Guide to TripAdvisor

Love it, hate it, respect it or despise it, TripAdvisor is a goliath of the travel industry and affects your property whether you know it or not. As such, it cannot be ignored by serious hospitality professionals, and having an active TripAdvisor listing has become almost compulsory for your property's image.

According to TripAdvisor, it has

570 million

reviews and opinions

7 million

accommodations, attractions, and restaurants

455 million

average monthly unique visitors

Section 1: Optimising your listing

The first step in getting a handle on your TripAdvisor image is to start with the aspects of your listing that you can control:

Upload lots of images to help the traveller imagine herself staying with you

When booking a place to stay, travellers want a good idea of what they are in for. If there are only photos of your best room, they will notice, and wonder why you are hiding the others. They also want to see more than just the bedrooms. Show them the bathrooms, the gardens, the pool, and any other facilities you have. Make sure that they are good quality, professional photographs, but don’t let the images lie – remember, TripAdvisor allows users to post their own photos. If the difference between theirs and yours is too great you will lose the trust of prospective guests (or fail to meet your guests' expectations when they arrive).

Give guests all the details up front

Consumers want to know as much as possible about your establishment before they get there, that's why they are doing their research. Make it easy for them. Describe exactly where you are, for instance. Tell them about anything that makes your establishment special, the area you are in, and what makes you different from other accommodation in your area.

Keep your listing's text and images up-to-date

When you update aspects of your property – after listening to your guests' suggestions and making sure facilities aren’t becoming dated – let potential future guests know about it on TripAdvisor as soon as it's done.

Aim for excellence, and awards

One of the best ways to boost your reputation is with an award earned by impressing other travellers, such as those awarded by TripAdvisor. One study found that TripAdvisor were 65% more likely to book at a hotel that had won one of their awards. These awards include Certificates of Excellence, GreenLeader Certifications, and the coveted Traveller’s Choice awards. Find out more about TripAdvisor awards and how to earn them here.

 

Take a look at our essential TripAdvisor checklist for a breakdown of everything you need to do to ensure you're putting your best foot forward in your listing.

Ask all your guests for reviews

As we will discuss later, TripAdvisor's popularity index takes into account the number and recency of reviews when calculating your ranking. So, although you can't control what guests say, and it is against the rules to offer your guests incentives in return for reviews (and it’s also plain dishonest), you should absolutely be asking and reminding guests to leave a review of their own accord. One good idea is to send guests an email after their stay asking how it was and asking them to please post a review on TripAdvisor (more on getting lots of reviews below). This can be made easier with a feedback solution like GuestRevu, which allows you to send automated surveys to your guests after they checkout. 

Respond to reviews

When you respond to reviews as often as you can, you show customers that you care about their experiences – and you will gain all sorts of credit for communicating with former and future guests. About 65% of travellers told TripAdvisor that they would probably rather stay at a hotel where the manager had responded to reviews than at a similar hotel without management responses to reviews (more on management responses below).

Should you pay for premium products?

TripAdvisor’s paid options allow hospitality professionals and restaurateurs the opportunity to take more control over their bookings and make a good first impression – an opportunity that only comes once – at a price tailored to their establishment’s size, region and traffic.

However, TripAdvisor makes it very clear that while their range of products is there to allow property owners greater control over their listing’s appearance, they will in no way allow you to manipulate the feedback from your customers, or present a false image to their users – so if you're looking for a quick fix, a premium listing isn't it.

You won’t be able to remove reviews just because you don’t agree with them – the rules are the same for everyone – and you will have to follow the same procedure as free clients if you feel your hotel is being blackmailed or treated unfairly by a reviewer.

Download the essential checklist for optimising your TripAdvisor listing

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Section 2: How the TripAdvisor algorithm works

When a tourist searches for accommodation (or dining or activities) in a particular area, TripAdvisor shows the options in a list, but the order of the list isn’t random, nor is it determined solely by review "bubble" ratings – it is determined by the establishments' respective rankings as measured by TripAdvisor's popularity index (which was updated in 2016 to level the playing field between new and established properties, and again in 2018 to better account for performance over time). The purpose of the Popularity Index is to present travellers with the best options first, ensuring that their experience of the TripAdvisor website is useful and positive.

The Popularity Index uses an algorithm to rank properties that is influenced by three factors: the quality of the reviews, the recency of the reviews and the number of reviews. TripAdvisor states that it “designed the enhanced Popularity Ranking algorithm to value the quantity and consistency of reviews more significantly”.

