How Hotels Should Manage Online Guest Reviews

September 17, 2020 Mihaela Lica Butler

“95% of guests read feedback prior to making a booking decision, and after price, reviews are the most important decision variable when booking a hotel.” - TrustYou

Reviews are one of the most potent forms of electronic word of mouth and play a crucial role in the booking or purchase process. Although TripAdvisor is the most popular travel review site in the world, search engines like Google and Bing encourage traveler reviews too, and OTAs like Booking.com, Expedia, and Orbitz encourage verified reviews too.

Although reviews are central to a hotel’s success, a surprising 20% of hoteliers never bother to manage and reply to guest feedback, followed by 9% who only look out for the bad ones, 37% who don’t manage to catch all of them, and just 34% who reply to negative and positive reviews alike.

credit: siteminder.com

 

Best Practices Come First: Three Golden Rules

When it comes to managing online guest reviews, no matter what platform you use and how you choose to monitor them, consider the following best practices your golden rules.

Respond to All Reviews

According to TripAdvisor 65% of travelers are more likely to book a hotel that responds to online reviews. Respond to all your reviews, whether they are negative or positive. Responding shows that you pay attention to customer feedback and that you care about your guests even after they leave your property. Be courteous and polite whether you agree with your reviewer or not. The way you reply says volumes about who you are and how you conduct your business.

In a consumer research study, TrustYou found that 78% of respondents felt that management responses mean that a hotel cares about its guests.

Besides, Google highly recommends that you respond to reviews to improve your local ranking on the SERPs:

“Interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business. High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location. Encourage customers to leave feedback by creating a link they can click to write reviews.”

Also, note that the ideal timeframe to respond to reviews is within 72 hours. So, monitor your online guest reviews and reply promptly.

Embrace Negative Reviews

Four out of five TripAdvisor users believe that hotels that respond to reviews care more about their guests. Besides, negative reviews bring more authenticity to your review profile and the way you respond builds trust. Keep also in mind that PowerReviews research found that 82% of shoppers look for negative reviews first to determine what other buyers disliked about a product or service. The same study stated that 4.2-4.5 is the ideal average star rating for purchase probability.

But turn the negative into a positive by taking immediate action to rectify the situation and reassuring your guests of your constant commitment to improving your business and services.

Generate More Reviews

The number of reviews you have influences your trust scores on TripAdvisor but also your position in the SERPs. Reviews count among the local search ranking factors. According to MOZ, here are some of the things to consider:

  • Positive sentiment in reviews
  • Product/service keywords in reviews
  • Authority of third-party sites on which reviews are present
  • Velocity of native Google reviews
  • Overall velocity of reviews (native + third-party)

You should also consult the complete list to see how negative reviews and gaining too many reviews too fast could affect your listings. Overall, review signals like quantity, velocity, and diversity, count for 7% of the localized organic ranking factors.

The TripAdvisor Advantage

Managing guest reviews has countless advantages for engaged hotels. TripAdvisor’s 2015 study “Using Guest Reviews to Pave the Path to Greater Engagement” revealed that hotels with higher engagement receive nearly four times more page views on TripAdvisor, they have 63% higher market visibility than their non-engaged counterparts, and they see 30 to 40% more traveler interaction with revenue-driving products like TripAdvisor Business Advantage (formerly Business Listings).

Reviews are so popular that most travel shoppers read them before making a purchase decision. According to TripAdvisor, 96% of customers consider reviews important when researching a hotel. This tells you why you should actively monitor and manage online guest reviews. And here are several other reasons, as compelling as the previous ones:

Reviews cannot be ignored. As early as 2013, an independent PhoCusWright study prepared for TripAdvisor, revealed statistics that demonstrate just how essential guest reviews were – and still are – for hotels:

  • 83% of respondents said that reviews help them pick the right hotel
  • 80% read at least 6 – 12 reviews before booking
  • 53% won’t commit to a reservation until they read reviews
  • 80% of surveyed travelers say they focus on the newest reviews.
  • 88% of travelers filter out hotels with an average star rating below three.

It is important to note that the freshest reviews impact the purchase decision. This means that hoteliers must encourage post-stay feedback as much as possible. To this effect, TripAdvisor offers Review Express – a tool to help hoteliers send optimized review requests to guests.  With this tool, hoteliers can create professional-looking, branded emails to encourage guests to write reviews.

The system can send up to 1000 emails simultaneously, which is more than enough for small-scale chains and boutique hotels. Emails are sent out automatically, post stay, within 72 hours of check out. A complete guide to Review Express is available here.

