TripAdvisor is one of the major players in terms of travel booking directories. With over 1.3 million hotel listings worldwide, it’s a spot to park your hotel listings permanently and consistently generate bookings. TripAdvisor is unique because it functions heavily off of reviews. In 2018 alone, they generated approximately 730 million of them for hospitality-related businesses, and it’s still going up. It’s clear that users love it: 96% of TripAdvisor users consider reading reviews important when planning trips and booking hotels. So, if you don’t have a TripAdvisor profile for your hotel, it’s time to get started.
#1 Complete your descriptions
Without a description, no user gets any information about your listing. Instead of sounding salesy, highlight key features that separate you from your competition. These are aspects like nearby local attractions, popular amenities, and benefits to your location such as that it’s close to public transit or the airport. 92 percent of travelers choose a business that posts detailed property descriptions over one that’s missing info, so the more information you have, the better.
#2 Describe all your amenities
Your profile listings aren’t complete without comprehensive lists of your amenities. You can’t ever have too many in this case. Hands down showcasing your amenities generates bookings.
Here’s a breakdown of how influential the most popular amenities are on booking decisions:
- Free in-room Wi-Fi – 74%
- Free breakfast – 60%
- In-room amenities – 58%
- Free shuttle service – 35%
- Staff who speak the traveler’s language – 35%
So if you’re debating about whether to add a certain amenity to your listing, better to have a long list than a list that’s lacking. Users tend to filter their listings based on these popular amenities so the more of them your hotel can cover, the better your bookings will be.
#3 Provide up to date info
Want to hear something scary? About $10.3 billion worth of potential annual sales are lost because of wrong/inaccurate local data, of which stems from nearly half of businesses having incorrect information on their listing profiles. This is something that takes mere seconds to fix and keep updated, so don’t let it slip. Make sure you always have the accurate address, phone number, email and website on each listing.
This includes your calendar too, by the way. Calendars with improper dates can easily result in under or over bookings, so take time to double check that users know exactly when your listing is available or not for booking, even far in advance. There are early bird travelers who book up to a year in advance. Early bird travelers can become loyal customers, as well as make it easier to forecast sales, so try to plan your availability as far out as you can.
#4 Use keyword research tools for SEO
TripAdvisor listings can also be shown in Google search results. The process of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) involves connecting a user’s query (keyword search) with a website based on aspects of that website’s content and backend elements like the link and metadata (the snippets of information shown when you search for something on Google). In a nutshell, it’s highly recommended to take some time to add some keywords to your listing descriptions to increase organic (i.e. unpaid) traffic. A fantastic free tool for this is Ubersuggest.
If you’d like a bit more information on how SEO works we’ve got a detailed overview here.
#5 Take high-quality photos
Professional photos are of the utmost importance for the hotel industry. How many photos do you need? In general, travelers engage 150 percent more with pages that have 20 or more photos. So you need quite a few photos to really get users interested.
Photos are important because they convey the quality of the rooms and property. The best photos galleries have:
- Photos of a variety of your available rooms.
- Photos taken in bright lighting.
- Photos of the lobby, entrance, service facilities, as well as the dining area, bar and spa.
- Professional quality photos.
Furthermore, if you’ve recently renovated or added additional elements to your listings, update your primary listing photo so that users can see it. It keeps your profile fresh and interesting, which in turn attracts more new users.
In addition, all photos should have keyworded captions, because Google search results work for images, too! Alternatively, or rather in addition, videos can be uploaded in the same manner as photos. Video tends to resonate even better with customers, so use them when you can (read below for more information on videos).
TripAdvisor photo & image placements
TripAdvisor offers many possibilities for adding photos and videos. Here we’ve got an overview of where to find each section and their purposes:
- Photo carousels: users view this large photo section on top of your TripAdvisor listing to quickly preview your business.
- Media viewer: for hotels, visitors who click the “All Photos” button or on the photo carousel viewer on the right hand side will find photos split into relevant categories such as “Hotel & Amenities,” “Dining”, or “Pool & Beach.” If property videos are included, they will be listed here as well.
- “Photos” section on a listing page: for hotels, this area contains photo albums related to your listing.
- Primary photo: the main image in the carousel, you control which photo is displayed here.
- Management photos: these can be photos of any employees related to the listing.
