The Q3 2023 benchmarking report for airlines has just been published. Learn how the top 12 airlines perform across the digital space.
The latest Q3 2023 benchmarking report for airlines has just been published. It covers the largest 12 airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Jet2.com and Jet2 Holidays, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Air France, Wizz Air, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and American Airlines.
The research gives an inside track on who is winning the biggest share of voice online, and quantifies the gaps, risks and missed opportunities for other airlines to win brand exposure, drive online enquiries, and generate flight bookings. The report highlights year-on-year digital performance, plus winner and loser comparisons across 20+ online performance metrics and quantifies the gaps, risks and missed opportunities for airlines to win brand exposure, online growth and sales.
To see a preview and contents page of the Q3 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call.
What The Industry Research Report Covers
The 70+ pages of research benchmarks each retailer based on 50+ metrics and indicators of successful digital strategy, including organic visibility, domain authority, paid media ads, conversion performance, technical performance, site speed, universal search, content, social ads, accessibility, and mobile performance.
Driving Optimal ROAS from Paid Media Channels
Some of the leading players in the space are high spenders on paid media channels such as Google, Bing & Facebook - but have a poor or sub-optimal conversion improvement strategy. Without an optimised, sophisticated conversion strategy that maximises the conversion rate, the return on investment is unsustainable or will underperform. Scaling spend on paid media is not achievable unless the conversion rate delivers optimal performance in the sector. Some in the space have paid media spend levels from 30k+ per month but dedicate minimal resources and budgets to conversion testing. Given the cost per clicks on ad networks will continue to rise, we recommend spending at least 10% of your paid media budget on ongoing conversion optimisation testing schedules to ensure your paid media ROI maintains long-term viability, competitive advantage, and sustainability.
Technical Website Compliance
Savvy digital marketers know that having a technically sound website is an essential component of a successful fully integrated digital strategy - plus a site capable of maximising conversion performance. Though airlines have the benefits of not needing to maintain a large range of products (which sites usually trip up on when it comes to technical compliance), they will need to present a large amount of information to both prospective and existing customers. They'll therefore want to ensure that key information such as routes, customer service details, and airline policies are easy to find, clear to read, and not hidden behind broken links and 404 error codes.
While most of our twelve airlines saw very low numbers of technical errors, we found more than 1,000 4xx errors in two of the sites we audited. Jet2.com returned a concerning 1,650 4xx errors in our crawls - representing a large amount of dead ends for customers. Jet2 will want to address these as a matter of urgency, to bring them in line with industry standards.
Site Speed & Conversion Rate Performance
When 62% of consumers are less likely to convert if they have a negative mobile site experience, ensuring that your site is quick and easy to load makes a significant improvement on your overall conversion rates. When customers might feel they are racing against time to get the best travel deals, airlines will want to ensure they're providing quick loading times and a seamless experience, or else risk potential customers turning elsewhere.
Mobile page speed scores for airlines ranged from a score of 60 for Alaska Airlines, to a score of zero for Delta Air Lines. Delta should review its current site experience to ensure that potential passengers are not being put off by a mobile site that proves difficult to use.
Building Competitive Advantage with Domain Authority
Domain authority is an essential metric for measuring the effectiveness of SEO performance, and helps create a reliable overall gauge of how effective your site is at achieving organic traffic, i.e. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads. Airlines could look to collaborate with, and outreach to, local & national publications, and travel sites, in order to build their backlink profile, as well as improve referral traffic.
A ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing, however it’s generally considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. DAs for airlines range from 87 to 55, with American Airlines recording the lowest score.
Organic Performance – Mobile & Desktop
A strong organic performance is strategically important as it ensures your site ranks above competitors for key, transactional keywords. When 93% of your customers won’t go past the first page of Google, your absence or lack of targeting for essential keywords will cost you conversions. Though you may expect traffic across the travel sector to shrink, in response to the cost of living crisis, we've found all holiday sectors we specialise in have grown over the past 12 months. This could be down to consumers forgoing day to day treats in order to prioritise a holiday, or from customers heading straight to airline and provider websites in search of a cheaper deal from booking directly.
