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City vs City: the Ultimate DMO Search Throwdown

Justin Watkins

June 2017

With organic search being the lead driver of traffic to most destination websites, we wanted to find out which cities had the strongest SEO game. We picked 10 of the top U.S. travel destinations and pitted them head-to-head. Here’s what we found out:

First, let’s meet our contestants:

Next, let’s take a look at the five factors we analyzed to decide which cities come out on top in the organic search game:

DOMAIN AUTHORITY

Domain authority is a score on a scale of 1 to 100 that measures the strength of a website’s domain. It’s correlated with the website’s ability to rank within Google for certain key terms and is strengthened by factors such as domain age, number of backlinks pointing to the site, and general site optimization.

Basically, you want the highest score possible because it means your website is winning the internet game.

Don’t see your DMO’s site ranking very high? We’ll help you get there.

city vs city domain authority chart

WINNER: tie between Washington D.C. and LA

COMMENTARY: All of our contestants have fairly high domain authorities, which is likely due to their general brand recognition and popularity on- and offline (after all, we did choose 10 of the top U.S. destinations). This is good though, because it gives us a fairly even playing ground in which to score these sites.

 

ORGANIC TRAFFIC + ESTIMATED VOLUME

Next up, we took a look at approximately how much traffic each of these city sites is expected to receive in the upcoming months.* This can be an indication of not only how well your website is doing within the search engine results pages (SERPs), but can also serve as an indication of how popular a brand (city) is amongst travelers.

city vs city estimated organic traffic

*we determine this by using SEMRush, which has its own formula for calculating estimated traffic volume. Actual organic site traffic as shown in Google Analytics or some other tracking software may differ.

WINNER: Las Vegas

COMMENTARY: Based on the high volume of traffic to Las Vegas and New Orleans, we deduce that…people like to party?

 

BACKLINKS + REFERRING DOMAINS

Backlinks and referring domains are like digital votes of confidence in a website. They can indicate which brands and websites people are talking about, and which content folks are sharing and linking to. Basically it’s a popularity contest. And online, that matters.

city vs city backlink chart

BACKLINK WINNER: Chicago

REFERRING DOMAINS WINNER: LA

COMMENTARY: People love Chicago’s content, but Washington D.C. is hot on their heels.

 

MOBILE SITE SPEED + MOBILE KEYWORD VISIBILITY

Now that mobile searches have officially surpassed desktop searches we looked at mobile site speeds (hint: very important) and the number of mobile-specific keywords that each city ranks for.

MOBILE SITE SPEED WINNER: Chicago

MOBILE KEYWORDS WINNER: Washington D.C.

COMMENTARY: While there may not always be a strong correlation between mobile site speed and the percentage of mobile keywords, we do see a correlation between percentage of mobile keywords and the page 1 visibility. In other words, if a city is able to show up for more mobile keywords (through mobile optimization best practices), then they’ll reap the benefits of page 1 exposure. Which is a good thing, since traveler touchpoints are increasingly mobile.

GREAT CONTENT ATTRACTS VISITORS
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INTERNATIONAL INTEREST

Finally, we analyzed the estimated search volume from five countries (UK, Germany, France, Spain, and the Philippines) to understand international rankings.

native city vs city international chart

COMMENTARY: While LA and Las Vegas seem to bring in European audiences, San Francisco shines in the eyes of the Philippines. On the other side of the spectrum, Miami seems to struggle with peaking European interest, while the Brits do not seem impressed with Seattle’s coffee offerings.

 

FINAL JUDGEMENT

Based on these factors, it’s Las Vegas who leads the pack in SEO performance. Why? They’re optimized well technically and have massive awareness driving travelers to seek Vegas out specifically.

las vegas

Final SEO rankings:

  1. LAS VEGAS
  2. WASHINGTON D.C.
  3. NYC
  4. LA
  5. ORLANDO
  6. NEW ORLEANS
  7. CHICAGO
  8. MIAMI
  9. SAN FRANCISCO
  10. SEATTLE

To find out more about our methodology contact our team. To keep updated on industry news check out our monthly Stupid Smart Newsletter below to get analysis like this sent directly to your inbox.