Visiting review platforms is part of planning a trip. In the 21st century, no one book a hotel room or a tour before reading about the past guests’ experience with the company.
Reviews are, hands down, one of the best ‘marketing tools’ you can use to encourage potential customers to select your business and purchase your products as it is the digital equivalent of word of mouth.
A study by TripAdvisor showed that traveler reviews remain a go-to source of information, with 72% of respondents always or frequently reading reviews before making a decision on places to stay and eat, or things to do.
When it comes to adding reviews to your website, use an external review platform like TripAdvisor, Yelp!, Feefo, TrustPilot, or Google instead of creating your own system on your website.
Why? Today’s customers are cynical. People put more value on reviews that are from an external source as they see custom-built review systems as less trustworthy as they are easier to manipulate.
Reviews also have a positive effect on your SEO. It is said that reviews can account for close to 10% of your search rankings so it is worth considering when choosing your review platform.
Some business owners I’ve spoken to are put off review systems because they don’t want to be rejected and deal with any negative reviews that will come in (and, believe me, you will get them as you simply can’t please everyone).
I sometimes suspect that this kind of business owner may subconsciously feel they are delivering a substandard product.
Deep down, you know you need to improve the customer experience and you don’t want those negative reviews popping up on search results. You may also just be a perfectionist, but I’d like to remind you that nothing is perfect and the pursuit of ‘perfection’ can often get in the way of a good, functioning website.
The only way you can be sure that you are delivering an experience that your customers love is to give them a review platform to tell you. Even if you receive some negative reviews, this can actually help your business.
Remember what I said a few moments ago: people are cynical; if they see a company with nothing but 5-star reviews they automatically think the reviews are false. But if you have a few moderate to negative reviews, and you have responded to these in a positive way, it helps show that you care about your customers’ feelings.
So, with that in mind, which review platform should you use?
I would usually recommend that businesses go where their target customers are. However, if I had to put my money on only one—the one that I consider ‘future proof’—then it would be Google.
I say this for many reasons. As I mentioned previously, Google reviews have a positive effect on your rankings and most of your customers will use it to some degree, as it’s the largest search engine in the world. Also remember that Google owns the second largest search engine: YouTube.
However, these are not the main reasons why I’m suggesting that Google should be your main review platform. The main reason is because of Google Things To Do.
For those who don’t know, Google has been working on a new way to display tours, activities and attractions on its search results pages. Now, when a traveler searches for things to do at a certain location, they will see a carousel or list of experiences.
This new way of displaying activities will help guests choose and book a tour. To complete the booking process they will be redirected to the supplier’s website.
Google’s 5-star rating system is used on Things To Do to help users with their choice. So, it is better to have Google as your main review platform if you want to increase your chances to receive a booking using this new feature.
In my opinion, these changes by Google will put the control back into the suppliers’ hands—the tour operators’ hands. It also means that the high commissions that some of the Online Travel Agents (OTAs) currently take from suppliers will be bypassed. Whether or not this is good news to you depends on how much, or how little, you currently rely on OTAs to sell your tours and activities.
Google’s big changes have caused panic in many OTAs; is it any surprise that the likes of TripAdvisor and Booking.com have been acquiring booking platforms? They are trying to make themselves as big and influential as possible—transforming themselves into comprehensive tourism hubs.
However, what I do find interesting, if a little strange, is that the likes of TripAdvisor Experiences will also be integrated into Google Things To Do. For me, having an OTA integrated with Google in this way is bad news for suppliers.
Google will eventually update Google Ads (formally Adwords) to allow suppliers to have sponsored listings that will be displayed on the search engine results page (SERP). For suppliers hooked up directly through the likes of Orioly, this is great news, but for those who rely on an OTA for most of their business, you are, in effect, paying twice: first for the cost-per-click for any Google Ads, then you’re paying the high commission to the OTA.
This, combined with operating costs and other outlays, means suppliers will be receiving even less revenue from the products they sell. This will almost certainly drive up prices for the end consumer, as this is the only way for suppliers to make enough to sustain their business.
Of course, that may not happen, but it is a strong possibility.
Ultimately, the benefits of using Google Things To Do totally depend on the nature of the product you’re selling, its location, and its price. It also depends on the quality of your website.
If you’re selling a tour or activity product that is already quite well known, then giving users the opportunity to find it on a Google search engine results page can be a great way to add another touch-point between you and your customer.
It can make it even easier for busy (or lazy…) customers to book your product without the added time required to compare the price between different providers and OTAs.
Google is one of the most popular review platforms out there. Asking for reviews for your business will be a no-brainer as everyone has a Google account and knows how to use it.
Another benefit to Google Things To Do is that direct bookings have a privileged position on the listing. They are labeled as “In-person tickets” and come on the top of the widget.
The last benefit I would like to discuss is that Google Things To Do is absolutely free at the moment, with no commission going to Google. This may change in the future, so we recommend taking advantage of it while it’s free.
This is why I suggest that your main review platform should be Google. If you have time to manage other platforms, TripAdvisor and Facebook are the other two I would suggest, but drive the bulk of your reviews through the largest search engine on the planet.
Chris has 29 years’ experience working in brand development, design, and marketing, and he’s spent the last 16 years running the Tourism Marketing Agency. Chris is responsible for researching travel and tourism trends and has also written the first, and only, tours and activity marketing book available today, titled ‘How to Turn your Online Lookers into Bookers’.
If you like, feel free to contact Chris at: firstname.lastname@example.org
on July 6, 2022
by Chris Torres
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