What airline SEO taught me about sky high traffic

In my 12+ years in SEO, I’ve had the good fortune of working on SEO for two airlines.
The first was for flynas, a low cost carrier from Saudi Arabia.
The other was for Etihad Airways, the national flag carrier of the UAE.
It’s quite a trip when you get stuck into the details, despite the stark differences between each airline.
What’s also interesting is working with brands that are well known. As in, it’s not some random small business no one has ever heard of.
You’re also dealing with a very price conscious consumer.
Because let’s face it, most of us are loyal to cheap flights, not the airline itself.
I mean, we might have our own preferences but when it comes down to it, people almost always choose price.
I know I do.
This is because I’d rather put my money towards other things like a better hotel or fun experiences at my destination.
And I say this as a tall person who has to fight for leg room (and the arm rest!).
Moving along.
The hardest part with airline SEO is getting ranked for generic, non brand keywords.
You can’t rely on brand searches alone.
When you look at Google Search Console, you’ll be overwhelmed with brand related queries but the real gold is in the non brand stuff. (this should always be your primary focus in my books).
You’re competing with other airlines & OTAs (online travel agencies).
It’s a cut throat space that leaves no room for error but it also presents a great opportunity if you know where to look.
Think about this: you know of so many airlines and you have a few you love more than others.
You also know of Kayak and Skyscanner.
And despite this, there’s still so many route/destination queries.
Flights from Dubai to Paris. Flights to Bangkok. Cheap flights to Japan. And so on.
The main problem I see with airlines when it comes to the above queries is the results.
Too many times, the wrong page comes up and this isn’t helpful at all.
Think about how frustrating it is if you searched for ‘flights from london to abu dhabi’ and you got a ‘flights from abu dhabi’ page. This is so annoying!
Or if you were specific with your city/airport codes…
For example “etihad auh to lgw” – clearly, I want flights from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to London Gatwick (LGW), on Etihad Airways.
If the Heathrow page comes up AND/OR anything other than what I’m looking for, this means I’m not going to click through.
You know what else I won’t be doing? MAKING A BOOKING.
So no money for you, poorly optimised airline website.
And given how small the margins are for airlines, I’d say that every single booking counts.
The way to fix is this to be very pedantic about the keywords used in your meta data and page copy.
And I mean really pedantic.
Tighten the meta data, H tags and page copy down to the letter.
Be so specific, that there can be NO DOUBT about what that page is all about.
When I worked on the footer content for every SERP on every website in the Property Finder group, I made sure I stuck to the most relevant keywords for that page. AND NOTHING ELSE.
If it was about apartments for rent in a certain area, I would never mention other property types or talk about sales/buying.
So the take away here is: be as hyper relevant as possible with your keywords and page copy. Remove any ambiguity. You cannot afford to dilute your business.
Coming back to airline SEO and destination/route pages, I find that too many airlines keep these pages very basic and are not geared towards conversions.
I suggested to both clients to make these destination pages exciting and easy to use.
If I land on a page showing flights to London, I want the form to show my destination as London. I should not have to select it again from the list. And if I’ve been specific of which airport I want to fly from/to, give me the correct page.
It’s almost like I’m asking for too much here!
Destination pages for most airlines are so boring. Even the call to action is weak. It’s like they’re relying on their brand to make you want to book with them.
Showing me destination specific imagery? Great.
Giving me a 14 day weather forecast? Alright.
Giving me handy tips on useful local phrases, what kind of power sockets to expect and even currency exchange rates? Now we’re talking. It’s small stuff but it’s a start.
The idea is this: give me an irresistible reason to choose to fly to that destination, with your airline.
Don’t rely on your brand or a special offer. I mean really make me want to pack my bags and fly away.
To extend on this: your website content should give people no doubt that choosing you is going to be a decision they will not regret.
You can do all of this with how you lay out your pages and copy. You can’t go wrong with having some dope pictures too.
When it comes to price and brand, there’s only so much you can rely on. Let your words do the rest.
I’ll end on this: start looking at non-brand queries in Google Search Console and really dig into what people type in and what they land on when they visit your website. Look at what pages really come up for search queries.
And if you’re not ranking as well as you should be and/or the wrong pages are coming up, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
You know it makes sense.
Get your traffic sky high – get a free website audit right now.

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