Update: As of March 2018, TripAdvisor has updated the algorithm which calculates rankings on the popularity index. The aim of this update is to adjust the weighting of historical reviews to better reflect and reward consistency. Find out more about the 2018 changes to TripAdvisor’s algorithms and if they might have affected you.
Many people in the hospitality industry have a love/hate relationship with the review site TripAdvisor - they know it’s there and suspect there is some value in utilising it as a tool to get more business, but the thought of encouraging people to leave feedback can be daunting, not to mention quite stressful if you consider any negative feedback and how to manage it.
However, if you want to leverage every channel available to you online, to make sure your beds are full the majority of the time, then you cannot ignore TripAdvisor and the role it can play in making sure you reach your targets.
In a recent survey it was discovered that 77% of respondents (hotel guests) relied on TripAdvisor reviews before selecting a place to stay, and with 160 new reviews being published every minute, and TripAdvisor's 375 million unique visitors every month, you simply cannot ignore the value of using the site to influence the decision-making process of potential guests.
We won’t get too technical here, but some understanding of how TripAdvisor works, and the terms used, will go a long way in making sure you reach a top ranking position.
The two scores
You may have noticed that sometimes a hotel is ranked number 20 in its area, but its reviews all say how wonderful it is, and that the hotel that came first in that area has several bad ones.
This can happen because, even though they are related, your rating is different from your ranking.
TripAdvisor Rating: This is the written review a guest will leave once they have stayed with you. Based on these reviews you will be given a rating, with 5 being the highest.
TripAdvisor Ranking: Much like Google, TripAdvisor uses algorithms to rank and score a property based on a few different points.
Points of the popularity index
The popularity index determines how you rank against other properties in your geographic area. This is worked out in a few ways, but the three main points that affect your ranking are the quality, quantity and age of your reviews. So, to improve your ranking you need to attend to each one:
- Quality of the reviews - Nothing digital is going to help you with this, it’s down to good old fashioned customer service and guest experience. Make use of online surveys to find out exactly where you’re not meeting the mark. Use negative reviews to pinpoint any areas you may need to work on to make sure you are delivering on your offer, and positive reviews to help you exceed expectations.
- Quantity of reviews - Make sure every guest who passes through your lobby leaves a review. There are a few ways you can encourage this, the most obvious is by asking, however there are tools available online which simplify the process of leaving a comprehensive review for guests.
- Age of your reviews - The older the review the less weight it carries. Make sure you have new reviews coming in all the time to score full-marks on this point.
NB: It’s worth noting here that TripAdvisor does moderate reviews and if they suspect that an establishment is paying for reviews or soliciting untrue feedback (like from family members who are far from objective), then there is a penalty.
Your ranking isn't all that matters
You might be ranked first in your area or you might be ranked hundredth, but remember that people not numbers stay at your hotel. You have to be a person as well, someone who is part of the conversation, you have to respond to your reviews.
This does not mean only responding to those reviews which sing your praises, although a ‘Thank-you’ and ‘Hope to see you again’ obviously go a long way in showing appreciation. The real test will come in managing your negative reviews – and manage you must because should you hide or ignore them, you’re going to miss out on the 85% of TripAdvisor users who say that a properly managed response to a negative review actually improves their impression of the establishment.
"Make sure you engage, frequently and thoughtfully. As mentioned, management responses are invaluable, but so too is current content. Make sure your listing content is up-to-date and consider seasonal adjustments to ensure you are really appealing to travellers who are thinking about booking right now. Photos are extremely important, especially of the inside of your property so it’s worthwhile investing in some great shots." — Sally Davey, Head of Industry Relations at TripAdvisor