Almost every hotel, bed-and-breakfast, or resort needs some level of hotel reputation management. The statistics for hoteliers are staggering. According to Expedia, roughly 70% of Americans begin planning their bookings by searching on the Internet. Of those folks, 81% say they always or frequently read reviews before booking a hotel, bed-and-breakfast, or resort, according to Hotel Business. These can take many forms, from checking how many “stars” a hotel has through a booking website, to Googling the name of the establishment to see what other customers have to say about it.
Here is where it gets interesting. These ratings and reviews have a profound impact, as 79% of consumers are more likely to reserve a room in a hotel with a higher rating according to SiteMinder. The rating of hotels also has a significant impact on what people pay, with Travel Pulse noting that hotels with 4.4-star ratings (out of 5) can typically charge 35% more in those with 3.9-star ratings.
The scary part for hoteliers is that they have no way of tracking the lost revenue from poor online reviews. Is a single negative review showing up in the wrong place costing them hundreds of dollars per month? Thousands of dollars per month? There is really no way for hoteliers to determine the actual cost. What can be said with certainty is that negative reviews and low ratings can each significantly impact the bottom line for hotels, B&Bs, and resorts. Online reputation management for hotels is vital.
What is Hotel Reputation Management?
There are two key components to online reputation management for hotels and resorts. The first is ratings, which is typically given a number system, such as five-star Google ratings or Airbnb ratings. The second or the actual written reviews which may appear in rating systems like this, or on other websites, most challengingly in sites such as ripoffreport.com or pissedconsumer.com.
Why Might I Need Online Reputation Management for Hotels?
Obviously, with a number-based system, the goal is to get as many positive ratings as possible and his few negative ratings as possible. The same holds true for written reviews within the rating systems. The reality, however, is that even the best hotels and resorts are likely to get negative ratings from time to time.
Rating sites: management strategies
It is impossible to make everyone happy all the time. As a result, it is Impossible for a B&B or hotel with lots of reviews not to have a few negative comments or ratings. The key is to offset the negative ratings and reviews with positive ones. From a ratings perspective this is easy. You simply need to make sure that you are asking for as many positive reviews as possible.
This should not be an ad hoc solution. Your staff needs to implement intentional hotel reputation management processes to solicit ratings and to funnel them into the most important rating channels for your hotel. At the end of the day, 2 or 3 one-star ratings do not add up to very much when you have 200 or 300 five-star ratings.The best approach for effective hotel reputation management of negative reviews is to ask clients to message you at a specific email address, or to call you... Click To Tweet
Interaction is key
The trickier part is managing negative reviews within a rating system. The goal here is to change your online reputation by changing what gets the most exposure. Note two important and seemingly contradictory things. First, your potential clientele wants you to interact with people who make comments.
According to SiteMinder, 80% of people believe that hotels who respond to guest reviews care more about their customers. Therefore, you have an incentive to respond to all reviews, even negative reviews. Second, note that when you respond to comments you increase the likelihood of them being properly displayed on review sites, even negative reviews. Rating sites often supply the most prominent placement to both some of the most popular reviews and some of the most recent reviews.
The review balancing reality – not an act
So how do you balance this when trying to effectively manage your hotel’s reputation online? First, be sure to reply to any positive reasons that you think are worth pushing towards the top. Thank your clientele and invite them to come to see you again. See if you can get them to reply to push the comment higher. Most hotel searchers read between six and twelve reviews, according to SiteMinder. So, if the first dozen reviews on a rating site are positive, most researchers will never discover any negative reviews.
Second, keep the negative reviews in a box. Those reviews which are negative on the one hand need to be responded to (from the perspective of those examining the reviews and wanting to see you as responsive) but on the other hand, need to be isolated (as replying runs the risk of increasing the exposure of the review). The best approach for effective hotel reputation management of negative reviews is to ask clients to message you at a specific email address, or to call you at a specific phone number so that you can solve the problem. That’s it.
Do not do any follow-up commentary after that. It is important to note that your goal here should not be to “set the record straight.” If you can satisfactorily resolve the issue with the customer, then please ask them to update the review with how you were able to resolve it and with their improved satisfaction levels. That is a win-win. If not, allow the review to die a quiet, and hopefully lonely death on the rating site.
Negative commentary on websites and in the Google search engine results
Negative results in the commentary on websites and message boards can be even more damaging to your online reputation, and significantly harder to address. Depending on the statistical source, between 6% and 12% of Google searchers move past page one to page 2. Typically, the goal of online hotel reputation management is to push any negative results to position 11 or higher. This way, most Internet searchers never discover the review.
Doing this, however, can be a daunting task for most hoteliers. It typically requires at least 10 Internet properties, counting websites. It sometimes includes social media platforms (such as Facebook and LinkedIn), to fill the first page with positive commentary. Few hotels, B&Bs, and resorts have control of that many online properties. Thus, most hotel reputation management campaigns almost certainly involve significant web development.
That is far from the end of the story, however. Pages on these websites must be optimized for each keyword that shows up in the negative commentary on Google search engine results. That requires significant content creation and quality search engine optimization (SEO) skills. While branded keywords tend not to be terribly competitive, many review sites can be difficult to unseat without significant SEO.
Who can do the work?
Few businesses, especially small businesses such as B&Bs or small hotels, have the skills to be strong web developers, content creators, and search engine optimization experts. The task is daunting. Unless you are very experienced with the process, progress can be glacially slow. Most folks looking to do any real hotel reputation management are better off outsourcing their project. It is more efficient to ask a proven reputation management agency to handle the task.
That is where we can help. Rep management is our “middle name,” and just one of several areas of digital marketing expertise. If your hotel, B&B, or resort needs a comprehensive plan to make a few bad apples disappear from Google searches, or you are looking for a fresh start online, we would love to help you. Have That! Company help you develop a reputation management strategy. For a free consultation about local reputation management, or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please contact us at (800) 255-0396.