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Q&A: Climbing TripAdvisor’s rankings, Part 2

By Daniel Edward Craig

In Part 2 of our Q&A series from ReviewPro’s popular Climbing TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index webinar, host Daniel Edward Craig answers more questions sent in by hoteliers eager to climb TripAdvisor’s rankings

Do management responses have any impact on rankings?
As discussed in Part 1, TripAdvisor discloses only the three key ingredients to the algorithm: the quality, recency and quantity of reviews. However, TripAdvisor has stated in the past that management responses have no impact on rankings.

Then why respond to reviews? Management responses might not affect rankings, but they do affect traveler perceptions. In a 2012 PhoCusWright survey commissioned by TripAdvisor, 57% of respondents agreed that seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally “makes me more likely to book it (versus a comparable hotel that didn’t respond to travelers).”

How often is the Popularity Index calculated?
“At least weekly,” said Payea.

Sometimes we receive a rating of 5 out of 5 in all categories in a review but our overall rating is only 4. How can that be?
As per the image below, when travelers write a review on TripAdvisor they are first asked to rate the property overall, and then they have the option to rate it by department or attribute such as Service, Value, Cleanliness, etc. A traveler can therefore rate all departments 5 out of 5 but the overall experience 4 out of 5.


Does the text in reviews play a part in algorithm?
Payea didn’t confirm or deny this, but said, “I wouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about things like review sentiment, words, number of words. Focus on ratings, recency and quality. Make sure you have a stream of recent positive reviews.”

Of course, understanding sentiment in reviews is essential for hoteliers to guide improvements, expenditures and recognition programs. ReviewPro provides sentiment analysis in multiple languages for TripAdvisor and all major review sites. Click here for more information.

What is TripAdvisor doing to combat review fraud?
Content integrity is TripAdvisor’s top priority, said Payea. “We know that traveler trust is the cornerstone of our business so we work hard to ensure that we maintain that trust.” He cited PhoCusWright research that found that 98% of travelers said that their experience matched expectations after doing research on TripAdvisor. “This tells us the system is working,” he said.

Payea said TripAdvisor has an aggressive program to maintain content integrity that consists of three main areas. First, he said, “Our community. You can help us. Point out when you believe a review should be removed. If you want us to investigate a competitor, let us know through the Management Center.”

Second, he said, “We have a team of investigators to look into reviews closely when called to our attention.” And third, TripAdvisor has “industry-leading technology that systematically looks through any new content.”

He warned that there are penalties for fraudulent activity, also called “boosting”. This may include a traveler alert about suspicious content posted to the hotel’s listing. Click here for more information about boosting.

How do I dispute a review on TripAdvisor?
Reviews can be disputed by completing a form in the “Manage your reviews” section of TripAdvisor’s Management Center.

What criteria does TripAdvisor use to decide whether or not to remove a disputed review?
Said Payea, “It all comes down to whether it is in keeping with our guidelines. It must be a travel-related review of property. It can’t be from neighbor who doesn’t like the noise or the trash collection.”

But, he added, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be [from] someone who stayed there. If someone had a travel-related experience on the phone and didn’t like the reservations agent’s discussion, then the review is valid. We would also allow it if someone walked in to the lobby and didn’t stay because they had a negative experience. Or if the hotel was overbooked.”

However, he said, people “can’t review aspects they didn’t experience. If you believe someone has written review outside the guidelines, about things they could not have experienced, dispute it and provide as much info as possible to the investigators.”

Keep in mind, however, that TripAdvisor often declines to remove disputed reviews on the basis that travelers are entitled to their opinion. If you don’t agree, post a management response to respectfully provide your side of the story.

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What are the conditions for having all previous reviews erased?
Said Payea, “The conditions for starting fresh or removing old reviews are: a change in ownership, a change in brand, or a substantial renovation.” He cautioned that submitting a request based on a renovation is “a pretty high bar. You must provide a lot of documentation to substantiate that the guest experience has entirely changed.”

He added, “One condition that does not qualify is a change in management. So if ownership and brand are the same but new management comes in, it does not qualify.”

If you missed it, check out Part 1 of the Q&A series. Click here to view the webinar on demand.

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