Travel sites best at search, study says

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Travel search marketers are the most strategically sophisticated in driving online activity and spending significantly less on search than counterparts in other industries, according to a new JupiterResearch study.

The report, titled "U.S. Online Travel Search Marketing Executive Survey 2007," found online travelers continue to research on multiple Web sites. To respond to this competition, online travel industry marketers are using bid management tools and Web analytics.

"Web analytic tools and sophisticated bidding tools help create a cost-benefit picture of keywords that will help strategize budget," said Sapna Satagopan, analyst at JupiterResearch, New York. "Expansion to vertical search engines will be useful too, at a cheaper cost than the general search engines and with targeted traffic [the] downside is the significantly low volume of traffic."

According to the study, 33 percent of online users go to search engines to research travel destinations, and 27 percent use search engines to research travel products. Overall, JupiterResearch predicts search marketing will generate $11.1 billion in consumer spend by 2011, with travel being one of the most popular search categories.

The study also found that more than 70 percent of travel search marketers think adding keywords is the best way to increase click volume.

But rising costs are becoming prohibitive. While branding is identified as a key objective among nearly half of the executives surveyed, less than 20 percent of online travel companies are using branding metrics in research and instead are seeking more information from search engine companies to determine success.

"There are two reasons to this," Ms. Satagopan said. "General search engines are the go-to destination increasingly for seeking out information, and increasing brand presence is the driving force behind this. Secondly, the long tail of keywords will reveal associations that these marketers can benefit from, besides merely product-related categories."

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