any issues regarding the crawling and indexation by the search engine crawlers and most of the website pages are listed in Google index. URLs show the website is using server clustering to spread the Internet user’s bandwidth. This type of set up can be a problem as it is possible to have some duplicate content between the different clusters. It has good link popularity with 1,110 inbound links.
Score: 17/25


Content
Top category meta information is relevant to the subject on the page and some emphasis has been put on the most important keywords on the pages. The URLs have been rewritten so they include relevant travel keywords. Keyword density shows that some attempt has been made to create SEO relevant content.
Score: 17/25


Pay-per-click assessment
There are currently sponsored links campaigns running on Google, Yahoo! and MSN. These could benefit from more targeted keywords and better ad copies clearly stating which services are being offered to entice potential visitors. It should use a rotation of different ad copies in order to identify and utilise those that achieve a good CTR. There is no Google Analytics to track campaigns online. There are excellent landing pages available for the different types of holidays with a booking form on all pages.
Score: 18/25


Online Summary
Teletext Holidays clearly has an SEO and PPC strategy in place. The PPC campaign takes advantage of the creation of well-optimised landing pages with a booking form on the page to improve the ROI. The redirection to other domains is somewhat annoying. For example, when you click on the hotels tab, it takes you to partner site Thisistravel.co.uk. Other online opportunities for Teletext include Web 2.0, affiliation and CRM/data mining.
Score: 18/25


Total score: 70



VirginHolidays.co.uk
Page Rank: 5


Virgin Holidays is aimed at family holidays and flights worldwide.


Search friendliness
The Virgin brand is very strong and the website benefits from using the ‘Virgin Holidays’ keyword in the domain name. The website does not show crawling problems or any issues that prevent search engine robots to browse its pages and most of its pages are listed in the Google index. The website URLs have been rewritten to include relevant keywords. Website link popularity is average (355 inbound links).
Score: 15/25


Content
Copywriters have made some efforts to include SEO relevant content on the site. Furthermore, the website has a large amount of content for the search engines. The site shows a good layout, however the headline tags have been incorrectly implemented on images. Website’s URLs appear to have been rewritten using keywords related to each page topic. The home page meta information is well built and relevant. Meta tags are well built on the internal pages of the website.
Score: 17/25


[NB: Virgin Holidays has asked Travolution to point out it has implemented all heading images using CSS swapping which allows them to be displayed as text for readers and also enables search engine spiders such as Google to index them correctly]


Pay-per-click assessment
It currently has sponsored links campaigns on Google, Yahoo! and MSN, but not on price-comparison sites such as Kelkoo or Travelsupermarket. Virgin Holidays use Google Analytics to measure performance. There’s a good range of landing pages for the types of holidays and destinations.
Score: 22/25


Online Summary
The site benefits from its association with the Virgin brand and the use of the keywords in its web address. The site provides good content on the destinations for the Internet user and the meta information and content shows that optimisation work has been carried out on the site. It has also implemented breadcrumbs on the website so users always know their whereabouts, eg. Home->Florida->Destinations->Orlando. Affiliation is already being carried out by Virgin Holidays. Social media optimisation is another area of online marketing to consider.
Score: 18/25


Total score: 72



Titanhitours.co.uk
Page Rank: 4


Titan HiTours specialises in tours, cruises and tailor-made holidays. Titan is one of the leading escorted tour operators.


Search friendliness
The site is well crawled and most of its pages are in the Google index. Top category URLs are rewritten and use keywords within their structure. Title and meta information are dynamic and conform to the content. However, there is not enough emphasis on the relevant keywords in the content or in the HTML code of the page. The link popularity is weak with only four inbound links.
Score: 12/25


Content
The site provides summarised content on the destinations it covers worldwide. However, if you want to find out more information you need to request a brochure online. Requesting a brochure is fine for its target users interested in escorted tours, however putting some of this content online, concentrating on relevant keywords, will certainly help with its organic results. The summarised content it has on its destinations could benefit with better optimisation on target keywords.
Score: 15/25


Pay-per-click assessment
There doesn’t appear to be a sponsored links campaign and it doesn’t use Google Analytics to tracking traffic sources. There are landing pages available for destinations but no easy access to booking holidays from landing pages. PPC is an important driver of online traffic and Titan HiTours should consider doing a trial to see what kind of ROI it could achieve with its investment.
Score: 10/25


Online Summary
Titan HiTours has short summarised content for its destinations and the meta information is quite limited with a short title tag and no use of the description or keyword tags. It needs to carry out a keyword audit for its target audience and travel destinations and implement this information within the content. Content optimisation alone will not suffice as the site suffers quite badly from poor link popularity and page rank. Also, typing ‘Titan Tours’ into Google brings up Titantours.com (not related) in first position.
Score: 13/25


Total score: 50



Saga.co.uk/travel
Page Rank: 0


Worldwide holidays for the over 50s.


