A study from search agency Greenlight into how Brits use Google natural search to find hotels has shown that major chains and big name OTAs are facing stiff competition in the rankings from lesser-known websites.
The rankings are based on a 30-day period in June and July. Around 3.4 million hotel searches were carried out for 115 popular city destinations using 1,200 key words. Appearing on the first page of results counted as visible.
The report’s authors were taken aback by some of the findings. The third most visible site is eslworldwide.com, which appeared on 35% of the search results. “This is a result that has almost come out of nowhere,” the study said. “This would suggest recent involvement in some particularly aggressive and ambitious SEO.”
Eslworldwide is bettered only by TripAdvisor and HotelClub, which appear on 52% and 47% of searches respectively. TUI Travel plc’s laterooms.com is fourth with 31%; yahoo.com completes the top five with 17%. Most of the big online agencies appear in the top 60. Lastminute.com’s 15th place is quite respectable compared with Expedia’s 24th position. Noticeable by their absence are Opodo and ebookers.
The first hotel brand dotcom to make the list is Hilton.co.uk, which comes in 17th, with Starwoodhotels.com and Marriott.com making the top 20. InterContinental doesn’t make the top 60.
Greenlight was also surprised to learn that, “the hotel sector is unlike many others where we commonly see just a few keywords responsible for leveraging the bulk of audience search behaviour.” It refers to this as “keyword spread”.
The most used term is “London hotels”, which was keyed into the Google search box 140,000 times. London-related searches accounted for 9% of the total during the period.
The agency suggested that “link equity” can make the difference for a site, in a sector where search-engine friendly content is relatively easy to assemble. “The top-ranking sites pursue these kinds of strategies aggressively and comprehensively at a location by location level, hence their considerable success,” Greenlight says.
As always, external factors such as seasonality and product range will impact how well a site performs within the parameters described above. But the fact that sites no-one has really heard of do better than the global giants is an interesting leveller. If only there were similarly detailed studies into conversion rates.