TripAdvisor has become a travel industry behemoth in the past 15 years. It’s generated over 190 million reviews and attracts 315 million visitors to the site monthly. With this volume of traffic and influence it can be the difference between running a market leading attraction and just treading water.
It is slightly worrying how much power TripAdvisor has, particularly if you get any negative reviews – warranted or not. The good news is that TripAdvisor can be great for any size of business to promote itself. If you provide a good service, you WILL get a good rating. This is even more true of tour and activity providers than hotels, as people are not caught up on star ratings and furnishings, they’re there purely to have a good time!
As Justin from 3brothersboards explains:
“TripAdvisor has been great to us over the years. Guests’ come in to our shop all the time and tell us they found us on TripAdvisor. We have also noticed that having the TripAdvisor, “Certificate of Excellence” sticker on our front door attracts tons of foot traffic to come in the shop”
Getting the most out of TripAdvisor is more than just having a listing. We’ve outlined below some quick hacks that will help you boost your listing.
1. Sign Up For An Account
The first thing to is register for TripAdvisor’s FREE Management Centre. This allows you to:
- Register online
- Control your business page
- Analytics on your business performance on TripAdvisor
- Encouraging reviews
- Management responses
Think carefully about who is best placed to represent your brand, through replying to reviews. Getting that wrong can be costly.
So where do you start?
- Go to: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Owners
- Select your business
- Provide your registration details
- Verification: TripAdvisor requires credit card details or specified documents to connect you with your property (So you’re pesky competitor can’t mess with your business…we all know it happens!)If you choose to verify by credit card there is NO Charge, it is purely about security. This is the fastest route and takes only a few minutes. Sending documents requires verification by their customer service department and can take weeks.
Need to know more check out the quick video TripAdvisor put together:
Currently TripAdvisor does not support multi-day tours. This is a real pain as Tom from Pedalers explains:
“Sadly many guides, managers and tour company owners (like myself) from blocked companies have been active participants on TripAdvisor for many years, sharing our knowledge with forums participants and many of us have been acknowledged as Destination Experts, but alas we are still prohibited from listing our companies on TripAdvisor“.
2. Review Management
Review management is really important. In a TripAdvisor survey travellers were asked if “seeing a management response to reviews makes me believe that the hotel owner cares more about it’s guests.” The response was emphatic – 77% agreed.
This is something that is really important. Responding to negative reviews can salvage your reputation in the eyes of future customers, not responding will raise serious questions. You have the opportunity to make amends or put out your side of the story. Make the most of it!
It also goes without saying that responding to negative reviews is more important than responding to positive reviews – do still respond to positive reviews but just put the response to negative ones first!
Top tips for review management:
- Sign up to receive an email every time a review is published
- For positive reviews:
- Thank the reviewer
- Avoid using the same standard reply for every response
- Refer to reviewers positive comments
- For negative reviews:
- Be prompt. This shows you take customer service seriously.
- Be courteous and professional.
- Highlight the positives
Remember the response is not just seen by the reviewer but also by potential guests. In a PhocusWright study 70% of respondents stated that an aggressive response made them less likely to book. If you don’t agree with the review, relate your side of the story in a polite and unemotional way. Currently, TripAdvisor does not allow you to edit a submitted response, so there’s no going back! Don’t get caught with egg on your face like with this review that ended up in the British newspaper, the Daily Mail.
3. Manage your photos
Did you realise that if you don’t provide an image to TripAdvisor they will use one from a user or a commercial partner such as Viator or Getyourguide? Again, it’s really important for you to control what goes into the public domain and what images paint the best picture of your business. It’s really worth investing some time and money, if you have it, in getting good images.
You can manage your photos via the management settings in TripAdvisor. Here you can upload more than 30 photos, showcasing what you have to offer.
Why are images so important?
- TripAdvisor listings with at least 1 photo see 138% more traveller engagement and 225% increase in the likelihood of booking
- 70% of travellers use traveller submitted photos in their decision making process. Encourage them throughout your tour
- Listings with a video drive 20% more engagement than those without a video.