Search friendliness:
This is not a standalone website but a sub category of Saga.co.uk. This is a disadvantage because of the lack of page rank transferable to the travel sub category. The pages do not display crawling problems as most pages are listed in Google. SEO basics have not been implemented, there is no meta information on the pages such as title and description tags. Home page has a good layout but internal pages are poorly structured. The website link popularity and page rank is non-existent, but it benefits from the same page rank as the home page Saga.co.uk, which is six.
Score: 11/25


Content
The travel and leisure section has good content, however the meta information is virtually non-existent and there is little page optimisation on the pages. The content is relevant for internet users but there is no emphasis of the relevant travel keywords that would help the website to be better positioned in SEO terms
Score: 10/25


Pay-per-click assessment
Saga is aimed at the 50+ age bracket. Currently, there appears to be no sponsored links campaigns running and no Google Analytics tracking. Landing pages are available, which would create a good quality score. A sponsored links campaign can help drive targeted traffic into the site to help improve online conversions.
Score: 10/25


Online Summary
The Saga travelshop is a sub category of the main Saga website, so from a page rank and link popularity point of view, most of the inbound links are inherited by the main website, Saga.co.uk. For the over 50s target audience the content and information is quite rich. However, the meta information is non existent and page optimisation is poor, therefore organic listings are going to be an uphill struggle. With this in mind, the site should consider doing PPC advertising since it has a strong and trusted brand for the Baby Boomers and Silver Surfers age group. It is bound to get traffic and conversions from the PPC channel.
Score: 15/25


Total score: 46



Primeadventures.co.uk
Page Rank: 0


Prime Adventures provides adventure holidays for the over 50s.


Search friendliness:
The website does not show crawling problems or real issues that prevent search engine robots browsing its pages. Most of its pages are listed in Google. The website URLs would benefit from being rewritten to include important travel keywords in the address – currently each tour/adventure is a product-id from a database from where the content is extracted. Title and meta information are okay on the home page as well as the internal pages. Website link popularity and page rank is zero with only three inbound links.
12/25


Content
There’s not a lot of content and the keyword density of the website pages on the most important keywords could be improved. However, some effort had been made to have relevant content
Score: 13/25


Pay-per-click assessment
It is running sponsored links campaign on Google only, but has no first page coverage. The ad copies used don’t achieve a good quality score as the text used does not correlate exactly to the content on the landing page and search query. Furthermore, the ad copies don’t relate to the target audience. Using a second or third ad copy can help distinguish which ad copies are working well. Prime Adventures would also benefit from a keyword audit to ensure it is driving maximum targeted traffic from its PPC campaign. There is no Google Analytics tracking in place. There are excellent landing pages available for each continent.
Score: 12/25


Online Summary
The site could benefit from content optimisation, there is little evidence anybody has made any effort to include the right keywords in the meta information. The site clearly needs to develop a linking campaign with partners, online PR and social networking since the site’s popularity from a search engine point of view is virtually non-existent. Comfort can be taken from its PPC activities, as it appears to have identified that a PPC campaign is an important way of driving targeted traffic to the website.
Score: 15/25


Total score: 52/100



Overview:


Other than e-commerce and finance, the travel industry is a major money spender in the online marketing sector. Search is one of the main drivers of traffic, conversions and ROI and those who have a well-thought-out strategy on how best to implement the channel will be the winners online.


The generational travel sites must make sure they at least have the basics of optimisation implemented on their website. Understanding their audience and making sure they have good content with the right keywords is fundamental, but they must also ensure they have a popular website by having quality inbounds links. Good website optimisation will bring traffic and long-term visibility from the search engines.


PPC advertising is worth trialling, as measurements are easy to put in place. If it doesn’t work then you can stop. But before getting to that stage make sure you or your agency have done a good job. Carry out a comprehensive keywords audit for your target audience, write good copy in the advert, make it interesting and integrate it with your offline activities.


Segment your PPC campaign properly and have good landing pages with content that reflects the keyword search and make sure it’s clear and easy way for the consumer to book online.



About the author:


Janak Mistry is the UK General Manager of NetBooster, a European digital marketing agency with offices in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid, Rome, Milan and Helsinki.


Established in 1998, NetBooster specialises in search engine marketing, digital media planning and buying and affiliate marketing. Specific digital services include pay per click, search engine optimisation, XML traffic generation, display, e-mail, social, data mining/CRM, mobile and strategic online consultancy.


As a European Agency NetBooster have extensive experience of managing international multilingual campaigns and delivering a high return on investments to their clients using a mix of tactical and fully integrated approaches. Clients in the travel sector include eBookers, Millennium Hotels Etihad Airways and Expedia.


Listed on the Alternext stock exchange, NetBooster is one of largest independent online agencies in Europe and has shown tremendous growth with a turnover of €20m in 2006, a 119% increase compared to 2005.



Testing criteria:


Page Rank – Page Rank is displayed as a green bar to the left of a webpage listing in the Google Directory, and also in the Google toolbar. In a nutshell – the more high-quality web pages that link to a web page, the higher its Page Rank.


Search friendliness  – How accessible is the website to search engine crawlers and how does it rate in popularity (function of page rank), meta information and layout?


Content – How much content and quality information is there? Is the keyword relevancy, coverage and density good?


Pay-per-click assessment – Is there PPC advertising? How effective are the keywords and copy? Are there good landing pages to help online conversions?


Online Summary – An overall search marketing assessment, with recommendations of other channels that the site should consider.

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