The Q4 2023 benchmarking report for airlines has just been published. Learn how the top 12 airlines perform across the digital space.
The latest Q4 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 Q4 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call.
Q4 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;
Continue reading for further detail on this quarter's best and poorest-performing airlines or request a copy of the report for the full review.
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.
In our last report, we found that Jet.com had a concerning 1,650 4xx errors. Jet2.com’s 4xx errors hase increased to 1,713 in Q4. However, Ryanair has 2,001 4xx errors, with the biggest figure out of all 11 airlines.
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.
Last quarter, we noted that mobile page speed scores ranged from 60 to 0, with Alaska Airlines having the highest percentage and Delta Air Lines scoring the lowest. For this quarter, Alaska Airlines has crept up to 69, and Delta Air Lines has also made slight improvements from 0 to 2. In fact, all 12 airlines have made improvements to their mobile page speed scores.
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. For our last report, DAs for airlines ranged from 87 to 55, with American Airlines recording the lowest. For this quarter, DAs remain exactly the same for all 12 airlines. We hope to see American Airlines making improvements for the next quarter, so they brand can reach the 60+ bracket. Winning more backlinks could be an opportunity for growth in this sector — especially given that they have the fewest.
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.
For the last report, we noted that United Airlines saw the biggest traffic drop by 20%, and a total of eight airlines saw a reduction in organic traffic. For this quarter, only 6 airlines saw less organic traffic, showing an overall slight improvement in traffic to the sector, while Ryanair saw a 67% increase. American Airlines, which achieved the lowest score, should look to developing its organic strategy to compensate for its 46% traffic reduction.
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.
In the previous quarter, Air France and American Airlines scored 0 for any Universal Search results. In this quarter, American Airlines hasn’t made improvements, while Air France has seen a slight improvement from 0 to 1. We’ve also noticed no improvements in FAQs for all airlines— apart from British Airways, which scored 2. All airlines should look to increase the number of reviews to improve customer trust and win business over competitors.
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'.
For this quarter, British Airways lands in the top three with nearly 23,000 longtail keywords. Alaska Airlines positions itself in the top three with the least number of longtail keywords: 26. Increasing its number of longtail keywords in FAQ pages, product pages, and blogs will put them in a stronger position in search engines.
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.
United Airlines has focused on limited text in the description to allow the images to take centre stage. United has used graphics with a friendly tone combined with images of must-visit cities to lure in readers. This airline has a signature way of opening each post with ‘Take a trip’. Perhaps its testing image performance, but it could add more flare to the text to add more personality to its branding.
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.
Aer Lingus have the top total engagement for this quarter with a total of 349,316. This has dramatically increased by over 71% from the 4,892 figure from the last quarter. However, its average engagement is much lower (1493) tying with Wizz Air, which suggests that it’s had a sudden peak in engagement.
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.
Last quarter, we found that Jet2.com returned 215 errors, 190 contrast errors, and 242 alerts. In this quarter, it received 35 errors, 171 contrast errors, and 40 alerts — showing improvements in all three areas. However, it could reduce this figure for the next quarter by limiting the number of colour contrasts throughout its website. All other airlines’ figures — apart from Air France — has either stayed the same or seen improvement in errors
GET THE FULL 70-PAGE Q4 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.