We found that only four airlines have seen a reduction in organic traffic year on year. The biggest loss has been seen by United Airlines, which saw traffic drop by 20%. Meanwhile, budget airline Wizz Air have seen the biggest increase, scoring 67% more organic visits than in 2022.
Universal Search Opportunity
Google Universal Search Results is an evolving opportunity to make your pages visible on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Universal results often appear before traditional listings and are eye-catching for users. Universal search results refer to rankings on a SERP that are not the traditional ‘blue line’ Google link, and a retailer can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. 'Reviews' and 'people also ask' results are a great opportunity for airlines to improve trust, and answer key questions, without users even needing to (initially) leave the SERP.
'People also ask' is the most widely used Universal Search result, with all airlines actively optimising for Universal Search results making an appearance. However, neither American Airlines nor Air France are appearing for any Universal Search results at all. Both airlines should review whether their content is effectively set up to rank for these key, 'position zero' results.
The Longtail Keyword Opportunity
Longtail keywords are often considered high intent and potentially more likely to convert as a searcher is being more specific. Optimising for longtail keywords also puts your content strategy in a strong position to rank for retailer new search terms as they enter Google’s index. Airlines should take particular care to optimise for longtail keywords including high conversion-intent phrases, such as 'last minute flight New York' or 'fly to Boston via Dublin'.
Though British Airways are ranking for the highest volume of longtail keywords overall, with the most appearances within the top twenty positions, EasyJet are appearing in the top three for over 2,000 more longtail keywords. This indicates EasyJet has a strong approach for optimising content for longtail keywords, prioritising strength over volume.
With the number of Facebook users in the United Kingdom (UK) forecast to hit over 42 million users by 2022, it is not surprising that companies have jumped at the opportunity to advertise on the social media platform. Facebook’s UK digital advertising revenue has been estimated to have breached 2.6b GB pounds in 2019.
American Airlines have used vertical, mobile-first video to appeal to users on mobile devices. Equipped with a text-free version, along with multiple languages, American Airlines are able to serve the same ad to Facebook users speaking a range of languages.
Top Social Shares & Content
When it comes to social media and on-site content strategies, it is important to release content that has a longer shelf life. An article is considered 'Evergreen' if it has maintained its relevancy to an audience for longer. It's great for your retailer engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content which achieves traffic over a long period of time. Airlines can create content based on flying, general travel information, or even about popular destinations that are likely to grab attention from social media users.
Meta is the platform of choice for all airlines in our report, with EasyJet scoring the most engagements, with a total of 181,065 links from social media back to the site. Air France has the largest organic social audience, with 7.2 million Facebook likes and 1.3 million Instagram followers.
Website Readability & Accessibility
20% of people in the UK have a disability – 2 million of which are people living with sight loss. In addition, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some degree of colour vision deficiency. When websites are not designed to meet these needs, retailers lose customer interest as they turn elsewhere. Airlines must be accessible for all, as poor digital accessibility on their sites may suggest to users that their flights themselves may be an uncomfortable experience.
Most airlines have stayed on top of their accessibility, flagging very minimal, or zero alerts and errors. Jet2.com, however, returned 215 errors, 190 contrast errors, and 242 alerts. Jet2 must ensure that its site is set up for screen readers and those with any colour vision deficiencies to be able to read and navigate.
Q3 2023 WINNERS LEADERBOARD
For a glance into just 6 of the metrics, we evaluated these top 12 airlines on, check out our quick-look table below;
GET THE FULL 79-PAGE Q3 2023 REPORT
To get a copy of the full report, please complete the enquiry form. If you want to talk to us about accelerating your digital performance, please call us on 01543 410014 or schedule a call with Mike Movassaghi.