UK Train Operators - Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, Q2 2024

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

The Q2 2024 benchmarking report for UK train operators has just been published. Learn how the top 12 UK train operators perform across the digital space.

The latest Q2 2024 benchmarking report for UK train operators has just been published. It covers the largest 12 UK train operators, including National Rail, Avanti West Coast, Great Western Railway (GWR), CrossCountry Trains, Northern, Chiltern Railways, East Midlands Railway, Greater Anglia, London North Eastern Railway, ScotRail, Southern Railway, and West Midlands Trains.

Train Operators - LOGOS

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 train operators to win brand exposure locally, online views, and ticket orders. The report highlights quick wins that will improve sales from your online strategy and identifies the barriers that may be reducing your site’s ability to optimise digital performance.

To see a preview and contents page of the Q2 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call. Train Operators - COVER


For a glance into just six of the metrics we evaluated these top 12 UK train operators on, check out our quick-look table below;

Continue reading for further detail on this quarter's best and poorest-performing UK train operators or request a copy of the report for the full review.

Train Operators W&L Apr24

Request the report

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 and 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. For train operators, having an easy-to-navigate site is essential for consumers looking to purchase tickets, and particular care should be taken of the pathways to key pages, such as train times, sales, and other key feature pages that customers may need to access.

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. Train operators need to ensure their customers have a positive experience on their mobile site to instil high levels of trust and ensure customers are able to quickly access the information they need and make purchases while on the go.

For Q2 2024, the mobile site speed ranged between 62 and 9, with 3 train operators scoring above the recommended 50%. However, the train operator to watch is Southern Railway, which should optimise images to help increase its site speed moving forwards.

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 is not gained through sponsored ads. Train operators should be continually pushing to improve their DA, they can do this by collaborating with and outreaching to high-authoritative companies within their niche to build their backlink profile.

A ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing, however it is generally considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. The DA for this quarter ranged between 84 and 67, with all brands scoring within the ‘excellent’ category. However, given that all train operators didn’t score 100, they can all make improvements, such as increasing their backlinks to help improve their DA 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. For train operators, they should be optimising across a full range of awareness, consideration, and conversion keywords, ensuring they have multiple touchpoints for customers as they travel further through their decision-making process.

Only 1 company saw an increase in organic mobile traffic and 2 reported an increase in organic desktop traffic. All companies can help increase their organic traffic across both devices by optimising their longtail keyword strategy to improve online appearances.

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 site can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. Train operators should be utilising all universal search features, as potential customers will be interested to see how previous customers have found their experience via 'reviews', 'FAQs', and 'people also ask' results.

National Rail reported the most appearances for Universal Search results (a total of 35,979), with the majority of these coming from the ‘image’ category. However, zero train reporters scored anything for ‘reviews’, which is an opportunity they’re missing to help gain exposure in SERPs.

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 brand-new search terms as they enter Google’s index. There are many longtail keyword options train operators could be using such as ‘buy train tickets’, ‘buy train tickets online, or ‘ticket deals across country’. Though these may have lower monthly search volumes, the high purchase intent makes them high-value and an important piece of your keyword strategy.

National Rail is at the top of the leaderboard for longtail keyword appearances in positions 3 and 4–10. These figures are nearly double that of the runner-up, suggesting that this train operator will remain at the top in the next quarter, too.

Facebook Adverts

With the number of Facebook users in the United Kingdom (UK) hitting over 44 million users in 2023, 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. For train operators, Facebook ads are an opportunity to ensure customers see the latest deals and ticket availability.

We’ve included three examples of Chiltern Railways’ sponsored Facebook posts. All 3 posts featured vertical imagery to optimise for mobile users. However, this train operator should also include videos to attract attention for scrollers and add diversity to their posts.

Train Operators - Facebook

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 brand engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content which achieves traffic over a long period of time. It's great for your engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content which achieves traffic over a long period of time. Social media could be especially useful for sharing information about ticket deals and availability.

National Rail has the largest Facebook page (116,300 Likes), and London North Eastern Railway has the largest Instagram account (43,800 followers). Interestingly, West Midlands Trains encountered the highest total engagement, suggesting that its followers interact with its content.

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, even subconsciously, brands lose customer interest as they turn to other online appliance brands that can better meet their accessibility requirements.

In Q2 2024, Avanti West Coast flagged the most accessibility alerts (158). Upon closer inspection, the majority of these alerts are due to redundant title text. Assessing these alerts will improve usability for consumers using a screen reader.


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.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Request Your Report