Amplifying Your Guest Voice
We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog explaining topics like the influence reviews can have on hotel bookings and managing your online reputation as a form of digital marketing. But, what we want to cover here is slightly different, and pretty simple. Did you know that the effectiveness of your reviews is actually in your own hands?
Simply boosting your review volume can translate to significant business results.
When your guest writes a review, there is immense value.
- 79% of US travelers say hotel reviews are important to them in hotel booking decisions
- 41% of US travelers are unlikely to book a hotel that has no reviews (Phocuswright Leisure Travel Study, Oct 2015)
- 50% of travelers have written an online review in the past 12 months (Phocuswright 2016 Traveler Technology Survey)
The more reviews you have, the more content you can offer to your potential guests to help influence their booking your hotel.
One way that hotels are boosting their review volume is via post-stay email surveys. Some third party survey providers like Revinate have partnerships with important review channels like TripAdvisor and Google that are designed to improve review volume on these sites. The way it works is at the end of a traditional post-stay email survey, a guest will be given the option to submit a review to TripAdvisor or Google, depending on which channel the hotel prefers.
So what can happen when you give your review volume a bump? It depends on the channel, and your objectives for your properties, so let’s break it down:
Google is THE place that travelers start their research. 58% of leisure travelers and 68% of business travelers always start their travel booking and shopping with search. (Google/Ipsos Media CT, 2015 Traveler’s Road to Decision)
Google research indicates that the hotel booking path is not purely linear; future guests could be dreaming about their next trip while still booking their most immediate trip. In the study they released this summer called “How Micro-Moments are Reshaping the Travel Customer Journey,” Google suggests that it’s up to you as a hotel marketer to be present, relevant, and useful where your customers are looking for you. As a hotelier, you need to look at what traveler needs you are solving for, what his or her current situation is when seeking information, and how your brand can help.
Since future guests are definitely starting their search on Google, how do reviews help you here? Most travelers start their hotel search by typing “hotels in…” What they get is a mix of paid and organic results.
The search pictured here (inset) shows a hotel search unit displaying organic search results. Google uses an algorithm to determine the most relevant results for any given search, but three of the major factors are relevance, distance, and prominence. Prominence is a measure of how well known a business is. Review count and score are factors that contribute to local search ranking. More reviews and higher review scores will probably improve a local ranking, increasing your chances that someone visits your website to book.
One of Revinate’s customers is a real life example of this in action. Cove Haven decided to use Revinate to increase their hotels’ volume of reviews because they had much lower volume of reviews on Google than they had on other channels. For all three of their hotels, Cove Haven has seen a large improvement in review volume. For Cove Haven’s properties, 72% of their Google reviews between May and October 2016 came from Revinate. One of their properties, Pocono Palace, has received almost 80% of their reviews from Revinate. And they’ve begun to see impact even beyond volume, as their properties are beginning to move up the search list.
There is no doubt TripAdvisor is an influential channel. 77% of hotel guests reference TripAdvisor before selecting a hotel. 80% read between 6-12 reviews before booking. (Phocuswright TripAdvisor study 2014) Based on Revinate’s database of over 200 million reviews, TripAdvisor accounts for a quarter of all reviews.
Over the summer, we co-hosted a webinar with TripAdvisor, where they explained a few of the factors that go into their TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking. There are three main principles to remember: quality, quantity, and recency of reviews. Essentially, more reviews is better than fewer reviews, positive reviews are better than negative reviews, and recent reviews are better than older or staler content. TripAdvisor looks at the consistency of all of these factors over time for the most accurate representation. So, when it comes to soliciting reviews via post-stay surveys, it can have an effect on all three of these factors.
Revinate also did a study with Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration that looked at the results that came of collecting TripAdvisor reviews via Revinate Surveys. They found that hotels had an average 300% increase in TripAdvisor review volume, so their number of reviews tripled. As a result, on average, properties using Revinate Surveys saw a 10% improvement in TripAdvisor Popularity Index ranking. Aside from the official study, we have seen some hotels have some pretty dramatic increases. (For instance, The Dictionary Hostel in London moved up 200 places after starting with Revinate Surveys.) Lastly, these results have had a significant impact on the businesses of these properties as well. On average, the Occupancy index for the hotels involved increased by 1%.
Review Volume is the Simple Solution
Hotels need to have a strong presence on the sites where guests are making bookings decisions, and they need to work actively to improve their visibility on these sites. Overall, hotels have nothing to lose by boosting their volume of reviews on Google or TripAdvisor. If anything, they’re missing out on potential revenue by not doing so.