Which Companies Are Using PPC to Promote City Breaks?

Ian O'Rourke Posted by Ian O'Rourke

With low-cost airlines and hotel comparison sites dominating the travel market, taking a city break has never been easier. But how are the main competitors getting our attention?

In the competitive travel industry, the role of PPC should not be underestimated. When shopping around for the best deals, prospective consumers are open to suggestions.

Generally speaking, the products and prices on offer by the various comparison sites are relatively similar. In such a situation, efficient advertising becomes vital; it all comes down to which company can most effectively attract and retain customers.

Over the course of the past year, there have been five main competitors over city breaks for purchase by UK consumers: expedia.co.uk, travelrepublic.co.uk, trivago.co.uk, booking.com and laterooms.com. Of these companies, Expedia enjoyed the greatest share of voice (SOV) overall.

This is particularly noteworthy in light of the fact that Expedia didn’t figure in the rankings at all until early March.


SOV in the City Break Industry over the past Year

Expedia joined the PPC race late for the keyword ‘city break’, leaping from a 0% share of the market between September and March to an almost 40% share by May. This implies a seasonal approach to PPC spending, as marketers at Expedia clearly decided that adverts published over the spring and summer period yield a better return on investment than those published in the winter.

Though disregarding half of the PPC year may seem like an extreme measure, Expedia is such an established name in the online travel market that its marketers may feel that it makes more sense to double down on PPC efforts during the months proven to be the most profitable in terms of attracting new business.

Booking.com has adopted a similarly seasonal strategy to gain market on the ‘city break’ keyword, albeit not to the same degree. The company started its PPC spending in January 2014, with paid SOV ranging from 10% to 30% between January and September.

The reasoning behind this strategy seems predicated on a general reluctance among consumers to spend money on booking trips in the costly run-up to Christmas.

Once the holidays are out of the way and people know how much they are able to spend, it stands to reason that they may be more likely to start thinking about upcoming events such as birthdays and bachelor parties, as well as cities they would like to visit in the year ahead.

Expedia’s closest competitor appears to have adopted an entirely different strategy. While Expedia remained absent from the market, TravelRepublic became the top competitor, with a paid SOV ranging between around 40% and almost 60% at its peak.

This surge of activity perhaps reflects the company’s desire to spend more on PPC outside of the summer holiday season in order to profit from the entirely respectable autumn and winter markets overlooked by its competitors. There may be less of a market during this period, but there is a market, nonetheless. Travel Republic has opted to pick up the slack left by its competitors.

Although the next closest competitor, Trivago, saw a steady decline in SOV over the period, like Travel Republic it stood head and shoulders above the competition between September and March, with the two companies sharing the PPC market.

Despite Travel Republic’s edge, Trivago had the lead at one point, enjoying over 50% SOV between September and October before beginning its gentle descent down to 30% in January. Like Travel Republic, Trivago appears to have benefitted from the cheaper costs per click and increased availability of market space throughout Expedia’s hiatus.

The available data tells us that different competitors take different approaches to advertising their city breaks and travel services over the course of the year. In paid search, fluctuations in SOV are the result of reduced seasonal spending, be it on the part of the company in question or its competitors.

But should PPC spending be so seasonally based when it comes to city breaks? Certain searches which might appear to be seasonal at first glance are often important at all times of year. Take flu-jabs for example. Just because more people tend to search for information about flu-jabs in the winter doesn’t mean that those searching in the summer should be overlooked.

It’s important to remember that all seasons demand PPC attention in some form. After all, unlike a flu-jab, a city break is appealing all year-round. Want to know more about the PPC market for your industry? Adthena’s tools will give you the information that you need.

(Main image credit: crises_crs/flickr)

About the author

Ian O'Rourke
Ian O'Rourke
Ian is the CEO and Founder of Adthena. He has been involved in technology businesses and start-ups for over 22 years and has built businesses across the globe including in Silicon Valley, London, Australia and Taiwan. Ian has grown Adthena since 2012 to its current position as the premier global provider of competitive intelligence. Ian likes to foster a culture of great products, getting things done, responsibility, freedom and continuous improvement.