By Claire West

There were 17 million Google searches for holidays made by UK consumers in August. This was a marked increase of 78% on June’s 9.5 million, reveals the latest independent quarterly report, ‘Holidays August 2010’, by search specialist marketing and technology firm, Greenlight.

Whilst the report predicts searches for some of the top keywords will decrease over the course of Q4, it expects they will rise steadily at the turn of the New Year. In view of this and the looming VAT rise, Greenlight advises players in this sector to deploy a price-focused paid search strategy when it comes to the advertisements they display online.

Greenlight’s report used industry data to classify 356 of the most popular destinations that people booked short and long haul holidays to. Using proprietary, it analysed 3,200 keywords used to find holidays for each location and how popular each one was.

Turkey the most popular holiday destination search-wise

The term ‘holidays’ was searched for more than 4 million times, accounting for 24% of all holiday-related searches with month-on-month searches almost doubling from 2.2 million in May.

Turkey was the most popular holiday destination with the terms ‘Turkey holidays’ and ‘holidays Turkey’ cumulatively accounting for 5% (550,000) of the total search volume.

Natural search - Thomson the most visible website to holiday searchers, HolidayHypermarket drops

Greenlight also used the data to compile its quarterly league tables. These chart the best performing websites and brands, in both natural* and paid search**, based on their online visibility and share of voice in relation to the most popular search terms identified.

In natural search, Thomson was the most visible website to holiday searchers, achieving 69% share of visibility. It dominated in both short and long haul segments. It was followed by TravelSupermarket and FirstChoice with 69% and 66% share of voice, respectively. HolidayHypermarket meanwhile lost 15% share of voice in the short haul segment. It dropped from third to sixth position. It was a similar case in the long haul segment where its visibility decreased 10% and it dropped from second to fourth place in Greenlight’s league table.

Paid search - IceLolly most visible whilst TeletextHolidays topped short and long haul destinations

The picture was somewhat different in paid search, where IceLolly was the most visible advertiser for the top 90 keywords, gaining 53% share of voice. This it achieved through bidding on 84 keywords at an average ad position of seven on Google. However, TeletextHolidays topped Greenlight’s table in terms of its visibility to consumers looking for holidays to short and long haul destinations. In the short haul segment it increased its share of voice by 32% which saw it move up the ranks from position 13 to number one.

Social media — LastMinute the most followed brand, LowCostHolidays the most interactive

The 15 most proactive brands and aggregators in social media were also ranked by Greenlight. LastMinute was the most followed brand, with a combined following of over 82,000 on Facebook and Twitter. LowCostHolidays was the most interactive brand. It cumulatively produced 169 ‘posts’ and ‘tweets’. Since Greenlight’s previous report, ThomasCook appeared to have re-activated its Facebook page and interacted more regularly with UK-based social media consumers, which, in turn, has led to a vast increase in ‘fans’

Price focused strategy will be crucial to online advertisers’ paid strategies in light of January 2011 VAT rises

TNS found almost a quarter of consumers would spend more on their main holiday this year, whilst 19% would spend less. The notable difference was among younger travellers with 36% of those aged under 24 and 22% aged 25-34 planning to spend less. Therefore, according to Greenlight, price competitiveness will be even more crucial to online advertisers when VAT rises to 20% in January 2011.

“To increase click-through-rates (CTRs), it is in the players’ best interest to deploy a price-focused paid strategy by including specific rates in online ads, whilst monitoring competitors prices in the meantime”, says Simon Hollingsworth, Lead Researcher at Greenlight.

Furthermore, given our recent research which showed 80% of online marketers have limited knowledge of how price competitive they really are against their competitors, yet they still aggressively pushed products through paid search despite knowing they could be losers in a price war, this will be even more crucial.”