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Optimizing Airline Visibility by Boosting Organic Search Success

Planning for most trips starts with a search. SEO is one of the primary ways to acquire and convert new customers, and with strategies to enhance organic performance, airlines can ensure they are showing up for all relevant queries. Hear how airlines are leveraging their organic channel to drive direct channel growth and loyalty, and how airTRFX has become key to increase Organic Search traffic and revenue by outranking OTAs and MSEs.

Full Transcript

Drew Ascough: Thanks, everyone. Thank you for coming to this session. My name is Drew Ascough. I'm a Senior Customer Success Manager at PROS. A couple of us have traveled halfway around the world to attend today, so it's been fantastic. It's so nice to see so many people in a room about a presentation about SEO. I've been in, working in SEO for 15 years or so. And a past boss of mine once made a comment that, I dabbled in the dark arts. And I wasn't sure... I hope they weren't accusing me of using black hat SEO techniques, which I promise you that I wasn't. But this has been a common misconception over time, that SEO was just something that, was this magic or something that you couldn't explain to anyone. But things over the years have progressed and we're at the stage now where SEO is a real marketing technique. Every algorithm update brings us further from the days of trying to trick search engines, and closer to the necessity of genuine marketing. So we've got... If you're not prioritizing user needs, personas, and intent, you're already falling behind with SEO.

Drew Ascough: So for an airline who doesn't want to fall behind, we have airTRFX, a platform that helps airlines such as Azul and Virgin Australia create content that focuses on user intent, and search engine intent, and gives the user exactly what they want, and that's flights. So I'd like to introduce our panel today. We have Gabriel Tomé from Azul Airlines, who's the Senior Ecommerce Analysist. We have Liam Kirk, the SEO Manager from Virgin Australia. And finally we got Sebastián Torres from EveryMundo, our SEO Leader, or SEO Manager. Apologies. I want to introduce Sebastián and ask him to come up to the microphone first, before we get to some questions to the airlines. Sebastián and his team work extremely hard to stay abreast and ahead of what is happening in the SEO space. As is mentioned, it's forever changing, there's algorithm updates, there's changes in the way that Google treats content. And they work very hard to ensure that all of our products perform at their best. So I'm going to ask him to set the landscape before we move into questions, and I'll bring him up to the microphone. Thank you.

Sebastián Torres: Okay. You guys can hear me well there, right?

S?: Yep.

Sebastián Torres: Perfect. Yeah. Thank you, Drew, for the intro. And, welcome, everyone, again. My name is Sebastián, I am the SEO Manager at PROS for our Offer Marketing products. And I've been working implementing SEO best practices for airTRFX for around four and a half years now. Today I would like to briefly take you over what is SEO, why airTRFX is the best SEO solution for offer marketing, and what our customers are doing to boost their organic performance and visibility. I would like to do this session a little bit more interactive, so let me ask you a random question here. Who in this room likes Italian cuisine? Raise your hand. There you go. Awesome. Let's put your imagination into work. And, imagine you're a chef and you own a restaurant in a big city with countless restaurants. To attract customers, you need a standout sign displaying your restaurant's name and cuisine. Think of this as your SEO target keywords. So, when someone craves Italian food, they see your sign that says, "Delicious Italian cuisine, mammamia," and decide to enter your restaurant. This means that your sign resonated with their craving, so they decide to give your restaurant a go. However, most times, having an attractive sign is not enough. Let's hope Jamie Oliver's restaurant is not in front of yours. Inside your restaurant you must offer great food, excellent service, and a welcoming atmosphere.

