Welcoming Chantelle, Jordan, and Liz to Rome2rio

The team at Rome2rio continues to grow apace. This month we’ve added a trio of top talent to our team. Meet Chantelle, Jordan, and Liz.

Chantelle, Liz and Jordan Rome2rio

Chantelle, Liz, and Jordan

Chantelle has almost ten years digital project management experience delivering online solutions within both agency and internal educational publishing spaces. She joins the content team at Rome2Rio on a part-time basis, her remaining time spent looking after her young family at home. Chantelle will be managing data on the site, ensuring the best information and experience for the user.

Jordan has joined us after having recently completed a Masters in Software Engineering at the University of Melbourne. He’ll be working on projects involving the full software stack, such as developing our flight booking integration. Jordan has previously worked at local start-up, 2Mar Robotics and IBM Research’s Melbourne lab.

Liz brings 15 years global experience delivering digital content and product solutions for major brands around the world including seven years with Lonely Planet.  Her passion for all things travel continues with Rome2Rio.

If you are interested in joining our team then keep an eye on our jobs page or shoot an email to jobs(at)rome2rio.com introducing yourself.

– Kirsteene

Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information. We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at www.rome2rio.com

HTTPS Results in 7% Google AdX Revenue Drop

For some time now, Google has been publicly encouraging website owners to transition to HTTPS, a more secure version of the ubiquitous HTTP protocol that powers the web. You can identify websites that use HTTPS with the padlock symbol in the address bar:

HTTPS

In August 2014, Google went one step further and used their considerable influence as the world’s most popular search engine to entice website owners to make the switch, by announcing an SEO ranking boost for sites that use HTTPS. Although the ranking boost is small, Google suggests it will increase with time.

Rome2rio has supported HTTPS for some time now. We use it for parts of the site related to user accounts, passwords, and ticket purchases. However, in July last year, we decided to take the plunge and force all users to view the entire site through HTTPS. Technically the project went smoothly, but after ramping the change to 100%, we noticed a significant drop in our Google advertising revenue.

Our research quickly revealed that other website owners had experienced that same thing. We learnt that not all advertisers that place bids through the Google ads system support HTTPS, resulting in fewer ad impression bids and lower overall ad revenue. We learnt that many website owners had transitioned back to HTTP for this reason. We concluded the revenue drop was too large to justify the switch to HTTPS, so we also made the switch back.

In January, we decided to re-visit the HTTPS question. This time, we properly measured the potential impact with an A/B split test. We redirected visitors to HTTPS for 5% of pages and measured the change in ad revenue. Our conclusion; ad revenue was 7% lower for the HTTPS pages.

We dug down further and examined the impact on ad revenue for each of Rome2rio’s top advertisers:

Revenue change

The data illustrates that the overall 7% drop in revenue appears largely due to a handful of advertisers where revenue drops by more than 40%.

Google is working hard to transition all advertisers to HTTPS, and we hope to see this 7% figure decrease when we next repeat this A/B test in 6 to 12 months.

– Michael

 

Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information.
We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries
for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at www.rome2rio.com

 

Taking Another (Gentle!) Swipe At Google’s Transit Results

We wrote in some depth last year about the poor quality of the inter-city transit component in many Google Maps results. These results are displayed at the top of SERPs for queries like “How do I get from A to B?”. Since then Google has gone some way towards extending their coverage of transportation operators — here’s their new result for Amsterdam to Paris: perfect! — but they still fall well short of a standard that might justify putting their own results ahead of comprehensive and accurate results from others, including Rome2rio.

Here’s an example of what we mean: answering the query “How do I get from Toulouse, France to Zaragoza, Spain?” Google suggests a bus from Toulouse to Barcelona; a seven minute walk from one station to another; then the local R3 train to Barcelona-Sants station, and (finally!) a change to the high-speed AVE train to Zaragoza. That’s a complex journey of just under 9 hours, and it’s frankly silly when compared to simply taking the AVE all the way from Toulouse, via Barcelona. But Google doesn’t suggest that option.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 3.57.16 pm

Logic-defying suggestions like this abound in Google’s transit results. Our comment when we last discussed this topic was that rather than suggest crazy routings, Google should not make any transit suggestions at all. That seems to be occurring a little more  here’s a good example, in Morocco — but within Western Europe, Google consistently leads its trusting users astray, with suggested routes that are often illogical, lengthy and hopelessly complex.

(Another classic example: Google’s suggestion for Nice to Milan. Two buses, then the Metro… 7:29 hours! Here’s the correct answer, the excellent Thello train service all the way, at 4:41 hours.)

