We’ve all used it and so have our family and friends, TripAdvisor is arguably the biggest behavioural influencer for potential customers for your pub. As such pub operators have to understand how it works and more importantly how to make it work for their business. Remember, everyone’s a critic, but now they can share their insights with virtual impunity, and whether accurate or fair, adverse TripAdvisor reviews can ruin a perfectly good pub’s reputation overnight.
TripAdvisor, if actively used to a pub’s advantage can form a vital part of any pub’s marketing plan, which, apart from the time one spends managing your pub’s online reputation costs nothing… always a bonus.
Active management of your pub’s TripAdvisor listing
As with all marketing activity, be it in the real world or online, managing one’s reputation and message cannot be a passive activity. TripAdvisor is a great resource for finding out what your customers’ think of your pub, your food, your beer, your staff and you and inform your business in many ways, be it menu selections, changes to operating procedures or highlighting individual staff issues.
TripAdvisor isn’t all about crappy reviews and tiresome complaints, for many successful pubs the positive reviews left by independent reviewers can form a great set of testimonials for their business for activities such as private functions, entertainments and the general offering.
The secret to making the most of TripAdvisor is being proactive in managing the reviews and comments left by customers be they adverse or positive. In the case of the former by dispassionately addressing each point and offering an explanation (never an excuse) other potential customers can see you take your business and customer service seriously. In the case of the latter it’s a great way of thanking customers and making sure of their repeat business. Either way be prompt in your responses, as nothing shows a lackadaisical approach to your customers than unanswered review from weeks, months or even years ago.
Using TripAdvisor to your advantage
Google is undoubtedly the most popular search engine in the world, and whilst its algorithms are a mystery to mere mortals such as you and me how Google (and other search engines) view your pub is vitally important in helping your website and pub noticed by potential customers.
Along with TripAdvisor, Google is likely to be the most people’s primary way of searching for pubs online, even though there are dedicated websites which list pubs, such as Beer In The Evening. In all probability potential customers are going to search for a particular pub by name or by location, in the case of the former it will be to get information about that pub and its facilities, food and drink offers, entertainment, opening hours; in the case of the latter it’s more likely to be part of their decision making process on which pub to choose.
When a customer searches for a specific pub, if the pub operator is doing a good job in maintaining its online presence (pub website, social media, etc.) then in all likelihood that pub will come at the top of the search result. In many cases the very next search result will be its TripAdvisor listing, along with links to reviews, the pub’s overall rating (out of 5) and its rank in local pubs or restaurants in the immediate area. (TripAdvisor doesn’t currently differentiate between pubs and restaurants).
When a customer researches an area they might be visiting they are going to use a more generic search term such as “Top Ten Pubs in…” or “best pub in… and these searches result in a list of pubs, but high in the ranking will be those with a high TripAdvisor ranking. This kind of “signposting” is essential in winning business from online searches as customers’ love “signposts” such as Casque Mark plaques and those all-important scores on the doors Food Hygiene Ratings.
TripAdvisor, the one stop shop…
Go and search for your pub (or a competitors or one you fancy visiting) and you’ll see what customers see when they use TripAdvisor. It truly is a one stop shop for potential customers as everything they need is laid out for them: location, opening times, reviews, map, rating, ranking in the local league table of pubs and restaurants.
If you’ve not registered yourself (or your company) as the owner of the pub, do so as registration has many benefits such as adding photos, opening times, type of cuisine, etc.) in addition to being able to reply to reviewers’ comments.
No matter the reason for customer searches, TripAdvisor is a critically important website, which can attract customers who might not otherwise choose your pub.
Six Steps to using TripAdvisor
1.Take ownership of your pub’s page by registering for free in the Trip Advisor Management Centre. TripAdvisor provides an easy-to-follow quick start guide on how to register a business or take over an existing account.
Once your business is registered, you can edit your pub’s details on the profile page, add contact information, respond to reviews and access a number of free tools.
While TripAdvisor is an open forum for people to express their views, by registering your pub with the site, you can have some control of how your pub appears and, of course, if someone leaves an offensive or libellous comment, you can dispute it with TripAdvisor.
2. Upload lots of images (food, bars, gardens, entertainment, outside, etc.) a detailed breakdown of a TripAdvisor study that reveals photos impact bookings more than reviews and whilst hotels and restaurants were the focus of the research, but the same might be said about pubs.