Sebastián Torres: This is basically similar to having a fast-loading website with high-quality content, and of course, easy to interact with. Google acts more like a food critic, recommending only the best spots. So if your site provides valuable, relevant information, this is really good food and great service, Google will more likely rank your website high up and direct visitors to your way. In essence, effective SEO combines content strategies, technical SEO, and interlinking strategies to convince Google, or your restaurant, that your restaurant or your website is the go-to place, much like a popular restaurant everyone wants to visit. So yeah, that's the basics of what is SEO, and I always like to go back to this. But going back to your restaurant, imagine you have thousands of menu items for your customers to choose from, it's going to be really hard to keep everything high quality, organized, fresh, fresh ingredients, and with good service. This is something similar to what airlines and hotels face when managing so many landing pages destinations and offers. And here is where airTRFX comes in, to empower airlines with the coverage they need to compete with OTAs and aggregators.

Sebastián Torres: AirTRFX automatically builds landing pages at scale for all your routes and destinations. It combines and puts into place page templates for queries around flights to city, from city, city to city and so on. So this makes it a lot easier for customers to find you and book directly with your airline, when searching for flights online. Now, airTRFX is not just about SEO, it's a really powerful tool enabling marketing teams across channels to support a holistic approach to offer marketing. Today, we'll focus on SEO benefits of airTRFX. But if you're interested in learning more about how to use airTRFX across other channels, please come visit us in our Offer Marketing booth, or reach out to our customer success. So, let's get into the benefits of airTRFX. AirTRFX tackles many technical SEO and content items, but I would like to highlight a few. Like I mentioned, it helps the creation of landing pages at scale and the management of content at scale for different verticals such as flights to city, hotels in city, vacation packages in city. AirTRFX also provides support with international and multilingual friendliness to help you target customers in their own country and language. For instance, in the currency of the country where they are, so dollars, pounds.

Sebastián Torres: AirTRFX also comes with inbuilt technical SEO features. There are so many, but I'll name a few. Canonicalization, XML sitemaps, dynamic XML sitemaps, client-side JavaScript, that is, to render content and fares. And aside from that, airTRFX provides real-time fresh updated fares. Ultimately, aside from your standard page templates that I mentioned, airTRFX allows airlines to effortlessly create custom pages to target flight-related keywords outside of your airline or hotel network. Sometimes users don't know what's the closest airport, and therefore, for instance, they will search for something like flights to Disneyland, flights to the Caribbean, or last-minute flight deals. So these are custom pages, that, with some keyword research we have been able to find to support the airline strategy. I think I'm a little over time, so... [chuckle] Well, I can continue talking about airTRFX SEO friendliness and the secret sauce for your restaurant, or SEO strategies. I'm going to leave and let our amazing panelists that have been firsthand users of airTRFX to share their testimonies and experience with airTRFX. So, it's all to you guys. Thank you.


Drew Ascough: Thanks for that, Sebastián. There's another session at 3:30 tomorrow with Enmanuel, going into a little bit more about that research around the value of custom pages and the revenue that you can generate from the visibility of custom pages. So I highly recommend attending that session. I want to further introduce you to our airline partners. Firstly, Azul. Gabriel, I think this time last year, I think you were about to, or had just launched airTRFX. And we're going to see a chart coming up that shows the growth, and it's fantastic, wait till you see it. But could you provide an overview of the changes and growth experienced with airTRFX during this period? So, yeah.

Gabriel Tomé: Thank you, Drew. It's been great, actually, in organic search. We have... I didn't memorize the number, sorry. We have almost 40% improvement in our average ranking, which is great, and 7% of leverage in our click share. It was provided because we have almost 700 keywords putting us on top five, which is absolutely awesome. So...

Drew Ascough: Yeah. And these are some examples of some of the pages that you've gone live with, and you can see that they look fantastic, they're doing a really good job. And if we go to that chart that we were talking about, we can see that Azul's organic visibility has climbed. As I mentioned, you launched around Outperform last year and that growth. So you can see this is two-city keywords against OTAs, to the extent now where your organic visibility for non-branded searches has reached 90% search engine visibility based on advanced web ranking. So, some fantastic results. I'll move on to Liam. There's a rumor that you and the Virgin team might be crowned digital pioneers at the Outperform Customer Awards. I think the lapel badge gives it away kind of thing. So...


