Important Updates to TripAdvisor’s Popularity Ranking Algorithm

TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking Algorithm Update - Reknown Travel MarketingBy Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

During my seminars in online reputation management to hospitality and travel businesses, participants often express frustration to me that their business is being outranked on TripAdvisor by a newly-opened business that raced to the top soon after opening its doors.

I’ve seen this time and again. Veteran, tried-and-true businesses that have worked hard to climb the ranks suddenly find themselves unseated by a newcomer that has shiny new facilities and services but has yet to prove itself over the long term.

In some cases, hotels that have earned thousands of 4- and 5-bubble reviews over numerous years have been unseated by a new hotel with only a handful of reviews.

Often the change is only temporary, but it makes business managers wonder exactly what ingredients go into TripAdvisor’s powerful and mysterious Popularity Ranking.

This week, TripAdvisor provided some clarity to the Popularity Ranking and announced changes to the algorithm that should put an end to the problem of “fast risers.” The changes are intended to ensure that new properties settle in to a stable, accurate ranking more quickly.

“We designed the enhanced Popularity Ranking algorithm to value the quantity and consistency of reviews more significantly than we have in the past,” TripAdvisor states. “Doing so helps stabilize the ranking for all businesses, reduces fast-riser behavior and creates a more accurate overall ranking for our travelers.”

The enhanced algorithm was rolled out for restaurants and attractions in January and for hotels between February and April of this year. If you noticed unusual shifts in rankings during this period, this could be why.

TripAdvisor also clarified several key areas related to the Popularity Ranking: 

  • The Popularity Ranking continues to be based on the quality, recency and quantity of traveler reviews. If competitors outrank your business even though you have a greater number of positive reviews, it may be because their reviews are more recent. Maintaining a steady volume of positive (4- and 5-bubble) reviews and outperforming your competitors in the quality, quantity and recency of reviews is critical to climbing the ranking.
  • Despite the importance of review volume, small properties often outrank larger properties that have hundreds or even thousands of reviews. I’ve often wondered if the algorithm takes into account the ratio of rooms to review volume. TripAdvisor doesn’t confirm this, and only states that “the personalized attention, service and care that small properties provide often results in more of their guests being willing to write reviews”, thus enabling smaller properties to compete with larger properties.
  • A common misconception is that responding to reviews can help your ranking. In fact, TripAdvisor states that “Management Responses are not factored into Popularity Ranking.” However, there are many benefits to responding to reviews. Studies have shown that a thoughtful response to a negative review can change travelers’ impression of a hotel and increase their likelihood of booking.
  • TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking Sponsored Listing - Reknown Travel MarketingThe separation of “church and state” (paid content vs. reviews) still stands. The purchase of TripAdvisor products has no impact on Popularity Ranking. This includes Business Listings, meta-search, Instant Booking and partnerships with TheFork and Viator. You might notice that some hotels appear at the top of search results despite having a low ranking, but these listings are clearly listed as Sponsored.
  • The Popularity Ranking is recalculated daily based on reviews received that day.

Be sure to read the latest update from TripAdvisor, which provides critical insight into what it will take for your business to increase its ranking on TripAdvisor.

For more news about TripAdvisor, including an explanation of the new “Just For You” default sorting filter, check out my interview with Brian Payea, Head of Industry Relations


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8 Responses to “Important Updates to TripAdvisor’s Popularity Ranking Algorithm”

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  1. ‘Quantity’ of reviews surely unfairly favours larger properties?

    • Daniel Edward Craig says:

      Apparently, yes, Simon, in theory quantity should favor large properties. But in the past it hasn’t been uncommon for small properties to rank within the top ten and to outrank much larger properties. TripAdvisor doesn’t come out and say this, but I think there has been more at play than guests of small properties being more likely to write reviews. I suspect that the algorithm takes into account property size, or the ratio of the number of rooms to the number of reviews, but that’s speculation on my part. And this may be changing so that the algorithm favors larger properties. We’ll have to monitor and see …

  2. I was truly a TripAdvisor advocate but my frustration with TripAdvisor and faith is dropping faster than my rankings… this so called change in the ranking took one of my 6 properties down 40 spots. And do you think there was any communication from TripAdvisor, NONE! The reality is the change favors the larger properties.

    My concern is TripAdvisor still struggles greatly with basic good business practice, communication! Do as they say, not as we do! The communication from your TripAdvisor representative continues to be extremely poor. They make changes on your TripAdvisor listing page with little or no communication. They changed the phone number on our listing without a peep. They had Oyster come take pictures of the property and then change them on the listing, again with no warning.

    They have empowered the guests to create a wedge between expectations and price. Don’t expect TripAdvisor to help, expect a teflon explanation that the guest has followed the guidelines of posting on TripAdvisor.

    Since I invested a good deal of money in TripAdvisor stock I have a vested interest in the success of the company. TripAdvisor stock price is back to 2013 value, thats disappointing. They need more changes and the ranking was not one of them.

  3. Jeovanny says:

    I am a ORM and I monitor 6 hotels which hold a great reputation. I inquired TripAdvisor about a hotel in my area which competes with one of the hotels I work for, this hotel has less than 50 rooms and was ranked #1 for about 2weeks, it had 233 reviews and wasn’t receiving new reviews for more than 6 days and still kept the #1 even though my hotel received more than 90 new positive reviews during the same period of time, we were stock in the #3
    Their answer was: “we verified and everything is correct”
    I guess the algorithm they use have to be applied to properties that hold the similarities in terms of quantity of reviews and quality. It is not fear that a business with less than 300 hundred reviews can outrank one with more than 5 thousand.

  4. Hello on the 19th April 2017 we went from Number 1 (where we have been for nearly 5 years) to
    Number 8 and our sponsored listing was removed. We pay for the business listing and nobody will tell me when it will be reinstated. I emailed content integrity and they informed me our staff (there is only my husband and I) have sent our own review to TA to improve our
    listing !!!!!! after 30 emails back and forth they will give us no details of the review which was never posted and are sure we have violated their T & C s. What is worse they say if we do it again a red penalty notice will be posted on our site. If we do not know what we have done how can we not do it again. They use data protection to stop them having to show us the review which is ridiculous as they are saying we wrote it !!! Has any other business has this happen ????? it is so upsetting as we work very hard and have 400 excellent reviews and only four bedrooms.

    • Daniel Edward Craig says:

      Hi Alan, I can’t offer much advice without analyzing the situation, but from my work with other clients I know that TripAdvisor has a sophisticated content integrity system and does not implement penalties lightly; they have solid proof that the property has violated the terms of service and previous warnings have been issued. Clients have successfully had their ranking reinstated by following all of TripAdvisor’s recommendations and providing assurances that they are doing so. Once any suspicious activity ceases it can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for the penalty period to end. I hope that helps. Good luck!

      • Hi Daniel having spent may hours and emails also with the help of Sean Poulner of the Daily Mail and the threat of protesting outside their HQ in Soho Square they have now removed our penalty and put us up to Number 2 from Number 8. Trial by media seems to be the only way to stop the machine that powers through our businesses making horrible accusations with no actual data to back up their claims of fraud. Their worry with the media is businesses all over the country would recognize this scenario and realize what had happened to their
        ranking and why.
        Their algorithm does not take the human element into consideration.

        So its Man V Computer !!!!!!!!

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