The complete hotelier's
Guide to Tripadvisor
Love it or hate it, Tripadvisor is a goliath of the travel industry and affects your hotel whether you know it or not. As such, it cannot be ignored by serious hoteliers, and having an active Tripadvisor listing has become almost compulsory for your hotel’s online reputation.
In this guide
Optimising your listing
The first step in perfecting your image on Tripadvisor is to start with the aspects of your listing that you can control:
Upload lots of images to help the traveller imagine herself at your hotel
When booking a place to stay, travellers want an accurate idea of what they can expect. 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.
Give guests all the details upfront
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, give them information about the area you are in, the attractions or experiences they can expect, and tell them about what makes you stand out from other hotels in your area.
Keep your listing up-to-date
You are probably constantly updating your property, making sure that facilities aren’t becoming dated and listening to your guests’ suggestions, and adding new offerings to your repertoire, so let potential 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. Tripadvisor awards include Travellers Choice Winners, GreenLeader Certifications, and the coveted Traveller’s Choice Best of the Best awards.
Ask all your guests for reviews
As we will discuss in detail later, Tripadvisor's popularity index takes into account the quantity, score 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).
Respond to all reviews
When you respond to reviews, 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 60% 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.
Should you pay for premium products?
Tripadvisor’s paid options allow hoteliers 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 hoteliers 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.
How the Tripadvisor algorithm works
When a tourist searches for hotels (or dining or activities) in a particular area, Tripadvisor shows the hotels 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 hotels, and further tweaked in 2018 to take volume and recency of reviews into account). 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”.
How to get more reviews with a review collection partner
With the vast majority of Tripadvisor reviews being positive, getting more reviews can boost your hotel’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.
Tripadvisor rankings are based not only on your review ratings, but on the recency and volume of reviews as well. Even a mediocre review can boost your 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 — more reviews 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 merely satisfied, but not delighted, customers to leave a review. Often online reviews tend to skew towards the extremes when compared to direct feedback. People post online 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 hotel is the most important factor in maintaining a good reputation in the hospitality industry. However, Tripadvisor’s algorithmic changes mean that it is more important than ever to ensure that as many of your guests are writing reviews as often as possible.
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 your hotel on Tripadvisor
- Providing guests with a questionnaire to fill out either in guest rooms during their stay, or online after they’ve left.
A review collection partner can make the process of emailing guests, gathering feedback from questionnaires and encouraging guests to post reviews on Tripadvisor much easier for both hotelier and guest. As a manager, spending time emailing guests to ask for feedback and reviews on an individual basis is nearly 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 quick and 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, hoteliers 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 (good, bad or otherwise) 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 simply ask people to write about it and make it easy for them to do so.
Using a review collection partner to encourage your guests to post their reviews on Tripadvisor allows you to be highly engaged with your Tripadvisor presence, encouraging guests to leave reviews, increasing your ranking and potentially your average rating, all without having to go through the time-consuming process of asking guests to leave reviews manually.
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, with only 15% having 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 of the people all of 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 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.
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 show the guest, and other potential guests who may read their review later, that their feedback is being taken to heart.
Respond — When it comes to writing your management 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 also the bad reviews that potential guests will read so that they can get a balanced view of what a stay with you is like, and your response could be what turns a negative review into a great example of how your hotel interacts with its 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 unanswered. Responding to reviews gives the impression that you are proactive in your establishment and that you truly care about your guests and their experiences, and not only 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 highlight the areas that have been complimented on, as this will show potential guests that these are aspects of your hotel that stand out, 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, 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, which can happen if you only focus on one or two aspects of their review.
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 hoteliers to get in contact with them to preemptively 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 hotel 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 hoteliers 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, 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.
Having a perfect Tripadvisor ranking and rating is all well and good for those that use the review giant, but can it help you connect with guests who don’t use it? Absolutely. Tripadvisor provides a number of widgets that you can use on your website free of charge, and the reviews that you get on Tripadvisor can also be used as social proof on your website and throughout your hotel’s marketing.
As you can see from the example in this image, 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 1 property, but it has fewer reviews, and is therefore ranked less highly.
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 reviews as well.
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 it comes to displaying reviews on your website or encouraging more people to check out your Tripadvisor page, there are a number of widgets you can use:
- Review Snippets widget — Shows the titles of your latest reviews together with your TripAdvisor ranking and traveller rating
- Rated on Tripadvisor widget - Shows that your hotel is listed or “recommended” on Tripadvisor
- Bravo! widget — Shows how many “excellent” reviews you have received, but hotels 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
- Your Rating widget — Shows your traveller rating and the number of reviews that you have received from TripAdvisor users
- Social Media Button - You can add the Tripadvisor icon to your social media pack to encourage guests to visit your Tripadvisor listing
- Review Starter - Guests can start their review from this widget embedded on your website