Drew Ascough: Been told to drum up a little bit of noise around the award. First of all, congratulations, if it's true. We'll wait and see. But...


Drew Ascough: But I'd love you to provide, once again, an overview of how airTRFX and PROS offer marketing solutions that are core to your SEO success at Virgin Australia.

Liam Kirk: Yeah. Fantastic. Well, just knocked my water. Great start. Yeah. First of all, thank you so much for having me here, it's great to be in Orlando, and then also here on the panel to talk about our journey in SEO, and with airTRFX specifically. And it's a pretty exciting story. Post-administration, post COVID, so we've been on a transformation journey, and a key focus of that journey has been about driving high-quality, low-cost traffic to our site. And the simple answer to that is organic search and SEO. And our airTRFX pages have been absolutely crucial to that. Part of that journey, we've taken the airTRFX pages and the platform that it is, the SEO first platform that it is, optimized on-page signaling content and everything like that. We've also re-platformed and rebuilt our core website to SEO best practice, and we've made some key structural changes across our domain. And if we shift to the next slide. This indicates our journey for the last, gosh, what is it? 22 months?

S?: Yeah.

Liam Kirk: Longer, 20 months. 24 months, sorry. And we've gone from the bottom of the pile, competitively. Well behind our airline competitors in Australia, and pretty big brands with big authority in Australia, with Qantas and Jetstar. Also behind the key OTAs and Meta. So, the likes of Webjet in Australia, which were dominant, Skyscanner as well, and Flight Centre. We've gone from... And this is a Semrush metric. I'm sure a lot of you will have used Semrush. Our share of voice was 3% previously, so we weren't getting many of those clicks at all across our non-branded flights network. This is flights to Sydney, Sydney to Melbourne, etcetera, across our network. And that Sydney to Melbourne route is one of the highest trafficked routes in the world. And we've been able to move that rank to position 1 across the board, and across our whole network, we've been able to move from bottom of the first page to an average rank of 1.2, which is, as an SEO, it's literally the dream. So, yeah. And we've got airTRFX and our digital team as well to thank for those results. So, yeah, really, really, yeah, a story that we are really proud of. So, yeah.

Drew Ascough: Yeah, that's wonderful to hear about the success of airTRFX boosting your visibility and organic search. We're going to move into some more questions now. And I'll start with you, Liam, you've got the microphone. And this is something that we talked a little bit about, recently around, how... And you are the main... SEO is your core role at Virgin Australia, but how does that fit into the overall traffic acquisition strategy within the airline? How do you work with the other teams in that space to ensure that what you are doing on airTRFX fits into what the rest of the airline is doing?

Liam Kirk: Yeah. Well, airTRFX are essentially the focal point of our non-branded transactional terms. Those are the terms that I was just talking about. And, for us, they are the hunting ground for meaningful growth for the business. We have, a large portion of air traffic comes from branded terms. And airTRFX is going to make its way to our website one way or another, but how we drive actual meaningful visibility is by going after those competitive terms where we didn't have visibility previously. And that's brought, yeah, some pretty significant revenue benefit for the business, significant traffic benefits. 750% growth on non-branded traffic terms for our network transactional terms, which is amazing. And as you said, how do we work with the other teams? We share those pages. These aren't purely SEO pages. And we utilize them as well as we can to get the growth that we've had, but we share them with paid search, paid media, specifically, and display. The great thing about airTRFX is, it's contextual to all those channels. We talk omnichannel, the traffic and the intent that is being driven from paid search, paid media, landing on these pages is specific to a specific intent and conversion.

Drew Ascough: Cool.

Liam Kirk: It's transactional intent, so...

Drew Ascough: Lovely. And Azul, how do you, do you... The airTRFX pages for Azul, part of that wider acquisition strategy as well, not just SEO?

