Anyone who has worked in the tourism industry for a while has probably tried to figure out the best way to use TripAdvisor. Many marketers either love it or hate it, as the customer-review platform has a huge impact on many aspects of the tourism industry. According to TripAdvisor’s Data Sheet, 455 million people visit TripAdvisor each month and use it as a resource to help them book the best hotels, restaurants, tours, experiences, etc. They use TripAdvisor’s 600 million reviews and opinions (which rank places from best to worst) to help them figure out the best product or service — and who they should avoid! TripAdvisor is especially influential in the hotel industry, with as many as 77% of people relying on TripAdvisor to help them choose a hotel.
It’s in TripAdvisor’s best interest to ensure that its service continues to prove useful, so it occasionally updates the algorithm it uses to rank different tourist and hospitality services. TripAdvisor wants to ensure it is interpreting the reviews and ranking the different accommodation, activities, restaurants accurately, so that its rankings really do point visitors to the best (or at least most popular) places.
If TripAdvisor’s algorithm worked perfectly and people left faithful, honest reviews, then it would be a true meritocracy, and only the best companies would rise to the top of the rankings. However, fixing the algorithm is a constant, fine-tuning affair and sometimes big adjustments to the algorithm can upset the balance. The algorithm update in March was one of the biggest changes yet and many of our clients — and the tourism industry as a whole — have noticed some big changes in TripAdvisor rankings.
What is the Aim Behind the Most Recent TripAdvisor Algorithm Update?
Similar to the big update in 2016, March’s update focuses on ensuring new hotels, restaurants, etc. can’t jump to the top of the rankings because they receive a higher rate of positive reviews when they first start out. Previously, new companies could skyrocket to the top, surpassing older, established companies who had earned their TripAdvisor rankings. This new algorithm follows on from 2016’s big update, and this is what TripAdvisor’s spokesperson had to say about it:
“In this recent update, the aim was to do a better job of measuring consistency, so that all types of properties – large or small, independent or centrally managed – have the same opportunities to succeed on TripAdvisor. This means that business owners will see shifts in the positions of their hotels – some moving up, some moving down in the rankings, depending on how the businesses around them are shifting.”
So, if you’re an older, more established company, with consistent reviews on TripAdvisor, you are probably going to be alright. You might have even noticed a small spike in rankings. Younger companies may have noticed a drop — especially if they had enjoyed a relatively fast climb to the top previously.
TripAdvisor has always considered the quality of the reviews, and the quantity of the reviews, but the new algorithm adds a greater emphasis on the recency and consistency of reviews to make sure no one is jumping the queue unfairly.
Pooling All Kinds of Accommodation Together
The most important part of TripAdvisor’s statement quoted above is this: “…all types of properties – large or small, independent or centrally managed – have the same opportunities…” This refers to the differences between hotels, B&Bs, Airbnb, etc. This shows that TripAdvisor wants to make it easier for smaller businesses who provide a great service to compete with the big businesses. As the emphasis is still on quality — and consistency of this quality — we think the changes are a good thing, although they will probably take a little getting used to.
How to Improve or Optimise Your TripAdvisor Ranking
TripAdvisor looks at 3 main aspects… Quality, recency and Quantity.
Quality – The more 4-5 star reviews you have, the higher you will rank. Your reviews must also be more than one word reviews or a short sentence. They must have meaning.
Recency – The more recent the reviews, the more raking weight TripAdvisor give you.
Quantity – This was one of the main changes in the algorithm which was to stop new businesses rising quickly with a few good reviews. You need a number of good reviews but you don’t need to have thousands of reviews, and having one more than a competitor will make no difference.
There are no cheap and dirty tricks to improving your TripAdvisor rankings, but that can certainly be seen as a good thing if you consider that your competitors can’t do any tricks to jump ahead either. Just as Google’s service has gotten better and better as it has refined its algorithm, TripAdvisor’s service is improving. If you want to improve your TripAdvisor ranking, you’ll have to play the long game. Firstly, make sure you encourage customers to leave reviews — especially anyone you’re sure has had a positive experience of your service. And perhaps don’t remind that inevitable angry customer to leave a review…
Also make sure to communicate with your staff, telling everyone who works for you just how important your customers are. Remind them that your business is only as good as its reputation and that TripAdvisor reviews are the most tangible representation of your reputation. Remind staff that one negative experience can lead to a damaging review, so they need to provide excellent customer service at all times. If briefed and managed correctly, your staff are the main way you can ensure your TripAdvisor rankings will improve.
Take a positive, proactive approach when a customer is clearly not happy. Mistakes will always happen and there will always be customers who are unhappy with some aspect of your service. If you respond sensitively and respectfully, however, you may be able to turn the situation around — perhaps even securing a positive review! A big part of resolving a potential bad-review-in-the-making is to empower your staff to offer complementary drinks, meals, discounts, etc.
Lastly, it’s always good practice to monitor your reviews. Take note of the positives and pass them on to your staff (as morale is everything in the tourism and hospitality industry) and make sure you respond to the negative reviews as soon as possible. Even though your response might not negate the damage the review made to your overall TripAdvisor ranking, it will reassure anyone reading the bad review that you are a fair and pleasant company, willing to make amends if something goes wrong.
TripAdvisor will continue to update its algorithm, so the only way to ensure you continue to climb up the rankings is to ensure your service is better than your competitors. This is good news to most companies who want to be rewarded for their consistent hard work. Keep up the work and keep one eye on your TripAdvisor page!
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Chris and his team will send you a weekly email offering high-value insight and advice about a variety of marketing and business development topics related to the tourism industry. We address specific destinations, tours and activities, and the hotel industry. We also provide important travel industry news and updates.