What travel terms are driving traffic this summer?

Odds are that if you use the Internet and you take vacations, you visited a Travel Aggregator website this summer. These are sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity and they typically see 14% more visits in June and July than they do throughout the year, not so surprising. The more interesting issue is how we get to these sites. Usually, we click ads, use our "favorites" menu, or"”if William Shatner has done his job"”type the URL from memory.

The other 21% of the time, when we are more impervious to traditional marketing, we use a search engine. Compete.com’s new Search Analytics tool reveals which search terms drive us to eCommerce sites like travel aggregators.

Top branded terms, like "Travelocity," "Expedia" and "Orbitz," route nearly 15% of search visitors to travel aggregators. Since 68% of users who enter "Travelocity" into a search engine end up at Travelocity.com, this can be a competitive advantage. Travel sites with lower brand-awareness may invest in generic terms like "tickets," "hotels" or "travel" to increase traffic. The top five generic terms send another 4% of search visitors to these travel sites. CheapTickets.com, for one, grabs over 80% of all its search visitors from generic terms.

But, search visitors are fickle. When looking at, say, hotels, they are 14% less likely to book that room than visitors overall. Search visitors to cheaptickets.com"”who typically arrive through generic terms"”are 44% less likely to convert than visitors overall. Conversely, search visitors to the ubiquitous Travelocity are actually 4% more likely to book that room than visitors overall. So, while generic terms may increase visits to a travel site, they also decrease the overall conversion rate of that site.

The most popular (or expensive) generic search term is not necessarily the best investment for a travel site. A savvy marketer needs to connect with target markets, not create window-shoppers. And even still, simple brand-awareness remains a critical part of the mix. Unfortunately, the availability of other Star Trek actors for endorsement is currently beyond the scope of the Search Analytics tool.

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