Gabriel Tomé: Yeah. And, it's because it eases the life of the clients, the customers. When the customer goes to the Google, they want to facilitate their lives. I think airTRFX helps them to get to their goal, which is buying tickets. So it fits perfectly to, even to our strategies, because, in the past we need to, "Oh, you need to create a page to something like that, and you need to boost that with money and... " No, now you can create 11,000 pages automatically. So, it fits pretty well to our strategy.

Drew Ascough: Lovely. No, that's great. And, obviously, we've talked a little bit about, we've talked a little bit about the performance metrics and what we've seen. I think we've covered that, fantastic growth. Gabriel, did you want to add anything more metrics to those, what you've seen? I think you mentioned before that you have, high ranks, high visibility, which is great. I did want to cover a little bit about content strategy. How does airTRFX influence your content strategy? Are you able to... What are you doing? Have you been able to create more and targeted optimized content at scale? I think you mentioned that you can create 11,000 pages. But then, how are you using airTRFX to target more specific keywords, or themes, or events and things like that?

Gabriel Tomé: It help us to get to across the other channels. When we have to create a lifecycle with the... We have a journey team that helps, maps the whole journey. So they always need something that airTRFX can provide. We have posted on social media the arguments that, to help the teams to have this strategy more sharpened with the airTRFX.

Drew Ascough: Okay. And Liam, this is probably getting onto, I know, you've had content creators in your team, writers. And what has been their remit over, I suppose the last 6 to 12 months, with the... We've got this AI generation and we're seeing that in search and the way that Google is planning on indexing content. And how's your content team, how's that influenced what they've done from a content strategy point of view?

Liam Kirk: I think specific to airTRFX, I guess the keyword that I'd be looking for is efficiency. We can rely on the platform to build pages at scale quickly by adding in our red list that'll dynamically build these pages, and then we can strategically optimize at a more granular approach across those pages. It also allows our content team to actually focus in some other areas. We've got that transactional intent specifically, but it also allows our content creators to write content in a new hunting ground, which is top-of-funnel content. You've got this quick play with airTRFX, but then you can do the long play as well with this top-of-funnel content. We are driving long-form content, and this is helping us build topical authority as well. Influencing the transactional pages with top-of-funnel activity, which has been really, we've had some, an outstanding result off the back of those as well. And I think that that helps future-proof with some of the conversations that we'll have in a few questions time with search generative experience and AI and everything like that. So, yeah.

Drew Ascough: Cool. Sebastián, do you have anything to add around that, around content and things, or no?

Sebastián Torres: I think they've said it all.

Drew Ascough: Okay.

Sebastián Torres: They are firsthand users of airTRFX.

Drew Ascough: Nice. Okay. We'll move on. We're a bit over time. I want to get to these two questions, because these are two questions that I think a lot of people want to hear about, especially the last one. But I'll go to Sebastián first on this one. And this one is around, more around what PROS is doing and what your team is doing to really ensure that airTRFX stays ahead of the competition. What are we doing to ensure that airTRFX remains the powerful tool that it is now? And then more, go to Liam and Azul, who is your biggest threat moving forward? Who do you see as being, is it Google and the changes they make or kind of the traditional competitors in OTAs?

Sebastián Torres: Yeah, yeah. That's a great question, Drew. Let me share with you some of the best practices that we always share with our customers. Because... And also, I'm going to share with you what we're doing to make airTRFX a future-proof solution. While airTRFX is a pretty robust plug-and-play SEO-friendly inbuilt solution, there's always best practices and so many things that we encourage our customers to work on, starting from building high-quality content for their destinations and landing pages. We always encourage them to work on, let me have this note here, striking distance pages. These are pages that are ranking in positions 6 to 10 or in second page in Google. These are low-hanging fruits that can help you move the needle and start driving more traffic. They just need a little push and then they can start performing even better, gaining visibility. We always encourage interlinking strategies. We recently, not long ago, launched the dynamic interlinking module that helps you go beyond what's the default in the airTRFX delivery.

