Thomas Cook Group operates a large number of websites, but the most visible, to anyone searching on Google in the UK, is www.thomascook.com. This week, following the collapse of the company, all website content was redirected to a page showing nothing but a 73-word statement, and a link to a Civil Aviation Authority page where customer information is being posted. What questions are SEOs asking now?
- Will www.thomascook.com lose search rankings immediately?
- Which domains will gain visibility if www.thomascook.com loses rankings?
- Will the domain return if the redirect is removed?
- Can I have all the links redirected to my domain?
We’ll try and answer some (but not all) of those questions in this post with historical data from similar brand and domain cases. But first, how is www.thomascook.com looking, just days after all the content on the website was redirected to a statement from the administrators?
Current Status – Healthy domain
Among the 70 travel-related domains that we analysed for this article, Thomas Cook is certainly not the biggest. It’s not invisible either but tripadvisor.co.uk, a digital-only travel-site, has 10-times the visibility in UK search results.
Closest business rival tui.co.uk (previously thomson.co.uk), has a similar level of visibility. VirginHolidays.co.uk also runs a similar high-street travel agent, online and airline service.The three domains’ Visibility Index history is shown in the graph below.
Historically, thomascook.com has been a stable domain that has never seen a major impact from a Google update. There has been little growth over the last 7 years but one might take that as a good sign considering the amount of new digital-only competition that has appeared in the market.
Examples of new, growing domains in the sector, are easy to find. Onthebeach.co.uk, loveholidays.com, opodo.co.uk and airbnb.com are just a few.
Strong keyword coverage
By filtering search-positioning we find valuable search terms ranking at #1. All of these search terms average over 2500 average monthly searches and contain Google Ads in the SERPs, indicating high commercial value.
Host-wide redirect. What happens now?
It’s common practice in the UK to place a notice on the front page of a website as soon as the company operating it goes into administration. Three recent examples show us what happens next.
House of Fraser
On the 10th of August 2019, House of Fraser called in the administrators. The website went into ‘maintenance’ on the 15th of August. Just two days later, search visibility losses were measurable. In just over 2 weeks, nearly all search visibility was lost. Here’s the daily Visibility Index development that we captured at that time.
On the 7th February 2019, UK audio equipment retailer Superfi went into administration with the website shutting down on the same day. By the 12th Feb, just 5 days later, the website was showing signs of losing visibility. 3 weeks later it was removed from nearly all search results.
On the 1st August 2019, Superbreak went into administration. The website was closed with a front-page notice on the 2nd August. Just 2 days later we measured losses for desktop search results. Again, within three weeks, nearly all of the search Visibility had been removed.
Which competitors will benefit from a failing thomascook.com domain?
The SISTRIX competitor analysis shows www.thomascook.com as a strong domain for its ranking keywords. Only tripadvisor.co.uk has a stronger visibility for the same keywords. Tui.co.uk are also a close keyword competitor with booking.com, expedia.co.uk and lastminute.com closely behind. Interestingly, telegraph.co.uk, the online operation of a traditional newspaper, is also a close competitor for the same keywords.
The most likely scenario is that thomascook.co.uk will start to lose significant rankings before the end of Sept 2019. Based on our historical data analysis, close competitors are likely to get bumped-up a position to fill the gap so we should expect tripadvisor.co.uk and tui.co.uk too see a boost. Percentage changes are likely to be most significant for tui.co.uk.
Will the domain return if the redirect is removed?
While Superfi.co.uk remained offline, and at near-zero visibility, houseoffraser.co.uk was re-enabled and visibility returned over a 4 week period. We noted at the time that some pre-existing brands were missing from the site, which will probably explain why the domain did not return to the same level of visibility.
Based on that, thomascook.com could return to a similar visibility if the site were to be re-opened with the same content. However, there’s a complex web of suppliers behind Thomas Cook that might not return and there’s a lot of brand damage to consider. Would you click on a thomascook.com URL in the future? Your answer might feed back to Google as a signal.
As for the last question, yes, you probably can have all the links redirected to your domain, but you’ll have to speak to the administrators about that!