The car rental business is an incredibly competitive one, especially when it comes to the search engines, where the majority of travelers begin their search for cars.

The Search Monitor was curious how the major car rental companies were changing their market visibility on the search engines in the past three months. This time period was particularly interesting because it covered the build-up to spring break and the important planning season for bigger summer trips.

We wondered: Would the major car rental players be increasing their PPC market visibility slowly, would it be sudden, perhaps timed with a certain important date, or would their search visibility remain fairly constant?

We looked at ads running from December 1, 2013 through March 15, 2014 that were triggered from any keyword in our platform’s Car Rental Services vertical. For this test, we just focused on Google in the US, although it would be interesting to look at car rental trends in Europe in a future test.

The-Search-Monitor-Paid-Search-Market-Visibility-Car-Rentals

We looked at the top 20 competitors for our rental car services group of keywords. But, we decided to pull out just three companies that had very interesting stories when compared together. Here’s what we found:

-Enterprise was the clear market visibility leader, with a score greater than 30% during this period. It was the most stable of the three companies profiled and showed the pattern that we most expected to see – a slow and fairly steady increase.
-Hertz clearly impressed us the most, more than doubling their market visibility score during this time period. We wondered…were they spending more on CPCs to increase their rank? Were they running more ads? Were they running special offers to increase their CTR and boost their rank?
-Avis surprised us. Their trend seems to be the mirror opposite of Hertz. The Search Monitor’s market visibility score is a relative measure, so it could be that the rise of Hertz helped push Avis’ market visibility down to the single digits. Or, Avis may have made a strategic decision to temporarily (we hope) lower their PPC visibility.

The data is clearly suggestive and does not provide definitive explanations on the PPC strategy of the three companies. It does, however, underscore the need to keep a close eye on your search marketing visibility as well as that of your competitors and industry leaders. We recommend a weekly review of market visibility measures in order to identify competitive opportunities to increase sales.

One thing is for certain: If I worked for Avis (or its search agency) I would want to make sure that the trend above was in line with my planned Q1 2014 search strategy, and not an unfortunate result of the actions of my competitors.

Notes:

-All market visibility data comes from Lighthouse by The Search Monitor
-If you want to see a great report on how important search engines are in the research and purchasing process for travelers, check out Google’s ‘The 2013 Traveler’ report.

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