The clout of hotel review aggregators continues to grow, including the bigwigs (Google, TripAdvisor). The question is, are you keeping up? And with whom?
Most hoteliers are scrambling to keep pace with the new era of hotel marketing where influencers, social, digital advertising and similar initiatives reign supreme. The fact remains that online reviews remain a key influencer in the booking space. This is more so for independent hotels, small groups, and the mushrooming home share accommodation options.
And here too there is a big change – much like all things digital!
Where once TripAdvisor was taken as gospel, its authenticity has been questioned on many occasions in the recent past with hotels being accused of rigging TripAdvisor ratings.
But, don’t sign off the reviews giant just yet as it continues to wield a strong control of accommodation, restaurants and travel reviews. A BrightLocal article reports its growth at 115% in 2015, 82% in the year after with sustained strong growth after.
While you were still working out TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare (if you’re targeting the Americans), along came Google reviews that have powered their way to the top of the pack.
The BrightLocal article reports that Google jumped to the pole position in 2016 with a staggering 278% growth in reviews. The growth is attributed to the tech giant’s omnipresence. Its sheer scale combined with its native integration into Android seamless user prompts can be cited as the reason for this success.
Leaving a review on Google is simple – driven by a seemingly endless (sometimes spooky) prompts via Google Maps, Local Guides Initiatives, Search Engine Results Page (SERP), Gmail, Photos and almost every other Google app that makes sense. Google also indicated that reviews play a role in their ranking algorithm, encouraging accommodation providers far and wide to jump on the bandwagon of asking their customers for Google reviews.
When it comes to policing reviews, Google isn’t without folly. But managing feedback is better on Google as hoteliers can flag a review and ask for proof of stay (receipt). This makes Google reviews more reliable. Being user-focused, Google takes these very seriously.
So, where is your focus?
Bear in mind, we have not even touched upon Expedia (Hotels.com, Travelocity and Expedia.com), Facebook, Booking.com and the likes. Their power in influencing a booking can hardly be ignored.
Let’s change the question to: where should you be focusing?
There is no right answer to this one. Your focus should be determined by a number of factors, most importantly your audience. Where they are, who they are and what platform they prefer? And while you’d like to be everywhere – focusing on building your profile on online review aggregators that matter most to your business is imperative. Thankfully, to your aid comes online reputation management tools such as ReviewMinder – your single point place to manage reviews from multiple platforms. More importantly use the gems you accumulate here to drive more bookings.
What is clear is that Google is a platform that you should not leave out of your chosen mix. It’s a platform that transcends genres and reaches users intuitively in their travel journey – or moments as Google calls them. It’s a platform you never want to lose focus on for reviews and more.
Tell us about your online review management experience. Which platform gets you the hits? Where are you missing out? Keen to know more on firstname.lastname@example.org.