Posted in Reputation Management on October 09, 2014 by Chris Dean
Just as one would not buy a car sight unseen, travelers are not going to book a room at a hotel without first reading reviews and looking at pictures of the property. So what are hoteliers to do when their properties frequently receive negative reviews on TripAdvisor that damage their online reputation? Unfortunately, many hoteliers resort to TripAdvisor fraud - posting fake positive reviews themselves or encouraging their personal network to do so - in an effort to boost the hotel's TripAdvisor reputation. While false TripAdvisor reviews may seem like a good idea to the uninformed, it is a practice that results in critical, and sometimes debilitating, consequences from which hotels may never recover.
Why would hoteliers feel compelled to commit TripAdvisor fraud?
TripAdvisor is the second most visited travel site in the world, with an average of 260 million unique visitors per month and more than 150 million total reviews. Those stats clearly indicate why a positive representation on TripAdvisor is so crucial to a hotel's online reputation and financial success.
Any marketer worth his or her salt knows that word-of-mouth is one of the biggest influences on purchasing decisions. TripAdvisor has enabled naturally occurring word-of-mouth on a global scale. No longer is a traveler limited to their personal network of friends, family, and colleagues for hotel reviews. Now, they simply have to visit TripAdvisor to learn what hundreds of guests had to say about their stays. Studies show that 81 percent of travelers usually or always reference TripAdvisor before booking and that over half of all travelers would not even consider staying at a hotel that has no reviews.
If a hotel has a lot of positive reviews, then travelers will be more likely to book. If travelers are more likely to book, then that means a likely increase in…? That's right, every hotelier's favorite word - "revenue." Simply put, higher TripAdvisor ratings equal more money for the hotel. By moving up one point on a five point rating scale, hotels can increase their rates by up to 11.2 percent without seeing a decrease in occupancy. With hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue on the line, it is no wonder hoteliers consider posting fake positive reviews.
Okay, TripAdvisor is important, but how could someone spot a fake hotel-written review?
Because thousands of reviews are written on a daily basis, it is understandable why hoteliers may think that their fake reviews will slip through the cracks and appear legitimate. In an attempt to discover fake reviews, TripAdvisor claims to track the IP addresses of computers from which reviews are written. The site is alerted if multiple reviews come from the same IP address, signaling that hotel representatives may be writing fraudulent reviews from their offices. Even if they are writing reviews from different IP addresses, many hoteliers are treated to a rude awakening upon learning that their fake reviews were easily discovered by both TripAdvisor and travelers due to five common tells that signal the review is hotel-written.
Individually, all of these hallmarks of hotel-written reviews make them quite easy to spot. When these attributes are combined in a single review, hoteliers might as well just include, "by the way, this review is fake and an attempt to boost the hotel's rating." That would not make it any more obvious than it already is.
Even if people know the reviews are fake, a better overall rating is all that matters, right?
Wrong. One of TripAdvisor's core tenets is that the success of the site is based on honest reviews by real travelers telling it like it is. Fake reviews upset this balance and lead to travelers losing trust in the site and possibly not using it in the future. That is the last thing TripAdvisor wants. Upon detecting fraudulent reviews, TripAdvisor imposes a number of penalties designed to punish the hotel and discourage them from writing fake reviews again.
Almost immediately, the hotel's listing may be dropped several pages in the TripAdvisor popularity index. That means potentially thousands of lost guests and lost revenue, as most travelers do not search for a hotel past the second or third page of listings.
Hotels that have been caught writing fake reviews are ineligible to be included in all of TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards and top 10 lists. These honors provide valuable free marketing and have been shown to greatly boost the online perception of the hotels that receive them.
The biggest penalty that TripAdvisor levies on hotels posting fake reviews is the dreaded "red flag" that is placed on the listing itself. This large red label is prominently displayed at the top of the listing, informing all who view it that the reviews are not to be trusted (screenshot below). One hotelier claimed to have seen a 75 percent drop in revenue and a "catastrophic collapse in bookings" after her hotel was flagged.
If hoteliers do not write fake reviews, how can they ever increase their hotel's rating?
One of Blue Magnet's Managing Partners Chris Jones wrote an excellent blog article answering this very question. Hoteliers should always use the reviews of their hotel - the good, the bad, and the ugly - as free market research to learn negatives that the hotel must improve upon and positives that the hotel can further enhance or promote.
Hoteliers should be candid in all communication and marketing regarding the hotel's quality and what guests should expect from the hotel. Guests do not want to be misled. Marketing a three star hotel as a five star hotel is an invitation for negative reviews from travelers whose expectations were not met.
Happy guests love to leave great reviews. At an industry conference earlier this year, Andrew Wiens, International DMO Manager at TripAdvisor, mentioned that 77 percent of all TripAdvisor reviews receive either four or five "bubbles."
