When you're running a travel business it's crucial to ensure that people are able to find you and that you maintain your online profile.
TripAdvisor is one of the largest travel sites and because it is largely based on the experiences and reviews of travellers people tend to trust it.
Introduction to TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor is basically a travel website that collates user reviews for different aspects of the travel industry; accommodation, dining and activities. Businesses that rank well will get noticed, and businesses with good reviews will get more trade.
Many travel companies aren't making the most of TripAdvisor, and other similar sites. The key to success is straightforward and I'll discuss the key points below, all you need to do is set aside a little time each week.
How to write a good TripAdvisor profile
Your TripAdvisor profile is your opportunity to really sell your business to potential travellers. You should use this to really play on your key strengths, potential travellers use sites like TripAdvisor to compare their options you need to make it clear why you are better than your competitors.
The first thing you should check on your profile is to make sure that all the information is accurate. Be honest and don't oversell yourself. If a traveller books with you on the basis of the information you provided and you don't deliver then it will reflect badly on you, and will likely end up on a negative review.
Be sure to keep contact information up to date, the last thing you want is for them to try and contact you and get no response. It's worth clicking on links and phone numbers periodically just to double check this as it's so important.
Try not to use language that is overly flowery, people are wise to 'sales speak' and it will erode their trust in you. You a talking to other people so keep your tone personal, but not too familiar for the best results. Remember that many travellers may not speak English as a first language, so keep your wording relatively simple and avoid anything that could be misunderstood.
Google will pick up your profile on TripAdvisor, so this is another opportunity for you to get listed in Google. Be sure to use important keywords in your description just as you would on your website, but don't go over the top as the primary purpose of your profile is to appeal to the humans on TripAdvisor.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to selling holidays it really is true. The photos of your business are likely the first thing that prospective travellers will look at, so this is your chance to make a great first impression. Travellers can add their own photos, so if you own a hotel or restaurant try to ensure that it is maintained to a good level throughout the year and that all rooms are decorate to a decent standard.
When you add photos make sure that they show you in the best possible light, try to get clear colourful photos on a bright sunny day. If there are people in the photos make sure they look like they're having fun. Take the opportunity to show off your facilities and equipment.
Photos are another indicator of trust, especially when they've been uploaded by a traveller, as this will show whether your words match the reality on the ground. The same principles apply to adding videos. If you think a video will show your business in a good light, or show something that is hard to explain or show in a still photo then you should try to add a video.
Improving your ranking in TripAdvisor
Your success on TripAdvisor will be dominated by one major factor, how well you rank in their listings. There are several factors that will affect you ranking in their search, the key ones in order of importance are:
- Your review scores
- The quantity of reviews
- How recent the reviews are
There are other factors used in TripAdvisor algorithm which it doesn't disclose, but these are the ones that you can control and have the greatest effect.
In the same way as being on page one in Google means significantly more traffic to your website, being near the top of the rankings in your area will mean a big increase in interest from potential customers.
Unsurprisingly, it is your review scores that dominate your ranking, without good reviews you'll never rank well. So the first key point to take home is that you have to be making your customers happy, hopefully you are already so this shouldn't be a problem!
As you'd expect the number of reviews you have is important, even if you've got a perfect 5/5 rating if you only have 3 reviews then competitors with lower scores but hundreds of reviews will rak higher. This is because as the number of reviews increase, the variation in reviews shrinks meaning that the average score is more accurate.
All businesses change over time, as staff come and go. TripAdvisor recognises this and so more recent reviews are given a greater importance, this means that gaining newer positive reviews can go a long way to repair older negative reviews.
How to get better TripAdvisor reviews
As TripAdvisor uses information written by the public, the first thing you need to address is to encourage people to leave positive feedback about you on the site. Asking for reviews is simple enough, you just need to make sure you do it for every traveller unless they have been difficult or complained a lot.
It's important not to concentrate solely on TripAdvisor, make sure you get reviews on other important websites. Google reviews are very useful as anyone searching for you will see them, and they affect your search engine rankings, many of the tips here are just as effective for reviews on other sites.
You shouldn't underestimate the importance of likeability, when you are in contact with your customers, especially when you're in their presence, you want to show them you are a kind, caring person and that you want to ensure they enjoy their trip. I'd expect that most people are already doing this when things are going well, but it's even more important when things go wrong.
