In general, it’s a great idea to encourage guests to write online reviews, as it’s one of seven ways to improve your hotel’s ranking on sites like TripAdvisor.
As a refresher, the full makeup of TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index is proprietary, so we don’t have all the information about what affects a hotel’s ranking. But, they do tell us a few things about how it works. Primarily, the algorithm is based on three key ingredients:
- The quality, or average rating, of your reviews
- The quantity of your reviews
- The recency of your reviews
Essentially, you stand a great chance of moving up on TripAdvisor if you can get more guests to write reviews on a regular basis.
But, what if you’re already doing this, and you notice your ranking is dropping instead of improving? This happened to a hotelier who recently commented on our blog asking for help. He writes:
How are you ?
I have one question: Sometimes my guests write reviews for my business during their stay on my property and use our wifi to do so. Before my property was at #8 but now I’m at #24. My business is getting new reviews every day, but not moving up. What should I do? Please help.
The Wifi Catch
This person has run into one of the caveats of the TripAdvisor Popularity Index algorithm that is very important for every hotelier to understand: While it’s a great idea to encourage guests to write reviews, you should NOT be encouraging guests to write those reviews while still on your property.
The major review sites, including TripAdvisor, work very hard to protect against fake reviews. In fact, TripAdvisor has a zero tolerance policy for fake reviews, and subjects every review to approximately 50 filters for integrity and moderation issues.
Here’s an excerpt from an article in which Tnooz interviewed TripAdvisor Senior Vice President, Global Product, Adam Medros back in 2014 about how TripAdvisor screens for fake reviews:
Without giving too much away, Medros says signals are gathered including IP address, reviewer history, information gleaned from owners and the community.
“By understanding what normal behaviour looks like from a forensic perspective, TripAdvisor is able to identify suspicious activity.”
He goes on to talk about connections in the data being made along the way such as the device being used and the time of day which go further in alerting the company to signals it should be concerned about.
In March 2014, TripAdvisor received a review about a hotel from the property’s own IP address. Straight away an email was sent to the reviewer for verification, the user did not respond and the review was not published.
Later, in July, a second review was submitted on the hotel from the same reviewer and hotel IP address and again, an email was sent to verify. This time the reviewer responded.
The TripAdvisor team then put his/her name into publicly used systems such as Facebook to reveal that it was a member of staff.
What can we glean from this information? One of the ways TripAdvisor identifies potentially fraudulent reviews is by tracking IP addresses and other session data related to reviews that are posted. If a property receives many reviews from a single IP address, those reviews may be flagged as potentially fraudulent. Because of TripAdvisor’s zero tolerance policy for fraudulent reviews, the property’s ranking may suffer as a result.
While we don’t have all of the information since TripAdvisor’s algorithm is proprietary, we can say that one way a hotel can avoid this scenario is by encouraging guests to write reviews after they check out. Even better, we’ve found that an email sent to guests a few days after they check out is not only a solution to the IP address debacle, but it’s also very effective way to encourage guests to write reviews. For example, our hotel customers who include a TripAdvisor form in their post-stay guest satisfaction surveys see an average 409% increase in new review volume and 15% average improvement in TripAdvisor Popularity Index ranking. Some customers, like The Dictionary Hostel in London, have moved up as much as 200 places.
The short version? It’s a great idea to encourage guests to write reviews. But, just to be safe, make sure they’re writing those reviews after they leave your property.