Special Report: The Holidays Market

Consumers are finding it easier to search for holidays online, yet the Holidays organic search market in the UK has become one of the most diverse and competitive landscapes, in which brands are finding it difficult to cement a dominant position.

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Consumers are finding it easier  to search for holidays online, yet the Holidays organic search market in the UK has become one of the most diverse and competitive landscapes,  in which brands are finding it difficult to cement a dominant position, largely due the market’s rare composition.

Most online markets are built around a few high volume keywords with an expansive but very low volume range of mid-long tail keywords, however, the Holidays market presents a different picture, comprising a wider range of generic keywords with extremely high search volumes (reaching up to 450,000 searches a month in Google) with an almost limitless mid-long tail keyword range which attracts respectable monthly search volumes.

This expansive structure within the market makes a ‘catch all’ organic search strategy that much more challenging for brands, often forcing them to target a specific range of keywords that focus on a destination or particular holiday type. Despite these market challenges, there are a few brands that have managed to achieve greater levels of success with their strategic approach.

The Holidays Market Landscape

As part of our analysis, we Looked at the top 20 highest volume ‘Generic’, ‘Short Haul’ and ‘Long Haul’ Holiday keywords, and modelled the estimated click-share for the top 100 sites within the Holidays market to identify which sites were the most prominent within the space.

Figure 1. Holidays Market Landscape

Figure 1. Holidays Market Landscape

The chart above shows the 10 most prominent sites in the Holidays market in terms of organic click- share, with Thomson.co.uk leading the market in terms of click-share, followed closely by holidayhypermarket.co.uk.

Although there is very little between the two sites, our analysis further looked at the strategies they use in order to secure their high levels of click-share. Holiday Hypermarket focuses almost entirely on the big generic keywords and currently hold position 1 for ‘cheap holidays’ which makes up the majority of the sites click share.

Whereas Thomson.co.uk has a much wider approach to its organic strategy, appearing often in the top 10 for the high volume generic keywords but also securing high positions in the mid-long tail keywords, making up a significant portion of its click share. Other sites like Thomascook.com and Travelsupermarket.com have similar strategies but haven’t seen the same results as Thomson.co.uk. But with the ever tweaked Google algorithm, nothing stays the same for long in organic search and the holiday market is no exception.

Figure 2. Short and Long Haul Keyword Landscape

Figure 2. Short and Long Haul Keyword Landscape

Looking purely at the Short and Long Haul keyword groups, we can clearly see how much Thomson.co.uk dominate this market, achieving double the organic click-share for both keyword groups. This click-share is driven by their dominance of the keywords across these groups, in which they rank in position 1 for 28 out of the 40 keywords in this data sample, including keywords like ‘Turkey Holidays’ and ‘Cuba Holidays’ leaving sites such as Thomascook.com with only 4 top positions, well behind in terms of click-share.

Figure 3. Trended Holidays Market Share

Figure 2. Trended Holidays Market Share

Our chart (see Figure 3) shows the organic click-share for some of the top sites in the market over the last 6 months, and clearly shows that brands are are constantly jostling for top positions.  Although Holiday hypermarket is currently capturing a larger percentage of the market now, they have only being doing so for the last few weeks. Thomson.co.uk on the other hand has achieved a strong performance consistently over the last six months and although their click-share has decreased, their wider approach to the market ensures that the sites organic traffic doesn’t depend on a few high volume terms.

However, as stated earlier the Holidays market poses some unique challenges when it comes to trying to achieve a dominant position and implementing a strategy similar to either Holiday Hypermarket or Thomson, demands some requirements both on page and off page. Unfortunately we can’t go into all of the 200 plus ranking signals used in our Roadmap analysis tool, so we will look at two for now; External links and Anchor text type.

Figure 4. External Link Comparison in March and August 2013

Figure 3. External Link Comparison

When looking at external links, we compared the Industry average for the top three positions against the two sites with the largest click-share (Thomson and Holiday hypermarket) as well as against Thomas Cook who have a similar strategy to Thomson,  but who have not attained the same level of success. As figure 3 shows, Thomson and Thomas Cook have by far the largest number of external links due to them both being well known brands within the market, however, whilst this has decreased since March, it is still well above the Industry average.

As our analysis reveals, Holiday hypermarket have a smaller number of links which given their high generic keyword performance, highlights that their links are more likely to be more keyword focused and that pure link volume doesn’t drive the holidays market entirely.

Figure 5. Anchor Text Type Comparison

Figure 4. Anchor Text Type Comparison

 The above chart ( See Figure 5) highlights the distribution of anchor type types in March 2013 and in August 13 for the Industry average and for the selected sites.

Immediately we can see the impact of Thomson and Thomas Cook’s brand on their external links with over 60% of their links being brand links and most of their remaining links falling into the ‘Other’ category (e.g. ‘Click Here’ Anchor Text and Image links).

Holiday hypermarket as predicted have higher percentages of keyword based links, especially ‘Broad Keyword’ links for which they are well above the industry average. Another notable element is that although Thomson have the most click-share in the market, they do not stand out when we look at (Figure 4) for any particular type of anchor text, implying that pure keyword focus or clean brand linking are not the secret to their success but a carefully balance profile built on brand with careful placed keywords, while staying away from exact keyword links.

Of course these two ranking signals do not by any means show the full story behind achieving success within the market, however, the Stickyeyes Roadmap tool is constantly tracking over 200 other ranking signals to assist in providing all the facts and insights into what drives success in the Holidays market, amongst others.

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