OTAs Lead Top Travel Advertisers in Paid Search

It will soon be Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the summer travel season, and that means it’s time for AdGooroo’s annual Travel and Paid Search report.

In total, 14,932 travel advertisers spent $927 million sponsoring 50,000 travel-related keywords via U.S. Google Desktop & Tablet Search in 2014, averaging a 6.40% clickthrough rate and an average cost per click of $0.95. (These figures do not include Mobile Search.)

The largest percentage of Paid Search spend, 43% or $397 million, comes from the Travel Comparison Sites subcategory, which is primarily comprised by online travel agencies (OTAs). Hotels & Resorts advertisers were the next biggest Paid Search spenders in 2014 at $161 million, followed by Tourism, Attractions & Travel Guides ($137 million) and Airlines ($63 million).

Travel 2015 Travel Sub-Category Spend

Online Travel Agencies Lead

This is the third year since 2012 that AdGooroo has ranked the top Travel advertisers by Paid Search impressions and each year the ranking has been exclusively composed of online travel agencies.

Travel 2015 Top Advertisers of 2014_AdGooroo

At a high level, 2014’s Top 10 tells the recent story of the Travel industry itself: consolidation.  All ten of the sites in the ranking are owned by one of four major Travel companies: Priceline Group (Booking.com; Priceline.com), Expedia, Inc. (Expedia.com; Orbitz.com; Trivago.com; Hotels.com), TripAdvisor, LLC (TripAdvisor.com; BookingBuddy.com) or Fareportal, Inc. (CheapOAir.com; OneTravel.com).

It was a fairly even match between Expedia, Inc. and Priceline Group in 2014 when comparing the two companies' brand sites in the Top 10. Both companies’ Top 10 sites, in fact, garnered nearly the same number of Paid Search impressions, 1.2+ billion, respectively. Expedia's figure does not count Orbitz, however, which was not acquired by Expedia until 2015. With the addition of Orbitz, Expedia, Inc.’s total 2014 impressions rises to nearly 1.6 billion. (For a more complete discussion of the competition between the two companies, read AdGooroo’s March 5 profile, ‘Expedia vs. Priceline’.) TripAdvisor sites generated 9.9 million Paid Search impressions in 2014, while Fareportal sites received 712 million impressions.

Mobility in the Top 10

Looking at individual sites within the ranking, Booking.com retained the top position from 2013 to 2014, having risen from the #7 position in 2012. Notably, the international hotel booking portal was at the top of AdGooroo’s Travel rankings in multiple countries in 2014, including the UK (#1), France (#1), Australia (#1), Spain (#2), Italy (#2), Germany (#3) and Denmark (#3).

Hotels.com was the only other advertiser in the Top 10 that didn’t change rank in 2014, having consistently maintained the #10 position since 2012.

Otherwise, there was considerable mobility in the Top 10 Travel advertisers. Expedia.com jumped two positions to the #2 rank in 2014, while TripAdvisor.com, Priceline.com and Orbitz.com all dropped one position to #3, #4 and #7, respectively. In addition, CheapOAir.com moved up two positions to #5 and BookingBuddy.com moved up to position #6 from #9 in 2013.

Trivago Makes a Splash in U.S. Market (and Other Notable Changes)

The most dramatic shifts came from two newcomers to the U.S. Top 10 Ranking. International hotel comparison site Trivago entered the U.S. market in 2009 and was purchased by Expedia, Inc. in December, 2012. Since its purchase by Expedia, Trivago has jumped from #278 in the 2012 AdGooroo ranking, to #14 in 2013, to #9 in 2014. Like Booking.com, another international hotel accommodations site that has recently achieved a strong presence in the U.S. market, Trivago is at the top of AdGooroo’s Top Travel Advertiser rankings in several other countries, including the UK (ranked #3), Italy (#3), Germany (#4), Spain (#4), France (#7) and Australia (#7).

Less dramatic but still notable, Fareportal’s OneTravel.com entered the Top 10 at #8 in 2014, from #13 in 2013 and #18 in 2012.

Conspicuously absent from the ranking is Kayak.com, which was ranked #1 in 2012 and #5 in 2013, but fell off the list in 2014 to #13. TravelZoo.com was ranked #8 in 2012 and 2013 but fell to #11 in 2014.

Travel 2015 Trivago Example

A May 13 Google search for a New York hotel shows Trivago in a premium position behind Expedia but ahead of Booking.com and others on the right rail. 

A Preview of 2015

In a preview of what may come in 2015, we also looked at the Top 10 Travel advertisers based on Paid Search impressions generated from January through April this year.

Travel 2015 Top Advertisers of Jan-April 2015_AdGooroo

So far, Expedia.com leads all advertisers, taking the top spot from Booking.com, which fell to #3. Notably, Trivago.com has jumped to the #4 position from #9 in 2014 and Kayak.com has broken back into the Top 10 at the #5 position. TripAdvisor.com moved up one position to #2 in the first four months of 2015, while the remaining advertisers all fell in the ranking and Hotels.com fell out of the Top 10 ranking.

Note: Advertisers in these rankings may be sponsoring additional keywords, which, if measured, would alter the data contained in this report. 

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