While Ryanair continues its makeover from brash and uncompromising to focused on customer service, including a more appealing and user-friendly online booking system, it appears a botched overhaul of its website could be losing the Irish airline custom.
Since the full relaunch of its website earlier this month, Ryanair has all but vanished from country destination flight searches on Google.
According to data from web search analytics firm Intelligent Positioning, on millions of searches made each month for flights to European destinations where Ryanair was the first airline to appear, such as Romania and Belgium, it is no longer in the top 100 results.
The Ryanair website, once found, now allows users to book using as few as five clicks – a major departure from the old site where customers had to negotiate security checks and opt out of buying extras before booking a flight – but the airline appears to have omitted some basic precautions in the relaunch.
Sam Silverwood-Cope, director of Intelligent Positioning, said: “They’ve ignored the legacy of the old Ryanair.com. It’s quite startling. They are doing it just before their busiest time of the year.”
A change in web addresses without proper redirects means many results found by Google now simply return error pages, he added. “Unless redirects get put in pretty soon, the position is going to get worse and worse.”
Ryanair said it was confident that it was a temporary blip and the brand would sustain bookings. A spokesman said: “As part of our evolving digital plans, we will have more helpful content for customers on the website and this will sustain first-page rankings on key search terms going forward.
“Various Ryanair.com internal and external linked pages are migrating to the new site. Until the site settles down there will be a temporary drop in organic search positions on certain key search terms.”
He said the update had been well received by customers. “We are very pleased with the level of bookings since the new site went live. We anticipate that it will take a week or so for things to bed down properly.”
Ryanair’s new chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, will have some knowledge of the negative effects of even a small shift in Google rankings. At Moneysupermarket.com, his previous employer, shares dropped 15% last July when the firm fell a few places in the results for car insurance.
While Ryanair was one of the first websites to only take online bookings, it has had an ambivalent relationship with the web. In January, it finally agreed to sign up to Google’s developing flight search tool, with chief executive Michael O’Leary admitting: “If you need information, your first port of call is Google.”
Having long derided users of social media, O’Leary recently became an enthusiastic convert to Twitter as a way to chat with customers.
The airline is engaged in another step of its court battle against European travel websites On the Beach and Billigfluege over their use of screenscraping technology to access information on flights from Ryanair. The websites are appealing against rulings in Ryanair’s favour.
Silverwood-Cope pointed out that comfort for Ryanair could come from the experience of the Guardian which briefly saw traffic dip and its search ranking drop after changing its website domain from guardian.co.uk to theguardian.com last year.