Online car-hire search drops consecutively from June through to September

London, 15 December, 2009 - The number of car-hire related searches made by UK-based consumers online, dropped between June-September, reveals a new report by Greenlight, the UK's leading independent search marketing agency. According to the report 'Car Hire Sector Report - Q3 2009', of the 5.8 million searches for car-hire related terms over the period, 1.5 million occurred in September. However, this was a 25% drop when compared to August volumes and 34% down on July's. The report also reveals that some key players in this sector have slid down the ranks in the Greenlight league table which charts the 60 most visible websites for car hire per quarter.

Greenlight's report used industry data to classify 356 of the most popular global destinations that people in the UK travel to. The independent research profiled the search terms used to find car hire companies in each location and how popular each search term was. The data was then used to rank the most visible brands on page one of Google's search results.

According to the report in September, the top 3 most popular car hire-related terms that UK-based consumers searched for online were 'Car hire' (13%), 'Car rental' (5%) and 'Car hire UK' (3%).

Accounting for 476,000 searches, European destination-based terms were the most searched for by UK consumers, accounting for a 31% share compared to 18% for the UK & Ireland, 9% for North America and 5% for the Far East and Australasia.

Greenlight's research determined the best positioned, and hence the top 60 most visible websites and brands in the UK Car Hire sector, based on the search volumes for each keyword, and their respective ranking on page one of Google UK, for both natural* and paid search.**

In natural search, the three most visible car hire websites to UK consumers were CarRentals followed by Travelsupermarket then Easycar, achieving 54%, 40% and 32% share of voice in September, respectively.

By contrast, EuropeCar and AnyCarHire fell three places in the league table due to a decrease in visibility of 6% and 5% respectively. In the previous quarter, they held fourth and fifth position in Greenlight's top 60 most visible websites for car hire. Both sites lost ground to more aggressive competitors such as Enterprise and Hertz.

Despite its huge offline presence, Avis failed to improve on its Q2 search visibility. It remained visible to just 21% of UK online car hire searches in September.

"The car hire sector is notoriously competitive with competition up, down and across the supply chain, which is partly aided by the ease with which data and systems can be scraped, integrated, white-labelled and syndicated", said Warren Cowan, CEO at Greenlight. "This has resulted in a market where brands are competing with their direct competitors and agents, as well as having all their affiliates in tow. Consequently, rankings are difficult to achieve."

In terms of paid search, CarHire3000 was the most visible advertiser in September, achieving 73% share of voice of the top 90 key words analysed. Of the top 10 advertisers, six were direct providers and four were aggregators. This contrasts with natural search where seven were agents/aggregators, which included the top two most visible websites: CarRentals and Travelsupermarket.

The analysis of consumer search behaviour revealed considerable surges in activity early in the week with particular hot spots during the lunch period and after work. Surprisingly, many advertisers did not seem to be taking advantages of these surges, maintaining relatively consistent levels of advertising activity.

In relation to search bidding strategies, Greenlight's research reveals that none of the advertisers recognised the importance of increased consumer search activity on Mondays and Tuesdays. Neither did they recognise the importance of bidding during either the 'lunchtime spot' of 12pm to 2pm, or the 'after work slot' of 6pm to 8pm.

Cowan concludes:

"Interestingly, we have seen in other verticals, such as insurance, the top advertisers achieve considerably more visibility in the natural search space. By contrast, our research revealed the opposite in the car hire sector, since the majority of brands focused on paid search."

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