Whether reviews are good or bad, all of them should elicit a hotel management response. 78 percent of TripAdvisor users say that seeing hotel management respond to reviews makes the users believe that management cares about their guests. Positive perception is everything.
At the end of the day, the best way to receive positive reviews online is to provide an excellent offline experience for guests. As long as hoteliers focus on delivering positive experiences, TripAdvisor fraud will not even be a consideration.
Posted in Reputation Management on August 12, 2014 by Cat Sullivan
TripAdvisor’s newest feature, Questions & Answers, is a trip-planning tool that offers an easy way for your hotel to interact with potential guests. When browsing a hotel on TripAdvisor, travelers can scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter a question in the designated box.
A representative of your hotel, past reviewers, and other members of the TripAdvisor community can then provide timely answers and feedback. This gives your hotel the opportunity to set travelers’ expectations by giving them all the information they need to choose your property for their next trip. The tool basically offers a more personalized version of the already popular TripAdvisor forum. Travelers can ask questions specific to your hotel like, “What time is breakfast served on weekdays?” or “We are planning to visit in December, will the renovations be complete by then?”
How Your Hotel Can Get Involved
When a new question comes in, your property’s registered TripAdvisor email will receive a notification. Login to your hotel’s TripAdvisor page to address the traveler’s inquiry as directly and concisely as possible. Responses must be family-friendly, original, and cannot include links or contact information. As a property representative, your response will automatically go to the top of the responses, giving it priority and authority over the comments from the rest of the TripAdvisor community. TripAdvisor community comments are sorted based on upward and downward votes by the rest of the users. As a hotel representative, you can answer the same question multiple times if something has changed at your property over time.
Other hoteliers in the same market will not be able to answer traveler questions for your hotel. Additionally, competing hotels in the area cannot ask questions about your hotel. These rules have been implemented by TripAdvisor to combat spam on the site.
5 Ways TripAdvisor Questions & Answers Benefits Hoteliers
In the first example below, the Marriott Oakland City Center effectively uses the Questions & Answers tool to communicate with potential guests. The hotel representative provides a brief but detailed answer to the traveler’s question in a timely manner. Now that the guest is well-informed, she can book an accessible room at the hotel with confidence.
In the example below, the hotel has the opportunity to reassure a guest so he does not cancel a block of rooms. However, no one from the property has responded to the guest, who asked the question 7 days ago. The hotel’s failure to respond is detrimental to the hotel, since they will likely lose this reservation. Plus, as you can see in the screenshot below, another TripAdvisor community member responded with her own warning to avoid the hotel, so the hotel’s silence will likely negatively impact the hotel’s reputation.
5 Things to Keep in Mind before Getting Started
TripAdvisor’s new Questions & Answers feature is a valuable tool for your hotel and potential guests since it opens up a direct line of communication. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to engage with travelers, improve your property’s online reputation, and convert shoppers into hotel guests.
Posted in Reputation Management on July 02, 2012 by Diana Friess
In an increasingly technologically savvy world, it has become second nature for both business and leisure travelers to turn to the internet to research for a hotel destination, whether through a search engine, social media channel, brand website or online travel agency. The internet has made it fast and easy to research properties, view photos, read traveler reviews, and compare rates from virtually anywhere--at desktop computer in their own home, on their mobile phone or on a laptop computer. With the increased availability and access to information, hotels are not the only ones controlling their brand image and the content available to travelers and consumers.
The growing sophistication of online marketing in the travel industry has created more sophisticated consumers, who cut through the hype and marketing provided by a hotel and seek out independent opinions and reviews as their most influential source of information. In a recent survey conducted by TripAdvisor and Forrester Consulting, 81% of travelers said reviews were important when deciding which hotel to book, and almost half said they wouldn't book a hotel unless it had reviews.
The relationship between OTAs, review sites and hotels has always been complicated, but with the proper knowledge and practices, the hotel and third party sites can grow to have a loving, successful relationship! A major part of regaining control of the content about your hotel and making a significant impact in the minds of travelers is to respond to the reviews that travelers have posted online, often known as reputation management.
Here are Blue Magnet's top tips on how to respond to online traveler reviews of all types--the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Until proven guilty, assume all reviews are real and true
Do your due diligence in investigating each review. If a guest review is negative, investigate the issues presented by the guest and take the necessary steps to get to the bottom of the issue. Look to see if the guest issued a complaint while on property and ask your Director of Operations if there have been any issues in any departments that could attribute to the review. There are going to be false and misleading reviews posted about your hotel, but it can only help your cause by taking the high road and treating these reviews as real. If you do discover that the review is false, be sure to report it to the site with all of your supporting information in order to have the review removed as soon as possible.
