DATE: April 19, 2000
CONTACT: Dan Bohan, President, Top9.com: 703-359-8868
SEARCH ENGINES FAULTED IN TRAVEL-RELATED STUDY
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
"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
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.