Digging Into U.S. Airport SEO

In the next phases of Airport Marketing Month here at the SageRock blog, I want to take a look at how the airports are doing from a search engine optimization standpoint.

One key to analyzing SEO ranking factors is to be sure you are comparing apples to apples. There is no point in comparing a car manufacturer with an airport. They are in completely different parts of the search world. So the fact that GM has over 18,000 links according to SEMrush is of no concern to an airport. Looking at what other airports are doing is going to be more important to you.

There are four primary numbers I like to look at when doing a quick once over on the SEO health of the U.S. airport Web site:

  • Pages Indexed in Google – this is simply how many pages Google knows about from your Web site.
  • Links to your domain – Our industry is now primarily using SEMrush to determine this for sites we don’t control.
  • Google PageRank – this is a number Google assigns to each page of your site on a scale of 0-10. The quality and quantity of sites linking to you is key here.
  • Age of your domain – When you bought your domain is something that can’t be manipulated. Older domains are better.

Together these numbers tell a story of how healthy a Web site is online in comparison to its peers.

Now, I have all this data (and more) for each of the top 100 U.S. airports. But a huge spreadsheet of numbers is not the most compelling content in the world. So, I thought I’d give you some highlights. However, if you want your data just let me know on the contact page.

U.S. Airport PageRank

This is a number that gets everybody in a tizzy. Over time it has become less and less important. Some SEO professionals don’t even look at it any more. But I like to take it into account, at least a little.

Most sites I see these days have a PageRank somewhere around 3, 4, or 5.

What made this research interesting was that the PageRank spread for the airports was 4, 5, 6, and 7. You all seem to skew higher than average. This was cool to see. But it makes sense. You are all the leading airports in the U.S. You play an important part in our society. So, having a higher overall PageRank makes sense.

Here was how it broke down:

Total top 100 U.S. airport home pages with a PageRank of 7 = 15

Total top 100 U.S. airport home pages with a PageRank of 6 = 31

Total top 100 U.S. airport home pages with a PageRank of 5 = 52

Total top 100 U.S. airport home pages with a PageRank of 4 = 2

This is really great news in my eyes! You all are on the board and within a nice, tight pattern.

I was curious if I was going to see any airport that was way out of line from the rest of them. Like maybe an airport was going to have a PageRank of 1. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

As for the 2 airports that have a PageRank of 4, don’t sweat it. You are still within a nice, acceptable level.

The secret to a higher PageRank is to get an industry-related site with a higher PageRank to link to you. If you could just get one of those PR 7 airports to link to you you’d be in the middle of the pack in no time :)

 Pages Indexed In Google

This number tells you how much content you have on your site. We often say, “content is king” in the search engine optimization world. Sites with more content typically get more links pointing to them which in turn increases their PageRank so they become more powerful. A more powerful site can rank for a greater variety of key phrases.

Here the spread was diverse. One airport has 1,430,000 pages indexed in Google. Another airport has 7 pages indexed in Google.

If you are on the low end of total number of pages indexed in Google I would highly encourage you to have more pages. More pages will help you come up for more phrases in the search engines. And you are also being a better resource for your customers.

Setting up a blog on your site is a super easy way to create more content. The content can be about a wide variety of topics:

  • Airlines that fly into your airport.
  • Restaurants in your airport.
  • Shops in your airport.
  • Things you might not know about your airport.
  • The sky’s the limit (haha). That would actually be  a cool name for an airport blog.

I want to specifically point out the four Hawaii airports:

http://hawaii.gov/hnl
http://hawaii.gov/koa
http://hawaii.gov/lih
http://hawaii.gov/ogg

The more I think about it, the more I really like the fact that they have built their airport Web sites on the main Hawaii.gov domain. The reason this is great is because the entire government site is able share all the value of all government content and links.

There are 878,000 pages in the hawaii.gov doman. This makes the entire site really powerful. They also have 25,875 links pointing to their domain… the airports with the most amount of links of all airports.

I don’t want you all to run out and change what you have done. But I just want to point out that it’s a very cool benefit from a search engine perspective.

Which brings me to:

Links to the domain

There is a long, weird history on how we track links to a site. I won’t get into it now. But what you should know is that I’m using SEMrush to track links here. The actual total number of links pointing to the domain is probably much higher. But that doesn’t really matter. The key here is that this number is relative to the other airports.

The range of links to the domain are: 25,875 to 39.

Again, we have a wide swing here.

What is important to know here is this: quality links that make sense linking to you are important. You should constantly be thinking about who could link to you. If a local newspaper does a story on you please make sure they include a link back to your site in the online version of the story.

All links are now useful to you in more ways than one. This includes links from places like:

  • Industry trade sites.
  • Industry blogs.
  • Industry discussion forums.
  • Local sites with authority. Newspapers, local bloggers, etc.
  • Facebook pages.
  • Twitter
  • Google+

You want links from a variety of places.

Getting links is hard. But do you want the secret? Here it is:

HAVE GREAT CONTENT!

That is the key to getting people to link to you.

Don’t forget to ask for the link. People often times forget to link to you even though they happily would.

You should also realize that the Web is becoming socialized. What that means is that people are going to find new products and services based on what their friends are doing. You need to understand that your current customers are your new marketing team. Love them and they will love you back.

I’ve seen time and time again where people post on an airport Facebook wall how much they love an airport. That kind of love is crucial for 21st century marketing.

You absolutely need people to be talking about you online.

Domain name age

There is nothing you can do about this. But older domains typically do better in the search engines than newer domains.

http://www.flyokc.com/ and http://www.flyoakland.com/ were both bought on November 4, 1996.

They are the winners of the oldest U.S. airport domain names. Those are gold. You’ll never want to get rid of those.

So those are the overarching aspects to search engine optimization. They are the key elements you want to be thinking about as you continue to expand your presence online.

In the next segment we’re going to be talking about airport key phrase research. I’ve already started looking at that. It’s pretty interesting what I’ve found.

See you next time!

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