TripAdvisor rankings matter. If you manage a business in the hospitality sector, chances are you always have a close eye on your current TripAdvisor rating.
For travellers, online reviews and ratings are the second most important factor when considering where to stay (after price). Therefore, negative reviews can destroy businesses (but it is possible to recover from a poor TripAdvisor score) whereas high rankings can be a goldmine.
Three factors determine your TripAdvisor ranking: the number of reviews, the recency of reviews and review scores.
The best way to climb the rankings is to gain large numbers of positive reviews from recent visitors to your business, but if you typically only see a new review of your business every couple of weeks, it'll be many months before you'll start to see any improvement to your score.
If you're in that position, you need to take steps to encourage users to review your business. Here are some ways to do this:
- Hand a business card to your guests when they check-out. This card should feature a TripAdvisor logo and a review prompt alongside other social media and contact details.
- Leave a review prompt somewhere on your premises - add it to the blackboard that features your cafe's menu or leave a poster up by the door.
- Train staff to prompt reviews. If customers have had a good experience at your restaurant, cafe, or tourist attraction, staff should find an opportunity to mention that you're on TripAdvisor and that reviews are always appreciated. This prompt alone can make a huge difference to review rates.
- Send out follow-up emails asking for a review.
Usually businesses opt for a combination of these approaches depending on the nature of their business, their marketing budget, and the size of the business.
For hotels in particular, follow-up emails can be one of the most effective methods of securing reviews from guests.
However, of the hotels that choose to take this approach, implementation varies wildly. Some might copy and paste plain text emails for each guest. Others might add images and logos, but in a poorly formatted way. Email marketing can be effective, but you must take time to create a template that works for you.
If you'd rather not get your hands dirty and start playing with code yourself, there is an alternative: TripAdvisor Review Express.
What is TripAdvisor Review Express?
Review Express is a feature offered to all businesses on TripAdvisor with registered owners. Owners can use Review Express to send out emails that prompt past visitors to leave a TripAdvisor review. Follow-up emails can be sent out automatically if there's no response after seven days.
The tool is completely free to use, and you can access it here.
How is it more effective than sending emails myself?
TripAdvisor claims that regular Review Express users see a 33% increase in reviews, on average. Additionally, you're provided with free templates that feature the TripAdvisor branding. You'll also have access to the Review Express dashboard which shows you the number of email opens and clicks for each batch of emails.
Finally, if coding and computer literacy aren't your strengths, using an email marketing tool such as TripAdvisor Express will make it easy to send professional-looking review prompt emails in just a few minutes.
How it works
First, you need to be a registered owner of a business on TripAdvisor. Then, head here to get started. Select the business you want to send the emails from.
Next, create your first email.
You should already see a TripAdvisor template in place. You can change almost every aspect of the template, including:
- The 'from' email address. The recipient will see this address in their browser, so use a business email address rather than a personal one.
- Language. Switch languages to match your recipient's. TripAdvisor have a default message for 20+ languages.
- Subject line. Use something that'll fit your brand and encourage readers to click through.
- Title and body text.
- Image. The template should feature your main TripAdvisor listing photo, but you can change this to a different photo or your logo.
Once you're happy with the layout and content, it's time to send your first batch of emails.
You have two options: copy across email addresses manually (separated by commas) or upload a spreadsheet with an email address in each cell - the limit is 1000 unique email addresses per batch.
Now hit send. That's it.
You can then check back to your Review Express dashboard to see how your campaign is performing.
TripAdvisor have recently been testing an additional feature for Review Express users: private surveys.
Private surveys provide businesses with another way of using Review Express to gather feedback from customers - without threatening their TripAdvisor ranking.
You can choose between an array of pre-translated customer survey questions to add to your emails, but you can only include up to seven.
TripAdvisor suggest using the question 'How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?', as it's often one of the most effective ways of determining customer satisfaction.
The results from these surveys will remain private, viewable only to you through your dashboard.
Is it possible to automate the process?
The standard version of Review Express doesn't allow users to automate emails.
However, many of TripAdvisor's connectivity partners (read: booking software providers who've teamed up with TripAdvisor), offer integration with Review Express for hoteliers.
It works like this: you store certain guest email addresses in the booking software, the software automatically sends these email addresses (and any language preference stated) to TripAdvisor, and TripAdvisor automatically sends out emails with the default message in the correct language.
Automation means that you can set up Review Express and your default messages, and then leave TripAdvisor and your software to do everything else for you.
You can opt-in for automation through the Review Express dashboard.
For Review Express to work, obviously you'll need the email addresses of your visitors.
Many hotels now collect them as a matter of course during the booking process, but you may have to obtain them in other ways, such as offering to email the final bill to visitors on checkout.
However, by law you have to ask customers if they're happy to be contacted by email for marketing purposes and give them the chance to refuse. It's a good idea to mention that this includes being contacted once (or twice, for follow-up emails) by TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor will store the email addresses of your guests so that open and click rates can be tracked, but addresses will be stored securely and they won't sent any additional marketing emails.
The usual TripAdvisor guidelines apply to Review Express. You can't offer discounts or upgrades in exchange for positive reviews. You shouldn't encourage fake reviews - that includes asking your mum/spouse/children to write glowing reviews even if they've never set foot in your hotel.
Additionally, Review Express shouldn't be used selectively - it might be tempting to only send emails out to guests who you suspect will give positive reviews, but TripAdvisor considers this as fraud and your property's ranking could be penalised.
All the typical email marketing tips and advice apply to Review Express. We'll be covering that topic in a future blog post, so check back or follow us on Twitter to keep updated.
Review Express is a tool that helps you build a presence on TripAdvisor by simplifying email marketing for hotels and other attractions. Of course, you have to bother guests for their email addresses, which limits its potential use for cafes and restaurants, but there's one factor that's worth remembering: it's entirely free.
You have nothing to lose by trying TripAdvisor's Review Express. Given that the dashboard lets you monitor the success of your campaigns, you'll soon be able to tell if it's worth continuing with these review prompt emails.