Last year Google rolled out a brand-new hotel review interface aimed at helping people make more informed decisions about their accommodations. By providing travelers with deeper and more useful reviews and information Google claimed this new interface would be a “game changer,” and it has. Only not in ways most hoteliers thought reviews would.
For most users and hoteliers, the most powerful aspect of Google reviews is precisely the point of pain the company claimed to cure, more credible and useful feedback for making informed decisions. Plus, the added value of including third-party reviews to the matrix lent still more credibility and usefulness to the new interface Google created. Forgetting for the moment the aesthetics of the new review system, the more detailed review section based on the type of travel serves to further enhance value.
By showing a kind of meta-review result in a carousel to travelers, Google differentiated its system from all others. Then, Google confirmed that review count and scores factored into search rankings, and Google reviews catapulted the usefulness.
Lastly, the fact Google ratings also populate maps, trips, and destinations added still more value and differentiation. The short story here is, Google transformed a feature that was helpful and necessary, as an indispensable tool for hotel marketing and sales.
To see the rich information displayed by Google with each hotel listing, you need to click on that listing and to dig deeper. The first thing you see in the hotel listings at the left of the page in Google search for “hotels in Paris” for example are the venues listed by relevance – after the ads. If you look closely, you notice that each listing contains the name of the venue, a price per night, star rankings based on Google reviews, the star ranking of the hotel itself (i.e. 4-star hotel, 3-star hotel, etc.), a short editorial summary describing the venue, and a perk (like free WiFi, Free breakfast, and others.). In some instances, Google will mark clearly a hotel deal with a distinctive blue button and a corresponding text like “21% less than usual.”
After you pick your favorite hotel, you can find more information, like street address, phone number, website and directions, and you can even see more rates from OTAs and the original hotel website – with OTAs almost always listed ahead of the original website of the hotel due to their high investments in Google Ads – and you can check availability. But before checking availability, you have the option to click on the highly visible Book Now button displayed by Google right before the address of the hotel.
This opens a new window with rates by TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Priceline, and others – still generated from ads. In many instances, the book direct rate offered by hotels, which is many times lower than what OTAs can offer, is not displayed. To find more reviews from third party sources, users must scroll down under all the listings to find first hotel details and amenities, then a link for Google users to answer questions if they know the hotel, followed by Google reviews, and finally, close to the end of the scrolling process, third-party reviews in a carousel. The process can be lengthy, yet users like to scroll if they are motivated – and reading reviews is what most travelers do before deciding to click to book.
Reviews have become ultra-critical for Google’s algorithm, and for indicating the quality of hotel business, not to mention the keyword richness detailed guest reviews provide. Still, more coolness and value are delivered since the new reviews make it easier than ever for users to write their reviews. And, thanks to GPS on mobile phones and Google Maps data, Google knows where users have been so the system can suggest that a user writes a review based on where they just visited. In the tech world, we call this “intuitive” value, and the new system is all that. But for hoteliers the question arises; “How does all this help increase my hotel revenue?”
Google is licensing its review summaries from TrustYou, which “searches, analyzes and distills hundreds of millions of opinions from verified reviews written across the Internet and structures this information into super digestible summaries, called Meta-Reviews.”
Can reviews impact ROI?
Reviews can impact many aspects of a business: trust, brand loyalty, conversions, ROI, and yes, the bottom line.
Back in 2011, Adele Gutman of HK Hotels told Tnooz; “Reputation IS revenue.” Today, nothing in digital marketing and sales could be more exact. Reviews are still the single most crucial conversion tool when compared to all others. Simply stated, great hotel reviews create increased traveler confidence, which in turn elevates guest conversions and bookings. This is just because people trust other people more than they trust companies and sales lingo. This is what made TripAdvisor so powerful, and it is what powers this new Google reviews interface.
If you wonder why Google aggregates Meta-Reviews from TrustYou, the reasons can be summarized as follows:
- TrustYou Meta-Reviews aggregate of all verified reviews, cutting out the fluff to deliver only relevant information about a property
- Meta-Reviews are short, to the point, simple and flexible, perfect for mobile integration
- Websites displaying TrustYou Meta-Reviews have reported increased conversion rates
As early as 2014, in a whitepaper titled “The Effect of Reviews on Hotel Conversion Rates and Pricing,” TrustYou identified that travelers are willing to pay more for hotels with better travel reviews. As you learned from one of our previous studies:
“The statistics don’t lie: a Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report released in 2015 and still cited today (because the numbers haven’t changed much) revealed that about 83% of the interviewees would recommend a company they trust to others and consumer opinions posted online (aka reviews) ranked at a whopping 60%. You will also want to read the cited report to see how customers view traditional advertising too. “
Since they are now a part of Google’s hotel SERP ranking algorithm, reviews are even more important for your reputation, position against competitors, and ROI.
83% SEOs say that “reviews and reputation management “absolutely” delivers a good ROI.” This is based on the idea that good reviews mean good reputation, the one thing Google cannot (and will not) take away from you.
Good reviews are a signal of value for Google, resulting in a better placement for your site in SERPs, but also a good signal for potential guests, who will likely click on your hotel name in the search results rather than picking out one of your competitors.
It is also essential that you understand that the reviews must be genuine, verified, coming from guests who stayed at your hotel. Posting reviews with fake user accounts, or paying for reviews, can do more damage than good: it will have a negative impact on your reputation and trustworthiness, resulting in possible Google penalties, and thus loss of conversions and ROI.
The following infographic by TRUSTPILOT will show you four ways you can use reviews to boost SEO, conversions, brand transparency and loyalty, and to keep up with consumer behaviors.
infographic by: TRUSTPILOT
In addition to these factors, when you implement them on your website, reviews can also increase the time visitors spend there and decrease your site’s bounce rate. They can also drive more direct bookings.
“Don’t give travel shoppers a reason to leave your site to search for reviews because you risk them not coming back to you,” says Darlene Rondeau, VP of best practices and online merchandising at Leonardo, cited by Hotel Management.
This also explains why Google decided to include third-party carousel reviews alongside Google reviews: yes, to provide Google search users all the answers at a glance, but also because Google knows that TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia, and other sites still matter for consumers. It only makes sense to include their reviews in the search results to keep users longer engaged on Google sites.