Booking.com’s Search Strategy Deserves 5 Stars

Hotel Sign

Image from: Hotel Image / Shutterstock

Very few sites can boast the enviable curves, and pitch-deck-esque trend lines of Booking.com’s traffic.

UVs to booking.com

With more than quintuple the amount of traffic from June 2 years ago, Booking seems to have the online traffic acquisition game pinned down.  This should come as no surprise considering Booking.com falls under the Priceline.com umbrella, another perennial powerhouse in the Online Travel Agency category.  As long as consumers continue to love a good deal (I don’t see this trend ending anytime soon!), there will always be a place for companies willing to help them, and Booking.com has just the recipe, with more than 200,000 hotels to choose from, worldwide.

Let’s take a look in Compete PRO, and see where Booking is getting all this traffic:

Search Referrals to Booking.com

Another enviable trend line, we can see Booking is doing a great job in the search game, and as their search traffic has grown, the chasm between paid & natural search has widened.  While it’s always nice to have a great paid search strategy in place, Booking.com seems to have a good handle on how to grow organically, as well.

Daily Search Referrals to booking.com

A quick peek at their top 5 keywords reveals some interesting insight into Booking.com’s online power.  Unlike many other online brands, which rely heavily on branding to drive traffic, 3 of Booking’s top 5 keywords are fairly generic, non-branded terms.  Those of us who work in the search marketing field know this is no small feat, especially considering keywords like “cheap hotels” are extremely competitive online.  To put this in perspective, I took a look where else you can expect to land if you do a search on “cheap hotels.”

Daily Keyword Destinations for cheap hotels

Here, I’m looking at a broad match search for any keywords containing “cheap hotels,” and we see similar results.  Booking.com sits firmly atop the field, with almost 10% of the searches taking shoppers to their site…a nice position to occupy against sites like Kayak & Hotels.com.

This is quite interesting, as it seems Booking.com has chosen to rely much less heavily on branding than other sites in the space, yet still manages to crush it in search.  In fact, a quick search on Moat.com shows 0 results for display advertising for Booking.com online.  I would guess they’ve got some display tucked away somewhere, but it certainly doesn’t appear to be a top priority.  All that said, we do see some very nice traffic coming from their brand terms.

This begs the question “could Booking.com grow even faster if they decided to build their online brand presence further with some advertising campaigns outside of search & affiliate programs?”  They’ve obviously assembled an all-star team for their search department.  Would a similar strategy with more traditional advertising avenues translate into more exponential growth?

What do you think?  Is this an “if ain’t broke” situation, or should Booking.com be looking for more ways to keep that trend line looking like a ski slope?  Hit me on Twitter @tkeene6, or shoot me an email at tkeene@compete.com.