If something goes wrong listen carefully to your customers, reassure them that you are trying to fix things, tell them specifically what you are doing – don't dismiss them with an “it's being fixed”. If you anticipate a problem, try to warn people in advance so they have a chance to work around it and that it's not an unpleasant surprise.
By showing that you care about your customers whether things are going well or horribly, and by being good company you dramatically increase your chances of them leaving a positive review even when something bad does happen.
Make sure you ask your travellers for reviews
You can always expect some people to leave reviews, but the majority of your travellers won't think about it. This is why it's important to remind and encourage them to leave reviews, most people will be happy to help if they've enjoyed their time with you. One thing that is important to remember is nearly all reviews sites prohibit you from offering any incentives to leave reviews. Make sure you break any T&Cs when asking for reviews or you could be penalised.
The key aspect to getting more reviews is by making it as easy as possible for users to leave a review, the less they have to do the more likely they are to leave a review. The best way to ask for a review is to drop them an email a few days after they've returned from their trip, give them a chance to recover but don't leave it too long.
While you could just ask for a review straight out, it always makes a better impression if your email doesn’t push too hard for a review. One great idea is to try and get photos of your travellers while they are with you, this gives you a great excuse to email them. If you're sending someone a memento of their tour you're giving them something valuable and it will reflect well on you.
Even if you don't have a photo , you could still start your email by welcoming them home, if you have something personal to their trip then mention that to show it's not just a bulk email. Then at the end of the email ask for a review and explain that it's important to you.
Be sure to provide a link to your profile on TripAdvisor (or any other site you want a review on) so that they can click on the link and will be able to leave a review straight away, this will really help increase the number of reviews you get.
How to respond to TripAdvisor reviews
There's little more telling about your attitude and approach to your business than how you deal with your customers, and your responses to reviews is the clearest indicator of this on TripAdvisor. If you respond well to reviews you can turn a bad review around and come off in a positive light, handle one badly though and you'll drive customers away.
Any travel business on TripAdvisor can get some nice staged photos and write some flowery prose about how great that are, but the reason why travellers visit sites like TripAdvisor is to cut through the BS and find out what you're really like from your previous customers. The reviews are what will seal your success or failure on a site like TripAdvisor.
Hopefully you'll receive mostly positive reviews, in fact most reviews on Tripadvisor (over 70%) are 4 or 5 out of five, so as long as you do a good job you should score well. That doesn't mean you should be complacent as you still need to do better than your competitors to get ranked near the top.
It is, however, a sad fact that nearly every business will get some negative reviews over their lifetime. We've all been on tours with that one person who complains that things aren't perfect, or next to someone in a restaurant who's had a bad day and is determined to take it out on the staff. People know this and they won't let the occasional bad review stop them from booking with you, especially if the review is just a crazed rant.
There's a lot of methods you can use to show that you care about your customers and want to ensure that all your customers have a great experience. The most important one is sincerity, and this is hard to fake, hopefully though you do genuinely care about your customers.
You should always respond to bad reviews (more on that later) but it's also worth responding to positive reviews as well. Even if you just thank some for their kind words if they left a glowing review. There's no need to respond to every review but a scattering of responses show that you are keeping track of your reviews and that you care about what people are saying.
If you remember something about the traveller who left a review (perhaps where they were going next), or they mention something specific in their review try to mention that in your response to show that you think of your customers as people, or even friends.
Here's a quick list of dos and don'ts, it's all fairly obvious but do take the time your double check your response before you post it.
- Use your response as a way to show that you do genuinely care about your customers.
- Use a personal tone, potential customers want to buy from a person not a corporation.
- Don't use meaningless, generic or corporate responses, it will like like you don't care.
- Don't use identical responses, if you post the same response to most reviews people will see that as being lazy and not caring – it will likely do more harm than good. In you response try to make reference to a point in the original review.
- Keep it short, unless it's a response to bad review where you need to explain a little more detail but even then keep it as concise as possible.
- Don't try and sell anything, you're responding to someone's view of your business nothing more.
- Some reviews will be rated helpful by travellers and these reviews are likely to be shown at the top of the reviews section. You should make sure you have at least one response to a top review so that potential customers can see that you actively engage, listen and care about your customers.
- Write your responses in Word first so that you can spell check it, bad spelling and grammar will leave a bad impression.