A few months ago our industry colleague, Tripadvisor founder and CEO Steve Kaufer, got Google’s attention with a pointed tweet.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 3.44.44 pm

It’s unusual for industry leaders to speak out against Google; frankly, nobody wants to upset the powerful operators of the search and advertising platform on which we all rely so heavily. But given Steve Kaufer’s success — Tripadvisor results for this type of query seem to be on top again — and Google’s oft-repeated mantra of always wanting to do what’s best for users, it’s probably safe to give them another gentle poke about their less than fabulous transit offerings.

It’s clear that Rome2rio and other multi-modal specialists — GoEuroGopiliQixxit all come to mind — provide inter-city transit results of a consistently higher quality than the search giant’s own somewhat patchy offering. A move by Google to preference high quality, relevant results from third parties over their own would certainly be a good outcome for users.

– Rod Cuthbert

Early Birds and Monday Dreamers: Uncovering International Search Trends

With our unique repository of 750,000 travel routes from over 4,800 operators in 144 countries, Rome2rio attracts over 7 million visitors each month. While the searches conducted by these visitors are varied; from short distance intra-city searches to multihop long haul trips, we have uncovered some commonalities about when and how visitors around the world are using the site.

For comparison, we’ve pulled out daily and weekly traffic trends across four countries; Japan, Britain, Israel and India.

DailyVisitorTrends_daily

Japan stays true to its reputation as a nation of early risers; the country is on average the first to start searching Rome2rio for travel information each morning. Britain is next to tap into travel routing, with Israel and India starting on average almost 30 minutes later. Japan and Britain both make the most of the weekend and start earliest on Saturday, in contrast to Israel where the Saturday start is around 30 minutes later than usual. We think that these average times relate to when people are in transit and using their mobile to navigate intra-city travel.

DailyVisitorTrends_weekly

Some interesting things are seen when we look at weekly travel data. It seems that the realities of Monday mornings hit our users hard! Japanese, British and Indian usage all peak on this day. Perhaps the reason that Saturday is the least popular day for searching our site for those in Britain and Japan is because our fans are out enjoying their itineraries? Travel planning dips dramatically on Fridays and Saturdays in Israel, in keeping with the religious rhythms of the country. India too has a significant dip; it is on Sunday, in keeping with the traditional cycle of activity and rest in the country.

DailyVisitorTrends_devices

Not only can we see when our users are on the site but we can also see how they are accessing our repository of routes. Even though mobile usage is growing at a faster rate than desktop use globally, we are still seeing a significant difference between mobile and desktop use during traditional office hours – suggesting to us that a bit of holiday planning during lunch is still very much a thing. Just be careful of those crumbs in the keyboard! On the weekends, mobile usage increases, coming close to the desktop usage line, suggesting that people are firing up Rome2rio while they are on the hop; perhaps enjoying a mini break in a new town or discovering somewhere new in their current one.

We found these user insights compelling, and it got our imaginations fired up; how are people planning their trips? Is it a family discussion with plenty of debate, taking place at the kitchen table? Is it during a snatched solo dreaming session on the daily commute to the office? Is it filled with the excitement of mapping out a long considered and carefully saved for trip-of-a-lifetime?

Whatever it may be, our salutation is the same; happy travels!

– Kirsteene, Marco and Andrew

Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information.
We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries
for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at www.rome2rio.com

A Map Goes Unexpectedly Viral, With Help From Reddit & Gizmodo

Recent media coverage of the isochronic map we developed, based on a 1914 map by the well-known London mapmaker John G. Bartholomew, provides a classic case study on how quickly things can flourish online. (We wrote about the map and made some observations about how clearly it shows our shrinking world back in January. This post covers a little more of the behind the scenes activity.)

Our engineering team first heard about the 1914 map in a Reddit discussion (which, in turn, referenced an article in The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine). One of Rome2rio’s senior engineers, Miles Izzo, wondered how an updated version of Bartholomew’s 1914 map would look. He began a collaboration with front-end design team member Andrew Greig to replace the 1914 lines from the original map with up to date information.

Miles used Rome2rio’s routing engine to generate a rough heat-map of the travel times from London to every airport around the world. Andrew then used the generated heatmap as a base to create the 2016 version of the world travel times map.

World-Travel-Times-Isochronic-Map-2016

Andrew quickly ran into some interesting problems. The first was that the 1914 map, produced before the introduction of satellite imagery and GPS coordinates, contained many inaccuracies, some of which made our current data look “wrong”. Miami, for example, appeared to be almost 200km away from its real location; many similar issues existed. A significant effort was required to redraw and move place names to their correct locations. In other cases, country names and borders had changed; again, plenty of re-work was required to match the current reality.

