TripAdvisor is arguably the most important citation for local businesses who are in the field of hospitality, travel and accommodation. It is a unique player in the industry, performing much like an OTA but by leveraging its large engaged human-reviewers base it allows visitors to conduct extensive comparisons prior to booking accommodation, restaurants, flights or travel packages. By providing these in-depth insights gratis, TripAdvisor has grown to become the leading travel comparison site in this space.
TripAdvisor ranks businesses using an algorithm known as the Popularity Index. The factors that influence this algorithm are as follows:
- Claimed TripAdvisor listings
- Complete, accurate and up-to-date content
- Frequency of reviews
- Recency of reviews
- Volume of reviews
Improving Popularity Ranking
There are a number of opportunities for optimisation of listings to improve popularity rankings on the TripAdvisor website, including:
- 1. Monitoring reviews – responding promptly to reviews; encouraging customers to review.
- 2. Claiming listings – populating and managing listings; adding rich information (descriptions, photography, etc)
- 3. Displaying awards – Placing TripAdvisor award plaques at your place of business
- 4. Understanding and adhering to TripAvisor’s rules – Complying with the simple rules they have in place.
(1a) Monitoring reviews
This involves ensuring that all aspects of the review process are handled in a timely fashion and with a positive brand experience for the customer. According to Market Metrix (TripAdvisor’s partner):
93% of global travellers say their booking decisions are influenced by online reviews. 53% of travellers say they won’t book a hotel that doesn’t have online reviews.
Whilst the quote is directly attributable to hotels, it is also applicable to any service within the hospitality industry that can be booked and/or reviewed.
Recommendation: Monitor reviews by setting up email alerts from TripAdvisor. This will allow your team to know exactly when new reviews are posted so that they can be responded to in an efficient and timely manner.
(1b) Responding to reviews
Respond to ALL reviews. It is imperative that you respond to all reviews, not just the negatives. There are some simple guidelines to follow when responding to different types of reviews
Recommendation (for positive reviews):
- Thank the reviewer for taking the time to share their positive experience.
- Be original. Avoid stock replies or canned responses as they are insincere.
- Refer to one of the reviewers positives about their experience with your business, to personalise your response and to remind customers about the positives of your business/brand.
Recommendation (for negative reviews):
- Respond promptly as it shows that you take customer feedback seriously. It also has the effect of negating the impact of the negative review, instead of having it sum up your business without a response.
- Be courteous and professional – Resist the temptation to be aggressive or defensive with negative responders. Avoid being baited. Also avoid using jargon.
- Highlight the positives. Use this as an opportunity to point out any new changes management has made to the business that specifically address the customers concerns. It’s an important statement that you’ve taken your customers feedback seriously and implemented positive changes.
- Respect individual’s privacy – Your responses should never contain personal information (such as – full names, addresses, phone numbers) or any other information that identifies an individual.
(1c) Encouraging customers to write reviews
Since volume, frequency and recency of reviews are three of the main factors that influence the popularity ranking on TripAdvisor it is important to encourage your customers to review your business after they have completed their transaction with you.
- Ask for reviews at the time of checkout or via email campaigns for customers with recent transactions with the business. Direct users specifically to TripAdvisor.
- Link to the TripAdvisor review pages in email signatures for the business
- Consider using TripAdvisor’s review express tool to invite recent customers to write a review on TripAdvisor
NB: There is also a TripAdvisor partner tool by MarketMetrix called Review Direct that allows you to insert TripAdvisor review requests directly into customer feedback forms. See: http://corp.marketmetrix.com/research/review-direct-brochure-use-guest-feedback-to-boost-online-reputation/
(2a) Claiming Listings
It is imperative to claim, populate and maintain business listings for each physical location of your business. This involves claiming ownership of listings under your brand, and then populating the listings with phone numbers, website address, photos, descriptions and any other relevant information that TripAdvisor allows.
Recommendation: Completely populate all business listings with correct Name, Address, Phone Number and Website information, providing professional photos where possible and detailed descriptions. Maintain the listings to ensure the content is always up to date and accurate. NB: TripAdvisor currently charges a fee to include contact details (phone, website) as part of your listing
(2b) Writing detailed location/property descriptions
Once a listing is claimed write a detailed description of the location, highlighting key features, including nearby attractions, popular amenities and the convenience of the location itself. 92% of travellers choose a business that posts detail property descriptions over that that is missing information (source: TripAdvisor)
Recommendation: Use some of the keywords relevant to the location as part of the description. This is a beneficial way to ensure the listing will rank for those particular phrases or keywords. However, do not keyword-stuff descriptions. Ensure that the description is readable and useful for visitors.
(2c) Uploading professional photography
Add professional hi-res, high-quality imagery that showcases the location, surrounds, and any special features (things like rooftop pools, water or scenic views, popular dishes). Show off functional areas of the business so that customers gain a feel before they have entered, and also to give them an “I wish I was there” type feeling.
Recommendation: To ensure that you have the most up to date view of your business (post renovations), you should change the primary listing photo on a regular basis. By including your own photography, you ensure that potential customers obtain the best possible snapshot of your business. If photography is left to TripAdvisor, they garner 3rd-party photos and snapshots of your business, and these may not be ideal.
(3a) Displaying awards and honors
TripAdvisor regularly rewards the best-reviewed and most highly rated places with special badges like Travellers Choice and Certificate of Excellence.
Recommendations: There are several ways to capitalise on your TripAdvisor awards
- Prominently display your award in a visible place at your business location using an official looking plaque. It adds credibility to your brand and will also give your employees pride.
- Showcase the award on your website using the TripAdvisor Widget (see: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Widgets)
- Run a press release regarding the awards. TripAdvisor offers a free template for Certificate of Excellence winners in the TripAdvisor Owners Centre (see: http://cdn.tripadvisor.com/pdfs/cds/COE_pr_guide_en.pdf)
- Share the award win on the locations Facebook page and social media channels to create buzz. Adding it to the profile image will ensure that even casual observers will see the award.
- Notify recent customers via email and thank them for their contribution to the businesses success in receiving the award
- Celebrate with employees to boost morale and thank them for their effors
(4a) Understanding and adhering to the TripAdvisor rules
TripAdvisor has some straightforward rules which should be followed to ensure that listings are treated as legitimate and reviews are considered authentic and genuine.
- Don’t set TripAdvisor as the homepage on any customer accessible computers at your business locations.
- Don’t encourage guests to review the business on TripAdvisor whilst still at your location.
- Don’t reward or incentivise customers for writing reviews.
- Don’t test the system with fake/false reviews that you have generated.
The optimising tactics provided above, when implemented as part of a larger citation strategy or review strategy, will help improve a businesses visibility on TripAdvisor by legitimately encouraging real and honest reviews of the business. This momentum should boost click-throughs through building a well-rounded representation of what the business has to offer its customers by way of a positive experience.