As you can see from the images on the right, although rating and ranking are related, rating is not the sole consideration for which properties are shown first. In this instance, the number two property has a better rating than the number one property, but it has fewer reviews, and is therefore ranked lower.

Section 3: Get more reviews with a review collection partner

Getting more reviews can boost your property's listing in a number of ways. A review collection partner can work with you to increase the number of reviews that you are getting, and make it easy to keep track of and respond to them efficiently.

As the section on TripAdvisor's algorithm explains, TripAdvisor rankings are based not only on your review ratings, but on the freshness and volume of reviews as well. Even a mediocre review can boost a hotel’s ranking if it has been posted recently, making a large number of average reviews more beneficial to your listing than one or two outstanding reviews. That’s why it’s so important to collect as many reviews as possible, as this will lead to a higher ranking. Plus, the findings of a 2014 Cornell University study suggest that more reviews may result in better ratings as well.

The difficulty that this presents for hoteliers, and others in the hospitality industry, is getting satisfied but not overwhelmed customers to leave reviews. Often online reviews tend to skew towards the extremes when compared to direct feedback. People post reviews about experiences that they found exceptional, whether that be exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

As always, the quality of the guest experience at your property is the most important factor in maintaining a good reputation in the hospitality industry. However, in order to maintain and improve your ranking on TripAdvisor, it is important to encourage each and every guest to leave a review.

The easier it is for guests to give you feedback and leave reviews online, the more likely they are to do so. There are a number of ways you can make the process easier, such as:

  • Leaving cards in guests rooms inviting them to leave a review on TripAdvisor
  • Giving your guests the code to your free Wi-Fi on a card, with a reminder to leave a review on TripAdvisor
  • Putting a QR (quick recognition) code that directs guests straight to your TripAdvisor listing on any printed material you provide
  • Sending guests an email after their stay inviting them to review you on TripAdvisor
  • Providing guests with a questionnaire to fill out either in guest rooms during their stay, or online after they’ve left, which reminds them to share their feedback on TripAdvisor
  • Using a review and feedback solution partner like GuestRevu which has a TripAdvisor review submission form embedded in the last page of online surveys

A review collection partner can make the process of emailing guests, gathering feedback from surveys and encouraging guests to post reviews on TripAdvisor much easier for everyone involved. As a property owner, spending time emailing guests to ask for feedback and reviews on an individual basis is asking the impossible. But with a review collection partner, that process is automated. All feedback is brought together into one place, and every guest is encouraged to express that feedback in a review on TripAdvisor, making it easy for them (and therefore more likely that they’ll do so), saving you time, and making it easy to keep track of reviews and respond to them.

When asking guests for reviews of their stays, hospitality professionals should also bear in mind that there are a number of benefits to collecting both direct and indirect guest feedback, and emailing guests after their stay, thanking them for their custom and asking for feedback is simply good practice.

While it could be tempting to push encouragement to leave reviews even further than that, offering guests incentives such as discounts or other benefits should they review their stay with you, you should bear in mind that offering any kind of bribe or incentive for customers and guests to leave a review is against TripAdvisor’s rules, and can result in severe penalties. The most foolproof way to ensure you maintain a good reputation is to provide a good experience, then ask people to write about it and make it easy for them to do so.

Find out how people do travel-related web browsing

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Section 4: Managing reviews on TripAdvisor

When it comes to reviews on TripAdvisor, the vast majority of them are positive. This was confirmed by a Cornell University study, which examined 1.28 million reviews on TripAdvisor, and found that more than 70% of them had a rating of 4 or 5, while only 15% had a rating of 1 or 2.

While negative reviews on the site are relatively rare, negative feedback is a part of the hospitality industry. Things do go wrong, milk gets spilt, and you can’t please all the people all the time. However, the manner in which you deal with criticism is often far more important than the criticism itself – especially when you are dealing with it online for all the travellers of the world to see. TripAdvisor found that around 65% of their users are more likely to book with a hotel that responds to reviews (versus a similar hotel that doesn't), and 85% of their users say a good management response to a poor review improves their impression of a hotel.

management-responses-matter-TripAdvisor

The “three Rs” technique – react, respond and repair – can help you to manage negative reviews so that they don’t damage your online reputation.

React — Ignoring negative reviews is never a good idea. No matter how absurd or petty the complaint may seem, it’s important to take a negative review seriously and look into what made the guest’s experience an unhappy one. This will make sure the guest, and others that read their review later, that their feedback is being taken to heart.

