The Secret Behind Online Review Sites: How TripAdvisor Works

With more and more hotel options available, guests are turning to their peers for insights and recommendations. This makes understanding how review sites like TripAdvisor work even more critical so you can know how to stand out.

February 26, 2019
Hotel Guest Service
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TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel site, offers travelers an online platform to review hotels, restaurants, tours, and other attractions on an open and public platform. In total, TripAdvisor has a collection of over 600 million reviews and covers over 7.5 million accommodations, attractions, and services.

When giving feedback for hotels on TripAdvisor, reviewers answer questions on cleanliness, staff friendliness, and a variety of other aspects of the stay. Ultimately, the review ends in a 1 through 5 star rating, 5 representing an excellent guest experience and 1 representing a poor one. From there, hotels are ranked in order of average score.

TripAdvisor has a proprietary algorithm that determines hotel rank based on four overall characteristics: Recency of Reviews, Quantity of Reviews, Quality of Reviews, and the Tripadvisor Score given by the guest. These four characteristics are not weighed evenly when determining a hotel’s rank in the TripAdvisor market. Rather, the TripAdvisor Score given by the guest accounts for approximately 80% of the overall ranking while Recency of Reviews, Quantity of Reviews, and Quality of Reviews (Reputation of the reviewer) make up the respective 20% of the ranking calculation.

Recency of Reviews

Recency of Reviews favors hotels with more recent reviews. This piece of the algorithm rewards hotels for encouraging guests to leave reviews, but also prevents hotels from being weighed down by old reviews that are not as relevant (especially if there is a change of management or ownership).

Quantity of Reviews

Recency of Reviews favors hotels Quantity of Reviews simply allows TripAdvisor to benefit hotels with lots of reviews. For example, a property with 400 reviews that are mostly positive will outrank a property with three reviews that are all positive.

Quality of Reviews

Quality of Reviews takes into account a user’s review history and reputation as a reviewer. This characteristic is the softest of the four characteristics judged by the algorithm and also takes into account more subjective aspects of a review like number of words, completeness of the review, etc.

The actual score given by the guest in conjunction with their review is the most crucial part of the equation with an 80% correlation. In every market, however, there are hotels that do not directly fall directly in line with this finding. To illustrate this— Houston, Texas—one of the most populous hotel markets, shows that its #10 ranked property has a significantly smaller real average score of 4.50 (see Fig. 2), but benefits from its strong remarks in the other three categories that influence a combined 20% of the overall rank.

This correlation finding demonstrates that if hotels want to increase TripAdvisor ranking, they must improve scores. It is also essential for hotels to decrease the number of 1-, 2-, and 3-star reviews since 1-star reviews are five times more effective at influencing a property's TripAdvisor score and ranking than 5-star reviews.

One of the most impactful ways to increase scores is to catch guest feedback in real-time before the guest leaves the property—allowing your staff the opportunity to fix the problem and deflect avoidable negative reviews. This is where Kipsu makes the strongest impact.

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