- Traveler photos: these images are submitted by customers and are split into categories by subject. When viewed by a user, they are mixed together with the management photos in chronological order.
- Professional photos and panoramas: TripAdvisor owns a professional photography company called Oyster, which determines which businesses receive professional photography at no cost. If you are eligible for these, Oyster will contact you directly.
- Property videos: applicable only for Business Advantage subscribers (see section 12), these are videos of your property.
- Favorite photos: applicable only for Business Advantage subscribers, you can choose to highlight specific photos in your main image carousel.
- Cover photos: applicable only for Business Advantage subscribers, you can choose to add covers to your photo albums to focus on particular features and amenities.
#6 Use online review best practices
TripAdvisor is known as one of the founding members of the “reputation economy”. Founded in 2000, businesses at the time were so wary of online reviews that nearly no one used then. Yelp and Facebook didn’t exist yet. Amazon integrated an online review system in 1995, but the majority of businesses avoided it for fear of hearing only customer criticism. Nonetheless, TripAdvisor completely changed the travel game by holistically embracing an online review model. After the first TripAdvisor review in 2001, TripAdvisor’s founders realized the gold mine they’d struck. By 2004, TripAdvisor had 5 million unique monthly visitors and has established itself as an industry thought leader ever since, largely because they didn’t shy away from reviews.
Just how important are TripAdvisor reviews for businesses?
Here are a few statistics directly from TripAdvisor:
- 83% of respondents indicated that reviews help them pick the right hotel.
- 80% read at least 6 – 12 reviews prior to booking.
- 53% won’t commit to a booking until they read reviews.
So let’s break down a few important points about reviews:
Take note of your average review rating
Your first online review may be the toughest to get, but it does get easier. Generally speaking, if you have more reviews, the easier a customer feels about leaving another one. The average TripAdvisor review rating is 4.12/5, so the more reviews you have, the more accurate your average review rating is as well. Of course, the higher review rating you have, the more bookings you get.
Make a streamlined process for generating online reviews
Customers often have no problem with the concept of leaving online reviews, but they might need a slight nudge to do so. For hotels, you can ask them at check out and provide them with a card that links to the review site, provide a space for it on hotel room manuals and table cards, as well as after their stay with post-booking emails. Another review incentive is bonuses, meaning that if a customer leaves a review, you can offer them a discount or voucher for their next booking. This method can work especially well when you’re just getting started. The easier you make it for customers to leave a review, the more likely they are to leave one.
Online reviews are so important for TripAdvisor that they’ve even created their own tool for review generation automation known as Review Express. Using the same premise as email marketing, you can create campaigns that automate the review generation process and then track the results. An important note, however, is to only use this process for previous customers that have given their consent to receive such emails.
Don’t slack on responding to negative reviews
As mentioned above, businesses hesitate asking for reviews because they are afraid of negative feedback. But when you’ve been in business long enough, negative reviews are bound to happen. No business is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Take negative reviews as an opportunity to learn from your customers and provide an actionable solution.
In case you’re interested, we’ve got a handy guide for how to handle positive and negative reviews here.
#7 Get familiar with TripAdvisor’s popularity ranking
TripAdvisor uses a Popularity Ranking Algorithm that determines a user’s search results. This ranking is based on three factors: quality, recency, and quantity. Though TripAdvisor doesn’t divulge the exact criteria that their software uses, they do say that it’s based on machine learning and continually updates so that it’s as accurate as possible.
Now, here’s a bit more detail on the ranking factors.
Quality refers to the amount of bubbles a user chooses (out of five total) for a review. Businesses are then of course ranked according to who has higher ratings.
Recency looks at how new a review is. Newer reviews are weighted more heavily than old reviews, because they convey a listing’s level of customer satisfaction in its current state.
Quantity focuses on the total amount of reviews. However, it is not always a direct one to one comparison. A business with 1000 reviews may not rank higher than a business with 500 reviews collected over the same time period. The quality and recency of these reviews is taken into account as well.
The overall goal of the Popularity Ranking Algorithm is to portray the most accurate picture as possible for users for which hotels are best meeting customers’ expectations. So, the whole review history of a listing is taken into account herel. This means that a listing that consistently receives good reviews may rank higher than a listing with more reviews, but that are older.