Respond — When it comes to writing your response, it’s important to always be personal and polite. While this rings true whether the review is glowing as well, it’s especially important when responding to a negative review. There may be fewer of them than the positive ones on the website, but it’s the less than positive reviews and your response may even improve readers' impressions of your hotel, and make them more likely to book with you. Your response could be what turns a negative review into a great example of how you interacts with guests.

Repair — No matter what it was that made the guest’s stay a negative experience, offer them an apology and a solution. Show them that their feedback matters, and that you’ve listened to what they have to say and taken it on board. Better yet, offer to show them that by encouraging them to stay with you again and see how different things are. It doesn’t need to be on the house — just an indication that you expect the experience to be different the second time around will be enough.

While responding to negative reviews is an extremely important part of maintaining your TripAdvisor listing, it doesn’t mean that the positive and mixed reviews should go unresponded to. Responding to reviews gives the impression that you care about your guests and their experiences, and this shouldn’t only be the case when times are tough — showing that you appreciate positive feedback is just as important.

When it comes to responding to positive reviews, be sure to thank the reviewer and use it as an opportunity to encourage them to come and stay with you again. You should also reiterate the areas that have been complimented on, as this will show potential guests that these are aspects of your property that you are proud of, and encourage them to book if those are areas that they particularly appreciate.

When it comes to responding to reviews that fall somewhere in between the good and the bad, it’s important to thank the reviewer for any compliments that they leave, and address any issues that they make note of. You don’t want your response to feel rushed or leave the guest feeling that their feedback was unimportant.

And while the old saying may claim there’s no such thing as a free lunch, that doesn’t stop some unscrupulous guests from going to extreme lengths to try and get them from hotels! Where guests threaten to write negative reviews unless certain conditions are met, TripAdvisor offers ways for hospitality professionals to get in contact with them to preemptively to prevent libellous reviews from reaching the site. If, however, you know how to respond to negative reviews, the threat will simply become empty, no longer holding power over you to negatively impact your property or TripAdvisor listing. Have a look at our suggestions for dealing with review blackmail threats, in case this happens to you.

Finally, if you find yourself waiting for a fantastic review that a guest promised you they’d be putting up as soon as they got back home, you’re not alone! Many owners and managers have suffered the disappointment of being promised a stellar review by a guest when they leave, and then never having that review materialise on TripAdvisor. It could be that your guest forgot or got busy (in which case, your reminder email is even more important), or it could be that they accidentally violated one of TripAdvisor’s quality control guidelines — some things, like swearing, are obvious no-nos, but some, like using slang or CAPS, may simply have been overlooked. Make sure that when you ask a patron to write you a review, they are aware of the review guidelines.

Section 5: Beyond TripAdvisor

Having a perfect TripAdvisor ranking and rating is all well and good for those that use the review giant, but how does it help you to reach those who don’t use TripAdvisor? Is all of your hard effort wasted when it comes to guests who prefer other review sites, or who aren’t online much at all?

Not at all! Not only does TripAdvisor provide a number of widgets that you can use on your website free of charge, but the reviews that you get on TripAdvisor can also be used as social proof on other websites and throughout your property's marketing material.

Social proof is the phenomenon of people taking actions, making decisions, or forming opinions simply because others are taking those actions, making those decisions or forming those opinions. Think of how, when in a queue, if one person moves to another counter, others will follow and do the same. Or if one person gives a standing ovation, others will stand around them.

When you show potential guests that others enjoyed their stays with you, or enjoyed particular aspects of their stay, it will encourage them to book with you, or to leave their own positive review as well.

When it comes to displaying reviews on your website, TripAdvisor has a number of different widgets that you can use — some are buttons and badges, while others show ratings and reviews.

  • Review Snippets widget — Shows the titles of your latest reviews together with your TripAdvisor ranking and traveller rating
  • Bravo widget — Shows how many “excellent” reviews you have received, but properties have to qualify to display it on their websites
  • Rave Reviews widget — Shows the titles of your most recent perfect reviews in a rotating carousel, with a link to see more
  • Thumbs Up badge — Shows potential guests what percentage of TripAdvisor reviewers would recommend you, but isn’t available for all properties
  • Your Rating widget — Shows your traveller rating and the number of reviews that you have received from TripAdvisor users
  • Accolades badges — Shows any badges or accolades that TripAdvisor may have bestowed on you for reaching criteria, or winning awards.