Take a deep breath before submitting a response
It is easy to get defensive about your property and the criticism that a reviewer posts publically. But remember, you are representing the hotel brand, the property and all of its employees. Your response should demonstrate that all feedback, both positive and negative, is important to you by being polite and professional.
The guest is always right...online
No matter how much you believe this to be true or false deep down in your gut, your public online response must address the needs and concerns of the guests first. For example, a guest writes a review that they were unable to control the temperature of their room because the directions on how to use the thermostat were hard to understand. If you were to look at the directions, as part of the hotel staff they might be clear to you since you are familiar with the thermostat system. However, the guest is always right and there is usually a kernel of truth to extract from their experience, which you can use to improve your product. Take the opportunities that guest reviews provide to reevaluate the issues that guests bring up to strengthen your property thus enhancing the guest experience.
The following steps will help hoteliers structure their property's online reviews and manage their online reputation more effectively:
According to TripAdvisor, 50 million travelers are utilizing the site every month, so it is crucial to your hotel business to be an active part of the online correspondence. Management responses give you the opportunity to engage with your past guests and market your property to future guests. Industry research shows that management responses are highly influential with travelers during the booking process. When an owner responds promptly and professionally to a review, addressing any specific complaints as well as the positive comments, it can make a big impact on prospective customers! While responding to reviews might seem like a trivial, grass-roots public relations effort, it does make a strong impression on travelers when it comes time for them to book.
Posted in Reputation Management on May 30, 2012 by Abby Heft
Google Alerts is a free tool that every hotel should be using to manage their online reputation and monitor the web presence of competitors at the most basic level. Essentially, Google Alerts notifies you via email any time Google discovers your hotel's name (or any search query you specify) within any webpages it crawls. We at Blue Magnet know the importance of managing a hotel's online reputation and Google Alerts is just one of the many tools we use.
When you set up a Google Alert, you are automatically notified when Google crawls new web content that matches a search term you select. For example, I have created a Google Alert for "Blue Magnet Interactive," which means that I receive an email notification every time Google finds a new mention of that search phrase ("Blue Magnet Interactive") anywhere on the web. This can include content from news, blogs, videos and discussion groups, letting me quickly monitor discussions or posts about Blue Magnet Interactive. This is a quick and easy way for hotels and other businesses to monitor the online gossip about their particular company.
How to Set Up a Google Alert in 3 Easy Steps
How Google Alerts Work for Hotels
There is no limit to the number of alerts you can set up. This free tool not only allows hotels to regularly monitor their own online reputation, but also helps keep hotels updated on their competitor's online presence. With competitor alerts, you can stay informed about new hotel specials in the area, competing hotel events or a wide range of guest reviews--and it all comes straight to your inbox!
Online reputation management for hotels is important and requires a strategic approach. Google Alerts isn't the only ingredient in our recipe for online success, but it's definitely a great jumping off point for hotels looking for simple (and free!) reputation management solutions!
Posted in Reputation Management on February 13, 2012 by Jennifer Dewey
When it comes to your hotel's online reputation management, think of the internet as high school and you’re trying to win the popularity contest. With Google’s plans to incorporate Google+ into personalized search results and the backlash of TripAdvisor’s misleading reviews, I think it’s fair to say that there’s a considerable focus on what people are saying about your brand. More than ever before, people are turning to each other through the internet to glean opinions about hotels, their staff, and even how the hotel dealt with problems, before making any concrete decisions about where to stay.
Here’s the real clincher: consumers aren’t just looking for their peers’ reactions; they’re also taking into account how the hotel responded to both positive and negative reviews. Your online reputation management will continue to be increasingly important as “likes,” “+1’s,” and reviews are intertwined into how we discover new information on the internet.
So, how will you amp up your online reputation management to make sure small blunders inside the hotel don’t go viral?
1. Listen to the locker room gossip
Know what people are saying about your hotel. Like any good prom queen in the running, you need to know what’s being said and where people are saying it. One simple and free way to oversee mentions of your hotel is to set-up Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you’ll be notified via email every time your hotel name (or whatever keywords you deem relevant) are mentioned anywhere in search results.
Another key strategy is to monitor your social media profiles daily. There are more opinions posted on those sites besides just reviews. Tracking the increase in visits, likes, re-tweets, shares, etc. can give you a good idea over how buzz worthy your hotel is or not.
Finally, if you’re a one-man show and need some minions to help build your reputation, you can employ technology services to help manage the process. Bookassist offers a service called “Reputation Alert” which not only collects reviews from guests who book through your brand.com, but it also crawls hundreds of sites to gather comments or reviews and brings them to you in one place. Some more comprehensive products to consider are ReviewPro or ReviewAnalyst. Not only do these services monitor and collect all reviews, but they also compile the data into easy-to-use reports.
