The way people plan their next day out with family and friends has changed.
For visitor attractions, it used to be all about brand awareness. Those who had the best presence in newspapers, on the radio and across billboards had the upper hand. They'd be front-of-mind, and that was important when people came to plan their leisure activities. But the Internet has changed all that.
From asking friends for recommendations on Facebook to being influenced by celebrities on Instagram, the opinions of others are now the most important consideration when planning a day out.
TripAdvisor is the primary site for curating visitor opinions, and as a search engine for days out, it’s a big deal for your attraction.Just as with traditional search engines like Google, part of your digital marketing strategy should be to climb the rankings and get in front of as many people as possible.
The good news is that, unlike Google's somewhat mysterious search algorithms, TripAdvisor is a little more public about what influences your positioning in their search results. It boils down to three key areas:
First things first, if you're going to be driving more traffic to your TripAdvisor page, you'd better make sure it's in tip-top shape! If you haven't already, you'll need to claim your listing in order to do this.
You'll want to make sure you have:
These are such simple steps, but you'd be surprised at how often they're neglected, even by some large attractions. Spend just an hour or two perfecting your profile, and you'll be starting to set yourself apart from the competition already.
It might seem obvious, but if you want visitors to leave a TripAdvisor review, there's no better way than to go ahead and ask them.
Not only will this quickly increase the frequency and total number of reviews, but if you ask in the right way, you can guarantee that it'll increase your ratings too!
By leveraging technology, you can automatically target happy visitors when asking for reviews — a technique called contextual targeting. You can also use this technique to collect valuable feedback from those who are unhappy, giving you an opportunity to act before you hear about it on TripAdvisor.
Contextual targeting works offline, too. If you run a hotel, for example, you could train your staff to ask guests if they had a good stay when they check out, and if they did, request that they leave a TripAdvisor review. Some venues even hand out business cards with TripAdvisor information on to remind visitors to log on and write a review.
If one thing is going to increase your online TripAdvisor ratings more than anything else, it's going to be taking offline action to improve your attraction.
To do this, you'll need to start by having a system for collating negative feedback and sorting it into meaningful categories. Example categories could be cleanliness, staff, ride availability, weather, etc.
A simple spreadsheet is all you need to get started, and you should quickly begin to identify some common themes and some clear areas for improvement.
There are some things you might think you have no control over, such as the weather, but try to think outside the box. If the weather is something that's regularly causing visitors to be unhappy, perhaps you need to develop some indoor attractions. That's not going to make the problem go away quickly of course, but in the interim maybe you could offer a rainy day guarantee to guests.
Your job is to look for solutions to each and every issue category. Here are some examples:
Issue: Inaccurate wait times
Solution: Automated wait time monitoring
Issue: Staff service
Solution: Improved staff training
Issue: Lack of cleanliness
Solution: Increased cleaning investment
Issue: Bad weather
Solution: Rainy day guarantee
Issue: Expensive food
Solution: Improved food quality
One thing's for sure — you'll need to involve other teams across the business in order to rectify all of your top complaints.
Making meaningful changes to address your top complaint categories will have a huge impact on visitor satisfaction, but you could argue that collecting this information from TripAdvisor is too late. You should also think about how you can understand these problems as they develop and rescue a guest's day before they go on to complain.
Remarkably, less than 4 percent of businesses respond to negative reviews on TripAdvisor, making it a majorly underutilised tool in being proactive about customer satisfaction.
TripAdvisor's own research shows that 85% of users say a thoughtful response to a bad review will improve their impression, with 65% saying it makes them more likely to book than if there was no response.
Not only that, but implementing a policy of responding to every review also enforces the habit of reading every review.One thing to avoid is a canned response. People can see right through these and they can come across as disingenuous. On the other hand, taking the time to write out a response that picks up on specific details of the review will present you as thoughtful and caring.
As a final note, it is possible to get reviews removed if they violate TripAdvisor’s review guidelines. This can be useful if inflammatory content has been posted; however, it should be used sparingly and not be an excuse to "paper over the cracks".
Behavioural studies have actually shown that highly rated but imperfect reviews have a better impact than completely perfect ones.
There's an old proverb that goes: "it takes a village to raise a child", and that applies here. You'll be much more likely to succeed in improving your TripAdvisor ranking if the whole team is on board with your plans.
Clearly communicate your vision for becoming #1 on TripAdvisor and set targets related to the three drivers of ranking — rating, frequency and number. Everyone can make a difference and you'll need all departments on board in order to quickly resolve any issues that come to light through reviews.
Getting your visitor attraction to #1 on TripAdvisor isn't an overnight task: it will require a plan and involve a team effort to get there. But, if you're reading this, you're already on the right track!