TripAdvisor is one of the biggest travel websites in the world. It goes without saying that the site has a major impact on the hospitality industry.

For example, 67% of travelers check TripAdvisor a few times a month or more.
65% of travelers are more likely to book a hotel that has won a TripAdvisor award.
In other words, TripAdvisor is a channel you as a hotelier can’t afford to ignore.

TripAdvisor has its own ranking algorithm, the Popularity Index, which determines how hotels rank in comparison to other hotels in the same area.
In February 2016, the Popularity Index was updated for hotel listings.

In this article, we’ll look at those changes and how they affect your hotel listing.

How does the new Popularity Index work?

The higher ranked a hotel is, the more travelers see it.
Naturally, you want your hotel to rank as high as possible in the search results.

Before, hotels with a few reviews could quickly climb in rankings if they received good reviews in a short period of time.

This meant that some hotels were ranked much higher than hotels with more reviews over a long period of time. In other words, hotels with a better long-term track record didn’t rank as high as hotels with a short term track record.

TripAdvisor’s goal is to get the best hotels to rank higher. This ensures that travelers are happy and keep on using TripAdvisor when they book hotels.

Subsequently, TripAdvisor’s algorithm update was aimed to crack down on this glitch in the system.

That’s why TripAdvisor changed its algorithm to prioritize consistency. Now hotels that have performed better over a longer period of time are ranked higher in the search results.

The algorithm is based on three ranking factors. Namely:

  1. Quality of reviews: Obviously, positive reviews are important. However, it’s unclear what makes a positive review particularly qualitative.
  2. Quantity of reviews: The more reviews you have, the higher you rank.
  3. Age of reviews: Recent reviews are prioritized, and older reviews have less impact over time.

“Quantity” and “freshness” of reviews are pretty self-explanatory. On the other hand, “quality” is harder to define. Is it the star rating or the amount of text? Both? Or something else? Because it’s so hard to define, quantity and freshness are more important than before.

All three ranking factors work together, and this means that hotels with a weaker track record won’t outrank hotels with consistently good feedback.

tripadvisor-popularity-index-algorithm-update

Example of the first page results for Paris hotels – a high star rating doesn’t guarantee that you’ll rank higher. The amount of reviews and their age play a role.

How can you rank higher on TripAdvisor?

Now that you know how TripAdvisor’s algorithm works, the question is: how can you rank higher on the platform?

Let’s start with #1 – quality.

While we don’t know the exact criteria, we can generally conclude that the more positive reviews you have, the higher your hotel ranks.
In other words, the more five-star reviews you have with at least some amount of text and probably some positive statements, the better your hotel ranks.

So how do you get those positive reviews?

Unfortunately, you have something working against you: customers are generally more likely to share a bad experience compared to a good one.

On the other hand, that applies to all hotels, and there are ways to encourage visitors who are satisfied with their experience to share a review.

The most important part is to set guest expectations and fulfill those expectations.
Make sure the information on TripAdvisor is correct and up to date. Feature images that reflect what your hotel looks like in real life.
If you’ve set the right expectations, it won’t be hard to fulfill those expectations.

Great customer service and clean rooms go a long way.

Second, the more reviews you have, the higher you rank.

You need to encourage visitors to leave reviews. This doesn’t have to be very hard.

For example, place a welcome card or a flier in every room. With the card or flier, you can encourage guests to review their stay and include a QR code to your TripAdvisor listing.

Alternatively, you can send an email to thank you visitors for their stay and include a link to your TripAdvisor listing.

Just remember, all kinds of bribes are against TripAdvisor’s user policy. This includes asking for reviews with incentives.

This leads us to the third ranking factor: TripAdvisor now prioritizes newer reviews.

In other words, you need to keep on asking and encouraging visitors to leave reviews.

For seasonal hotels, this might pose a problem. After all, visitors leave reviews during the high season. But what happens the rest of the year?
In the worst case, your hotel is outranked by other hotels that are open the whole year.

To avoid this, you can ask your visitors to join your newsletter. During low or off-season, send out a newsletter and encourage them to leave a review.

Last but not least, there’s one more thing you need to keep in mind on TripAdvisor: Your own activity.

TripAdvisor doesn’t list this as a ranking factor. However, there are some things you need to know in terms of how you can improve your hotel’s ranking.

TripAdvisor wants its visitors to have a great experience on its platform. That’s why it monitors your activity on its site. Being active on the platform by responding to reviews can help boost rankings. (Read: How to Respond Properly to Online Hotel Reviews).

Why? Simple: if visitors see a friendly response to reviews by you or your staff, it’s much more likely that they will leave their own reviews. This, again, helps your hotel rank higher.

In Conclusion

With its algorithm change in February 2016, TripAdvisor aims to reward hotels that are consistently performing well. That’s why you need to ensure that your hotel gets positive and consistent reviews.

But don’t wait for visitors to take the initiative to leave a review. Chances are that they forget to do so, even if they enjoyed their stay.
Instead, encourage them to review their stay.

Just remember: TripAdvisor’s ranking factors work together. You need to ensure that your reviews fulfill all the criteria to see a change in how well your hotel ranks.

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