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TripAdvisor Ranking Mystery Explained!

In a recent article published by Travel Tripper, Ben Hanley explains the nuts and bolts behind the TripAdvisor ranking. I believe businesses can learn from these great insights shared by Ben. In the following excerpts from the article, I have captured key takeaways on how TripAdvisor’s algorithm works and tips to help your business move higher through the listings to attract more customers.

Why should you be interested?

Today, 95% of people read a travel review before they book a trip, which means building a strong online reputation plays a fundamental part in attracting guests and driving bookings. Google, Facebook and Yelp all have significant influence in the online travel review space. But TripAdvisor still reigns supreme. With over 455 million average monthly unique visitors, it leads the way as the world’s most popular site for travel shoppers.

A recent study by Oxford Economics also found that TripAdvisor’s influence is growing. In the last decade, its users accounted for $545 billion (10.3%) of worldwide tourist spend, compared with 7% ($268 billion) in the previous decade.

How Does TripAdvisor Algorithm Work?

TripAdvisor’s Popularity Algorithm was changed back in 2016, and more recently in March 2018. The latest update was designed to provide a fairer and more consistent form of ranking that looks at “performance over time”. TripAdvisor hasn’t explicitly described how the algorithm has been tweaked, but indicates that a hotel that’s received consistently good ratings for a decade will outrank a business that’s gained excellent reviews over a few months, but been less popular before.

As a result of this algorithm update, some businseses have seen their ranking move up, while others have gone down. The current version of the algorithm is based on assessing three areas: quality, recency and quantity. Let’s look at how each of these work in more detail.


TripAdvisor has a bubble rating system from one-five, and every guest that submits a review can rate your business accordingly. These bubble ratings directly influence your quality score. As you might expect, more quality reviews mean an improvement in your overall ranking position.

Bubble ratings are especially important because they give potential guests an instant snapshot of your business. Your business can be judged in a glance, without a single word being read. According to TripAdvisor, 83% of travelers believe these ratings are significant when it comes to picking accommodation.

Recency Guests want to know what it’s like to experience your product or service today, not back in 2015. So to ensure users get the most up-to-date information, TripAdvisor places a greater weight on properties with more recent reviews than those with older ones.

It goes without saying that your business needs to provide an accurate representation of the experience you offer. This is especially true if you’ve recently upgraded your facilities or amenities. If your newest reviews are months old, your current TripAdvisor presence might not be doing you justice.

Quantity The typical TripAdvisor user reads multiple reviews when they’re looking at a product or service. If your business has a high volume of consistent feedback, potential guests are likely to feel more confident. Even if your establishment has a 5-bubble rating, customer confidence will be greatly reduced if this is based on the input of just a handful of people.

However, having more reviews than a rival doesn’t guarantee you’ll rank higher. TripAdvisor only requires that a business has “enough reviews to provide statistical significance”. TripAdvisor doesn’t explicitly reveal what this figure is, but states that once a business has reached a “critical mass of reviews”, it can better predict where a business should rank.

Tips on what you can do!

Improve your guest experience. To help with this, start sifting through feedback on TripAdvisor and look for trends. Are there recurring problems or points of dissatisfaction that a significant number of guests keep raising? You might not have the budget and resources to fix everything, so focus on the issues that are within your control and likely to have the biggest impact on your guest experience.

Be sure to announce any improvements you make via social media, email and newsletters. This will give your reputation a real boost by demonstrating that you value your guests opinions and take action when needed.

Continually attract quality, up-to-date reviews that give guests confidence to book. There are plenty of ways to do this. For instance, it’s easy to politely ask guests to leave feedback. You could also print out TripAdvisor’s reminder cards and flyers and leave them around as a visual cue.

A few days after, send your guests a post-stay email that thanks them for their custom and prompts them to leave a review. Insert a TripAdvisor link in the body of your email to remove any extra hassle. Review Express is another handy TripAdvisor tool that can help you better manage feedback.

Keep your profile updated. Reviews and expectations are closely linked. If a guest finds the actual experience doesn’t match your online reputation, there’s a fair chance they’ll be disgruntled enough to post negative feedback. That’s why it’s vital to keep your TripAdvisor profile up-to-date. Make sure you accurately list your amenities, check your contact details are correct, and ensure your property page includes plenty of recent photos. Having recent images is especially crucial if you’ve carried out a recent refurb or made changes that alter the experience you offer.

Manage negative feedback. Negative reviews are inevitable. No matter how hard you work at creating the best possible experience, there will always be complaints. The only thing you can do in these situations is to manage negative feedback in the right way. Responding to reviews doesn’t have any direct bearing on your Popularity Ranking, but it can help your reputation in the eyes of your audience. According to TripAdvisor, 85% of their users agree that a thoughtful response to a negative review will improve their impression of the establishment.

Be sure to thank the guest for their comments, and sympathise with the fact their expectations weren’t met (regardless of blame, it’s important to show you care about their experience). If their complaint is genuinely legitimate, aim to resolve their issue, but do it offline — the last thing you want is a heated conversation in a public setting.

About Ben Hanley

Ben brings over two decades of digital obsession to his role as the Director of Digital Marketing at Travel Tripper. He is an expert at search marketing and remarketing.

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