Within a few days, Andrew had completed a 2016 version, close enough in design so as to provide a direct visual comparison to the original data. One challenge remained: the “key” on the 1914 map divided the world into sectors that could be reached “within five days journey”, then “5 to 10 days”, right up to “over 40 days”. A new scale was required to accommodate the availability of jet airplanes and high-speed rail: if we had retained the original scale, the entire map, in the 2016 version, would have been within the red zone of “within five days”.

Having solved that problem, we contacted Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo. Jamie had written about the 1914 map back in November, and we figured he’d be interested in our 2016 version. He was, and immediately wrote a follow-up piece. That story gained a lot of attention and was picked up in short order by mainstream media, including the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, the online travel industry specialist Tnooz, and a wide array of independent blogs and news sites.

We also posted the new map to Reddit, where we had first noticed the 1914 map. Reddit users loved it; within days over a million users had viewed the Imgur-hosted image, and the post had over 5,500 upvotes.

But the ride wasn’t over! The folks at Wellingtons Travel, a UK company that specialises in “old-style” maps of London printed on high-quality paper and canvas, saw the coverage and contacted us with a proposal to license our 2016 map for sale worldwide. It was an easy decision to make: within a few days we’d agreed on terms and production was underway. Which should be good news for the many Reddit users who expressed an interest in buying a printed version, including this request from “spookmann”:

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 10.58.02 am

No problem, spookmann. Head over to Wellingtons and they’ll look after you. Meanwhile, we’ll get back to our normal occupations, helping our users figure out the best way to get from Rome to Rio. And everywhere else*, come to think of it.

Rod Cuthbert

* This example uses an unusual city pair. A Twitter shout-out to the first reader who can tell us why on @Rome2rio.

Welcome Archit, Kirsteene and Quinn

The new year is well and truly underway and brings with it new Rome2rio team members. This month we welcome Archit, Kirsteene, and Quinn.

Archit, Kirsteene and Quinn

Kirsteene joins us after time working in marketing, media, and management for online marketplace Etsy.com and for the coworking space Inspire9 where Rome2rio resides. She’ll be looking after media relations. If you want to get in touch with her send an email to press(at)rome2rio.com.

Quinn recently graduated from the University of Melbourne with his Masters in Software Engineering. He will be working as a back-end developer, integrating transport operator APIs into Rome2rio and providing monitoring tools to help our team better understand our data usage.

Archit is coming on board after completing an internship with the company. He is completing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in computing and software systems, at the University of Melbourne. He is undertaking user interface improvements, API integrations and data analysis.

If you are interested in joining our team then keep an eye on our jobs page and shoot us an email to jobs(at)rome2rio.com introducing yourself.

The Places We’ll Go: 2015 Australian Travel Trends

 

Top Australian Travel locations

Australians are a well-travelled bunch – the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that in 2014, over 9 million Australians headed overseas. Members of the Rome2rio team are no exception, having recently been to Toblach and San Gimignano in Italy, Alpe d’Huez in France, Ronda in Spain, Kona in Hawaii, Key West in Florida, and Rosarito in Mexico. When we’re not travelling, we’re often talking about travel, about places we’ve been and places we want to go. This passion and curiosity prompts us to ask questions about the world around us; questions like; where are Australians looking to travel? And when do they travel? To find the answers, we processed and aggregated a year of search records from Australian users of Rome2rio that searched for flights to destinations outside Australia.

 

Australian top travel locations

We found that across all Australian states, Northern America and Europe were the most popular destinations for travel planning during 2015. The United States lead with 17.2% closely followed by the United Kingdom at 13.2%.

Comparing our data (which records travel searches) to data published by the ABS (which records departures) for the same period, we found that destinations ranked differently. The top two countries by departures are New Zealand and Indonesia, which rank 9th and 12th respectively by number of searches. This ranking suggests that New Zealand and Indonesia are destinations that are already well-known and Australians are thus less likely to be searching for information on how to reach them.

 

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We then took Australians’ top travel locations and broke them down by state. Locations such as the USA and the United Kingdom were still the most popular in almost every state. However, we found that once you look past those wildly popular destinations each state had a different set of favoured places. For example, 13% of searches from the Northern Territory were to Indonesia, while only 1.9% of searches from Australia as a whole were to Indonesia. The same is seen in South Australia, where 6% of searches from South Australia were to Spain, whereas the national average was 2.6%.

 

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By then analysing when users searched for outbound and return flights (with dates) we were able to determine when they intended to travel during the year. We found that the Winter holidays and Christmas/New Year were by far the most popular times that Australians were planning to travel outside Australia while Easter was less popular in comparison. There were also notable spikes around Valentine’s Day and the week just before the Spring school holidays.

2016 is off and running and we are keen to see if there are any changes in this data this time next year. What do you think will be popular? Where are you planning to visit in 2016?

Source: Rome2rio logs of search requests made by users with Australian IP addresses from January to December 2015.