Archive for November, 2012

Hot Topics — Part 3 of 3: Automating your search for unbeatable travel deals

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Now’s the perfect time to hone your travel deal searching skills because we’re coming up on travel bargain season.  So, without further ado, let’s check back with our resident travel search oracle and CheapOair.com’s Online Marketing & SEO Manager, Cleo Kirkland.  As promised, Cleo will impart his advanced search query wisdom and a system for you to obtain automated deal updates across ALL deal sites and online travel agencies.  Are you excited?  Yeah, us too!

Cleo Kirkland, Online Marketing & SEO Manager, CheapOair.com

Cleo Kirkland, Online Marketing & SEO Manager, CheapOair.com

Here’s what I’ve said so far in the series:

  1. The Online Travel Agencies, such as CheapOair.com, and other travel aggregators offer the best user experience.  The content is fresh, you’re able to search across a variety of deals, and their packages have the most flexible date options.  This could be the primary reason why Google ranks these sites over brand sites, such as Marriott.com.
  2. The deal sites, such as Groupon.com or LivingSocial.com, routinely offer the deepest discounts.  But in order to maintain fair competition between the travel agencies and other travel providers, brands force deal sites to hide these deals behind paywalls and restrictive dates—making it nearly impossible to find a travel deal on these sites by searching through a search engine.  HOWEVER, if you use special search engine query combinations (see last post), you can get around this block.

Yet, there are limits to what the search engine operators can do.  For instance, the search engine operator “site:” that I used in the last post (see picture below) can only search one site at a time.

Using the above query as an example, this means that if you wanted other deal sites in addition to searching Groupon, you’d have to re-enter the query for every site.  So this begs the question:  How do we scale?

The answer?  Leverage Google Alerts.  Here’s my process.

Google Alerts

Go to http://www.google.com/alerts.  Enter in your search query combination.  Note that I have added a “|” symbol which is a regular expression meaning “Or.”  With this character you can add many different brand names or locations that you are looking for.  In this instance I searched for Marriot and Hilton, but I could add more.

Fill in the other drop downs as needed.  Your choice on how frequently you want updates.  And once you’ve entered one deal site, enter another deal site using the same brands.

travel search

Continue to add queries and deal sites to your list (I have 3 listed above!).  Note that I’ve set my “Deliver to” as an email, but I could also receive a constantly updating RSS feed of deals by choosing Deliver to Google Reader (see first result above).

The best part about this process is that Google Reader and your alerts will only update you on NEW deals: helping you automatically filter out outdated results you would normally manually sift through when performing a Google search with the same operators.  So now you can sit back and watch your Google reader fill up with deals until the right one passes by.

Although this process is a bit rough and rugged, it definitely has worked for me.  I’m interested to hear what you all think of it.  Also, please indicate if you usually prefer searching for deals with flexible dates through a meta search engine or online travel agency or if you prefer stalking the deal sites.

Happy holiday travels!

One-on-One with Robert Albert, Founder & CEO of Routehappy

In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Robert Albert, CEO of Routehappy, a newcomer to the travel meta search market.  Routehappy is focused on enhancing the flight experience for flyers and giving the air travel industry a place to highlight their differentiators and latest innovations. They’ve developed a ‘Happiness Score’ for every flight in the world. Happiness Scores weigh amenities by flight (and class of service) and tips from fellow flyers to help travelers – even expert flyers – make better decisions about their options, bringing quality and experience into flight shopping. The team’s mission is simple: to bring happiness back to air travel. Something we can all certainly get behind!

Robert Albert, CEO, Routehappy

Robert Albert, CEO, Routehappy

“All flights are not created equal; savvy flyers know this and spend too much time combing the web for information about their flights.  Routehappy aims to make it a lot easier to find the best flights every time you fly.”

— Robert Albert, CEO, Routehappy

1. How would you describe the void Routehappy fills in a cluttered travel meta search market?  Would you say your service somewhat models TripAdvisor and Zagat?

Partially, but we’re truly one-of-a kind.  We’ve built a platform for real flyers to share their experiences and are using their ratings as feedback on the quality and level of ‘Happiness’ other flyers can expect in-flight. We define Happiness as a combination of hard data on flight amenities and quality such as what kind of seat is offered by cabin, tech-friendly services available on the flight and aircraft quality – combined with flyer ratings from experts like your readers.  We’re creating a unique decision support tool to make shopping for air travel a process that includes aspects of the experience itself, together with price, schedule and mileage.  Flyers care about their experience, and we’re filling the important gap between price and product that has driven consumer frustration for the last decade.

