What’s Behind Cruise.co.uk’s Success and How Can it Stay Buoyant?

Lorna Gill Posted by Lorna Gill

Disclaimer: No client data was used to generate this blog post!

Cruise.co.uk’s PPC strategy is undeniably savvy, as the aggregator bid at just the right time to maximise its exposure – but how can the company make its performance even better?

The last few years have been bumpy for pleasure cruising. A number of fatal incidents have drawn negative attention to the industry, including the Costa Concordia’s grounding and sinking in 2012 and a fire aboard the Carnival Triumph.

But this doesn’t stop holidaymakers from booking their trips in their millions: the Cruise Lines International Association predicts that 23 million passengers will swap terra firma for something more adventurous this year  an increase of 4% over 2014’s figures.

Working in such a buoyant industry, how are cruise aggregators ensuring their offers are at the forefront of customers’ minds  and exactly how much, if at all, have these deadly accidents damaged their rankings?

Adthena’s competitive intelligence for search data shows that Cruise.co.uk reached a three-day share of voice (SOV) peak around February 10th, when it was exploring 500 non-brand, cruise-related keywords.

At this point, the company’s SOV nearly reached 35%, after ranking between 5% and 25% the week before. Let’s look into what caused this spike, what Cruise.co.uk did right with respect to timing and spend, and where there’s room for refinement.

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”https://www.adthena.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/cruise_trend.png” title=”Top cruise aggregators share of voice, Adthena data” src=”https://www.adthena.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/cruise_trend.png”][/lightbox]
Top cruise aggregators share of voice, Adthena data

The Costa Concordia Keyword Spike

It seems that Cruise.co.uk’s SOV peak resulted from a huge surge of interest in the keywords cruises and cruise deals, and Cruise.co.uk managed to score highly for both of these.

Adthena’s data shows that, on February 9th, around 700 web users typed cruises into Google, clicked on an ad, and found their way to one of the top competitors’ websites. On February 11th, this statistic jumped up to 2,000.

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”https://www.adthena.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Cruisecouk_keyword.png” title=”Traffic to Cruise.co.uk, by keyword, Adthena data” src=”https://www.adthena.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Cruisecouk_keyword.png”][/lightbox]
Traffic to Cruise.co.uk, by keyword, Adthena data

Cruise.co.uk managed to snag 1,000 of these paid page views on that day with a single keyword. Until February 9th, however, it hadn’t earned a high share of this search term, indicating that the move was part of a larger, more calculated strategy.

Thereafter, it reached around 50% and hung onto it, adding up to a big SOV victory for the aggregator in the middle of February.

So why were so many people searching for cruises? Maybe it was the news: the Costa Concordia trial came to an end on February 10th, when  as the BBC reported the next day  the cruise ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity?

Will reading news about a wrecked ship make people decide to buy cruise tickets? That’s probably the wrong way to phrase the question. A better way might be, “Will increased exposure for a certain product or service increase interest?” If you haven’t guessed already, the answer to this question is almost always a definitive yes.

Take the pharmaceutical trial disaster of 2006, for example. The Pharmaceutical Journal reports how drug companies actually experienced a surge of interest after the botched medical experiments seemed to have the industry on the ropes.

It may have been bad publicity, but only for the company that organised the ill-fated trial, as it subsequently went out of business. The industry as a whole, however, benefited from the heavy press.As you can see from the Google Trends data above, interest in costa concordia surged at exactly the same time as searches for cruises boomed.

It looks like what was true for the pharmaceutical industry in 2006 is also the case for cruises in 2015: people seemed confident enough that their own ship wouldn’t run aground, but the Costa Concordia trial nonetheless put the topic in their minds and encouraged them to Google it.

So was this Cruise.co.uk’s plan all along?

Savvy Spending

Cruise.co.uk bumped up its spending to hit this peak period in stride, as well as the one around January 24th  – another optimal time for SOV. This is a shrewd strategy: pick up the spending on a keyword that you know will succeed at a particular time, then ride the SOV wave all the way to shore.

We all know executing a successful PPC strategy can be hard, and because we’ve seen brands up their SOS (share of spend) only to see their SOV go down, we know Cruise.co.uk is getting it right.

Nonetheless, our SOS data shows that when Cruise.co.uk upped its spend, the SOV didn’t respond as quickly as the company might have liked. Each spending increase returned an SOV boost, but the proportion of its SOS always ended up higher than its SOV.

How can Cruise.co.uk cut its costs? Google determines how much you pay for a click on a given ad via its “Quality Score” (QS), among other metrics. QS is determined, to a great extent, by each ad’s relevance to the search topic and the likelihood that a user will click it.

This means that if Cruise.co.uk starts to examine its ads and ensure that each is tightly optimised for the search term in question, it stands to cut some significant costs.

The keyword ‘cruises’ is non-specific by nature, but Google offers plenty of tweaks to improve relevance. Adthena’s Ad Copy Analysis is the perfect tool for accomplishing as much, promising to take your brand’s PPC campaign from savvy to brilliant.

Meanwhile, Adthena’s Competitive Analysis system suggests that Cruise.co.uk has 283 “missing terms” – powerful keywords with low competition that are just begging it (or another brand) to bid on them and earn great returns.

Overall, however, Cruise.co.uk’s targeted campaign was clearly driven by effective PPC spend management and timing. By leveraging the Costa Concordia coverage, the cruise aggregator channelled its resources to a good keyword and earned itself an SOV payoff.

Meanwhile, most of the brands in this market are spending inefficiently, failing to target specific keywords and timings that promise to bring them PPC success. For both cruise.co.uk and those trailing the pack, Adthena’s expertise can help protect and grow its share of voice on the tide of public interest and cut costs.

(Main image credit: Thomas Quine/flickr)

About the author

Lorna Gill
Lorna Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies and is passionate about translating technical information into stories that excite and delight.