Here at Zazzle Media, we’re always keeping an eye on the travel industry. The trends on where is hot (both literally and figuratively) and where is not. Understanding the opportunities across a market is key to us providing logical strategies for our clients in the sector. To this end, we couldn’t let the closure of Thomas Cook escape our analytical eyes.
Notice: The outpouring of support for former Thomas Cook workers around the country has been phenomenal, naturally, being a Greater Peterborough company ourselves we’ve been able to lend our support. We hope all former employees of the company see their way into new positions across the many businesses pitching in with job fairs and adjustments to currently advertised roles. This post hasn’t been created to make light of the situation - just market commentary, similar to our post for Wonga.
There are no real “positives” in this scenario, only changes. Ultimately (and brushing aside the impact of Brexit) there will still be the same number of people looking for holidays at peak time next year, likewise, Thomas Cook’s presence or lack thereof in the January surge will potentially help the performance of other brands.
Let’s explore which sites in particular are most affected.
Using a third-party tool we took a snapshot of the largest 9,500 (non-branded) keywords where Thomas Cook ranked in the top 40. Anything beyond this point often falls into a vat of irrelevancy or is very tenuously linked to travel. Thomas Cook was one of the few (commercial) travel sites with a blog that was both functional and viable in the volume of traffic it produced for the brand - therefore not all of the keywords analysed are transactional - some may be queries or questions such as “what is half board”.
Using our internal toolset we acquired the other websites ranking within the top 40 for these terms too. From here, it was a simple process of working out who will move up when Thomas Cook listings drop from the SERPs. We’ve used an industry-specific CTR model to estimate traffic in these new positions.
Given the closure of the site (and redirects of all URLs to https://scdn.thomascook.com/status.html) it’s unlikely that search engines will continue to let the TC rankings stick for much longer.
Interestingly this hard closure of the site sits in contrast to Wonga, where it left many of its pages active and accessible before performing the required redirects taking up to 10 weeks for rankings to fizzle out.
The sites that are set to gain the most in terms of organic traffic from Thomas Cook’s closure include:
A full list of the domains positively affected, the sum of the incremental traffic and the total number of positions moved can be found in this public Google document. We’ve compiled this data below with some data visualisation if you’re interested.
By understanding the CTR of the previous and (potential) future rankings we can look at the difference and aggregate this data to provide total traffic gains by site/domain.
The above chart is ordered by traffic gained - this is an estimated monthly figure. The presence of TripAdvisor shows exactly how influential Thomas Cook was within the informational space, similarly with the 2nd site on the list - Holiday Weather. BBC also featured quite highly on the list given their broad approach to content.
Some sites clearly have less of an overlap with Thomas Cook, you can see where the grey area (representing total ranking changes) dips. To investigate further using a different angle, we can arrange our data primarily based on this metric to understand the sites that will likely see the most change in their rankings - but not necessarily their traffic - often due to pages moving from lower positions to marginally better ones.
The data around traffic gains is always going to skew towards the sites toward the top end of the SERPs as the improvements between 4th and 3rd are far more substantial than 37th to 36th (for example).
The above chart explores the gross number of ranking changes that sites can expect. Sitting within the top 40 but just behind Thomas Cook is going to bag sites the greatest result here. Obviously Thomas Cook is such a large and authoritative site that ranking multiple times ahead of some competitors isn’t unheard of.
In fact, over 5% of the keywords we examined had multiple listings for Thomas Cook within the top 40, potentially meaning even greater gains for lower-ranking sites when the site closure is fully recognised by Google and Bing.
It’s worth pointing out that within travel, there are a substantial number of longer tail searches. Our keyword list of 9,500 may seem large, but in reality, it excludes a significant portion of that long-tail market. You could put a ‘long-tail uplift’ of an additional 20-30% incremental traffic and likely still have undersold the impact here!
Naturally, I take zero responsibility if you tell your bosses to expect 10k more visits a month and they don’t materialise - this is all theory, plus it’s not likely this happened in a vacuum.
Something important to note…
This news also coincides with a Core Algorithm Update from Google. Therefore, you might wish to understand where you’re seeing wins from Thomas Cook’s closure vs adjustments in rankings off the back of the update.
How do you do that? ... not with ease! It’s likely that the time spent acquiring such pinpoint insight would be better spent elsewhere - it’s probably not actionable. Ultimately there is nothing more you can do (now) to capitalise on Thomas Cook’s departure from the sector. Likewise, scrambled attempts to fix performance after a core update is perhaps too late. As Google so often claim, their best practice is quite clear on the matter and proactivity trumps reactivity every single day of the week.
Whether you’ve had good experiences with Thomas Cook or bad, competitor or observer - there is no doubt that its collapse will create both change and opportunity for a vast number of sites within the industry. If you have any questions about the data or would like more information please feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help.
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