While our flight listings make it easy for flyers to compare overall quality – by cabin and on any route –our user ratings, tips and photos give fellow flyers more insight into any aspect of the experience. Routehappy is the only place you can find details like the best way to get to and from the airport, what quality of food is at the airport, what boarding is like and how good the movie selection is on the plane.

The best analogy for Routehappy may be a modern and dynamic Consumer Reports for flights –we’re a little bit TripAdvisor, Zagat, Yelp, CNET, Consumer Reports, Four Square and Kayak rolled into one really useful tool focused on making flight shopping better for all. Continue reading →

Hot Topic Series — Part 2 of 3: If Deal Sites Offer THE BEST Travel Deals, Why do Travel Agencies Bury them in Search?

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In part 1 of our 3-part Hot Topic Series on Travel Search Trends and Tips, Cleo Kirkland, Online Marketing & SEO Manager at CheapOair.com brought to light surprising search engine facts explaining why travel meta search sites (kayak.com, etc.) trump the airlines — even on the airline brand’s own deals!  In Part 2, Cleo gets down to discounts and how to be a savvy searcher to find the best travel deals, even when Google, Bing, et al, are not serving them up on page 1.

Cleo Kirkland, Online Marketing & SEO Manager, CheapOair.com

Cleo Kirkland, Online Marketing & SEO Manager, CheapOair.com

Let’s talk about real deals! The absolute best deals possible on travel are found on one type of site—deal sites.

If you’re looking for the best value on a last minute travel plan, sites like Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com can provide you with it.  Although you can’t plan a vacation much in advance (offers are here today and gone tomorrow), deals from these sites offer significant discounts — up to 50% or more off the full ride.

So, this begs the question: If deal sites are the undisputed champion of deals, why don’t they rank well for terms such as “Valley Forge Casino Resort DEALS?”

Two reasons: Continue reading →

Hot Topic Series — Part 1 of 3: Search Engine Trends for Travel Brands

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In this month’s Hot Topic series, ExpertFlyer digs deep into the online travel industry with CheapOair.com‘s Online Marketing & SEO Manager, Cleo Kirkland, bringing to light many of the search engine updates that prevent (or in some cases help!) you from finding the best deal possible.  In part 1 of our 3-part series, Cleo surfaces some of the thinking behind why Google ranks one website over the other—and why certain deals cannot be found through search.  In posts 2 and 3 we’ll go deeper with valuable trend insights on travel bookings and advanced search queries to find even the most hidden deals.

Part 1: Search Engine Trends for Travel Brands

If you’ve ever searched for “Cheap Flights to Miami”, the search engine results page should look something like this:

Travel Search Trends

Continue reading →

ExpertFlyer’s new free Android seat alerts app lifts travelers out of the middle seat

Last August, ExpertFlyer.com launched a free Seat Alert app for iPhone and iPad. This week, the company announces the highly anticipated introduction of the Seat Alerts app for the Android platform, also free.

Graphic is man stuck in the middle seat

Seat Alerts makes it easy to avoid "middle seat" misery - Graphic: Christoph Hitz

New to ExpertFlyer Seat Alerts?  Well, if you’re a regular business traveler or frequent flyer, we’re here to lift you out of “middle seat” misery.  How many times have you booked a flight to find that the only seats available are middle seats?  Or, equally frustrating, you can’t sit with your traveling companion unless you pay through the nose for a seat assignment. We all know it’s hard to get a better seat, but now Seat Alerts can do all the time-consuming seat map and availability reconnaissance for you, and then automatically notify you when a preferred seating option becomes available — for FREE!

It’s easy to get started. Using either the ExpertFlyer.com website, or our iOS or Android apps, enter your flight information and then select the type of seat you want, such as a Window, an Aisle or even two seats together  — you can even view seat ratings from SeatGuru by Trip Advisor using the app’s seat map screen. A pop up (shown below)will describe the amenities (or downside) to a specific seat selection. Once you are satisfied with your choice, “save” the alert, and ExpertFlyer will automatically notify you if the seat you want opens up.

You can even set an alert for any seat on full flights to make sure you get a seat assignment and don’t get bumped from your flight.

Check out the app screen shots below and download Seat Alerts from ExpertFlyer – it will change the way you fly.

Seat Alerts Android App - Home Screen

Seat Alerts - Home Screen (click to enlarge)

Seat Alerts - Seat Map

Seat Alerts - Seat Map (click to enlarge)

Seat Alert - Seat Reviews from Seat Guru

Seat Alert - Seat Reviews from Seat Guru (click to enlarge)

Seat Alerts' Push Notification alerts you when preferred seat is available

Seat Alerts - Push Notification alerts you when preferred seat is open (click to enlarge)