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RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2000
CONTACT: Dan Bohan, President, Top9.com: 703-359-8868


The Internet's major search engines do a poor job of providing quality information on travel-related topics, according to a study released today by Omega World Travel's TOP9.com subsidiary.

Using statistics provided by PC Data, the study tested 11 popular search engines on their performance in providing information about common travel topics. The topics selected for the study were airlines, airline tickets, cruise lines, hotels, and car rentals. The searches produced inconsistent and often irrelevant information when these common, simple search topics were entered.

"Search engines do a pathetic job at the macro level; in fact, much of what they report as the top sites is garbage," according to Dan Bohan, President of TOP9.com. "We have published our findings online, and they clearly show the major search engines just don't produce good results in the travel categories."

For example, when the string 'cruise lines' was entered into the Lycos search engine, only two of the top nine cruise line sites appeared in their top 20 websites. Excite failed to return even one of the top nine sites most visited by users. Most of the sites returned by the search engines were cruise booking agents, small regional cruise lines, or small agencies. Similar results were observed in the 'airlines' category, where Netscape returned only one of the top nine airline sites, and Yahoo, considered one of the most successful search engines, returned only two.

In the 'hotels' search, AltaVista listed the same site four times in their first 10 listings. Ask Jeeves did not list a major hotel chain in their first 10, although they did link to another search engine site. The same was true for Direct Hit, which also listed a UK-based site twice in their first 10.

The study used a point system to evaluate the overall performance of the search engines. Ten points were awarded if one of the top nine sites appeared in the search engine's first 10 listings. Five points were awarded if the site appeared in the next 10 listings, or if a separate link was offered to the site. Listings numbered over 20 were not counted. The highest base score possible in each category was 90.

The highest average score for all categories was a mere 49; MSN and SNAP tied with this score. Netscape and Excite ranked lowest, with scores of 16 and 11, respectively. The 11 search engines selected for the study were Yahoo, MSN, Lycos, Netscape, Excite, AltaVista, Iwon, Snap, Direct Hit, Google, and Ask Jeeves.

The baseline rankings were supplied by PC Data, a consumer research firm that gathers website traffic data from a pool of 120,000 users. Data is gathered and processed using objective, scientific methodology. Projected rankings are based on unique monthly visitors, which determine the web's most popular sites. Site visitors are counted only once in the course of a month, no matter how many times they visit a site. Data used were from the month of February 2000, and are most valid among the top 2,500 rankings.

"Clearly, the major search engines are just not doing the job," concluded Bohan. "At best, they only supply half of what consumers prefer. Many times, they only provide a fraction of what consumers really want. This should be of urgent concern to the travel industry."

According to Bohan, the study was initiated after researchers for the TOP9.com search directory discovered that results provided by major search engines did not seem to correlate with the most popular websites in many web categories. TOP9.com, which organizes ranked websites into nearly 300 categories, outperformed all of the search engines in seeking the most popular travel-related websites.

An index of tables with study results is available online at www.top9.com/sereport/index.html#reports.


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