For business owners in the travel & hospitality industries, TripAdvisor has become much more than an online guide to area attractions. Now the “largest travel site in the world,” TripAdvisor dominates search results and user ratings for over 7.3 million hotels, restaurants, and activities around the world.
If you’ve done any traveling lately, especially internationally, you’ve probably noticed how much influence the site’s collection of rankings and reviews has on area business. A favorable reputation on TripAdvisor has serious financial benefits and creates a highly competitive battle for eyeballs and notoriety within cities. In order to ensure your TripAdvisor page is best optimized for the millions of monthly users who might click through, here are a few helpful do’s and don’ts.
Do: Familiarize Yourself with TripAdvisor’s Review Guidelines
Like most review sites, TripAdvisor has a list of content guidelines that all reviews must meet. Now, you can probably guess that standard rules around language and relevance have made their way into these guidelines, but did you know that reviews must also be recent and “easy to read”? Here is the full list of stipulations that all reviews must pass:
- Relevant to Travelers
- Helpful, First-Hand
- Respectful of Private Information
- Listed by TripAdvisor
- Easy to Read
If you can familiarize yourself with these guidelines, TripAdvisor does give its users the right to flag reviews that violate these basic principles. All you need to do is click the small gray flag in the bottom right corner of the review, select the infraction and leave a brief comment.
Although the site does run reviews through a 48-hour moderation process, we’ve seen plenty of spam and other unworthy content get posted. Flagging these negative reviews for removal can start to help increase your average rating.
Don’t: Try to Generate Fake Reviews
Given the potential recognition and competitive advantage of ranking at the top of TripAdvisor’s lists, it might be tempting to try to pursue less-than-credible review generation tactics. Don’t do it!
TripAdvisor’s zero tolerance fraud policy applies to “any attempt to mislead, influence or impersonate a traveler” and can result in serious damage to your reputation. In addition to obvious offenses like enlisting others to write fake reviews, or preventing real customers from leaving negative reviews, there are other nefarious strategies that TripAdvisor will punish. These may include: asking friends or relatives to write positive reviews, copying comment cards and submitting that feedback as a review, or submitting a review on behalf of a customer.
Potential penalties for businesses suspected of fraud range from significant drops in the Popularity Index, to a large red penalty notice being placed on your page. Best to avoid those types of consequences and generate reviews within the rules (see below).
Do: Take Advantage of Review Express
Many business owners aren’t aware of this, but TripAdvisor offers a free review request platform called Review Express. Unlike Yelp’s inconsistent review solicitation rules, TripAdvisor openly encourages managers to contact past customers for new reviews. With Review Express, you can quickly and easily upload a customer database of up to 1,000 email addresses and blast out a customized message that guides readers to leave a review.
There are just two stipulations when using this tool.
1) All contacts must be real customers only. Don’t use Review Express to contact potential guests, and don’t use it to send out your daily e-newsletter of kitten GIFS (DM me separately please, I want in).
2) No biased selection of the email addresses you upload. This is well-intentioned. However, TripAdvisor will punish you if they find you guilty of picking and choosing only contacts likely to leave a positive review. A list of approved contact information collection methods can be found here.
Don’t: Offer Discounts or Incentives in Exchange for Positive Reviews
Generally speaking, as much as they do for fake reviews or “organized boosting,” TripAdvisor will penalize businesses that incentivize guests to leave a positive review. Some artificially-inflated businesses have been caught for tactics like entering guests into a prize drawing if they leave a review, or offering gift cards and upgrades in exchange for reviews.
Any action that disputes the validity of TripAdvisor’s reviews is going to come with a harsh penalty. That’s why they depend on community members, an internal team and dedicated software to spot anything in the review text that might tip them off.
When you use Review Express, don’t put anything in the email promising a gift or discount for anyone who posts a review. Play within the rules, and avoid the ire of TripAdvisor.
Do: Respond to Negative Reviews
From a potential customer’s perspective, the only thing worse than seeing a negative review is seeing a negative review with no attempt from the business to remedy the issue. A proper response strategy will not only show you care about guest feedback, it will occasionally lead to a reviewer editing their post to a more positive sentiment.
You should reply to all negative reviews – even those you’ve flagged for removal (if it does get removed, your response will also be deleted). We recommend a few key elements that every negative review response should have:
- Thank the reviewer for their feedback
- Acknowledge and address the issue
- Restate that the guest experience is a top priority
- Leave your contact information for possible follow up
TripAdvisor is unique in that it only allows one review response from a manager, and no response feature for the reviewer. So say everything you need to say, and include contact information in case you need to continue the conversation offline. And remember, manager responses fall under the same guidelines as reviews. Keep it professional, concise and sincere.
Don’t: Let Your Page Go Unattended
Keeping your page up-to-date can go a long way in influencing the opinion of your business. It’s often the first and last place your customer visits: a chance for you to make a great first impression, and end the relationship on a high note. Put your best foot forward by making sure you have the following:
- Accurate business location, phone number and website listings
- A pin on the TripAdvisor Map (In the Management Center, under “Profile,” select “Manage Listing,” then click “Location”)
- 20 or more high-quality, recent photos
Do a thorough scan of your page to make sure you’re not missing any other information that might be pertinent for guests. For example, a PDF of your menu if you operate a restaurant. These additions, along with healthy activity on the review response front, will give potential guests a full understanding of what you offer.
Overall, an optimized page and strategies for removing negative reviews and sustainably generating new positive ones will send you on your way to improving your standing on TripAdvisor.