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When does competition heat up for cheap travel searches?

Who doesn’t love cheap travel?

With the summer traveling season kicking off around Memorial Day, we decided to take a look at pay-per-click advertising in the cheap (or better said ‘discount’) travel space. We were curious about seasonality in its competitiveness, the number of advertisers, and then how three main areas–flights, lodging, and cruises–compared with each other.

This was a fun use of The Search Monitor’s competitive ad monitoring technology, so here’s what we looked at:

  • All PPC activity on keywords related to cheap airfare, cheap hotel and lodging, and cheap cruises
  • Data for the last 12 months, from May 2013 to April 2014
  • Data from the US only
  • Data from Google and Bing
  • The metric of ‘Number of Advertisers’ in our vertical-focused Lighthouse ad intelligence product

*Keep in mind that the selections above were all options for this analysis – we could have easily changed any of the above choices and might have seen different results.

Results of Our Competitive Ad Monitoring Analysis

Chart- PPC competition for cheap travel ads - the search monitor



What We Learned

  • Let’s start with the number of advertisers. Advertisers on ‘cheap airfare’ keywords were the most plentiful, making it the most competitive space. Advertisers for cheap hotels were only about 60% of that number, followed way off in the distance by the number of advertisers for cheap cruises. Seeing ‘cruises’  in the last spot seemed to make sense, but we were surprised that there is greater competition for flights than for lodging, given how many hotels there are versus airline flights.
  • When it came to seasonality, the number of advertisers for flights and hotels followed the same pattern, peaking at the end of summer and staying fairly low in the Fall. Advertising for cheap cruises apparently doesn’t change much throughout the year. This surprised us. It could be that cheap cruise advertisers know that their product needs consistent year-round advertising in order to increase the chance that consumers see them right when they’re ready.
  • When we run this analysis again, we’d like to run it without the ‘cheap’ modifier and see if that changes both the number of advertisers and when they decide to advertise throughout the year. We also plan to release some data on the average CTR and CPC for these cheap travel advertisers, as well as examples of the ads they run.
  • Here’s a sneak peek at that data. We don’t like to keep this stuff a secret – it’s just too interesting… 🙂
    • Cheap flight advertisers: When we looked at which advertisers were running the most ads on keywords related to cheap airfare, we saw companies such as Priceline, Southwest, and Kayak. Not much of a surprise there.
    • Cheap hotel advertisers: For these keywords, the travel advertisers that were running the most ads included,, and (no surprise on that last one – I love their emails – great deals!)
    • Cheap cruise advertisers:  For these keywords we saw companies such as,, and Also, no surprise that the big names aren’t associating themselves with these cheap keywords.

Interested in other trends in online travel advertising? We’ve got more information on the travel section of The Search Monitor blog. Or, let us know and we can plug your keywords into our ad monitoring technology to learn more.


Photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

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