I’m sure by now most people realize that there are plenty of firms who care about the websites you visit. Some companies, like Compete, have made a business of it. There’s some pretty cool info out there, but you need to be careful what you take from it.
In this blog post, Compete reviews an analysis they did of web traffic from people in the state of Massachusetts and it is said to show the power of Southwest Airlines in drawing air travel researchers from the state. For those not familiar with the area, here’s a primer from Microsoft’s Live.com.
Now this isn’t the biggest map, but you can get an idea of how this works. Boston/Logan is the main airport for Boston and the region. In the past, Southwest’s strategy of avoiding big crowded airports led them to surround the Boston area by flying into Providence, 60 miles to the south, and Manchester, 55 miles to the north.
With low fares and frequent flights, Southwest expected to draw a lot of traffic from the Boston area, and they have, but it’s amazing to get an idea of how much of an impact they’ve actually had here.
In all of Massachusetts, Southwest had 23% of all online airline research traffic. That was good enough to be #1, well ahead of JetBlue with 17% and American with 13%. Now in Suffolk County, where Boston lies, the airline drops to 5th place in the rankings, but surrounding counties have them at either first or second with one showing them at third. That says they are pulling in a good amount of traffic.
These are impressive numbers, but let’s take a step back here before getting too giddy. It’s important to note that Southwest has a much higher percentage of bookings coming through its own website when compared to some of the legacy carriers. That means people are much more likely to go to southwest.com when flying Southwest than they would be to go to aa.com when they fly American. So, this just says that a lot of people are going to the Southwest website, but it doesn’t tell us what percentage of people in Massachusetts are actually flying the airline. It’s definitely going to be much lower than the numbers we see here.
A more accurate comparison would look at all web travel planning sites. Southwest doesn’t participate with any of them, so a visit to Travelocity, Orbitz, or Expedia is someone who is researching flights on a variety of airlines but NOT Southwest. That would clearly lower Southwest’s percent of research coming to its website.
So even with that caveat, what does this tell us? Well, I would say that this means Southwest does have high name recognition in Massachusetts and those people who travel are considering Southwest in large numbers. But it doesn’t tell us much more than that. I would be very hesitant to throw out numbers like 23% of all airline research online in Massachusetts goes to Southwest because I think that’s misleadingly high. Still, it’s an impressive number nonetheless for an airline which doesn’t even fly to the state.