How to handle bad reviews on TripAdvisor
If you take one thing from this article, let it be this; don't respond to a bad review when you're angry. Let it wait a few hours or until the next, so long as you calm and thinking straight when you write your review.
Here are a few points you should ensure every response to a bad review cover:
- Be polite, don't be aggressive and don't attack the person who left the review. Even if they've insulted you or the business you've spent years building up don't make your response personally against the reviewer.
- Apologise, there's no point trying to shift the blame or be defensive it will make you look bad.
- Address the specific issues raised in the response. If the review mentioned something bad that happened to them address that specific issue, say how you tried to resolve it. If it was a freak occurrence then say so.
- Explain what you have done since the review to prevent it from happening again to future customers. Showing that you are listening to what your customers say and taking action to ensure that future customers are delighted is key to stemming the damage caused by a bad review.
- Remember who the response is for – your potential clients – not the reviewer. Don't try to tell the reviewer they are wrong, show that you care about what happened so potential customers can see how much you care.
- Anyone who reads your review is going to be much more sensitive towards your attitude in the response. So make sure that you get the right tone, if you're in doubt check with someone else what the think of your response before you post it.
There's nothing worse than getting a bad review from a traveller when they never said anything to you while they were with you, meaning that you never got the chance to fix it before it. If you, or your staff, see your customers while they're with you try to take the time to ask about how they're finding it and if there's anything you can do. Being proactive can mean the difference between a happy customer and one whose simmering resentment leads to a bad review.
How tour companies can use TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor, at the moment, doesn't allow profiles for companies offering multi-day and multi-destination tours. However it's still used by travellers to find out about tour companies, I recently used it myself while trying to find a tour company to use in Iran. Here's how you can take advantage of TripAdvisor.
If you do offer single day tours then you will be able to set up a profile, and you'll be able to list the tours in the destinations where you operate the tour. Whilst you can't directly list your longer tours you can certainly mention them in your tour single day tour descriptions to encourage customers to find out more. And of course a link to your website is going to help.
This doesn't leave you with any direct ways to advertise on TripAdvisor, however a significant portion of the activity on TripAdvisor goes on on the forums. And this is where I decided which tour company to use for my recent trip, so I'll explain the process I used to reach my decision so you can see how you can be a part of this.
The first thing I did was to Google 'tours in Iran', along with the various tour companies who came up at the top of the search results was a discussion on a trip Advisor forum. I looked at this to see what people were saying about the various companies. Especially when it comes to booking tours from companies abroad where there aren't so many consumer protections or you just know much less about, trust is the main deciding factor when it comes to choosing a tour company.
I looked at the various tour companies that were suggested in the thread, and what people said about them. This is your first opportunity to be involved, keep an eye on the forums for your country(s) of operation and if someone asks about tours or tour companies then reply with some helpful information.
I can't overstate the importance of providing helpful information, if you just give them some sales speak or try to push your tours on them it will repel most people. For example if a user posts that they would like to visit a country and have list of sights they'd like to see, then provide information about their idea, perhaps they've not allowed enough time or have missed out a hidden gem.
Once you've addressed their questions directly you could finish by saying that you offer a tour that covers there areas they're thinking of visiting and perhaps they might ant to take a look at it for ideas and rough idea of timescales and distances.
If someone asks for tour company recommendations, then by all means put yourself forward but be up front about the fact you are the tour company, don't pretend to be a fake client. The first thing I did when checking recommendations on TripAdvisor was to look at that person's TripAdvisor history. I found some accounts keep pushing a specific company every time a question was asked, so I immediately disregarded anything that user said and each time it eroded my trust in the company that was being pushed. When it comes to talking directly to travellers on forums (and don't forget the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum) the key principle is to be helpful and to directly answer any question a user has. Whilst you'll want to suggest your tours make it more of an afterthought and make sure you are not pushy. As long as you are helpful, honest and friendly you should be able to really boost the reputation of your tour company.
Getting the most from TripAdvisor summary
Hopefully this article has provided you with plenty of food for thought. None of the advice is technical or particularly difficult to do. The key thing to remember is to make sure you provide a great service to travellers, and that your interactions with them are pleasant and friendly. After that it's jut a case of setting aside a little time each week to encourage people to leave reviews and responding to reviews and the issues they may make you aware of.
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