Travel Sites Push Hotels Out of Searches

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Travel Web sites such as Expedia and Orbitz are shoving hotel companies out of both paid and organic search listings, according to a new study exclusive to DM News.


Web analytics company SEMphonic, Novato, CA, found that Expedia, Orbitz and Hotels.com hold the top spots in paid search listings on Google and Yahoo while TripAdvisor.com and Hotelclub.net are at the top in organic rankings.


No major hotel chain, such as Marriott and Radisson, is in SEMphonic's top 10 for overall ratings analyzing paid and organic results combined. And only Choice Hotels, which includes Comfort Inn, Clarion and Sleep Inn, ranks in the top 10 paid listings.


Travel aggregators make up 39 percent of the top 50 sites in paid listings, SEMphonic found in the study of 247 hotel-related keywords, while hotel companies make up only 17 percent of the listings.


"We were pretty surprised to see that the large travel aggregators were really pushing the paid market and squeezing the actual hotel companies out," said Paul Legutko, an analyst and consultant with SEMphonic.


The trend results partly from many of the major chains not being active in pay per click when search advertising took off, so now they're trying to catch up, according to Legutko. Also, smaller hotel chains and individual hotels may be unwilling to pay $1 to $2 per click -- the price range for most hotel-related keywords -- he said.


Hotels fare much better in organic listings, where they make up 48 percent of the top 50 sites while travel aggregators are only 6 percent. However, only Marriott.com, Radisson.com and Starwoodhotels.com ranked in the top 10 organic listings.


When users search for "cheap" or "discount" hotels, the traditional hotel companies fare worse than when consumers search for luxury properties. In searches for "cheap" properties, lodging aggregators such as Hotels.com make up 62 percent of the organic listings; travel aggregators, 24 percent; and hotel companies, 6 percent.


Still, hotel companies dominated organic listings when "luxury"-related search terms were used, comprising two-thirds of the total listings. The top hotel chains listed were Four Seasons, Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental and Ritz-Carlton.


"Comparison between the 'cheap' and 'luxury' categories suggests that hotel companies are more likely to focus on their search engine placement within the 'luxury' space, rather than the 'cheap' space," the study said.


One reason SEMphonic conducted the study was to make hotel companies more aware of how their search rankings compare with those of big travel aggregators.


"No doubt, the [hotel] companies are very aware of the Travelocitys and Expedias," SEMphonic CEO Gary Angel said. "Even so, they are very unaware of how their Web sites and their efforts stack up against everyone else's."


Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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