Sebastián Torres: And, of course, always we encourage to take a look and try to find flight-related keywords that are outside of your route network. There's always a region, a place, or a deal that you can target with airTRFX to capture even more organic traffic into your pages. Those are some of the recommendations. And then what we're doing in terms of airTRFX, my team and I are constantly working on data-driven research projects. In fact, we have a separate panel tomorrow with, leading with Enmanuel and Kat. So, everybody is invited to look at that one. It's going to be very insightful in terms of data. And I work closely, Enmanuel and I work closely with the product team, our airTRFX product managers, constantly sharing with them recommendations on how to improve the product. Different, so many, insight tickets that we have that we try to prioritize. It's just, there are so many things that are changing. There's always new tags, there is always new recommendations or industry, let's say, best practices that we look at OTAs or what they do to recommend internally our product.

Drew Ascough: Cool. Gabriel, anything new?

Gabriel Tomé: Yeah. It's very easy to find fares on OTAs because they have price comparisons, they link to hotels. So, airTRFX counterpart with that using, when we have a flights page city to city, we have a histogram, so you can compare the fares within the dates and the months. We have the budget filter, so they have a lot of data, but we have means to counterpart it. So airTRFX helps with this competition.

Drew Ascough: Nice. And Liam?

Liam Kirk: I think the quick answer is, we'll always be vulnerable to our competitors, particularly any high authority competitor like...

Drew Ascough: I suppose you're the hunted now.

Liam Kirk: In a way, we've only got one way to go and we are in sort of defense mode. We're doing everything we can to keep feeding these pages from an authority perspective, from a signalling perspective. Yeah. So...

Drew Ascough: Yeah, no. Well, and there's also, I put Google in here because I think they are... And shout-out to Enmanuel again, there's another session tomorrow, roundtable, looking at the search engine result, like the SERP in Europe. I know Google is making big changes and significant changes to the way that they're displaying prices and city to city pages in Europe. So I really recommend that, we're going to break down the SERP and have a look at what it's actually showing, because it's a big change. And I think they're moving the goalpost, and we just need to keep up with that. And I think airTRFX does, and our team does a very good job with that. Look, I'm going to move into the last question, and I think this one is good. Because I know everyone's, in the past week or so we've seen a lot of news and chat and posts about the introduction and rollout of AI overviews. This is the content piece at the top of the Google search results. It's their kind of AI, going out and getting the content and putting it in front of you, of what it thinks you want to read. And we're seeing that in the search results. The numbers are low to begin with. But I think it's going to become even more, you're going to see more and more of it moving forward. So, what are the challenges and threats to organic search traffic in the future in this... What is the future of SEO in an AI-powered internet? Gabriel?

Gabriel Tomé: Yeah. I think we have an opportunity here because, internally, my challenge is to generate content because I don't have too many people to do that. With GenAI I can have some support, but it's a challenge to use GenAI because it's too robotic, the content. So, how can we balance that, to use GenAI, and to have a robotic content? It's an opportunity and a threat at the same time for me.

Drew Ascough: Yeah. Okay. And Liam, we've had a few... We discuss a lot of stuff SEO, so I know we've had some discussions about this. I think on the flight over you got a viewpoint, a stance on this and, or developed a stance on where you sit.

Liam Kirk: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I've always had a stance on it, but I firmed it up, obviously, coming into this presentation. But... I think there's two streams to this answer, or question. And one is the intent of the query from a search generative experience, so Google's AI experience in the SERP. Informational queries will ultimately start taking away click share as they will lead to zero click. So Google will serve the response within the SERP leading to less people having to click through to...

Drew Ascough: Consuming that content in the search result. Yep.

