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Using Meta Search to Make Intelligent Travel Choices

Everyone who has ever spent any time traveling for business or for pleasure has an airline horror story:

“They lost my luggage and I had to buy all new stuff when I got to the hotel!”

‘We sat on the tarmac for three hours and then they canceled the flight!”

“My plane was so small you couldn’t even stand up in the aisles!”

What if you could find out which flights were almost always late? Or see the type of aircraft you were going fly? Or access what the load factor was for a particular flight before you purchased that non-refundable ticket?

You can get this information now if you’re willing to spend a fair amount of time on multiple web sites to ferret it out but wouldn’t it be nice to find everything related to the speed, comfort, and ease of your flight in one spot? Take a look at InsideTrip.com (http://www.insidetrip.com/) when you’re planning your next flight.

The site is still in Beta so there are limits on the carriers listed and the type of passengers (adults only for now) but the real value here is in the depth and breadth of useful information available to the average airline traveler. The interface is simple and very familiar to anyone who has ever booked a flight on any of the major travel sites or through an individual carrier’s site. Pick your departure and arrival cities, enter your travel dates, and decide on the time of day you want to fly. Click on the search button and in addition to seeing the results of your search in a listing of carriers, flight times, and connecting flight numbers you get a flight dashboard that assigns a quality score to each flight.

The quality score is determined by a dozen preset variables you can modify to ensure that the flight you choose matches your preferences. Always carry on your bags and never check anything? De-select the “Lost Bags” variable and ask InsideTrip.com to recalculate the trip quality score. Know that you get habitually get to the airport more than an hour ahead of the time the airline recommends so security wait time isn’t an issue for you? Again, a simple mouse click removes that variable from the quality score calculation.

This redefinition of meta-search for the travel industry has implications for search marketing as well. The move away from simple text listings and toward more all-inclusive results for searches is already well underway: Google’s Universal Search now includes images, videos, and other items in their search results while Ask.com and other search engines provide site thumbnails as a standard part of their results listings. This expansion of types of data in search results means sites need to implement a consistent approach to tagging their site content because being “search-friendly” now applies to more than text-only keywords.

Imagine you’re searching for a software tool to help make your sales force more productive and when the results come up, one company’s listing shows only a few of lines of text describing their product while another company offers not only the few lines of product text but also access to their deployment metrics, pricing matrix, and a few customer testimonials relevant to your industry?

Which site do you think you’d click on first?

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