Smartly.io Search Series: #1 - How Travel Sites Can Predict Flight Demand via Search Queries

Karl Villanueva

Marketing

This is the first blog post in a 6-part series on search query analysis.

Summer is here and hopefully, you are already well into your sun-bound holidays! That doesn’t mean, however, that your performance marketing campaigns need to go to rest as well though. If you know your consumer trends well in advance, you can rely on your campaigns to stay up and running and perform well. For instance, did you know that… 

Insight #1: London is the most searched destination for France, Germany, Italy, Spain & Finland.

Insight #2: But the British dream of sunny Tenerife, Lanzarote, and Ibiza, especially in January.

Insight #3: “Flights to Tenerife” is searched >2x than “Flights to London” (including translations).

Insight #4: 99% of flight searches in Finland are in English, while it’s 33% in France.

Try it out for yourself with our interactive viz below! Just choose a country of origin on the top-right and hover over elements to get more details via the tooltip.

Methodology


Let’s take a closer look at our methodology. We started by using the Google Ads Keyword Planner API and plotted destination searches for the top 400 European destination cities. We then ran the Translation API to account for both local language searches and English language searches with interesting results.

We used Tableau Public to visualize these results, which allows you to interact with almost any area of the dashboard - anything from the map to the seasonality charts.

Tips for Marketers

#1: Peak Search ≠ Peak Travel


Peak months for searches will greatly differ from peak flight destinations. Make sure you are top of mind when users are looking for deals, not when they have already booked with your competitors. Example?

A 2016 Google and Luth Research study found a case that a traveler can have 700 digital touch points and 52 Google searches preparing and comparing airlines before a flight. Also use multi-touch attribution to account for all those searches, don’t expect 1 impression and 1 click to convert it all right away.

Google Travel Touch Points Insights

#2: Flights = Consumer Trend Barometer

The airline industry is a strong indicator for many other sectors - hotels, car rentals, restaurants, travel guides, luggage, and even for flip-flops. We found a strong correlation between summer destinations like “flights to Malaga” and “flip-flop” searches in almost all countries.

#3: Localized vs Global Searches

Know the language of your market. For example, 99% of Finland’s flight searches were done in English even though the two official languages are Finnish and Swedish. Stay ahead of other advertisers by taking the opportunity of multilingual searches across different geographies.

Conclusion

Search query data can be a rich source of free hidden insights - so long as one knows how to unearth them!

We’ll keep our post short and let the data talk for itself. But as more and more of our information-seeking activities happen on Google - which handled 2 trillion searches in 2016 - the gauge of consumer sentiment is less and less coming from case studies and focus groups but more from search intent data. 

Try finding seasonality patterns within each month, use different target languages and locations for a more localized market understanding and test with various keyword combinations.