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Travel SEO Winners & Losers of 2017

It’s been a tumultuous year for the UK, and internationally. One that began with the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president, featured a disappointing snap General Election for Theresa May, and saw political tensions – and temperatures – rise globally.

And let’s not even mention the B-word. Those monitoring the impact of Brexit on the travel industry have already seen implications for staffing, consumer demand, fluctuating prices and more.

While all that’s been happening, Google continues to make regular changes to its algorithm – many now go unnoticed as updates have gone real-time. The company released more penalty info in relation to intrusive ad pop-ups in January, and many sites saw fluctuations in results around March, which led them to debate a potential quality update, nicknamed Fred.

RankBrain is getting smarter than ever, (tests even showed the AI outperforming human brainy Google Engineers), and all this is helping to progress the growth of topic-based search and voice. After much talk though, 2017 did not quite see the global roll-out of Google’s mobile-first index, but it is imminent (probably).

So how has all this impacted the search visibility of companies operating within the UK travel industry?

Searchmetrics, the US-based SEO software company, has released a “winners” and “losers” search report annually since 2014. The results feature the top and bottom 100 US websites, ranked according to SEO visibility, (a performance metric that indicates how visible a webpage or domain is in Google, and is calculated based on several factors such as the position of ranking keywords, click-through-rates and search volumes).

In 2016, just 2% of their featured top 100 winners came under the category of travel, with these winners restricted to US Google.com. We’ve taken inspiration from Searchmetrics’ analysis and wanted to show how UK travel brands have fared in 2017.

Long-haul giants

Thomson officially re-branded to TUI in 2017, with a snazzy new domain name to match. While this might have had a hugely detrimental impact on a smaller site, the company did well to re-gain high SEO visibility in a relatively short space of time.


Start 05/01/2017 – 0
End 28/12/2017 – 210,540
Rise: 210,540


Start 05/01/2017 – 256,213
End 28/12/2017 – 10,377
Both domains compared together: Drop of 45,673

Rising competition in long-haul, coupled with Brexit uncertainty, saw major airline Virgin Atlantic join forces with Air France-KLM in 2017. The website saw a big drop on the 7th September, to 5,566, recovering quickly back up to 7,266 on the 21st of the same month.


Start 05/01/2017 – 7,017
End 28/12/2017 – 7,280
Rise: 263

In contrast Virgin Holidays, also part of the Virgin Group, experienced a sharp dip in SEO visibility earlier on in January, as well as much fluctuation throughout the year. Losing traction towards the latter end of 2017, the site appears to be fluctuating downwards once more as we head into 2018.


Start 05/01/2017 – 67,648
End 28/12/2017 – 68,558
Rise: 910

UK-based retailers and aggregators

Since the launch of its media arm, the Travel People in 2016, travel giant lastminute.com has been getting hotter on the data and attribution side of things this year, as well as its content. The website ended the year with a overall hefty rise in SEO visibility of 58,893.


Start 05/01/2017 – 317,410
End 28/12/2017 – 376,303
Rise: 58,893

Similarly, UK travel retailer Holiday Hypermarket saw its SEO visibility almost double across 2017, with a huge, and stable, increase of 21,707 overall.


Start 05/01/2017 – 27,295
End 28/12/2017 – 49,002
Rise: 21,707

And it was a similar story again for retailer Jet2holidays. Its website, having been publicly criticised in 2017 for being “glitchy”, didn’t appear to suffer in terms of SEO visibility, maintaining a very stable increase across the year and ending up with an overall rise of 19,249.


Start 05/01/2017 – 41,125
End 28/12/2017 – 60,374
Rise: 19,249

In contrast, UK holiday provider Haven Holidays experienced fluctuation throughout 2017, ending with a small drop in SEO visibility overall, of 927.


Start 05/01/2017 – 23,450
End 28/12/2017 – 22,523
Drop: 927

Close competitor to Haven Holidays, Hoseasons climbed in SEO visibility in the first half of 2017, and began a downward turn at the end of August which it appears to be recovering from into 2018.


Start 05/01/2017 – 25,773
End 28/12/2017 – 24,964
Drop: 809

Interestingly, SEO visibility for competitors Center Parcs and Butlins, followed a similar pattern.


Start 05/01/2017 – 15,287
End 28/12/2017 – 14,681
Drop: 606


Start 05/01/2017 – 9,172
End 28/12/2017 – 8,997
Drop: 175

Ocean cruising

With the UK ocean cruising market continuing to grow at a fast pace, cruise operators have been busy launching new ships to meet demand.

Richard Branson’s new venture, Virgin Voyages, (formerly Virgin Cruises) hasn’t yet launched its first ship, but since the re-brand the website lost the (small) SEO visibility it once had, when we consider the below two screenshots.



Royal Caribbean International, the operator of ocean behemoths like the upcoming Symphony of the Seas, saw its SEO visibility fluctuate considerably across both its .co.uk and .com domains.


Start 05/01/2017 – 8,105
End 28/12/2017 – 6,689
Drop: 1,416


Start 05/01/2017 – 19,103
End 28/12/2017 – 18,364
Drop: 739

Closer to home, well-known cruise brand under TUI, Thomson Cruises, re-branded in October of 2017 to Marella Cruises. In slight contrast to what we can see happened to TUI as a whole, SEO visibility for its cruise offering has seen a little positive jump as a result.



Start 05/01/2017 – 9,188
End 28/12/2017 – 10,104
Rise: 916


  • Travel businesses, just like those operating in other industries, will be sensitive to what’s going on in the world, and evolving consumer tastes. It’s the nature of the beast, so don’t let it scare you. Continue with your longer term SEO plans and stay focused on what’s important – your audience.
  • Hone in as much as you can on those SEO factors with the biggest impact – quality content, quality links, mobile usability and optimisation for RankBrain.
  • If mobile is not on your radar, it needs to be now.


If you’d like a free SEO audit of your site or would like to discuss your next SEO project with us, don’t hesitate to get in touch.