Every decision that Booking.com makes has to be backed by data. We have been using SEMrush since 2012 and it has helped us look more strategically at how we could strengthen our global presence in organic search and significantly grow our organic traffic since then.
Established in 1996 in Amsterdam, Booking.com has grown from a small Dutch startup to the largest travel e-commerce company in the world. Part of Booking Holdings Inc., Booking.com as of May 2018 has more than 15,000 employees in 198 offices, in 70 countries worldwide. The Booking.com website and mobile apps are available in over 40 languages, offer more than 28,506,187 total reported listings, and cover 131,381 destinations in 228 countries and territories worldwide. Every day, more than 1,550,000 room nights are reserved on the platform.
Booking.com is the 3rd biggest e-commerce website today and a leading online travel agency. They get millions of users every day and their revenue reaches over US$12 bn.
However, back in 2012 they were far from leveraging the power of SEO. Leonardo Saroni, Senior Product Owner at Booking.com, recollects those days: “We couldn’t track traffic by landing pages or language. I only knew this was the amount of traffic and bookings we were doing from Google every day, but I didn’t know which device, what language, which browser or where people landed. We needed a tool that would quickly provide us with data and would show market potential.”
Indeed, Booking.com were looking to expand their international market presence and Leonardo quickly realized they needed additional channels to achieve that. With a strong data-driven mentality at booking.com, competitive research data and business intelligence were the core issues to be addressed.
He knew SEO could be the solution, but how much business could one really extract from it?
First of all, Booking.com needed to catch up with the rest of the players in one of the most competitive markets who had already embraced SEO. As there was previously no data, SEMrush was useful for benchmarking against successful websites and for identifying where opportunities lay.
One of the first discoveries Leonardo’s team made was that the imbalance between their focus on Europe and the US was indeed too strong. For example, for the same keyword their visibility and presence in the UK was much lower than in the US.
Leonardo demonstrated internally the need to build a brand outside Europe, to develop their own link profile and to get important partnerships outside of Europe. “Using SEMrush helped us look more strategically at how we could strengthen our presence in international markets and the US. For instance, the first commercials we ran were in the US,” says Leonardo. “This is still an ongoing process, but we have seen a dramatic improvement. Our branded search queries and organic traffic have seen impressive growth since then.”
Locally, Booking.com have been able to level up their performance too. Only a few years ago Booking.com wasn’t on the first page of Google SERP for ‘hotels in London’ - one of the hottest keywords one can think of on the web. Today they rank #1 in organic search, which gives over 17m results.
“Every decision that Booking.com makes has to be backed by data,” states Leonardo. Unsurprisingly, SEMrush has also facilitated new ideas generation in the company. When assessing a proposal to create a Romantic Hotels in London landing page, Leonardo’s team looked at search volume and competitiveness of the keyword to validate the project. “We used to have one landing page per destination. Throughout the years we’ve created LPs for specific, narrow themes: apartment in London, B&Bs, or even a hotel with parking in London.”
Interestingly, if at the beginning a lot of use of SEMrush was for SEO, later it started playing a significant role in establishing Booking.com’s strategic partnerships.
Leonardo recognizes 3 main advantages of using SEMrush.
I. Assessing leads and sign ups.
Leonardo explains: “Whenever someone signs up for the affiliate program we can use the tool to have an understanding of their traffic mix. Are they strong at SEO, how much traffic do they have, are they buying that traffic, what is their potential to actually generate transactions.”
II. Scouting new partners and leads.
Booking.com may use SEMrush to look at top ranking websites and high traffic domains in certain niches of travel to further identify new leads.
III. Brand monitoring.
Every affiliate program has rules and guidelines, such as prohibited bidding on ‘booking’ or on our listings and destinations, and with SEMrush we can see if they comply.
- Competitive analysis pays off: Top ranking in Google for the hottest keywords
- Booking.com moved to the top positions on Google SERP for the most competitive keywords in the industry, such as ‘hotels in London’.
- Data-driven mentality of the company is supported by SEMrush capabilities
- Prior to making new business decisions, booking.com turns to the data such as keyword search volume and competitiveness for idea validation.
- Strategic partnerships development is facilitated
- Booking.com is enabled to assess potential affiliates in terms of their transaction- generating abilities, as well as their compliance with the guidelines.