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jul 09 2010

TrustYou may be the best travel site you've never heard of

Before booking a hotel, most travelers look it up on TripAdvisor or on another travel site with reviews from regular people. But some hotels have been reviewed dozens of times. Add up all of the hotels and reviews, and trip planning can feel like you're researching a PhD thesis.

Enter, TrustYou. This free site aims to save you time by doing the homework for you. It pinpoints only the hotel reviews that are relevant to you. It's more comprehensive than TripAdvisor, too, because it searches all of TripAdvisor's reviews as well as all of the reviews of other major user review sites, such as Expedia, TravelPost, and Venere.

Searching is easy. Type in what you're looking for ("a family-friendly B&B; in Philadelphia" or "cheap hotel in downtown Amsterdam"), and TrustYou will fetch a list of properties that are a good fit.

The hotels you'll see at the top of the list will have two things in common: They'll be the highest rated properties overall, and they'll be hotels where the reviewers have most often commented on things pertinent to you. If you asked for "family friendly B&Bs; in Philly," then the first hotels retrieved will be ones praised by the most number of travelers who wrote comments such as "excellent amenities for families" and "a great B&B; for families."

Examples of these key phrases are listed. Positive comments are printed in a green font, negative comments in red. Click to see any given review in full, putting quotations in context. Another click will show you the hotel's location on a map.

One aggravation is that TrustYou doesn't link up directly to hotel sites, such as the specific site of the Omni in downtown Chicago. You either have to book a room through one of the partner sites (like Expedia) or you have to use a search engine like Google or Bing to find the hotel's site. That's annoying, but TrustYou is hoping to making money off of you making a booking through one of its partner sites.

Overall, TrustYou is a handy new arrow to have in your quiver when hunting for the perfect hotel for your needs. If you try it, let us know what you think.

NERDY FINE PRINT FOR TRAVEL GEEKS

Are the reviews on TrustYou honest? A drawback is that the line between legitimate reviews and fake ones can be difficult to discern. But one of TrustYou's managing directors, Ben Jost, says that the average ratings of hotels are unbiased overall. "We've studied this and found that once you have more than ten reviews, fake reviews stop being a significant factor."

Considering that there are loads of reviews on the Web, enough reviews out there are honest to make it likely that rating averages will land near the middle of the pack. This is a statistical fact of life. To make doubly sure that the overall ratings aren't skewed by biased reviews, TrustYou typically ignores the five percent of reviews that are improbably positive and the five percent of reviews that are insanely negative.

Why not just use Google, Bing, or Yahoo instead? TrustYou uses semantic search technologies, scanning for keywords and phrases and analyzing the patterns in which they appear. That makes it more sophisticated and accurate than using, say, Google, to do a "site search" of a hotel review site like TripAdvisor for a key phrase. After all, Google's web crawlers only study how pages are linked to each other, while TrustYou's semantic search studies the patterns of text and data within webpages and compares them with statistical patterns.

How does this site make money? Tnooz has the scoop.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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