Liam Kirk: Exactly. Exactly. But the challenging piece, which I don't think we know right now, is those transactional behavioral queries. So, are humans comfortable to adopt AI to go and make a flight booking for them? That's what we don't know right now. I think there's so much context that we can process quickly in our mind in convenience to make an action, where we can't provide that context in a query to return the exact response that we need, or action that we need. I think that's the really tricky part. And I think it will develop over time, but at this stage that's probably where it's sitting.

Drew Ascough: But you also mentioned that your... And this is where I was leaning towards early in the contenting, that your team has, though, written a lot of your destination content and content for this process to be in that informational query and view in the search and result.

Liam Kirk: Absolutely. Yeah. It's really interesting. SGE has been rolled out here in the US, not in Australia. So, being here in the States is my first experience to go and have a look at it. One of our top queries for Virgin Australia is best time to visit Bali, basically. High-volume term, top-of-funnel list, that top-of-funnel content that we're talking about, drives huge amount of traffic to We've written that in a way so it can potentially, hopefully, be picked up by SGE. And then if Google and other search engines are responsibly sourcing or referencing that content, then we should be in a position to drive that traffic. So, is that...

Drew Ascough: Yeah, no, that's perfect. I know we're... Did you have any... I'm sorry, so...

Sebastián Torres: Yeah, yeah. I just wanted to resonate with what you said, but also mention that throughout the history of SEO, the essence of SEO is that it is an ever evolving practice. It's constantly changing. There has been so many instances where people are concerned of their websites being impacted by algorithm updates. But that's the essence of SEO, is just adapting to what Google is rolling out. This, very fresh, last week we had the SGE rollout. We started to do some experiments of how the SERP looks for flight keywords. And so far we don't see, like Liam mentioned, transactional keywords impacted. There is no an AI overview for those keywords, but certainly there will be an impact for upper funnel informational keywords. And what I wanted just to mention is, we have flight pages, the idea is to see for which queries these pages are ranking that could be informational, and those could be the ones that, likely in the near future, will be impacted. Some of these could be top 10 things to do in a city, or what to do in XY trip, how to travel from here, here. Those will be the informational queries that may be, and somehow impacting purchase-oriented pages like airTRFX, if we're ranking for informational queries, but not transactional.

Drew Ascough: It's an exciting time. So I think watch this space and, yeah, we'll manage...

S?: Do you have time for a couple of questions?

Drew Ascough: I don't think we've got anything on after it, so please, yep, questions. Yeah, I was going to offer questions, so you want to give him the microphone maybe, and...

S?: I have, just have two questions. One is for Sebastián and the other is for Liam and Gabriel. Sebastián, so you mentioned that you look at the competitors, right? Also you look at Google guidelines, and you do a ton of research to improve airTRFX at a pro level. So the question that I have is, can you mention a couple of the latest initiative that you have taken to improve airTRFX at a pro level?

Sebastián Torres: Yep. Good. Some of the initiatives we've been working on is making airTRFX pages more customizable for each of the markets. We recently just launched custom pages for individual markets. Before we had custom pages at a language level, so we weren't able to, or airlines were unable to customize their offers to a specific market. So, yeah, they would see pages that were for a campaign or a promotion in the UK, also ranking in the en-US side edition. That's a really big one that we released recently. We are also working on more improvements to our dynamic interlinking modules to make them now based on geolocation. Hopefully you'll be able to see pages nearby based on your location, so city to city, flight to city, links that will help you get there. But we have so many other initiatives. We were just talking about making airTRFX control powered with AI. So, from airTRFX control, you hopefully will be able to create content from there and not going to ChatGPT or any other GPT to create that. There's a long roadmap we have, but of course we can discuss this in our Offer Marketing booth.

Drew Ascough: Yep. I think we're getting the wind-up. So, Enmanuel, you'll have to kind of... Yeah. Anyway. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. As I said, great to see so many at a SEO presentation. And, yeah, as I said, if you want to speak to us, come see us at the booth. If you want to speak to these lovely panelisgonnats, come and see us and we can put you in touch and you can ask them about their fantastic results. Thank you, everyone. Have a great day.