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.
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 platform to tell you. Even if you receive some negative reviews, this can actually help your business.
Today’s customers 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.
A study by TripAdvisor said that 93% of travellers say reviews are important in their purchase decisions. Reviews build brand trust which is incredibly important in the tours and activities industry.
When it comes to adding reviews to your website, use an external system like TripAdvisor, Yelp!, Feefo, TrustPilot, or Google instead of creating your own system on your website. Why? 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. Remember what I said a few moments ago: people are cynical.
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.
So, with that in mind, which platform should you use?
Future proof your reviews with Google
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 Reserve with Google.
For those who don’t know, Google has been integrating directly with booking platforms and ‘schedulers’ to provide their customers with the ability to book directly in Google’s search results. This means that users can search for a tour or activity and book it without even clicking off the Google results page to visit the website!
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 Reserve with Google. For me, having an OTA integrated with Google in this way is bad news for suppliers.
Think about it for a second…
Google will eventually update Google Ads (formally Adwords) to allow suppliers to have sponsored listings that will be bookable 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 Reserve with Google 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 book 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 click through one or two pages on your website.
Reserve with Google is also ideal for small businesses based in great locations, as the ability to book on Google Maps means that they can compete on Maps in a way they perhaps can’t compete for the top ranking on Google Search.
Let’s say you sell Vatican Tours in Rome and you’re based incredibly close to the Vatican. When people look for tours on Google Maps, they are perhaps more likely to find your business than some of your biggest competitors. This could make the address of your business into a huge asset and reviews will have a massive impact on this.
Another benefit to Reserve with Google is that it may convert users better than your site if your site looks a little old-fashioned or if its design and UX is less appealing than your competitors’ websites. Everyone’s listing on Reserve with Google looks the same, so it puts all brands on an even playing field.
The last benefit I would like to discuss is that Reserve with Google is absolutely free at the moment, with no commission going to Google. This will probably 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 26 years’ experience working in brand development, design, and marketing, and he’s spent the last 13 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’. The advice in the article above has been adapted from Chris’s book. Check out lookersintobookers.com for more details and get a 20% discount on a copy of his book!
If you like, feel free to contact Chris at: