TripAdvisor New Ranking System? Here’s What It Means For You Didn’t know that “recency” was a real word? Well, now you do, and if your business counts on a good TripAdvisor ranking, you’ll probably be using it a lot this year.
“We’re updating the TripAdvisor Popularity Index to give travelers an even better sense of the best places to (eat, stay, explore) … This improvement to our ranking algorithm will help travelers find more accurate, helpful recommendations.”
When you go further into the fine print, as we did, you get a few measly bullets dedicated to the recent changes. The most important one we could find was this one:
- Recency: Recent reviews carry more weight while older reviews have less impact over time; so make sure to keep encouraging guests to share their feedback online.
So now we ask, what does this actually mean? And, if your TripAdvisor ranking has already been affected, what can you do about it? Mondo has done a bit of digging and although we failed to reach Steve K. at home, we have the following answers and tips for you. First, here’s what we know about the travel giant’s ranking algorithm. No matter where you look, the code’s commandments are: quality, quantity, and recency. Quantity and recency (aka frequency and freshness) are self-explanatory. Quality, however, is much more vague. What counts as a quality review? Is it length or bubble rating? Number of positive adjectives used? The amount of specific property details shared? No one knows. TripAdvisor is famously bad at filtering out phishy reviews, so judging quality is arguably their algorithms weakest point, and this may be why they’ve privileged recency in the latest algorithm tweak. Hence the increasing importance of review frequency and freshness. If you’re a seasonal business, or if you’ve got a low review count, here’s what you can do to protect your TA ranking against arbitrary dives in standing. If you’re a hotel, resort, or B&B…
- Respond to every single review you get. Studies have shown that even in negative reviews, 30% of reviewers try to highlight at least one positive element of their experience. If you’re getting mediocre or negative reviews, look for these sunny patches and seize upon them. In your response, try thanking them for appreciating x,y,z and then add to the discussion: “We’re so pleased you loved our towels. In case you didn’t know, we’re also an eco friendly resort and manage to get our linens soft and fresh without using harmful detergents.” Lastly, don’t forget that TripAdvisor is watching your actions, too. They want you to be responsive and involved with your reviews, so the more action on your page, the better.
- Consider seasonality
- For some hotels, the TA frequency and freshness ideal is skewed against their very business model. If you’re only open 6 months out of the year, you’re obviously going to see a huge drop in review quantity come closing time. TA is really behind on producing a solution for this, but there are steps you can take to buffer against it. First, make it clear on all of your digital profiles that you are a seasonal business. List opening and closing days prominently, or, add some key language (i.e.: “The Dunes – a summer resort”) to your tagline. Second, reach out to previous guests in the off season. If you have email marketing capabilities, dedicate an offseason email blast to ask for retrospective reviews. Getting even a few in the quiet times will seriously boost your standing.
If you’re a restaurant…
- Respond to every single review you get. Even negative reviews can be transformed into a marketing opportunity. People browsing your TA page will weigh the presence of an owner response in your favor (especially if you outline clear ways to address the reviewer’s complaints.) AND, review responses may count towards that frequency quota. The more action on your TA page, the better.
- Quietly encourage reviews
- Although officially incentivizing reviews is against TA’s rules, you can still encourage guests and customers to leave you a decent review. Mondo pro-tip? People love to talk about unique experiences on TA. Whether this means offering an out of the box special or instructing your wait staff to make personal connections, try to individualize every guest’s experience as much as possible so they will want to share it.
What do you get out of all this work? Like it or not, your overall online reputation is incredibly important. Take this tidbit from Outside Magazine for example:
“For every percentage point a hotel improves its online reputation, its ‘RevPAR’ (revenue per available room) goes up by 1.4 percent; for every point its reputation improves on a five-point scale, a hotel can raise prices by 11 percent without seeing bookings fall off. This has been a boon for smaller, mid-priced, independently owned hotels.”
Short of tattooing it across your forearm, frequency and freshness must become your new digital business mantra. Thankfully, there are plenty of 90’s hip-hop jams out there to help you remember.