Google Touches Entire Traveler Life Cycle:
Google acquired Zagat in 2011 back in the years when Marissa Mayer was a part of Google. They were experimenting Hotel finder in same year, 2 years later they introduced instant booking, they also expanded Hotel Ads program in Sep 2015, last year in September Google trips (a travel planning app) came in to action. Therefore, there has been a long history and intent of Google becoming the one stop shop for travellers at all stages of buying cycle. Starting from the top of the funnel audience who research & get stimulated to plan a trip & then starts viewing venue options, compares hotel prices, reads hotel reviews, eventually books the venue & finally publishes a feedback in form of Reviews & Ratings.
Google Reviews & Local Business Listing:
Over 3.5 billion searches happen per day on Google so it has become an undisputed channel of opportunity for any business across all industries. If guests were searching on Google, it is more than likely they would find Google’s Review & Rating local pack of three just below paid results, both in mobile & in desktop. So efficiently managing Google hotel reviews should be a part of overall Hotel business strategy.
Top Challenges for Hotels in Earning Positive Reviews & Getting Organic visibility
- Less Control on user-generated content: Fake and irrelevant hotel reviews can potentially hurt any hotel business and Google as a review channel is notorious for that. Trump Hotel in Vancouver has hundreds of Google user reviews and ratings from people who never visited this property yet have shared their opinion on president Trump [read: some of these are hilarious.]
- You cannot buy reviews & relax: Google policy prohibits all businesses & hotels offering cash or services in return for a positive review.
- Guest Reviews cannot be Hotel policy: Review management is complex in nature and it cannot be a simple hotel policy like “Pets are not allowed in our hotel”. Any attempt to cut negative sentiments about your business online will attract more & can potentially back fire e.g. Union street guest house Hudson $500 ‘joke’ led to 3,000 bad reviews and is an interesting story to read; they were apparently testing guests with a policy of $500 fine for whoever puts a negative review.
- Getting SEO traffic from Google: Hotel Organic listing for all keywords that have local intent buried under paid results & local pack of three. This means either you pay ton of money to Google or at least show up in local listing to get SEO traffic because 75% ofusers never scroll past the first page of search results.
- Old & obsolete reviews persist: Negative or irrelevant hotel reviews are difficult to remove unless you get major renovation or you shutdown, so the only way to make them less effective is by having fresh positive reviews to take over.
Solutions to Gain Hotel’s local Ranking & Online Reviews:
- Get most out of Google Business listing:
Local Ranking on Google is dependent upon three factors shown in this Venn diagram:
- Relevance is all about Google’s ability to understand the user’s keyword intent and connecting & ranking an appropriate local business so a comprehensive profile of Google business is first step.
- Distance is Google’s ability to tie user’s location intent & serve venue results nearby and even if user has typed keywords that does not specify location then the current location becomes a prominent signal e.g. when I typed hotel nearby I get results of hotel 2-3 KM from my current location:And if you scroll down Google even shows the current location they considered for delivering the search results:
- Prominence is a key business’s local ranking factor & directly correlates to higher rating and positive reviews, and links because Google considers them as sign of trustworthiness.
2. Add Google Review Link on Hotel Website & monthly newsletter :
You have to cut the Friction in review submission process to increase the number of reviews. Create a call to action link to submit google review in your Hotel Website so that guests can easily access the review submission https://support.google.com/business/answer/7035772?hl=en. ; Check out how Radisson Hotel Baltimore Downtown- Inner Harbor hotel has used the above tactic across Google, TripAdvisor & Yelp.
3. Let Guests push Survey Response to Google:
Good portion of all hotel reviews come from their own guest satisfaction surveys. With guest survey, hotels can gain absolute insights of the customer pulse. A lot of these guests will push the survey response to Google review platform. Guest Survey tools that have ability to push survey response to Google review provide more control to hotels in terms whom they want to contact & in general reviews from survey response are more likely positive in nature. More positive reviews & higher ratings will improve ranking of Hotel’s google business listing. Therefore, if you are not leveraging survey as a medium to generate positive hotel reviews you are missing an opportunity.
4. Embrace ORM technologies:
Your ability to achieve the goal of happy guest experience while staying in your property is best encouragement for guests to write a genuine review. So adapt Online Reputation Management technology that can simplify your review & reputation management processes by tracking guest sentiments, reviews & survey responses and provide you an action plan to improve the overall guest experience at your hotel. Advance guest feedback platform like BrandGain have an option to publish reviews directly from the guest survey responses to Google & TripAdvisor enhancing your Hotel’s online visibility.