Concentrate Search Analytics Blog

Uncovering Cruise Search Trends for Wave Season

Wave Season is as big as the holiday shopping season for the cruise industry.  Exploring search trends can help you optimize and expand your campaigns to maximize impact during this important shopping period for cruise travelers.

What is Wave Season?

The beginning of a new year brings an end to the big Holiday shopping season in retail and the start of the big cruise shopping season in the travel industry.  The cruise industry calls its equivalent of Black Friday “Wave Season” and it runs from January through March.  Cruise and travel marketers put out their best marketing campaigns during this time.  With search contributing 40% to 50% of traffic to cruise websites, exploring search trends and keyword patterns is well worth the effort.  You can uncover new opportunities to optimize and expand your search marketing program.

Wave Season is Huge

It’s clear from data that Wave Season is huge, as Internet traffic to the cruise industry’s websites skyrockets in the first three months of the year.  Last year was bigger than 2011 and early indicators show a similar bump in 2013.  According to Experian Hitwise data, the cruise category saw 160 million visits during 2012’s Wave Season compared to 140 million visits in 2011.  That’s a lot of search traffic for cruise marketers to capture.

Wave Season traffic trends

Wave Season Internet Traffic 2012 vs 2011. Source: Experian Hitwise.

Discover Keywords

The travel category is one of the most heavily searched, and cruises are no exception.  Start your keyword discovery process by pulling data from competitive intelligence tools like Experian Hitwise, SEMRush, or Searchmetrics.  With Hitwise’s Search Intelligence tool, you can quickly find the top websites gobbling up search traffic.  During last year’s Wave Season, Carnival led the pack with a 24% market share in paid search.


Paid clicks market share

Share of Cruise category paid search clicks. Source: Experian Hitwise.


Once you’ve found the major sites you want to focus on, use your keyword research tool to see keywords driving traffic to a particular site or a whole category.  In SEMRush, type the domain name of a competitor to see a list of organic and paid search keywords. SEMRush Dashboard

SEMRush Dashboard for

Uncover search trends and patterns

If your search intelligence tool has trending information, take a look at keyword activity over time.  Are there certain keywords that peak during Wave Season?  Use your keyword tool’s date filter to see how keywords change by month. organic search rankings in Searchmetrics

Organic search rankings for in Searchmetrics


Sometimes it can be difficult to see patterns among thousands of keywords.  That’s where Concentrate can help.  I like to take a category’s or website’s keywords and upload them to find patterns I might not have discovered otherwise.  Simply download a list of keywords from your tool of choice and upload into Concentrate.  Within a few minutes, you’ll have a list of keyword patterns and a word tree to explore for new opportunities.


"Cruises from X" keyword tree

Word tree showing related words for the "cruises from" search pattern

Explore paid ad copy

One of the great things about competitive research tools like SEMRush and Searchmetrics is the ability to view paid ad copy.  Earlier this month, SEMRush expanded its historical data to 12 months.  That means you can see paid ad copy for every month of last year’s Wave Season.  View ad copy from multiple competitors to find gaps in messaging or new ideas to improve your own ads.


Paid search ad text for

Carnival paid search ads in Google. Source: SEMRush.

Apply lessons to your campaigns

After you’ve examined keywords, patterns, and ad copy, you’ll have a better sense of what others are doing in the market.  Use the lessons learned to improve your campaigns.  I often find there are whole patterns of keywords that have gone unnoticed or undervalued.  Use the information to your advantage to grab organic rankings or increase ROI in paid search.  I’m sure you’ll find numerous ways to improve your campaigns for a prosperous Wave Season.  It’s well worth the effort.


Disclosure:  Concentrate is an affiliate of SEMRush and may receive compensation as a result of links to its website

Anthony Long

About the Author

Anthony Long is technology evangelist for Concentrate Search Analytics. An industry veteran with over 10 years experience, he has led search marketing efforts at some of the Internet’s most visited web properties. Anthony conceived the idea for the Concentrate tool after spending weeks attempting pattern analysis by hand. He is a speaker at industry events and has given presentations at Search Engine Strategies, Search Marketing Expo, and eMetrics.

One Response

  1. That is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate information… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

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