Go Beyond TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is not the only channel where guests can leave reviews. According to the Global Hotel Reputation Benchmark Report by Revinate:

  • Overall review volume increased 27% from 2016 to 2017
  • Google reviews accounted for 70% of net review growth in 2017
  • com, Google, TripAdvisor, and Facebook are the top review sites, with Booking.com leading the pack.

 

With Booking.com and Google generating more reviews than TripAdvisor, it is only logical that you should focus on these channels too. As far as Booking.com is concerned, all reviews are verified, and hoteliers can manage them pretty much the same way they manage TripAdvisor reviews. But with Google, things are different.

A study by Travel Tripper showed that when travelers look for a hotel, 91% use a search engine, with 81% of them preferring Google. Therefore, Google hotel reviews will matter significantly for your property. Yet, they tend to be tricky.

Various reports are showing that Google is not hard enough on fake reviews despite Google’s policies on prohibited and restricted content.

“Google doesn’t care whether a reviewer is a real customer, or about what happens to your business as a result of bogus reviews,” warns Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System. He goes on listing other potential issues in his article 25 Hard Truths of Google Reviews, including:

  • You do not own and cannot control the Google Maps reviews of your business.
  • There’s a black market of people who want to buy Google reviews.
  • Unethical or spammy reviewers can keep coming back with new reviews.
  • Reporting a bogus review just once doesn’t work.

You can still flag fake reviews and manage them from your Google My Business account – so you should verify your business. You can even speed-up support by tweeting to @GoogleSmallBiz. But the process is still lengthy and complicated, and while you wait for a solution, other spammers can attack your business at will. If spammy reviews happen to you, consult this case study by Jessie Low to see how to remove fake Google reviews. It is also essential to understand which types of reviews Google will eventually withdraw.

Besides the negative aspect of fake reviews, authentic guest reviews on Google can help your business thrive: remember that reviews count among the ranking factors for local SEO. This is an official Google statement:

“Google review count and score are also factored into local search ranking — more reviews and positive ratings will improve a business's local ranking.”

Although third-party reviews still show in the carousel for many listings, Google tends to prioritize reviews left directly on Google listings and encourages business owners to read and respond to customer reviews.

Manage More with TrustYou

Monitoring reviews manually is time-consuming and difficult. You can create Google Alerts to see when your property is mentioned in the media, but it is better to have a tool to manage all.

To better manage online guest reviews on multiple platforms, a guest feedback solution like TrustYou can save time and optimize the process. TrustYou is recognized as “the world’s largest guest feedback platform.” It is the ideal solution because it is trusted by Google, which uses TrustYou Stars and features review summaries licensed from TrustYou too.

TrustYou offers a reputation management solution, which can be used effectively to manage online guest reviews. Hoteliers can:

  • analyze and respond to feedback aggregated from hundreds of online sources from one inbox
  • monitor competition
  • measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and download reports
  • find and respond to reviews based on the topics influencing their scores positively or negatively
  • use the TrustYou mobile app to manage reviews on the go

Besides the reputation management tool, TrustYou also offers a review marketing solution, encouraging hoteliers to integrate TrustScores and review widgets onto their hotel website or Facebook pages to:

  • provide transparent information to potential guests
  • influence rich snippets on Google
  • build trust and increase click-through conversion from organic search results
  • influence millions of travelers to book the hotel by showcasing positive reviews on hundreds of travel sites worldwide, including Google, KAYAK, and Hotels.com
  • display hotel survey reviews on Google next to major travel sites like Expedia and Priceline.com
  • increase scores and ranking by collecting survey reviews and displaying them across the web

TrustYou has integrated guest messaging and guest surveys too.

 

Other Tools to Manage Online Guest Reviews

Besides TrustYou and alternatives, you can use a suite of other tools to manage online guest reviews, some free, like Google Alerts.

Reputology – is a review monitoring and management platform that helps businesses monitor, respond to, and analyze their online reviews. They have affordable plans, suitable for companies with small budgets.

Go Fish Digital – offers a free service that allows you to search over 40 complaint sites.

Yotpo is an AI solution that allows you to:

  • leverage reviews and ratings,
  • display customer reviews at crucial conversion points across your site,
  • reduce CPC by showing product star ratings in your Google Shopping ads,
  • add seller ratings to Google Adwords campaigns to increase click-through rates and lower acquisition costs,
  • turn reviews into high-converting Facebook Ads that blend into shoppers’ newsfeeds
  • moderate, measure, and optimize reviews in one platform, etc.

Whatever tools you choose to manage your online guest reviews, remember the three golden rules: respond to all reviews, embrace negative reviews and turn them into positives, and generate more reviews.

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