TripAdvisor has been around since 2000, and has grown to be one of the world’s biggest travel sites. Originally they intended to provide “official information” about tour operators and accommodation, however the review function took off and is a huge part of what draws people to the site. Here we are looking specifically at TripAdvisor and how to improve your TripAdvisor rating.
Why the TripAdvisor rating doesn’t matter, or does it?
The TripAdvisor rating is calculated by an algorithm that is weighed on reviews – the quality (how many stars), the recency (the older they get, the less they matter, until they are so old they mean nothing), and the quantity (yep). So while it all comes down to reviews, there is more to it than that. Quantity matters, but quality and recency are huge. We all know reviews are important, and I’ve talked about how to get more reviews in another article.
That said, once everyone knows this, it can’t be hard to get a bunch of reviews right – there must be places to pay for them and so on. From 2008-2012 or even later you could rank any crappy website by sending a lot of links to it with optimized anchor text and rank your website on Page 1 of Google. Google was becoming very discredited, but they have tightened up their algorithm immensely, and with articles coming out on how someone can make their shed the top-rated restaurant in London on TripAdvisor, you can expect TA will do the same.
Google didn’t die, and neither will TripAdvisor – they will improve their algorithm and continue on strong, and that’s why this article focuses on advice to help make sure reviews that come in will be good, honest ones. One thing to note here is different businesses can expect different results and need to act accordingly. If you have a lot more rooms than your mate down the road your chances of getting more reviews is naturally higher. So they have to work harder. Similarly, a seasonal business can expect less reviews than one that operates year-round, so will also have to work harder, and will get a drop in recency the further out from the operating season.
#1. Set Expectations
Firstly – keep your profile up to date! If you haven’t upgraded since 1971 don’t use someone elses photos, and if you do an upgrade, get good photos taken and get them up there. Make sure from the outset guests know what they are getting. If your Wine Tours are done in a rusty Mitsubishi Delica (or a Toyota Noah/Voxy, the 2017 alternative) with a sticky door, but the image on your website is a 2017 Toyota Hiace, there’s probably going to be a disconnect. In the same way, if the images of your rooms are doctored, false, super old, or somehow misleading people are not going to be happy.
There is a campsite in Mahia (on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand) that we love, and kids love. They have families come from all over, but the picture on TripAdvisor of their playground isn’t winning them any awards.
#2: Don’t try too hard to game the system
Working to improve your TripAdvisor ranking is a bit like SEO (improving your Google ranking). Do what you can to follow best practices. but avoid trying too hard to game the algorithm where you risk getting burned and dropped to the bottom of the pack. What we mean here is be honest – don’t get 50 of your friends who have never done a tour with you to review you. Don’t leave yourself a review with your mum’s account, or your wife’s or sister’s. Do the best you can without being stupid about it.
#3: Service matters
If you really want to rise to the top, you need to be aiming to be the best. Incredible service, going the extra mile for guests, offering all the extras you know people want, dealing well with problems that arise. People who have issues leave bad reviews. People who love your business leave great reviews. It’s that easy. What little extras can you do for your guests? It might be something as simple as implementing small changes in your operations to make guests feel special while ensuring you have covered all the essentials you know people care about. A complimentary bottle of wine goes a long way – as does fresh milk in the fridge for tea/coffee, or complimentary shuttle service.
A great tip is just to go on TripAdvisor, find a business similar to yours, and read the reviews about it. What do people notice, pick up on, take the time to comment about?
#4: Staff matter
While it’s obvious that your staff are important, quite how important they are could be overlooked. Spend some time reading through reviews of other tourism businesses and you will quickly see how many people mention the staff – usually by name – who really made the trip special for them. If your staff are proud of their work, happy in their job, with a positive company culture, this will definitely be noticed by your guests.
#5: Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver. Be honest about what it is you have, and overdeliver on it. If something can’t be done, or something is broken, or you are having trouble with something, be honest.
#6: Do more
What ways can you offer value without charging for it? What services would your guests appreciate that you can offer? It might be something as simple as free wifi, it may be the well-kept gardens, it may be a free upgrade when you can.
#7: Manage problems from the ground up
Train your staff so that they feel confident to take charge whenever a problem arises. You don’t want every small issue to escalate into something that management needs to step in and sort out. If your staff are trained, and know what they are allowed and not allowed to do for guests, plus the right steps to take when there is a problem, it’s quite likely a lot of small issues won’t develop into problems.
#8: Be flexible where possible
A lot of what leads to angry guests and bad reviews is a lack of flexibility on the businesses side. While rules and policies are important, sometimes accommodating for something unforeseen can be the difference between a full-blown complaint and another happy guest.
#9: Listen to your guests
Read and reply to reviews online. Listen to what guests are saying to each other. Observe the looks on people’s faces in various places and stages of their trip. Take what they appreciate and expand on it, while fixing the things they dislike. An in-house survey system is one way to get anonymous, direct feedback.
#10: Encourage reviews
A big part of the TripAdvisor algorithm is based on reviews – how often, how fresh, how good. While working on providing exceptional service, you also need to encourage reviews, and you’ll find a number of ways to do so in our article, “How to get more reviews for your tourism business“.
#11. Reduce negative reviews
While you obviously want reviews, negative reviews can really damage your reputation. For accommodation providers, try implementing an in-stay survey – this could be an email that goes out on Day 2 asking, “Hi XXX, are you happy with everything?”. You can make this in the form of an “anonymous email” that staff can monitor and follow-up on before the guest leaves. This is harder with tour operators – but the survey still matters, you just may not have a chance to make things right before they leave. Read your reviews and try to act on anything negative that is raised.
If you get some real shockers, have a look through TripAdvisor’s review policy. If you’re lucky they were so pissed off that they violated this and you can get it removed.
Whether it be working on a system to request reviews, scheduling time to go in and respond to reviews, setting up a social media posting calendar, encouraging visitors to “check-in” on Facebook, or looking at a professional review of your web presence – I hope this has given you some actionable steps to take to improve your website.
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