3. Offer a great customer experience in the first place, and you’ll probably get good reviews for your business. Despite headline grabbing comments (see this collection from the Telegraph), the vast majority of people leave fair reviews on TripAdvisor. So, if you run a pub which provides great customer service, you’ve already succeeded in fulfilling a major part of what makes a successful TripAdvisor pub page.
Whilst TripAdvisor does not reveal every single factor that contributes to its ‘Popularity Index algorithm’ (i.e. all the factors that gets a pub to the top of the ranking) marketing experts agree there are three key ingredients for a high ranking are:
- Quality – how positive are the reviews of your pub.
- Quantity – how many reviews are there.
- Recency – when were the most recent reviews.
Research discovered out of these key ingredients, one is more powerful than the others, quality not quantity as ever is the key here.
4. Encourage reviews from happy customers, even though you’ll likely be getting positive reviews anyway from them anyway. (Remember that old customer service mantra “if we please tell others, if we don’t tell us”?)
Other reminders require no effort at all. You can download a free TripAdvisor sticker to put in your pub’s window or on the door. It’s a great prompt for those who might write a review there and then on their phone and it shows to the wider public you’re not afraid of criticism (or praise).
TripAdvisor also features a handy free tool called Review Express, with a selection of useful features, including email templates which enable you to send out professional looking emails. (You will need to have gathered some of your customers’ email addresses to do this.) Don’t bombard customers with emails, however. A Review Express email should ideally only be sent to a customer once. For more details about Review Express click here.
Review Express tells you how successful your campaign to collect reviews has been. It will tell you: how many emails you’ve sent, how many emails have been opened by the customer, and how many reviews have been written as a result.
5. Monitoring and responding to reviews on TripAdvisor is an important pub marketing duty for any publican, by reading reviews you might gain useful insights into what patrons really think of your pub. They might highlight something that you need to address. It could relate to the décor, your product range or standards of customer service.
Responding is just as important. Thank those people who leave particularly positive feedback. Address those who leave critical comments. But you must get the tone right and be open, friendly and respectful and don’t resort to clichés; offer an apology if appropriate, see my article on customer service.
A 2015 study reveals 65% of TripAdvisor users would be more likely to book a visit if management replied to reviews. 80% of users said thoughtful responses to bad reviews improved their impression of the business in question and made them feel the business cared about its customers.
6. Make the most of TripAdvisor’s free ‘widgets’. By registering with TripAdvisor you can access a range of useful tools for your pub’s website. For example, one of these widgets displays the latest review you’ve received straight to your website, alternatively, simply add a TripAdvisor logo on your site that links to your pub’s listing, it demonstrates that your pub values customer opinions.
Here are ‘8 Terrific TripAdvisor Tips’ included utilising TripAdvisor business cards which you can order from the site an easy way of asking for reviews, along with TripAdvisor’s press release template available to those who win TripAdvisor awards. They do the hard part and you can just have to send it out to the press.
How To Deal With Fake/Malicious Reviews
Restaurateur, hotelier, pub owner and former consumer rights campaigner Jonathan Greatorex became so fed up with malicious reviews online that he decided to investigate the legal obligations on sites such as TripAdvisor, which host such reviews, and believes he has come up with a solution to empower publicans and banish fake/malicious reviews permanently.
After a long and lengthy negotiation with TripAdvisor’s legal team, Greatorex struck gold when he discovered a piece of legislation called the The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013. We’re happy to share his advice.
“The law is very clear,” he says. “It only applies to UK-based businesses, but the company hosting the comments can be based anywhere in the world. Quite simply, if there is a review that is factually inaccurate, or contains opinion that cannot be supported by fact, then the law is black and white. If you serve a notice to TripAdvisor, and that notice has to be built in a certain way, they have to either give you the name and address of the person who wrote the alleged libellous comments, or it has to take the defamatory comment down within 48 hours. 9 times out of 10 they will be unable to provide the name and address of the person who posted the review, so they will have to take that comment down.”
You can get detailed advice on how to deal with fake/malicious reviews on his website TruthAdvisor , which, contains detailed information about the The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013, and a template notice letter that operators can send to TripAdvisor.
“I’m always happy to go along and talk to people,” Greatorex adds. “My background is as a consumer rights broadcaster and campaigner. I’m not giving people advice as such, I am just making them aware of the law, and that is very, very important, so that people know how they can fight back against unfair and unjust reviews.”