#8 Create a Google My Business account
Google My Business is Google’s version of business listings. It can also be used for reviews and is shown in Google’s search results on the sidebar – when the search query matches. It was mentioned above that TripAdvisor listings can be shown in Google search results. Google My Business therefore functions in the same manner.
Here’s why you should use Google My Business in combination with TripAdvisor: the link shown in Google search results could be for your TripAdvisor listing, but Google My Business comes up in the results on the sidebar. The benefit here is that a user doesn’t need to view TripAdvisor first to get an idea about your business. Your Google reviews will be shown automatically, as well as all your business contact details. This could in turn encourage a user to click on your TripAdvisor listing and make a booking. \
#9 Take advantage of social media
Bookings and customer loyalty are heavily influenced by social media. Here are a couple noteworthy statistics: 52% of travellers like or follow a page related to an upcoming trip after they book, and almost all tourists below 34 years of age turn to Facebook for suggestions before finalizing bookings. All hotels need to be utilizing social media as a part of their online marketing strategies, regardless of which platforms they are listed on.
TripAdvisor itself is just one platform out of many. No business can afford to be putting all their eggs in one basket. TripAdvisor bookings themselves can be generated outside of the platform, and social media is the perfect place to do so. Add your TripAdvisor booking links to all your social media feeds such as Facebook, Instagram, or even LinkedIn if you promote to business travellers.
#10 Integrate TripAdvisor with other travel directory listings
Many major booking platforms integrate reservations links. These include Expedia, Agoda, Hotels.com, GetYourGuide, and OpenTable. Make sure that your TripAdvisor listing is on these partner sites and generate bookings through them.
Furthermore, it was already underlined how important diversification is for your general online presence. It’s highly recommended to have your own profiles on all the major hotel booking platforms to maximize your returns.
#11 Showcase TripAdvisor badges
TripAdvisor enjoys rewarding businesses who are successful on their platform. Awards such as “Travelers’ Choice” and “Certificates of Excellence” can be added to your listing using TripAdvisor Widgets. To see which widgets your business is eligible for, type your business name into the search engine and it will display which awards you can show to your users.
#12 Consider a TripAdvisor Business Advantage subscription
TripAdvisor offers a paid version of their software that includes more features, known as Business Advantage. This software includes further options to customize your profile (such as mentioned in section 5) as well as easier access to customers and more detailed performance analytics. There are two versions: Preferred Access and Standard Access, in which Preferred Access has the highest level of customization features.
One of the most popular features businesses use with Business Advantage software is the “special offer” feature. Special offers can be placed on:
- Your TripAdvisor profile.
- The special offers page for your city.
- The top of your city page.
- Member newsletters (3 times).
- Your photo carousel.
#13 Take a look at Sponsored Ad Placements
Another paid tool TripAdvisor offers is Sponsored Ad Placements. This means that you pay directly for your listing to be at the top of hotel search results. If you’re at all familiar with Google Ads, Sponsored Ads work in the same manner on TripAdvisor. You create a campaign with a fixed budget starting from $6.00 per day that can be stopped and started whenever you please.
The benefits of using Sponsored Ads include:
- Higher placements in search results: meaning more exposure for your listing.
- Better leads: meaning more suitable customers will view your listing.
- Low risk: because you only pay for the clicks you receive.
- Easy to use: because you can set up campaigns in just a few minutes.
While this tool sounds fantastic in theory, receiving all those benefits takes time and testing. It won’t make your listing an overnight success and you should invest your money carefully. Track your results and scale your budget according to the bookings it generates.
#14 Meticulously track performance
Speaking of tracking, regardless of whether you are using TripAdvisor’s paid tools, you should monitor your profile’s activity. This information can give insight on low and high seasons, what amenities guests prefer, when guests book specific types of rooms and more. This in turn enables you to forecast sales and know how many staff to employee over certain time periods (more on this in section 20).
#15 Compare your profile with competitors
If you’re wondering how successful your hotel is, it’s always a good idea to look at your competitors. You can look at their descriptions for your local area, what amenities they offer, how many reviews they have – and of utmost importance – pricing. If you have a new listing and you’re not sure how to set pricing, a good starting point is to make a list of your competitors and set your prices according to theirs. You might even find some inspiration for photos, descriptions and special offers during your research.
#16 Be visible on Google Maps & get location grades
Regardless of what booking platform you use, your hotel should be listed on Google Maps. This is important for when a user does a local search, then your hotel appears in the results, also with reviews and pricing. When it comes to TripAdvisor, your listings there are given detailed information about your location on Google Maps.
