Even with the effects of a global financial crisis, volcanic ash clouds over Europe, and earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, there’s still a bright spot for online travel portals: Asia-Pacific, the fastest growing travel market worldwide and where only 22% of customers have booked online. While China and India have clear leaders with Ctrip and MakeMyTrip, respectively, no travel portal in Southeast Asia has emerged as the frontrunner in this fragmented and largely untapped market.
Priceline has Agoda, TUI Group has AsiaRooms, Travelocity has Zuji, and Expedia operates under its same brand name. All have their regional head office in Singapore, all advertise using Google AdWords, but only one has taken the bull by its horns when it comes to SEO and ranks for the most keywords: Agoda. Here’s what they’ve done better than their competitors to pull ahead.
Agoda has more targeted backlinks with keyword-focused anchor text, although there appears to be paid links mixed in as well. Agoda runs the risk of getting penalized or having its link purchases discounted by search engines, but for now it’s working.
Keyword-rich URLs layed out logically.
Internal link structure
Agoda has an intuitive geo-focused taxonomy whereby every hotel landing page has multiple link paths to it. Furthermore, on each hotel landing page there are breadcrumbs, “Customers who looked at this hotel were also interested in…” links, and a link to the hotel’s reviews on a separate page. Agoda uses the strength of its homepage to link to the most popular destinations.
According to a Google site: search, there are more than 200,000 pages on Agoda that have a variation of this sentence:
“Each of the * rooms at this fine *-star hotel feature superior amenities.”
Following this sentence is a summarized list of amenities the hotel offers and ends with a call to action to book.
Although search engines may detect this as article spinning, it’s better than pulling hotel descriptions from elsewhere which would lead to duplicate content, as they do with the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore for example.
Text on each page
Agoda’s pages are never just a list of links. For each category page, there are several paragraphs of relevant text at the bottom of the page about the location.
Agoda updates its travel blog weekly with fresh content. On the downside, however, is that the blog is on a subdomain and the posts aren’t linking back to pages on Agoda’s main site.
Where the others are slipping
Optimized press releases are the preferred backlink building method at AsiaRooms. Every holiday and event in a city receives a press release with links back to AsiaRooms. There’s no real competitive moat by doing this nor are these links particularly high-quality.
One thing AsiaRooms does well is create landing pages for hotels that aren’t yet in its system yet, like http://www.asiarooms.com/en/singapore/singapore/pan_pacific.html as a sort of pre-emptive SEO.
There are no external backlinks focused to category or individual landing pages. Their root domain gets links from the footers of other country-specific Expedia sites. Most seriously, the same inventory is used across all of Expedia’s country-specific sites, which leads to duplicate content and diminished value in the eyes of the search engines.
Zuji has the least natural search presence of the four portals. Their homepage gets links from the footers of other sites in the Travelocity network like Travelocity.com, Lastminute.com and Igougo.com, but there are no backlinks focused to category or individual landing pages. Their homepage lacks links to category or individual landing pages as well. The biggest reason Zuji doesn’t rank for as many keywords as the others is that it nofollows internal links to its hotel landing pages.
Competition to heat up
With Southeast Asia’s large population, currency gains, increasing credit card and broadband penetration, not to mention some of the world’s most exotic destinations, travel portals in the region stand to gain a fortune once they invest in sustainable SEO. Zuji appointed an agency to handle its SEO in early 2011, while the three others currently have in-house SEO positions advertised. Expect this battle to only get more intense.
Digital Due Diligence Weekly