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United Airlines Case Study

Partnering with KeywordFirst, United’s Paid Search Results Take Off


Company Background

One of the world’s largest airlines, United Airlines operates 5,800 flights per day to 371 airports worldwide. United is part of United Continental Holdings (UAL).


United Airlines’ search engine marketing presence was inconsistent and results were below industry benchmarks. Leadership turnover, a recession and changes in strategy all contributed to a lack of focus on search and its relative priority in the company’s marketing plan.


United hired a new internal team to revamp its e-Commerce and online marketing strategy and improve program effectiveness. An important initial team recommendation: find an expert agency partner to develop and execute an effective paid search strategy to fuel revenue growth. KeywordFirst was retained to manage all of United’s paid search programs. The firm’s history of turning around underperforming search programs was a key factor in the decision to partner with KeywordFirst.

KeywordFirst conducted a thorough analysis of the existing campaign structure to identify inefficiencies and gaps, and based on this analysis, collaboratively with United:

  • Established goals for branded and non-branded campaigns (without the word “United”) to measure program effectiveness using profitability metrics and historical online marketing data.
  • Built more than 60,000 keywords specific to United’s top originations and destinations, addressing previous keyword gaps.
  • Developed new campaigns, landing pages and ad copy to line up with these keywords and to improve content accuracy.
  • Launched site links to solidify branded ads and help direct customers to the core pages and functions within United’s site
  • Initiated mobile campaigns targeting business travelers using smartphones—a segment crucial to United.

United’s revenue steadily increased during each of the first twelve months since KeywordFirst launched the revised campaigns. In just the first six months of the program, click through rates improved by 88%, cost per clicks dropped 75% and cost per order has improved by 200%. The success of campaigns using non-branded terms has been one of the greatest success stories of the business relationship. Return on ad gpend goals have been exceeded by 100% and have greatly exceeded initial revenue projections.

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