In the world of global digitalisation, the rapid growth of OTAs and the powerful influence of social media have significantly impacted businesses in the travel industry—and hotels are no exception.
Unlike most online consumers, travel planners don’t have the opportunity to test out your hotel before making a purchasing decision. And with the internet providing the chance for guests to share feedback in real-time, your online reputation becomes your most compelling marketing and sales tool.
Understanding the importance of your online reputation
According to Tripadvisor, a staggering 79% of participants chose a property with a higher rating when given two identical options. If that's not convincing enough, it’s been found that businesses with even just one negative article online could risk losing a quarter of their potential customers.
It’s true that you don’t have much control over what people online are saying about your hotel. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t steer the narrative. A positive online reputation can lead to increased visibility, new and repeat bookings, and a more consistent revenue stream.
Tips for strong online reputation management
Online Reputation Management, or ORM, is the strategy used to influence the narrative around your hotel’s services with the goal of curating a strong and positive one. Strategies include tracking review sites, replying to public reviews, collecting guest feedback, and using brand monitoring tools.
Though there are many ways to build out your online presence, here are the most vital methods that you should incorporate into your ORM strategy today:
1. Optimise for search
Most guests will begin their search for a hotel with Google or an alternative search engine. Your hotel’s content should be appearing among the first links in search results when users are looking for hotels in your area. Ranking high in search results allows your website more visibility and gives you more control over that first impression.
Make sure to abide by SEO best practices and always share high-quality content. It’s also a good idea to register your hotel website on Google Search Console (GSC) to monitor overall performance. Above all, ensure that the information you provide on your website is up to date. You should continuously be providing current and prospective guests with a positive user experience, accurate information about your hotel, and a seamless booking process.
2. Prioritise social listening
A key aspect of reputation management is being aware of what online users are saying about your hotel in real time. Thankfully, there are a number of social listening tools available that will allow you to find user-generated content about your hotel so you can respond right away. These tools make it easy to connect with your audience, share their content, and solve their problems.
Being able to access brand-new content in a timely manner shows your audience that you are active and up-to-date. It also gives you an opportunity to share positive content and give your hotel’s online reputation a social media boost. Take advantage of positive reviews and share them on your social media accounts. This encourages others to leave their own reviews and share information about your business on their accounts.
3. Monitor your social media
While your website is the most important aspect of your hotel’s online presence, your social media accounts are equally worth the attention. Over 50% of consumers follow a company on social media to learn about its offerings. And with the growth of social media users directly purchasing a product or service via mobile device, these channels deserve much more attention than ever before. Today’s customers expect you to be active. If no one monitors these channels or engages with their audience, users may lose trust in your brand.
Guests want to feel listened to and they expect someone to acknowledge and answer them online. Accounts that feature meaningful feedback and interesting content will undoubtedly foster a loyal and engaged audience; allowing hotels to build lasting relationships with past, present, and future guests.
4. Engage with your audience
Offering customers an easy point of contact on all of your online channels is a path to a stellar reputation. Something as simple as adding a live chat to your website is a great way to engage with potential guests and quickly address their concerns. Research has even shown that around 80% of businesses that offer live chat had a boost in sales and customer loyalty.
Outside of your hotel website, your social media presence is a main tool for building relationships and engaging with potential guests. Make sure your engagements are timely and offer personalised and meaningful responses. Authentic interactions and attention to detail will help you develop brand loyalty, which leads to return guests and consistent bookings.
5. Pay attention to Google reviews
For many travel planners, your listing on Google is one of the first places they look to find your hotel’s contact information, exact location, and most importantly: guest reviews. Visibility on Google Maps translates to more direct bookings, more reviews, and higher rankings in search results. Hoteliers should constantly be keeping an eye on their listing, make necessary changes to important information, and respond to reviews as they appear.
On average, 56% of actions on Google My Business (GMB) listings are direct website visits. This means that the reviews guests leave for your hotel on Google are instrumental in convincing users whether or not to visit your website and eventually convert. And, since potential guests are more likely to visit the business’ website via Google listing, they are also more likely to make their bookings directly instead of using an OTA.
6. Respond to every review
It’s no longer enough to simply maintain your profiles on the main travel review sites. Actively engaging with users who reviewed your hotel offers new opportunities to boost your online reputation.
As a best practice, your review replies should:
- Happen in a timely manner
- Use a thoughtful and professional tone
- Acknowledge that the review is being taken seriously
- Thank the guest for leaving a review
- Offer solutions to complaints with genuine apologies
- Make the guest feel that they are welcome to return
Responding not only allows you to address issues; it shows potential guests that your hotel truly cares about what customers have to say. In fact, TripAdvisor found that 65% of users would rather book a hotel that responds to reviews over one that doesn’t.
It’s important to keep in mind that while there may be nothing much you can do to change a guest’s experience, you can assure them that their experience has been heard and acknowledged.
7. Utilise ORM Technology
Reputation management tools make it easy to track your online reputation. On top of that, they give you an opportunity to assess the competitive landscape and, more importantly, address any negative feedback being shared about your hotel online.
True online reputation management cannot be fully automated. However, here are some useful tools to help you monitor your hotel’s reputation:
- Review response tools like Reputology monitor and respond to online reviews right from one dashboard.
- Review collectors like Swell reach out to your guests automatically with customisable invitations to leave a review on a platform of your choice.
- Social media management platforms like Buffer plan and post to all of your connected social media platforms from one dashboard.
- Keyword monitoring tools like Google Alerts provide emailed summaries of search activity around certain keywords.
- Listening tools like Mention helps track online discussions about your hotel that are happening online
With automated monitoring of listings and reviews, along with a consistent response strategy, your hotel can outpace the competition and bring in significantly more bookings.
81% of people refer to online reviews before booking a hotel. This is why it’s imperative to ask for feedback from your guests during or soon after their stay. A simple guest survey at checkout increases the likelihood that they will recommend your hotel to others because they feel like you value their opinion.
Surveys reveal valuable data and give you more insight into how your business can improve. They also offer tangible information for more strategic decision-making on the business as a whole. With data collected from surveys, you can learn more about the behaviour of your target market, improve overall service, and build relationships with guests to ensure they book again.
If asked, 70% of consumers are happy to leave a review for a business. But before asking for a guest review, it’s a good idea to start with a feedback survey to measure how satisfied your guests were with their stay. This allows you to receive honest feedback and gives your team the opportunity to address any issues before they leave a public online review. This can help you mitigate negative reviews before they happen and perhaps turn what would have been a bad review into a good one.
Ultimately, no matter how effective your online reputation management strategies may be, they cannot hide poor service. Your focus should be to provide a positive experience for your guests from the moment they step in the door. Offering a positive and memorable experience for guests at your hotel makes it much easier to then craft an online reputation to match.