4. Showcase Your TripAdvisor Reviews on Your Website
Showing you’ve got great TripAdvisor reviews on your website is a great way to give confidence to customers that they should book with you. Tripadvisor makes it easy for you to this by allowing you to easily integrate a widget on your website with your rating and number of reviews, alongside the TripAdvisor logo.
To get started, download the widget from the TripAdvisor Widget Centre, follow the instructions and add it to your site. If you use a CMS like WordPress or Drupal then you should have no problem adding. Check out our post on how to use WordPress if this confuses you. Failing that contract a web developer to do it for you, it’s a quick and simple job. Odesk is another alternative for finding cheap freelance web developers.
A word of warning about the widget:
If you received a negative review, using the widget to display reviews can be a big mistake. This is taking a prominent position on your website and so is your negative review!
Daniel Logtenberg from Maui Marketing has worked with a number of clients in Hawaii, where this was an issue:
“I have dealt with many instances of activity providers here on Maui who saw business drop big time because of a bad reviews. Most of them were using the widget and across the pages they have it listed will then show this bad review, contradicting all the hard work they put in to sell the tour“.
With his clients he recommends removing the TripAdvisor widget and creating their own, so they can better control the reviews while providing potential guests some basic info and an easy link to their TripAdvisor profile.
Bogus reviews have also been a major bug bear for years. Getting a bogus review could be very damaging, particularly if they end up on your website! To spot whether reviews are reliable or not check out Janice S. Lintz’s article in Huffington Post.
5. Decide about Listing With Viator
For those in the tours, activities or attractions space, the big news last year was TripAdvisor’s acquisition of the marketplace – Viator.
So what does this mean for your TripAdvisor listing? Well, if you have a listing with Viator a ‘Book Now’ button will also show up on TripAdvisor. This offers great potential for bookings, but comes with it’s challenges, namely VIATOR CHARGE BIG COMMISSIONS (sometimes as high as 30%). So if a lot of your traffic currently comes from TripAdvisor having a ‘Book Now’ button that leads to Viator could start to seriously erode your revenue.
If you already list on Viator you’re probably aware of this. Viator used to operate a curated model, where they had to approve you to list on the site. This is now changing and they will open the system up to any provider. This is good news. It gives the wider tour and activity market the possibility to participate in the largest online distribution channel. Viator is also directly connecting to reservation systems in the area, which means instead of entering details in two systems your availability will be updated automatically. This will save a lot of stress!
We hope to see a situation as with hotels, where TripAdvisor will allow direct bookings from your TripAdvisor page to your own reservation system, so you own the relationship with the customer and hopefully over time, so you can get more competitive commission rates.
Alternatives to TripAdvisor?
You may be in a position where you might be thinking “TripAdvisor is sending me enough traffic, I’ll focus my efforts on them“. We would recommend that you don’t do this. It is important to increase and diversify your web presence as much as possible. There are a couple of great platforms to do this including Yelp and Gogobot.
We talked to Gogobot’s CMO, Tim Hannan, recently about why tour and activity companies shouldn’t focus purely on TripAdvisor. Tim believes that apart from Gogobot, tour and activity companies should be looking at where they can get in front of potential customers. Where are they looking for advice or researching what they want to do next? He points to a recent Skift study that found that 42% of Americans hadn’t taken a single vacation day during 2014.
This is useful information for tour and activity providers as it means that some of your potential customers could be right in your own backyard and that you should have a presence on sites that do more than just help people plan vacations. Tim says:
“Interestingly enough, we see most people using Gogobot in their current location which is different from most travel companies… In many cases they were using Gogobot to find places in their own hometowns“.
When asked what Gogobot could do to help tour and activity companies attract new customers, Tim showed us how Gogobot can help identify what “tribes” are gravitating to your business. This means that “once you know what kinds of customers you’re attracting as a business, it becomes easier to add special touches and details that cater toward those audiences which help you expand your customer base even further”.
Finally when asked what’s the Number 1 thing to focus on to ensure success in online review sites, Tim had no hesitation in saying “third party validation“. If someone knows that a friend or a family member had a great experience with you, they’re likely to go with your company over a competitor’s business.