TripAdvisor, the uber travel search engine, has launched its vertical search engine, www.tripadvisor.com.
The OEM-style company has launched a Web site aimed at consumers even though its site has no booking or purchasing capability and is designed to be part of other travel Web sites. The company is in various stages of negotiations with a variety of partners.
Its business plan calls for partnering with third-party Web sites, clicks-and-bricks travel agency Web sites, supplier Web sites, in short, anyone who wants to add stickiness to a site selling travel.
“There are plenty of travel Web sites, but not a whole lot that helps the consumer,” says Steve Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor. Type “New York” into a search engine,l and you get 8.2 million sites. Travel sites produce more relevant travel information, but not necessarily the information the consumer is seeking.
“That’s why research shows people are surfing around t o10 or 20 difference sites,” Kaufer says.
What’s frustrating is that consumers know that authoritative content is out there, the problem is finding it. What TripAdvisor has done is searched the Web for three types of information on the Web and catalogued it. It then presents it to consumers in three categories.
The first is authoritative content, such as articles from travel books, newspapers and magazines. The seconde is net content, information that other people have created on the Web, such as on message boards. And the third is user reviews, that is, reviews provided by users of the site. The plan is that users of whichever Web sites use TripAdvisor on their Web site will respond to invitations to post their own reviews for users to use.
In the authoritative content section, TripAdvisor editors spend about half an hour quantifying an article so that when parents type in San Diego zoo, the first article they see is an indepth article about the zoo, not a article that simply refers to the zoo a few times. Not all are necessarily from travel magazines—Parents Magazine, for example—can be a source of great travel articles for parents. Kaufer said that this quantifying task is scaleable, once the 14 to 15 TripAdvisor editors (most of whom are former travel agents) complete cataloging existing artcles, the task of keeping up with new ones is less daunting.
TripAdvisor has also written the software for its own crawler, which searches for comments on the Web that others have written about their experiences with certain activies, hotels, attractions or destinations.
“Instead of sorting through a message board with 6,000 postings, you can instead read the five opinions we found expressing opinions about this particular place,” says Kaufer. “Our filters are pretty tight.”
Visitors to the site can easily plug in their own user preferences—luxury, prefer small hotels, like museums and acquariums, etc.—or view information without a personaled filter.
Visitors to the site will find that TripAdvisor has launched an impressive site that serves up a wealth of filtered information. At the same time, it gives customers a chance to personalize the site that it searches for information that meets that consumer’s tastes. Information is organized by source and ranked by relevancy, based on a user’s personal profile. Completing a profile that includes travel interests and demographics enables a user to receive personalized destination information.
Kaufer uses himself as an example. He likes luxury, small hotels, acquariums and zoos. A search of San Francisco brings up, among other things, a Relais & Chataeu hotel, with reviews. Another query for another destination produces listings for local acquariums and natural history museums.
All content in the TripAdvisor database is XML-based, allowing for easy integration and customization with a partner’s existing travel content and site design. “By licensing TripAdvisor’s search and directory services, partners can offer their customers a complete solution for online travel planning and purchase,” says Langley Steinert.