You know how important high quality TripAdvisor reviews are for your business.
In many cases, poor reviews can deter previously enthusiastic potential customers from visiting at all.
And impressive reviews draw in customers who might never have heard of your hotel or restaurant before browsing TripAdvisor.
However, it's not only the quality of your reviews that you need to worry about.
Your TripAdvisor rating is the average number of 'bubbles' your business has. Generally speaking, 4.5 or 5 is considered excellent, 4 is good, and anything less may be off-putting to potential customers.
But it's your TripAdvisor ranking that's arguably more important, as this determines whether or not your establishment ranks higher or lower than your competitors'.
The TripAdvisor algorithm that calculates your ranking takes into account three main factors:
- Quality of reviews — your TripAdvisor rating.
- Quantity of reviews — a larger number of reviews means the overall rating is more likely to be an accurate representation of the guest experience, so TripAdvisor boosts your rank accordingly.
- Recency of reviews. Recent reviews are more likely be an accurate representation of the current state of a business, so older reviews are discounted.
Therefore, you need to work to gain more reviews if you want to increase your ranking.
See this example for restaurants in York.
Here are two eateries, with average ratings of 4.5 at the time of writing. The first is ranked in the top five York restaurants, while the second languishes nearly 500 places down.
Hartley's have only 1% of the reviews of Little Italy, and the handful of reviews it does have aren't particularly recent. Clearly this has impacted its overall ranking on TripAdvisor.
So, while the quality of your reviews certainly matters, the number of reviews is almost as important.
Why This is a Problem for Smaller Businesses
Say you run a B&B with only three rooms.
Most of your guests stay a few nights, so on average there's only one guest checking out each day.
Only about one in ten guests leave a TripAdvisor review, so you might only receive a couple of reviews each month.
Compare this with a large chain hotel with 200 rooms, and 50 check-outs each day. Even if only 1% of guests leave reviews, that's still 15 reviews a month.
And the same applies to cafes, restaurants, and tourist attractions. You probably don't have the same capacity as the bigger chains.
In addition, many independent hotels and restaurants tend to rely on repeat business, or, for eateries in particular, a high percentage of local visitors rather than travellers.
Repeat visitors aren't as likely to review your business as first-time visitors — after all, if they were going to leave a review, they probably would have done so after their first visit.
Locals visiting a cafe won't necessarily view the business as a destination for travellers, so may not even think to leave reviews on TripAdvisor.
What this means is that you may struggle to receive TripAdvisor reviews in the same numbers as larger businesses, which will result in a lower ranking, all other things being equal.
TripAdvisor claim that review quantity doesn't discriminate against smaller businesses because their guests are more likely to receive a personalised experience, which results in a higher proportion of reviews.
At this stage, you're probably aware of whether or not low review numbers are contributing to a TripAdvisor rank that's lower than you'd like.
So, how do you get more TripAdvisor reviews as a small business?
Seven ways to get more TripAdvisor Reviews
These ideas are just starting points — you'll need to choose which route to go down based on your business type, guest demographics and preferences, and your budget.
- Ask happy customers to leave reviews. Train staff to (tactfully) ask customers to leave reviews at the end of their stay or when they're about to leave the restaurant. All it takes for many people to leave a review is to be asked politely!
- Mention TripAdvisor on your business cards and other stationery. You can hand out these cards to guests when they check out, or leave them at your restaurant's table with the bill. Including a review prompt such as 'Leave us a review on TripAdvisor' will further boost reviews.
- Display review prompts prominently at your establishment. You could display the TripAdvisor logo on your menu blackboard, in the window, or at reception (don't forget, you can request free window stickers through TripAdvisor). If you've won any TripAdvisor awards, you can request a printed certificate and window sticker to show off your achievements.
- [Hotels] Follow-up emails. Sending out review request emails to guests following their stay is good practice. You could work with a template and simply switch out names when contacting different guests, or use software like MailChimp or TripAdvisor's Review Express tool. Alternatively, taking the time to further personalise these follow-up emails (with information based on your interactions with the guests during their stay) will make them far more effective, if you have the time to take this approach.
- Focus on a single feedback channel. You might track guest satisfaction with your own internal survey or feedback form, but if guests have already given feedback through one route, they won't want to do it all again through another channel. If you want to focus on gaining more TripAdvisor reviews, ditch any other forms of feedback-gathering.
- Remind repeat customers they can leave additional reviews. You've probably built up a strong rapport with regular customers who you see every week, month, or year. It won't hurt to nudge them to leave another TripAdvisor review! For hotels and attractions, repeat visitors can leave a review for a subsequent visit three months after the publication of their last review. For restaurants, there only needs to be a month's gap between reviews.
- Always provide an exceptional experience. Average meals, hotels, and attractions are unlikely to garner many reviews. Make it your mission to give every guest a first-class experience that they have to tell their friends (and TripAdvisor users) about.
TripAdvisor Review Rules
The above methods all take time and energy to implement, and you might well have a couple of shortcuts in mind. But breaking TripAdvisor's guidelines is only likely to harm your business.
In particular, these are the rules you need to follow:
- You can't offer an incentive for reviews. No offering a discount on a guest's next visit if they leave a TripAdvisor review. You also can't enter the guest into a prize draw or raffle in exchange for a review, or give a guest an upgrade or added extras if they review your business.
- Reviews must be from genuine guests. Asking friends, family and employees to leave reviews is against TripAdvisor guidelines. The site uses 50 filters to identify false or plagiarised reviews, including IP addresses and account activity, so you'll need to be extremely careful if you want these reviews to be listed.
If you're found to have broken these rules or any other TripAdvisor guidelines, you could face penalties including:
- Rankings penalty. Your business could be pushed down the rankings, usually by several pages. Penalties are determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Excluded from TripAdvisor awards, features, and press releases. This penalty eliminates the chance of gaining any free press and associated benefits through TripAdvisor.
- Penalty notice on listing. TripAdvisor could display a warning visble to users when they're viewing your listing, explaining that the reviews on it are likely to have been interfered with.
It's up to you whether or not to take a chance on cheating your TripAdvisor score, but we certainly wouldn't recommend it. It's far better for your business in the long run if you can build up your TripAdvisor reviews organically.
Boosting review numbers is perhaps the easiest way for smaller businesses to climb the TripAdvisor ranks, but all these extra reviews could have the opposite impact if reviewers give you low marks!
Ultimately, the best way to improve your TripAdvisor ranking is to provide your guests with incredible experiences that are worth talking about.