{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

Ryanair has been undergoing something of a cultural revolution recently after initiating a novel plan to stop intentionally antagonising its own customers.

It began with a simple Twitter Q&A with CEO Michael O’Leary and has developed into a full-blown marketing campaign aimed at softening the brand image and creating “a new Ryanair experience”.

A major part of the new customer-friendly image is an overhaul of the company’s previously dreadful website.

Gone are the annoying banners and fiddly buttons, replaced instead by an altogether cleaner look with a simple interface and navigation.

Unfortunately something appears to have gone horribly wrong for Ryanair, causing it to plummet down Google’s SERPs for a broad range of important search terms.

Data from Intelligent Positioning shows that the airline implemented a URL restructure during March and April, but has failed to correctly redirect the old pages.

As a result Google is still picking up old 404 URLs, which is having a catastrophic impact on Ryanair’s search rankings.

This chart shows how the situation has changed between March 6 and April 6 2014. The columns on the left show the original ranking and the URL for the various search terms, while the columns on the right show the new ranking and URLs as of April 6.

Click to enlarge image

Many of the URLs have been altered to include additional text such as ‘cheap flights’ or, more bizarrely, ‘index.php’.

404s

As a result of the restructure, many of Ryanair’s search results now return 404 pages. This means that it will likely face further penalties when Google realises that it is returning useless results.

In fact this is likely to already be occurring, as according to Intelligent Positioning's data the airline’s search result for ‘Romania flights’ had fallen to 53rd place due to the fact that it returned a 404 page, but when I searched for it on April 15 Ryanair didn’t appear at all.

Similarly, when I searched for ‘flights to Poland’ Ryanair didn’t appear until page four, which is far lower than it appeared when the analysis took place around 10 days ago.

Another problem is that the search result linked to a page that gave details for a random flight from Bristol to Wroclaw rather than any sort of hub page for travel to Poland.

The impact on Ryanair

Data published by SimilarWeb in June 2013 showed that Ryanair’s site received more monthly traffic that British Airways and easyJet combined.

British Airways and easyJet showed a more stable line throughout the year, with a more consistent flow of web visitors, however Ryanair’s lowest traffic point (December) was still bigger than easyJet’s busiest period in July.

We obviously can’t tell which search terms are most valuable for Ryanair, but it’s clear that its current drop in search rankings will have a major impact on its site traffic.

It’s safe to assume that Ryanair’s SEOs are aware of the issue, but as yet it seems that nothing has been done to remedy it, so we’ll have to wait and see how long it takes for the airline to improve its rankings.

David Moth

Published 16 April, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1682 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Avatar-blank-50x50

Ruth Attwood

Unfortunate but sadly not unusual that a brand like this neglected something so essential as a redirect plan when dealing with a site restructure.

I deal with a lot of new site launches or migrations and it never ceases to amaze me how little attention these fundamental SEO requirements are given!

over 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Martin Hansen

Hi

Where do i find a tool that can create a table like the one in your first image?

over 2 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Martin, that was supplied to us by the guys at Intelligent Positioning. I think it was generated by their own software.

over 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Sam Silverwood-Cope

Thanks David - great piece

Yes the tools are ours (Intelligent Positioning's) and called Pi Datametrics.

We like them.

www.pi-datametrics.com

over 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

What's particularly strange about the Ryanair restructure (based on the URLs above) is that they no longer seem to be focused around being intuitive towards what they are promoting to the user in terms of guiding search engines (or for that matter consistent) which to me very much suggests as Ruth alluded to, that they have basically not really thought about the SEO consequences at all...

over 2 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

I can only assume that RyanAir's Web team didn't notice the huge number of 404s that their site was returning, because otherwise they would have fixed the issue.

This is very strange. We would have got a report from Google Webmaster tools.
http://blog.bigmouthmedia.com/2012/05/09/gwts-404-errors-guide/

over 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Kenny Jacobs

We should have picked this up while migrating to our new site and will learn from that. We have it sorted now. With a big site change things like this can happen. We are not the first. The site is performing great on visits and conversion and customers find it easier.

It's good to have such high brand awareness that we aren't at all dependent on organic rankings the way others are. Consumers in Europe know ryanair has the lowest fares and that's why our direct to site traffic is by far the biggest source of visits.

Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair CMO

over 2 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

Hi Kenny, thanks for your comment. I assumed your SEO guys would be on the case, good to know it's already fixed.

over 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Judy James

This doesn't look to be resolved to me. A quick search on 'flights to Barcelona' saw Ryanair appear halfway down the second page of listings, showing me fares from Knock, Ireland.

Easyjet, Monarch, Jet2, Lufthansa, and British Airways all appear above.

over 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

James Heslett, Digital Marketing Specialist at Digital Marketing Specialist

Thanks David - great piece,

Considering the scale of the coverage of this story (The Times, FT, Guardian etc) it would seem the media are now not only keen to highlight embarrassing corporate social media fails but also SEO project challenges as well.

This places added impetus on investing in the correct level of expertise to manage such projects, which in this case is not easy as there is a scarcity of genuine large scale site migration experience amongst SEO professionals.

over 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

@ James

There is definitely an element of this but at the same time, as long as you follow your standard SEO guidelines (and ultimately ensure that all pages are redirected to a specifically relevant new page or that any remaining pages are linked back to a suitable holding page (be in the homepage if necessary) then these sorts of problems can relatively easily be avoided.

Providing you also have the analytics tagging in place to capture 404 pages and any other user errors then even if you do miss something, it's easily rectified in the first 24-48 hours, long before many people will have encountered it. The main thing is to plan it out and not rush just because you've set yourself and overly ambitious timeline.

over 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Jonny Craft

Fab article!

It seems utter madness to change the URL such as /belgium-flights which is ranking second on google to a URL /flights-to-brussels-charleroi to appease long-tail traffic. A massive oversight, I have to agree with Ruth a simple redirect would suffice to keep hold of the traffic.

I would be interested in seeing more unsuccessful seo campaigns in the media, especially those who are practicing not so friendly techniques to obtain high rankings.

over 2 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.