How Cruise Companies Can Beat the Aggregators

Lorna Rose Gill Posted by Lorna Rose Gill

Direct cruise companies are generating less traffic via PPC than aggregators – how can cruise providers catch up and and take the helm of this highly seasonal sector?

According to Cruise Market Watch, 21.5m people went on a cruise worldwide in 2014, with numbers predicted to increase to almost 23m in 2015.

Like any industry with both aggregators and direct competitors, the sites that offer consumers a choice of deals from a range of different service providers rank higher than those that just offer direct services.

Adthena’s data insights show that cruise companies will need a smart keyword portfolio and seasonal planning to keep up with the aggregators, offering a wider selection of deals.

How Do Direct Competitors Compare to Aggregators?

We recently covered PPC for cruise aggregators, and the market for cruise companies, while not exactly identical, is very similar.

Non-brand keyword data gathered from the biggest cruise providers show that four of the top search terms are shared between the aggregators and the direct providers: cruises, cruise, cruise deals, and cruises 2015. However, direct cruise providers are bidding on a wider range of specific destination-based keywords such as ‘Mediterranean,’ ‘Mexico,’ and ‘Caribbean’ cruises too, which rank lower for the aggregators.

Think Seasonally

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Top cruise companies share of voice, Adthena data

P&O benefited the most from this end-of-summer surge because, as shown by the increase of share of voice by 25% from September to December. This gave it a rich flow of traffic, peaking on November 27th with nearly 60,000 clicks. This is the sort of traffic that you might expect for an aggregator, so how is P&O competing?

Looking deeper into the keywords P&O bid on, it seems the winning combination was on both Cruise Deals, Mediterranean Cruises and Cruises. All of these keywords benefitted from a higher spend by the company, while its competitors dropped spend just before the key summer booking period, preferring to bid on more precise and cheaper keywords.

However, they couldn’t stop Thomson from gaining share of voice in the busy January period, when most people are looking online for their next holiday destination. Adthena’s market insights can provide the missing piece of information about movements in a market allowing to align one’s own strategy to increase and protect market share in crucial moments.

Share of Voice and Keywords

In terms of share of voice, Princess maintained the most efficient approach. The company’s SOV was consistently higher than its share of spend (SOS), despite the fact that Princess bid on a fairly wide range of related keywords.

Fred Olsen probably footed the bill for this SOV victory – in September, Princess came in second place for SOS, but finished third for SOV.

In this respect, P&O is racking up its spending while sticking to fewer keywords, but more generic and expensive targets, keeping its SOV consistent with its SOS.

It demonstrates that the choice of keywords and the timing of bids is a more efficient way of spending, rather than bidding on a huge range of keywords over a prolonged period of time.

You’ll see that Fred Olsen benefited from the surge in September and October, but the win was short-lived. The company’s SOV fell in November, which was a time of high traffic – the drop, therefore, wasn’t due to an ailing market, but to Fred Olsen’s bad strategic choices, as the cruise provider bid on the most keywords of the top three competitors.

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Top cruise companies head to head, Adthena data

It’s easy to believe that a wide keyword spread is automatically more effective for a brand, but Fred Olsen’s experience suggests that such a strategy doesn’t necessarily mean bigger and better SOV gains.

As such, Fred Olsen might benefit from cutting out its worst-performing keywords to make the remaining portfolio super-relevant and high quality. Look at P&O’s circle – it’s small, and yet it still represents the most successful portfolio.

Overall, it looks like this market rewards shrewd, smart keyword portfolios and a highly seasonal approach, as customers biannually flock to search engines looking for what’s on offer. This is how P&O (for example) competed with the aggregators in their market, winning not just their brand keywords, but the top general keywords as well.

(Main image credit: Jim G/flickr)

No client data was used to produce this insights blog post

About the author

Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna Rose 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. She is curious and passionate and likes to find stories in data and technology.