FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FROM BEDandBREAKFAST.COM - December 15, 2006
CONTACT: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331, Marti.Mayne@BedandBreakfast.com
Sandy Soule, 203-637-7642, Sandy.Soule@BedandBreakfast.com
BedandBreakfast.com Comments on Merchandising Bed and Breakfast Inns Study
Austin, TX - In August, 2006, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration released a publication entitled "The Comprehensive Guide to Marketing a Bed and Breakfast." BedandBreakfast.com has studied this publication and wishes to publicly comment on a number of inaccuracies and misunderstandings stated in this publication. In late August,
BedandBreakfast.com notified author, Professor Carroll with concerns, launching a dialogue that continued over the next few months, ultimately ending without resolution. While BedandBreakfast.com recognizes and appreciates that the Cornell School of Hotel Administration published a revised guide based in part on some of BedandBreakfast.com's suggestions, the revised guide fell short in the most important area under dispute. At the request of Cornell University's legal counsel, BedandBreakfast.com sent a letter as a form of academic discourse in the hopes that the Cornell School of Hotel Administration will publish BedandBreakfast.com's opinion in response to the publishing of the original and the revised guides.
The most glaring concern BedandBreakfast.com has with the guide refers to Exhibit 4 on page 14, entitled "Bed and Breakfast Directory Search Engine Visibility." BedandBreakfast.com understands from Professor Carroll that the data was supplied by Lanier Publishing, owner of the same company that the data supports. The data shows that the publisher's website is the "most visible" of the online bed and breakfast guides. Indeed, use of Lanier's data to support Lanier's own company in a presumably unbiased guide suggests a conflict of interest. Since this data comes from an interested party with potential to gain from the study, and since BedandBreakfast.com believes that this data directly contradicts information available from public and unbiased sources like Alexa (a division of Amazon.com that provides third party web metrics) and Google (page rank data showing the importance of websites), BedandBreakfast.com repeatedly requested the referenced data in the study for review and validation. Cornell University would not share the data, stating that it must be obtained directly from Lanier Publishing.
BedandBreakfast.com has repeatedly requested the data from Lanier Publishing which has refused to share the complete data set. Lanier Publishing released only a very small portion of data, making it impossible to evaluate or substantiate, other than to see that the data was outdated.
In October of 2006, Professor Carroll wrote to BedandBreakfast.com committing to remove the exhibit in question and publish a revised guide using Google Page Rank data. BedandBreakfast.com would like to publicly state their disappointed in finding that the revised guide still contains out-of-date and disputed data, despite Professor Carroll's written assurances that the data would be removed. Since such data is readily available in current form, and since it is widely known that search engine rankings change quite frequently, BedandBreakfast.com challenges Professor Carroll's use of out-of-date materials and data. In addition, BedandBreakfast.com points out that there was no definition of "search engine visibility" as presented in the disputed exhibit. A proper analysis of search engine visibility should entail determining the precise ranking of specific keywords, coupled with the volume of searches made by consumers who input those specific keywords. This would then be compared to the portion of consumers who were likely to follow links in the search results based on the specific position of each link. This did not occur.
Though BedandBreakfast.com is unable to evaluate data that it can not review, and cannot replicate data that is two years old, it can evaluate the methods used by Lanier Publishing. BedandBreakfast.com contends that Lanier's methods fall far short of a thorough and reliable analysis. It appears that Lanier Publishing took a specific list of keywords and counted how often any given website appeared on the first or second page in the results of a consumer web search for each keyword. BedandBreakfast.com contends that no attention was paid to the amount of actual consumer searches that involved those keywords, and no attention was paid to the specific position of the resulting links. Thus, evidently, equal rankings were given to consumers' searches whether they were done once a year, or a million times a year - and whether a website was listed as number one (which gets the majority of consumer traffic) or number twenty (which gets virtually no traffic at all). This is the equivalent of saying that two restaurants have the same location because they happen to be at an intersection, even if one is at an intersection in the middle of Manhattan and the other is in the middle of the Sahara. To anyone familiar with website statistics, BedandBreakfast.com submits this is hardly a sound methodology.
In summary, it is BedandBreakfast.com's studied opinion that the biased nature of the source, the fact that the referenced data will not be released, and the lack of a sound methodology behind the data clearly call to question why an esteemed university like Cornell used this data in the first place and would continue to use the data despite the option of removing it. The fact that Professor Carroll committed to removing the data and replacing it with unbiased third party data from Google, then ultimately did not follow through with this commitment raises even more questions.
BedandBreakfast.com acknowledges and appreciates that Professor Carroll changed a number of other areas of the study based upon BedandBreakfast.com's feedback. Most notably, appreciation is shown for changing the original Exhibit 3 comparing the various Bed and Breakfast marketing websites where information originally appeared to be taken directly from the Lanier Publishing website with a clear sales advantage for Lanier. Professor Carroll also updated the Property Management Software section of the study since the original study primarily contained PMS systems used by hoteliers, not by bed and breakfasts.
BedandBreakfast.com endorses a comprehensive study on the bed and breakfast industry noting that the industry would benefit from such an endeavor. BedandBreakfast.com suggests, however, that consulting with and relying on input and data from one company in the industry is hardly comprehensive or appropriate for an unbiased guide. BedandBreakfast.com suggests that Cornell broaden the scope of industry sources beyond just one company if it chooses to update the study in the future, and believes that Cornell could greatly benefit from conducting research in conjunction with a number of the different leading websites, as well as the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.
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