2. Be a social butterfly
Be engaged with your online community. If you’re going to gain entrance into the cool crowd, you need to be outgoing and diplomatic to others. The same goes for your hotel’s image online. Similar to how you want to be accepted and liked by others, your guests or reviewers want to be heard and acknowledged, too! Responding to positive reviews about your hotel is easy enough to do, but a lot of hoteliers shy away from responding to negative reviews or complaints. These are the reviews that need the most attention, as these guests may have felt as though their issue was ignored on-property or not handled properly. Now they want to lambast your hotel for the whole world to see.
By simply acknowledging that there was an issue and offering a diplomatic response, you are engaging in an online conversation that other potential guests will see. People are eager to see how the hotel will respond or react to a negative situation. Furthermore, the way in which its handled will give potential guests insight as to what they’ll be up against if a problem occurs during their stay. In fact, there have been cases in which a once disgruntled reviewer was so satisfied by the hotel’s response to their issue that they removed the negative review and became a cheerleader for the hotel. The more you engage with your online community through responses, blogs, and social media, the more positive your brand image will become.
3. Transform your ugly duckling into a beautiful swan
Interesting images and other content are key to growing your community. If you’re going to be a front-runner in the popularity game, it’s important to always highlight your best features. High quality and complementary images of your property will draw consumers’ eyes away from any negative reviews and into your photo gallery. New social media sites, like Pinterest, showcase destinations with beautiful landscapes or neat décor with a link back to the source (aka your brand.com).
What’s more, gaining new followers on your social media channels is more than just skin deep; you have to show your inner beauty. Provide content that followers will want to share with their networks. Interesting blog entries, fun contests, and “featured guests” posts are sure fire ways to gain attention and keep your current followers interested. Finally, posting pictures and posts about hotel staff events allows your followers to feel a connection with the hotel and helps make your hotel staff seem more approachable.
4. Campaign like a class president
Promote guest reviews. Although “Vote for Me” posters aren’t exactly within brand standards, there are other ways that you can encourage your guests to leave reviews on your social media channels that will help keep your content and reviews fresh. Adding links to your TripAdvisor, Google+, or Yahoo listings on your Facebook page is one way to ensure writing reviews is top of mind for your guests. More subtle methods include adding a link to your listings on email signatures, newsletters, and brand.com. Providing easy access to your business listings will keep reviewing from feeling like a chore to your guests.
The most obvious way to encourage exceptional guest reviews is to provide the guest with a great hospitality experience. Even if there are blunders during their stay, the way in which it’s handled can make or break a raving review. It’s important to train your staff that what happens inside the hotel may be reflected online, and reviewers aren’t shy about naming names if they’re really upset. They also aren’t shy about naming names when a hotelier helped make their stay really wonderful, so just ask yourself what kind of publicity do you want?
In the end, will you be a popular student or a wallflower? If your hotel stays in touch with their reviews and reviewers, provides valuable content on its social media channels, and encourages positive reviews when the opportunity arises, I could foresee Prom Court in your future. And remember, it’s the negative reviews that need the most nurturing and what happens inside your hotel doesn’t always stay inside your hotel. Good luck!
Posted in Reputation Management on June 08, 2011 by Chris Jones
As a hotel internet marketing guy, I get asked this question by hoteliers all the time: "What can I do to improve my hotel's ranking in TripAdvisor?"
For your convenience, I'm just going to set the record straight: TripAdvisor ranks hotels using an automated tool they call their "Popularity Index." According to official TripAdvisor website, they describe this Popularity Index as such:
The TripAdvisor Popularity Index incorporates Traveler Ratings to determine traveler satisfaction. Emphasis is placed on the most recent information. We calculate the Popularity Index using an algorithm.
TripAdvisor's Popularity Index is:
Well, what a shocker. Just like Google, TripAdvisor is pretty opaque when it comes to disclosing to hoteliers what needs to be done in order to improve their hotels' TripAdvisor rankings. To shed some light on these vague guidelines, I'll provide some tips on improving your TripAdvisor rankings based on our experience and various discussions with TripAdvisor market managers.
Important factors that may impact the TripAdvisor Popularity Index:
TripAdvisor Best Practices for Hotels:
Managing your online reputation takes a lot of time if you want to do it effectively. Constant management of these various review channels (TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc) is necessary to be successful in social media marketing and management. At the hotel level, be sure to assign a staff member to serve as your "social media champion" and ensure that your entire hotel team is aware of the social media initiatives. In the end, there are many hotel internet marketing companies (such as yours truly) that specialize in hotel social media marketing and management. Agencies like Blue Magnet can help monitor and manage your listings to ensure you're always on top of your hotel's online reputation.