Tuesday 23 July 2013

Why has our TripAdvisor ranking fallen?

Important Note: while our clients may reasonably think that this post has been written for the benefit of future clients, we recommend that you note its contents so you understand as much as possible about the way TripAdvisor works.

This is one of the most common questions we are asked (by those who are not yet clients!), and it's a conundrum for many a hotelier. To give you a completely accurate answer would mean that we (or someone else) had cracked the TripAdvisor algorithm, which they understandably guard very carefully.

But it's a bit like the recipe for Coke: we know that it contains carbonated water - we could work that out for ourselves, and vanilla, lemon, orange, cinnamon and nutmeg - either because Coca Cola have made no secret of it, or because it's on the label, but we don't know the exact proportions. 

It's the same with TripAdvisor rankings. 

Some are obvious:
  • Those at the top have a higher ratio of positives to negatives than those at the bottom
  • A negative review hurts your ranking, a positive review helps
  • Lots of negatives hurt more, lots of positives help more

Then there are the 'common sense' ingredients:
  • Recent reviews are more relevant
  • Older reviews are less relevant or even discounted altogether
  • That pure volume of reviews helps

There are the myths (remember that Coca Cola used to contain cocaine?!) which may or may not contain an element of truth:
  • That paying TripAdvisor helps
  • That reviews from frequent reviewers are given a higher value

So where does that leave us (and you)?

We spend a lot of time analysing TripAdvisor rankings. We do this in order that we can as accurately as possible predict what will happen to our clients' rankings. We include the 'obvious' and 'common sense' ingredients and discount the myths (until we have hard evidence for them). 

But it cannot be self-evident, otherwise more hotels would be adopting a strategy to manage it; so here's what any hotel needs to do (a) to ensure it maintains its ranking and (b) to improve that ranking
  1. Get as many positive reviews as possible: we meet many hotels who say "but we are" and then we do the maths - and find that they are getting about one positive for every 1400 guests who stay (that's the industry average). They can do better than that!
  2. Minimise negative reviews: very few hotels have any effective mechanism for intercepting negative reviews before they are posted. We recently met with one famous 5* hotel who said "We've got that covered, we ask every guest if they experienced any problems with their stay": so why the 50+ poor/terrible reviews on TripAdvisor?
  3. Respond to reviews - it does not appear to directly affect your ranking, but anecdotal evidence shows that you're less likely to get negatives if you are seen to care
Finally - anomalies:
  • We have not had any recent negatives, but our ranking has fallen: your immediate competitors have either (a) got more recent positives or (b) seen older negatives fall out of the algorithm
  • We don't get negatives but we are ranking below a hotel that has: they will have proportionately more excellent (5*) reviews and relatively fewer very good/average (4* and 3*) reviews
  • We've just fallen down the rankings and don't see why (we're still getting great reviews): your competitors are getting more great reviews (or a combination of (a) and (b) in the answer to the first point)

We hope this has shone a little bit of light onto what is, for many in hospitality, one of the great unsolved mysteries of the profession. If you would like to understand more please speak to Nigel Cann at HelpHound client services or your business membership adviser.

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