Search Offers Competitive Advantage to the Travel Industry

Written by on March 19, 2013 in Search Management Strategies, Uncategorized - Comments Off

The web has become central to consumer vacation searches, from the researching and planning stage to the booking process. Travel companies must maximize user experience online if they want to be competitive.

Just think of how many keywords were plugged into search bars across the web for March Break and summer vacation  plans alone. The travel e-commerce industry is booming, and it only continues to grow. For the full year of 2012, U.S. travel e-commerce sales reached $103 billion – an increase of 9 percent over 2011.

How Does It Work?

Search for the travel industry is all about delivering enjoyable discovery experience and about matching user needs to the most suitable destinations. User needs can be determined  based on profiles that are developed using demographic attributes, such as family size, children’s  age group, income level, ethnicity, etc. In addition to this, user  contexts such as location, time of year and even personal interests can be used by the search engine to refine the matching process.

User Experience

It’s not only crucial that these searches return relevant results, but the sites must provide rich content, such as photos, videos and written descriptions – and the pages must load quickly, too. If users are not finding relevant, timely and fulfilling results in their travel searches, they will not hesitate before moving onto a competitor’s site.

According to a report by Ness Software, titled The Optimization of Site Search in the Travel Industry, “People visit travel websites primarily to book a flight or make a car or hotel reservation. As such, search is dually important: it is central to the customer’s experience and key to site performance, and consequently the conversion of ‘lookers’ to ‘bookers.’”

Search Analytics and Optimization

With the latest advancements in search engine technology, sales and marketing analysts can monitor what happens when visitors arrive on a website, what they do when they’re there, and how they interact with the content.

They do this by looking at particular pockets of data, such as:

  • The percentage of visitors that leave without visiting any additional pages (high bounce rate)
  • The percentage of visitors that are converted to buyers by actually booking or buying online.
  • The average time each visitor spends on the site
  • The number of pages visited per session
  • The number of users that manually block the site from their search results
  • The volume and frequency of interactions via social media

Search marketers can then take this data and use it to transform their search marketing strategies.

Presenting Richer Content Via Federated Search

Travel site search experience can also be immensely enhanced by federating results from social media, reviews and even historical backgrounds. Social media is taking on a strong presence in marketing budgets across the travel industry. When content generates “buzz” in the form of likes, comments, shares, +1s and tweets, it not only increases exposure of social platforms but also directly impacts web rankings in universal search results.

There are many sites that provide high quality reviews of a destination city and many more that offer historical background and points of interest  of a given location, city or country. Travel sites can make use of search federation to include such review, points of interest and  historical background information content along with booking information. This will help visitors make informed decisions and the search experience more enjoyable.

The travel companies that implement a search strategy which is both manageable and efficient are not only going to discover a competitive advantage over their rivals, but they’ll also benefit from the return in consumer confidence.

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