Is Miley Cyrus Skewing Holiday Bookings for Malibu?

Miley Cyrus recently released a new track titled “Malibu”. And search interest for “Malibu holidays” has increased by 178%.

But that’s not the whole story.

Before we start, here’s the video:

Now let’s get into the data …

Note: This is all relative to UK search data only.

The Stats Behind the Keyword “Malibu Holidays”

The search term usually averages at 140 per month, with “medium” competition in organic search. place a good “Opportunity Score” on the keyword (implying that users who search, tend to click on the results they find on Page 1).

Malibu Search Trends 2

How has Miley Cyrus Impacted Search Trends?

Search volume has increased by 178% in a month. And Google Trends suggests it’s on an even more significant rise:


Malibu Search Trends 3

Malibu continues to clock up the years on YouTube (currently, the video has been viewed for the equivalent of 816 years worldwide):

Malibu Search Trends 4

Who Else is Impacting Search Trends for Malibu?

Still, the question on my mind, was what caused that other spike, in October last year?

Malibu Search Trends 5

It’s even more compelling when you look at it through AdWords on a pure search volume level:

Malibu Search Trends 7

A quick look on for the top shared articles from September to October 2016, reveals the following celebrity stories …

James Corden moved into a new £19 million mansion in Malibu around that time.

Leonardo Di Caprio moved out of his $10.95 million mansion in Malibu around that time.

Skrillex bought a $6 million plot of land to build a mansion there, too.

Angelina Jolie was “hiding” in a secret Malibu rental during the Brad Pitt divorce.

Justin Timberlake had some dinner in Malibu with Jessica Biel.

And Miley’s Liam Hemsworth “flaunted his ripped six pack” after a surfing trip on that beach.

Out of all the characters listed above, only Angelina Jolie spikes in search interest around that time:

Search Trends for Celebs

But would a photo of her rented house during a divorce really make you wanna book a holiday to Malibu?


It’s just another celebrity mansion. We see those all the time – no way it’d raise a skyscraper in Google Trends for “Malibu holidays”.

So, what caused it?

It’s the highest registered interest in that search term for the last five years (second only to June 2017, caused by Miley).

It has to be something BIG.

Also, the surge in interest is pretty much exclusive to the UK. That spike doesn’t happen when looking at worldwide data.

There’s a clue in the fact an almost-identical spike occurs for the query “where is Malibu” – implying the location has been featured in some kind of news story, movie, or TV show – inspiring the audience to look it up.

The dual-screen effect seems to have occurred here, too – as we look into the split by device:

Malibu Search Trends 10

Turns out, on X Factor last year, a certain Simon Cowell flew his mentees out to Malibu for the Judges’ Houses part of the show.

The weekend that episode aired on British tele is the exact same weekend those spikes happen on search … including a query for “Malibu flights”, implying people were actually looking to go:

Malibu Flights

Case closed.

Let’s go back to the original graph …

So, What’s Really Going on Here?

Malibu Search Trends 12

Trends suggest the surge in “Malibu holidays” search queries have surpassed that Simon Cowell peak in June 2017. And all it takes is for one of this year’s X Factor contestants to cover Miley’s track for interest to increase again.


Now you have all of this data, you can conclude there is a definite correlation between Miley Cyrus releasing Malibu and search interest for Malibu holidays increasing.

You can also conclude there was a definite correlation between Simon Cowell visiting Malibu on X Factor 2016, and people searching for “Malibu holidays”, “Malibu flights”, and “where is Malibu”.

Collectively, those three terms saw search volume increase by from 930 to 23,130 (2,387%) month-on-month. And from 490 to 23,130 (4,620%) year-on-year.

We can expect further increased interest in holidaying to Malibu once we have search volume data for June 2017 from AdWords (I’ll update the post when we get this). [UPDATE BELOW – 15 July 2017]

UPDATE [15 July 2017]: “Flights to Malibu” now recorded at its highest search volume in FIVE years:

flights to malibu search miley

UPDATE [15 July 2017]: “Malibu holidays” continues to rise, with a 242% increase year-on-year:

miley malibu holidays search


7 Marketing Tactics for Travel & Leisure Companies (based on all this data)

Looking at data is one thing. Using it is what makes the difference.

Luckily, I sit in an office full of Organic Search nerds, Paid Media geeks, and marketers who love seeking out niche advantages just like this, all the time.

So, I shared the data with them yesterday morning, along with a challenge:

“Imagine you’re running the account for a hotel, airline, or tourism company. What clever tactics could you employ based on this insight? No great detail required here. Just 100 words will be perfect.”

