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Follow the Stars: Guest Reviews and Online Reputation Management

Published: Aug 16, 2011

Reputation Management: Where, what and how are people talking about your business

Why should I stay at this hotel and not the one next door? A question most shoppers ask themselves before staying somewhere they haven’t seen or heard of before. The point of reference most customers trust is a review or the new word of mouth in a global industry, which enables customers to become more emotionally comfortable with a decision. The act of managing this feedback is a popular term nowadays also known as online reputation management (ORM). This term does not only mean answering bad reviews with a manager’s response on TripAdvisor or Google Places. Reputation management means interacting, responding to, learning from, and implementing ideas and improvements based on customer feedback. The good news is that feedback is everywhere.

Responding to reviews, creating conversation with customers, understanding the underlying issues, and devising possible solutions
The importance of managing online reputation will be directly related to two different potential benefits:

  1. SEO InfluenceThe exact algorithm for reviews is not completely clear, but the correlation between a higher number of reviews and higher relevance (sometimes ranking) on search engines is apparent in any search query yielding a local result, not to mention fresh content being crawled by robots. See below for the term “hotels in san Francisco ca”.Guest Review SEO Influence

    Therefore, it would make sense to incorporate avenues (comment cards, follow up emails, etc) for customers to share their experience, which can help increase the hotel’s online reviews and become a more credible source for both customers and search engines.

  2. Conversion & Purchasing InfluenceThe second benefit is the relationship between top level results in a query and the likelihood of a user would click on those. If your property continuously encourages customers to leave reviews and the reviews received are showing your business in a good light, then it is likely that you will rank higher on review results. See the logical equation below for Tripadvisor:

    Total reviews + Quality of Reviews = Better Tripadvisor Ranking (simple version as there are other factors involved)

    Better Tripadvisor Ranking + Management Responses = Higher Trust (good reviews) and therefore Higher Revenue (good reviews at the top of the result page)TripAdvisor High Ranking

Respond to reviews, connect with customers, connect with staff
Reputation management is about taking time to browse through review sites, such as OTAs and TripAdvisor, to ensure the property is staying up to date in terms of customer expectations (keep in mind there are many review channels and some might be more influential than others). Sounds daunting and time consuming? Well, not so much. Software tools are available to bring all information into one place, an example would be eBuzz Connect, Milestone’s state of the art online reputation management tool that aggregates data from reviews and social media channels and provides easy-to-read dashboard reporting in a single integrated interface. Reputation management is important and with the right tools and a couple minutes a week, a clear 360 understanding of how customers view your property can be achieved.

Conclusion and tips to make the process easier

Understanding that a bad review is a great opportunity is essential in ORM . Receiving reviews not only helps your property solicit honest feedback about your guests’ experience, it also gives you the chance to make it up to them if something went wrong. Responding to a negative review (or even positive) in a professional and welcoming manner demonstrates that you are willing to go above and beyond to make things right for your customers. Reputation management is about continuing to improve your business image in order to be recommended by online word of mouth.

Tips to take advantage of online Reputation Management in minutes a week (ORM)

  • Pick your Top 5 channels where reviews can be found (Expedia, Orbitz, Tripadvisor, etc.) and monitor new reviews and feedback.
  • Always respond publicly to negative reviews as this tells customers you are involved and care about their input.
  • Encourage customers to leave reviews by setting up a review module on your site or leaving a smart phone QR code that takes them to a review site.
  • Make sure to read through comments to make valuable improvements to your property.

Worthwhile challenge:

  • Sign up for a Tripadvisor Business Account with a direct link and tracking to your website.
  • Check ranking before encouraging reviews.
  • Establish a 3-6 month timeline to consistently work on acquiring good new reviews.
  • Benchmark revenue from the channel.
  • After 3 months, if good reviews have come in, check ranking and compare against revenue generated in the past.

Sources:
www.tripadvisor.in/help/how_does_the_popularity_index_work (for more on Popularity Index)
www.outoftheboxonline.com/the-importance-of-reviews-to-local-search

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Contributed by: Alan Roth, eStrategist, Milestone Internet Marketing

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