If your business organization is engaged in catering to travelers, then you probably care what TripAdvisor has to say about you.
Performance in the TripAdvisor arena is measured mainly by two very distinct metrics. The first metric is lead generation, and the second is your popularity score against other players within the same niche.
If you are a new business and you feel either discouraged or intimidated by the lucky business rating number one in popularity, then we want to pause for a moment and share with you a little insider information to give you some perspective and some encouragement that will help you put your best foot forward and prepare yourself to run with the big dogs.
We took a look at 20 different markets in 3 different segments serving tourism, and we identified patterns related to the way businesses rank in popularity rankings. We hope our findings help you draft a sound reputation management strategy as you begin planning for 2015.
Myth 1: TA Popularity Number 1 Ranking Has the Most Reviews
“He who has the most reviews wins.” It is quite easy to fall into the trap of believing that the number one business in terms of popularity, as ranked by TripAdvisor, is the business with the most reviews. That is not true.
Review volume does remain important when it comes to ranking as number one in popularity, but it is not the key determinant that will push your business up to the next position in rank. In fact, there are many businesses that have reviews in the thousands that never make it to the top ten or top twenty in the popularity ranking. If you are the new kid in town, do not be discouraged by review volume. Even as a newcomer, you still have a chance to make it to the top ten within one or two years of active review and reputation management engagement on your TripAdvisor profile. (See how Review Express by TripAdvisor can help you capture more reviews.)
Myth 2: Perfect Star Ratings Will Put You at the Top
There is merit in trying to manage your local business in a way that encourages your customers to write excellent reviews, but five-star reviews alone will not get you to the top. This is also important to keep in mind when your business encounters a one-off instance of a highly negative review.
A solo one-star review will not stand in the way of your business moving up in popularity rank. There is no denying that having great numeric scores will help you move up, but your ascent in popularity does not rest simply on getting five-star ratings, and that is great news for most businesses.
Myth 3: You Need to Pay for a Business Account to Move Up in Popularity
There is a rumor going on among hospitality businesses that it takes a business account to move up in the popularity rankings of TripAdvisor. In reviewing multiple markets, we identified that only 20 percent to 30 percent of the properties listed among the top 10 had paid business accounts active with TripAdvisor.
Myth 4: Only Large Businesses Make It to the Top
In auditing our sample, we identified a variety of brick and mortar, non-chain businesses ranking among the top ten for categories such as lodging, food and beverage, and amusement. In fact, many of the businesses we identified were entrepreneurial, single-location shops with less than five years in their respective markets.
So, What Does It Take to Make It to the Top?
By now you are probably curious and anxious to find out if you, too, can make it to the top with a little work and determination. Our answer to that question is a definite yes. Here are some of the common denominators we identified among the businesses ranking at the very top of popularity lists:
Constant Review Flow
Top performers in popularity lists have consistent patterns when it comes to review generation and acquisition. Instead of peaks and valleys or dry seasons where no reviews come in, they seem to find ways to manage TripAdvisor reviews, maintain their customers’ engagement, and receive a constant flow of positive and nearly perfect reviews.
Businesses at the top of popularity lists have online reviews that go beyond two sentences. Their reviewers are highly vested and convey their opinions at length. A good percentage of the reviews captured are descriptive and have received multiple votes for helpfulness.
Reviewed by Influencers
Those that make it to the top of popularity lists for their markets have a significant number of reviews written by TripAdvisor members with high engagement scores. In short, when it comes to your popularity rating, it appears that TA influencers do have an influence when it comes to moving you up in rank.
Getting the Basics Right
While high-star ratings and a large number of reviews won’t guarantee your position at the top of popularity lists, you do need to manage your online reputation against basic metrics. The top businesses in popularity ranking generally average between 4 to 4.5 stars.
Engage, Engage, Engage
Hands-on reputation management is a common characteristic across well-ranked businesses on TripAdvisor. It is entirely possible to make it to the top without ever having engaged with your reviewers, but we were able to identify a significant difference in engagement level among businesses at the top percentile in popularity ranking and those at the very bottom. Begin by taking over your profile and having a commitment to best practices when it comes to review responses and handling customer complaints.
Positioning yourself at the top of a popularity list sets the stage for increased lead generation and provides your business unit with lead-generation opportunities that can make a significant difference in the overall profitability of your business. Once you have identified what it takes to move to the top, all that is left to do is take action and make it happen.