Kayak Network Sets Sail

Kayak.com, a comparison-shopping service for travel, today introduces Kayak Network, a self-service extranet where prices are driven by demand and not just keyword combinations.

The patent-pending online marketplace lets travel marketers customize their placement and messages based on search parameters from real-time consumer searches. Parameters include city or city pairs, length of stay, particular airlines or hotel brands or trip dates.

“It's an attempt to help travel advertisers better reach customers when they want to,” said Steve Hafner, CEO of Kayak.com parent Kayak Software Corp., Norwalk, CT.

Kayak Network is positioned as an alternative to expensive, low-conversion, generic-keyword campaigns. Hotel chains, for example, can spend their marketing budget on low occupancy rates instead of pushing demand when it's unnecessary. Airlines can target city pairs and trip date ranges. Travel agencies can target consumers after they have cross-shopped, and not before.

Travel marketers can set their maximum cost-per-click to stick to their spending limits. Kayak.com will charge such advertisers the cost of their next-highest campaign, plus a one-cent fee. The company claims most advertisers using this method will be charged less than their top spending levels.

Users of Kayak Network can manage their campaigns through reporting tools that track impressions, clicks, click-through rates, cost, cost-per-click and average position within the search results.

Kayak Network soon will have features like managing hotel descriptions and responding to consumer feedback. Also coming soon is the ability to differentiate ads with eBay-like higher visibility, including bold fonts, highlighting and in-line photographs.

Hotels not currently in the Kayak.com results can add their listings to the site's database through Kayak Network later this month.

Kayak Network campaigns started running this week through the Kayak.com affiliate network. This includes sites such as AOL Pinpoint Travel, USAToday.com, LonelyPlanet.com and Kayak.com.

Kayak.com formally launched to consumers in February. Its search engine trawls more than 100 travel sites, with prices and itineraries for 85,000 hotels and 551 airlines. The site's search engine competes with Travelzoo's SuperSearch, SideStep, Yahoo's Farechase and Mobissimo.

JupiterResearch claims search is one of the most effective influencers of a consumer's actions online. An estimated 115 million Americans monthly use search engines, or about 75 percent of the active online population.

Its relative youth versus competitors, and the need to differentiate, spurred Kayak.com to start Kayak Network. The company also is taking advantage of what it sees as increased marketer frustration with the limitations of keyword-based paid search advertising. Kayak.com claims hotel chains cannot differentiate between when they need demand and when they don't. This means they buy search results for dates when they are oversold, or for consumers who are too early in their shopping process to buy.

“Keyword-based buying doesn't work best for travel marketers,” Hafner said.

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