Online guest reviews have become worth their weight in gold to hotels. Today, a huge 95% of people read a travel review before they book a trip, which means building a strong online reputation plays a fundamental part in attracting guests and driving bookings.
Google, Facebook and Yelp all have significant influence in the online travel review space. But TripAdvisor still reigns supreme. With over 455 million average monthly unique visitors, it leads the way as the world’s most popular site for travel shoppers.
A recent study by Oxford Economics also found that TripAdvisor’s influence is growing. In the last decade, its uses accounted for $545 billion (10.3%) of worldwide tourist spend, compared with 7% ($268 billion) in the previous decade.
Is your hotel truly reaping the full benefits of TripAdvisor? In order to do so, you really need to understand how it ranks hotels.
In the following article, we’ll discuss exactly how TripAdvisor’s algorithm works, and include tips to help your hotel move higher through the listings to attract more bookings.
TripAdvisor’s Popularity Algorithm was changed back in 2016, and more recently in March 2018. The latest update was designed to provide a fairer and more consistent form of ranking that looks at “performance over time”.
TripAdvisor hasn’t explicitly described how the algorithm has been tweaked, but indicates that a hotel that’s received consistently good ratings for a decade will outrank a hotel that’s gained excellent reviews over a few months, but been less popular before. As a result of this algorithm update, some hotels have seen their ranking move up, while others have gone down.
The current version of the algorithm is based on assessing three areas: quality, recency and quantity. Let’s look at how each of these work in more detail.
TripAdvisor has a bubble rating system from one-five, and every guest that submits a review can rate your hotel accordingly. These bubble ratings directly influence your quality score. As you might expect, more quality reviews mean an improvement in your overall ranking position.
Bubble ratings are especially important because they give potential guests an instant snapshot of your property. Your hotel can be judged in a glance, without a single word being read. According to TripAdvisor, 83% of travelers believe these ratings are significant when it comes to picking accommodation.
It’s worth noting that bubble ratings are different to star ratings, which are determined by third-parties such as Expedia and Giata.
Guests want to know what it’s like to stay at your hotel today, not back in 2015. So to ensure users get the most up-to-date information, TripAdvisor places a greater weight on properties with more recent reviews than those with older ones.
It goes without saying that your hotel needs to provide an accurate representation of the experience you offer. This is especially true if you’ve recently upgraded your facilities, rooms or amenities. If your newest reviews are months old, your current TripAdvisor presence might not be doing your hotel justice.
The typical TripAdvisor user reads multiple reviews when they’re looking at an accommodation. If your property has a high volume of consistent feedback, potential guests are likely to feel more confident about booking with you. Even if your hotel has a 5-bubble rating, traveler confidence will be greatly reduced if this is based on the input of just a handful of people.
However, having more reviews than a rival hotel doesn’t guarantee you’ll rank higher. TripAdvisor only requires that a business has “enough reviews to provide statistical significance”. TripAdvisor doesn’t explicitly reveal what this figure is, but states that once a business has reached a “critical mass of reviews”, it can better predict where a business should rank.
Tips to improve your TripAdvisor rank
Based on the information above, here are a few top tips to help boost your hotel’s TripAdvisor ranking and encourage more bookings.
Enhance the guest experience
One of the most important things you can do to boost your quality rating is to improve your guest experience. When your guests are more impressed by the service you offer, it’s far more likely that you’ll receive more positive ratings.
To help with this, start sifting through feedback on TripAdvisor and look for trends. Are there recurring problems or points of dissatisfaction that a significant number of guests keep raising? Perhaps your check-in procedure is frequently described as being too slow. Maybe there’s a lot of comments about the fact your restaurant needs modernizing.
You might not have the budget and resources to fix everything, so focus on the issues that are within your control and likely to have the biggest impact on your guest experience.
Be sure to announce any improvements you make via social media, email and newsletters. This will give your reputation a real boost by demonstrating that you value your guests opinions and take action when needed.
Encourage regular reviews
Given that TripAdvisor’s algorithm looks for consistency over time, resting on your laurels isn’t a smart move. The goal should be to continually attract quality, up-to-date reviews that give guests confidence to book.
There are plenty of ways to do this. For instance, it’s easy to politely ask guests to leave feedback during the checkout process. You could also print out TripAdvisor’s reminder cards and flyers and leave them around your property as a visual cue.
A few days after they check out, send your guests a post-stay email that thanks them for their custom and prompts them to leave a review. Insert a TripAdvisor link in the body of your email to remove any extra hassle. Review Express is another handy TripAdvisor tool that can help you better manage feedback.
Keep your profile updated
Reviews and expectations are closely linked. If a guest books with your hotel but finds the actual experience doesn’t match your online reputation, there’s a fair chance they’ll be disgruntled enough to post negative feedback. That’s why it’s vital to keep your TripAdvisor profile up-to-date.
Make sure you accurately list your amenities, check your contact details are correct, and ensure your property page includes plenty of recent photos. Having recent images is especially crucial if you’ve carried out a recent refurb or made changes that alter the experience you offer.
Manage negative feedback
Negative reviews are inevitable. No matter how hard you work at creating the best possible experience, there will always be complaints. The only thing you can do in these situations is to manage negative feedback in the right way.
Responding to reviews doesn’t have any direct bearing on your Popularity Ranking, but it can help your reputation in the eyes of your audience. According to TripAdvisor, 85% of their users agree that a thoughtful response to a negative review will improve their impression of the establishment.
Start by looking back to see if the guest raised any issues while on-property. Was their complaint handled properly or left unresolved? Once you know the full details, you can more confidently address their concerns.
Be sure to thank the guest for their comments, and sympathise with the fact their expectations weren’t met (regardless of blame, it’s important to show you care about their experience). If their complaint is genuinely legitimate, aim to resolve their issue, but do it offline — the last thing you want is a heated conversation in a public setting.
Using TripAdvisor to your advantage
In order to improve your hotel’s TripAdvisor ranking position, the main message is to encourage plenty of quality, up-to-date reviews. The latest 2018 update to TripAdvisor’s algorithm means consistency is also key — if your hotel has a similar amount of positive and negative reviews to a local competitor, your property will rank higher if your reviews are more recent.
It’s also vital to remember that the quality of your guest experience has a direct impact on the quality of your reviews. To that end, endeavour to provide exceptional service and go the extra mile to make your guests feel truly welcome.