If you have a profile on Facebook or Instagram, the order in which you see updates from your friends, family, and the brands you follow, is decided by what’s known as an algorithm.
For the most part, your Facebook newsfeed will show you the most recent status updates – but the social platform often makes headlines when it changes the algorithm to display updates in a different way.
TripAdvisor has recently announced some changes to its ranking algorithm and the way it displays popular hotels – and it appears to be good news for hoteliers.
Here are 9 interesting things we learned about the new method for ranking popular hotels:
- Travellers and guests are sharing experiences faster than ever before
Back in 2006, there were six million reviews on the TripAdvisor website. Today that figure stands at more than 350 million – and travellers are adding 200 new reviews and photos to the website every minute.
- …and the record number of reviews resulted in ‘fast-risers’
There were instances of newly-listed hotels skyrocketing to the top of rankings after securing their first few 5-bubble reviews – also known as ‘fast-risers’. Eventually, as more travellers submit reviews, the rankings would level out. But of course that’s less than ideal because fast-risers would temporarily enjoy higher positions, and other hotels would appear lower than they would have otherwise.
- Hundreds of millions of reviews were analysed to fix it
When designing the change of algorithm, TripAdvisor analysed hundreds of millions of reviews covering the past 15 years. They researched how the rankings of properties were impacted over time. The result was an enhanced popularity ranking algorithm placing more emphasis on quantity and consistency, as TripAdvisor explains: “Doing so helps stabilise the ranking for all businesses, reduces fast-riser behaviour and creates a more accurate overall ranking for our travellers. We’ve tested the enhanced algorithm extensively – both internally and by analysing how travellers interacted with the site as we’ve gradually rolled it out.” For hotels, this change happened between February and April 2016.
- Ranking continues to be based on quality, recency, and quantity
TripAdvisor’s method for ranking properties continues to be based on quality, recency, and quantity. But how does the site define these?
If all other things between two properties are equal, then the one with the most 4- and 5-bubble ratings will rank higher than a business with lower bubble ratings.
TripAdvisor says that recent reviews are more valuable to travellers than older ones, therefore, more consideration is given to newer reviews.
Multiple reviews help travellers make a more balanced and informed decision. TripAdvisor says that a hotel doesn’t have to have more reviews than others – just enough for your guests to make a comparison that is statistically accurate and meaningful.
- You’ll be rewarded for your consistently good guest experience
The new algorithm does a better job of rewarding your great customer service – so the more you deliver outstanding guest experiences, the more you’ll benefit. As TripAdvisor explains: “A property that has many consistently good reviews will rank higher than one that has many reviews, some of which are good and some of which are poor, all other things being equal. That’s because we can have more confidence in our ranking if a large number of travellers are reporting consistent experiences at that property.”
- It’s all about your current guest experience
If you’re relying on those excellent reviews circa 2010, then sadly the new algorithm isn’t going to pay off for you and your hotel. Lots of recent reviews are more highly-valued by TripAdvisor because they give the site confidence in the current experience at the property. If your reviews predate most of your hotel’s staff, then work on getting some fresh reviews posted online.
- Smaller properties can compete with larger ones
TripAdvisor says that smaller properties can compete with larger ones. While the website found that smaller properties tend to have fewer reviews (due to fewer customers), the more personalised guest experience and service results in more guests willing to give feedback and write positive reviews.
- Management responses don’t count…
Replying to reviews and acknowledging both positive and negative feedback is crucial to building loyalty and future bookings. Management responses are not a consideration for the popularity ranking algorithm. However, TripAdvisor says responses still make a big impact on your prospective guests: “Our surveys show that 85% of travellers say that a thoughtful response to a review improves their impression of a hotel, and 65% are more likely to book a hotel that responds to reviews versus a comparable hotel that doesn’t.”
- Your commercial relationship with TripAdvisor doesn’t matter
If you have a commercial relationship with TripAdvisor – including hotels that use metasearch, Instant Booking, and business listings – it has no impact on your property’s ranking, which is re-calculated on a daily basis.