These location details include:
- Walkability of the surrounding area according to your location (out of 100)
- Nearby restaurants
- Nearby attractions
This is another reason why it’s important to keep your contact details, in particular your address, always up to date, so that this information is displayed accurately.
#17 Combine your own website with TripAdvisor
The best hotel marketing strategies diversify marketing efforts across different channels. TripAdvisor is just one piece of a very large list of options you can use to market your hotel. But this list becomes extremely limited if you don’t have your own website. Even if you use TripAdvisor as your primary booking platform, you can boost traffic to it with your own website.
Having your own website means that you maintain control of your brand. Listings on TripAdvisor are all connected to that platform, and don’t offer as much flexibility as your own website would. You can synchronize all your marketing efforts based off a website, including all external directory listings, social media marketing, email marketing, Google Ads and SEO. All roads should lead back to you and your brand, because that is what keeps customers coming back.
#18 Create an email marketing strategy
If you choose to use TripAdvisor’s review generation software (Review Express in section 6), that is a part of an email marketing strategy, but it’s not quite comprehensive. If you have your own website, you can amplify your email marketing efforts to increase traffic to TripAdvisor listings.
A typical hotel email marketing strategy contains the following emails:
- Booking confirmation emails: an automatic email sent when a customer confirms a booking.
- Booking reminder & informational emails: an automatic email with a reminder about a customer’s booking, including any information relevant to that booking. If you’ve got your own email marketing strategy, here is the ideal place to upsell partner listings, like spas, restaurants and nearby local attractions (all bookable via TripAdvisor as well).
- Post-booking email to gather reviews: the key feature of Review Express, asking previous customers to give reviews after their stay is one of the easiest ways to get more reviews. You can use your own email marketing strategy that provides further incentives to customers to give reviews, such as discounts and vouchers.
- Seasonal and promotional emails for customer retention: this type of email is where TripAdvisor falls short. A hotel’s customer stream likely has highs and lows. So to prepare for this, you can promote special seasonal and promotional offers via email to previous customers, or any customer who has opted in to your newsletter (another benefit to your own website). You can link your TripAdvisor listings there directly as well as any related partner listings.
#19 Promote your listing through affiliate links
Yet another perk to having your own website is affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is the process of providing or offering backlinks with a commission given per purchase. There are three main parts to affiliate marketing: the advertiser, the publisher, and of course the customer. The customer makes the direct booking, while the other two focus on promotion. A description of these two roles is provided next.
An advertiser is the brand, company, or seller that wants to generate more traffic to their listings, which results in more sales. The goal of affiliate marketing is to get the most impressions, i.e. have as many people view the listing as possible. Therefore, an advertiser contacts a publisher to add additional links to the publisher’s content (in this case the link is your TripAdvisor listing). You then pay the publisher commission based on either clicks or direct purchases (the specific agreement is different per individual). The reason why a hotel would want to do this is that they can access a wider audience through a third party recommendation.
Travel bloggers in particular often play the role of publishers because they have active, engaged followers who trust the recommendations they give. This is one method for the publisher to earn money because they create content (such as on social media or a blog) and then receive commission from the advertiser. Sometimes an advertiser may even invite a publisher to test out a product (or in this case a hotel experience) to then leave a review for their followers, in which their followers then make consequent bookings. This is also linked with the concept of influencer marketing.
#20 Get familiar with calculating hotel metrics
All of these methods from above can be taken into account as a part of Hotel Revenue Management. Revenue management is a sales and marketing strategy often used by hotels because it focuses on measuring important KPIs (key performance indicators) that quantify how successful a hotel is over time and how it might be in the future. Our article on Hotel Revenue Management breaks these KPIs down in detail but as a summary, some of the most important are occupancy rate (amount of customers your hotel can hold at a given time) and RevPAR (revenue per available room). These two metrics are a part of a larger body of KPIs that allow you to create your sales forecasts, determine your marketing budget, and formulate your marketing strategy.
Overall, these KPIs should be monitored and tracked over time so that you can optimize your sales and marketing to bring in the most customers at the lowest expenses. All online marketing methods and directories will have specific metrics, so invest the time into learning how to analyze them all and how they are all connected to promote your brand as a singular entity.