A long, long time ago, in an era known as “the 90s” planning a trip was very different than it is today.
Travel agents became the rules of the land, armed with their glossy brochures and commissioned insider deals.
As far as travelers were concerned, it was hard to find an unbiased recommendation.
Sure, there were the brave explorers who ventured into the world relying on tips from their friends and fellow nomads. But even then, the quality of a recommendation was never guaranteed.
Back in those days, the philosophy around travel was that nothing’s certain. The idea of transparency just didn’t exist.
Then, on February 27, 2001, a single review for a hotel in New England appeared on a website known as TripAdvisor and completely changed the way we travel.
Today review sites, like TripAdvisor, are the go-to resource for millions of travellers worldwide. They influence the places people go, what they do once they get there, where they sleep and even what they eat!
This means that if you are in the tourism industry, the quality, and quantity, of your ratings can be the difference between someone booking with you or turning to one of your competitors.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you are incorporating it into your marketing activity.
What is your TripAdvisor Ranking Based On?
Wait, is it rating, or ranking?
This one can get a little confusing (thanks, TripAdvisor).
People give you a rating when they leave a review. It’s basically how many bubbles you get out of five.
Your Popularity Ranking combines all your ratings and scores you against other business in your area.
If you’re number one in London, you’ll be the first listing on the page when someone searches for London. So in a way, increasing your popularity ranking is like SEO for TripAdvisor. It’s all about discovery.
The algorithm calculates your ranking based on your reviews with a combination of 3 factors:
1. Quality of reviews
This is your average review score or ratings. Higher ratings mean higher ranking.
2. Quantity of reviews
Many travelers (80%) will read 6 – 12 reviews before booking. The more reviews you have, the more confident a traveler can feel about the possible experience you can deliver. On top of that, TripAdvisor wants to ensure they have enough reviews to make their ranking average statistically accurate. So it’s important that you have a lot of reviews.
3. Recency of reviews
80% of travellers say they focus on the newest reviews. Newer reviews seem to be more accurate, which is why TripAdvisor gives more weight to them. Your ranking is updated daily. So if you’re looking to increase your overall score, you should continually ask customers to leave feedback.
How to get high rated reviews
Earlier this year I interviewed two of TripAdvisor’s top reviewers and asked them to share some insights about how to get better TripAdvisor reviews. Based on their responses these 5 steps will give you the best chance of more positive reviews.
1: Provide exceptional customer service
The best way to ensure a positive review is through excellent service. Welcome guests with a smile, answer their questions and be helpful. Things like this go a long way. This is a once in a lifetime experience for your guests, so make sure you or your representatives go the extra mile to make it special for them.
2: Ask your customers in person
Be honest with your guests and let them know how much a review means to you. Most people understand the importance of reviews. It’s probably what influenced their decision to choose you in the first place. A simple reminder at the end of the tour or upon checkout is all you need.
3: Display logos on your property
A great way to remind guests to leave reviews is to show the logos on your property; digital and physical. Put up stickers on your storefront. Link to your profiles from your website. Include links in your email signatures.
4: Ask customers in a follow-up email
Another opportunity to collect customer reviews is with follow up emails. Send a simple note thanking your guests for their business and ask for feedback. Then make it easy for guests to leave their reviews by linking directly to your profiles.
It’s best to send your follow up a day or two after their visit. Get creative with your subject line to increase open-rates. Something like “Welcome Home” or “Thanks for the Memories” will stand out and set a positive tone for your message.
Just make sure you don’t incentivise reviews by offering discounts or coupons in exchange. Most sites, including TripAdvisor, have strict policies against this. You won’t get accurate reviews from someone trying to save a few dollars.
If you work with a booking platform they should have a tool to automate this process. Otherwise you can use TripAdvisor’s Review Express tool.
5: Respond to all of your reviews
You should view customer reviews as a two-way communication channel. Phocuswright found that “57% of users agreed that seeing hotel management responses to reviews makes me more likely to book it.”
So, how should you respond to your reviews?
That entirely depends on the nature of the review.
Responding to positive reviews
Provide a genuine response
When you respond to a review, make it personal. Respond as a person, not a business. Be candid and try to make a connection with the person on the other end of the keyboard. Thank them for their review and let them know you remember them by commenting on something unique from their visit. At the very least, address them by name.
Pass it along to your staff
While the communication is between you and the reviewer, it takes an entire company to provide a memorable customer experience. So be sure to share positive reviews with your staff and thank them for their efforts. Praise and gratitude can go a long way to improve company morale and in the end help you lock down more positive reviews. Focus on what your strengths are and try to make them even better.
Share it online
Share your positive reviews on your website and social channel to increase your overall reputation. Some travel website builders have this feature built in now. Or you can you can add TripAdvisor widgets to your website. It’s a nice way to display social proof to your visitors when they are contemplating booking with you.
Responding to negative reviews
No matter how good your service, there will always be negative reviews and things out of your control. The key is to react positively to them. Here’s how…
Take a step back
It’s hard not to take criticism personally, but try to remember the issue isn’t with you but the overall experience. So take a few breaths to avoid having a reaction that is too emotional or defensive.
They might have just done you a favor by bringing something you weren’t aware of to your attention. No matter how involved you are, it’s impossible to know everything that goes on your business.
After you’ve responded to the review, speak with your staff who were involved and come up with a plan to improve the experience for all of your guests in the future.
Take ownership for the situation and apologize. Regardless who you believe was at fault. Quickly addressing disappointments can reduce the number of negative reviews you see and encourage people to try you again.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand the root cause of the issue. Was it simply unmet expectations? Did they feel disrespected by your staff? Or maybe they missed another commitment because you were running behind. Having empathy will help you address, and even resolve, their complaints better.
And that’s it.
TripAdvisor reviews are one of the most important things you can invest in as a travel company. And much like SEO, it’s going to take time to climb to the number one spot in your area. So make an action plan and get started!