I had an inbox full of marketing tactics by home time.

Here’s a handful of my favourites:

Chris Morris“For a tourism advertiser, we could use contextual keyword targeting to run Yahoo! Mail native advertising campaigns.

When a user receives a flight booking confirmation email from the airline they have booked with, the airline/airport flight code is usually included in that email. 

We can place any user who has received a relevant code by email (in the last X amount of days) into an audience list. Then target those users with Yahoo! Mail campaigns.

You’d imagine the next logical step for a user who’s recently booked a flight to Malibu could be to then book excursions nearby – would be ideal for serving them with a visually-appealing creative.

We’ve done something similar to this through AdWords for City Sightseeing Dubai.  Low volume but a positive ROI!” ~ Chris Morris, Paid Media Executive

Emma Rose “There might be scope to do creative campaigns that would appeal to viewers of TV shows like the X Factor, because they’re obviously very influential. It’s a similar approach to what we did with our ‘Game of Loans’ project for London and Country Mortgages – where we took advantage of the popularity of the show. Or something we’re currently cooking for a client of ours, which is heavily influenced by ‘The Walking Dead’.

It might be a competition to visit the location of this year’s X Factor Judges’ Houses, or it might be an interactive map that shows the most popular locations in song titles. For example, Galway in Ireland seems to be sung about a lot.” ~ Emma Rose, Graphic Designer

 Dave Twigg“I would have campaign templates set up across Search, Display and Social to run tactical campaigns when a holiday destination we sell is featured in popular culture:

Judges’ Houses and songs (as per the article)


Pre-season football tour destinations – segmented by location and interest in that football team

TV programs – but broaden the search terms for example [where is love island filmed] then run ads for holidays to Mallorca

With broader targeting the ads should feature some reference to the targeting theme to tie the user interest into our promotion.” ~ David Twigg, Senior Account Manager

Andrew“There is a wealth of possibilities for this kind of associative marketing. For example, one of the easier strategies you could deploy would be to assess the YouTube top videos for mentions or imagery of relevant locations and assess the likelihood of any future correlation in the search trends. Then, taking your highest likelihood, you could create some compelling content on a topic that matches the demographic of the video and attempt to ride the wave if interest increases.

A potentially more results-focused approach could be to target the videos featuring the destinations you operate in, and promote your brand with video ads or overlays. A nice video ad would be centred on hotels in the location where the video was made – with some compelling copy like ‘Stay at the fantastic location of the video you are about to watch!’

This is the very foundation of product placement marketing and the more we see digital embracing this, the better.” ~ Andrew Kimberley, Head of Strategy

 Richard Feist“I’d look to use key events, such as TV series/films being released in great locations where we have holidays available/hotels and tailor an email marketing campaign around that with exclusive offers. For example, a new James Bond film set in Argentina – becomes a ‘grab your own slice of the secret agent lifestyle with our secret getaway to Argentina’. Another example would be with Game of Thrones coming back onto our screens, there will be another spike in the interest in filming locations as people want to visit these e.g. Croatia.”. ~ Richard Feist, Lead Generation Strategist


ed“Quick data pull from Brightedge below. I searched for ‘filming locations’, ‘where is game of thrones filmed’ and ‘where is vikings filmed’.

Unsurprisingly there really is a lot of search volume around these terms. And they’re ALL low competition, which means no one is really bidding on them and probably no one is creating content around this.

The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Vikings are the big ones. It’s not going to work for a series like Orange is the New Black or House of Cards, as there aren’t regular doses of ‘Earth porn’ or scenes that make you say ‘wow’ in those programmes.


Brightedge - filming locations

Brightedge - filming locations 2 Brightedge - filming locations 3

 In regards to the content itself, we could create a series of really cool parallax pages or just nice-looking webpages on the website that show each filming destination – location on a map, what is CGI and what is real etc. So, for Game of Thrones the big locations are Dubrovnik, Northern Ireland, Spain.” ~ Edward Turner, SEO Strategist

Tom Ives“For a content association strategy, we could use branded skins around all content relating to Malibu, especially Miley and Simon Cowell/X factor.

For dynamic marketing, we’re able to use weather events to trigger ads. Within the creative, show rainy England along with the temperature… then cut to Sunny Mailbu with the temperature. End frame – ‘next flight to Malibu from your local airport based on geo location’. We could target users who have seen the branded content and those who have shown long-haul travel intent.” ~ Tom Ives, Head of Programmatic

July 6, 2017|

About the Author:

Rob is Latitude's Head of Organic Performance and loves all things marketing. He eats peanut butter straight from the jar and gets a fair bit of stick for it in the office.