By 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.
- The 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.