Image credit: Miguel Pires da Rosa
From time to time, we publish content on leading websites in the industry, to share our knowledge with as many people as possible. This article originally appeared on the Hotel Business Review.
It’s frustrating not being able to control what people say about your property. In the past, the damage was minimal. One disgruntled guest could impact only a handful of people. Today, one disgruntled guest can ruin your business.
All it takes is one viral video showing bedbugs at your property, and your business is forever harmed. It’s important to go online and check up on your business’ reputation, to see what people are saying about it. It is tricky to know where to begin. Here is a breakdown of the most important places on the web where you need to make sure your reputation is positive.
The first, and most obvious, is Google search. Do you know what the first 10 results are when someone searches for the name of your hotel? Try it now. Open up a new tab (in an incognito window) and search for your property. Do you see your own website? Yelp listing? TripAdvisor listing? Go through each result to find direct references to your business. If you find negative or unfair reviews, register an account with the website and manage them. (I’ll touch more on that in a moment). When it comes to your reputation on Google Search, your best friend is Google Alerts.
Google Alerts is a tool that notifies you when someone in the world publishes news about your brand. You can use this tool to discover reviews and ratings to moment they’re published. Go to Google Alerts, and create a new alert for the name of your business. Google will now email you when they discover someone talking about you. This allows you to quickly respond to negative reviews and false information, to mitigate damage.
This is something someone at your property must do. You can do it, or your marketing lead. Not only can you use Google Alerts to manage your online reputation, but you can use it to monitor your competitors’. Set up alerts for your competitors’ brand names to discover exactly when the media mentions them. You can reach out to these places and ask that they cover your property too. Google Alerts can help you learn when your competitors list inventory with niche OTAs or directories. In this way, you can keep up with your competitors while working on your own marketing tactics to stay one step ahead.
Google My Business (formerly ‘Places’)
Google is the first place people go to learn something. This means we have to tackle Google My Business. Google My Business is a directory of local businesses. They likely have a page for your hotel already. Google often promotes their Google listings in Google Search above competing listing websites. This means that when someone searches for your property, the Google Place listing will be one of the first things they see.
You need to take ownership of your listing and make sure that the information on it is correct. Once you take ownership of it, you can integrate it with your website. This helps promote your website in Google Search for branded queries.
Also, take a look at your Google My Business reviews. If you find any that are inappropriate, you can flag them as “spam” or “abuse”. Google may, at their sole discretion, remove or hide them. Remember not to abuse this feature, or Google may ignore you.
While Yelp is most famous for restaurant reviews, they have a huge collection of hotel reviews. Your hotel is probably already on it. Yelp reviews often rank well on Google Search, so it is important that you know exactly what people are saying about your business.
You can create a Yelp business account to claim your business page, update content, and manage reviews. You can flag abusive reviews, but more importantly, you can respond to reviews. This gives you the opportunity to explain the circumstances behind the poor review, and make amends. Many surveys show that guests who see thoughtful responses from hotel owners tend to have a more positive opinion of the hotel.
Your property likely already has a page on TripAdvisor, and you’re probably already aware of it. TripAdvisor is a popular place where guests go to check hotels before booking rooms. It’s also a popular place for guests to vent. According to a PhoCusWright survey, 77% of travelers read TripAdvisor reviews before booking a hotel.
Like with Yelp, it’s important to respond to reviews on TripAdvisor. Hotels with the best TripAdvisor ratings are those whose make a habit of responding to reviews.
Even if you don’t list the bulk of your rooms or beds on online travel agencies (OTAs), it’s important to keep up an updated listing on them. Booking.com, Expedia, hotels.com, Travelocity, and Priceline all rank high on Google Search. Your guests are bound to come upon them. Each of these offer guest reviews. Research them to see what people are saying about your business.
Let’s say you found negative results on the first page of Google for your brand name. One strategy to overcome this is to list just one room on the major OTAs, when possible. Even if you don’t plan to use OTAs as a major source of new guests, this will create branded content on their website that you control. The OTAs tend to rank well, and can push negative results down to the second page of Google, which most users never see.
Use a channel manager like myallocator to list a small part of your inventory on as many OTAs as make sense for your business. The channel manager will help keep all your listings in-synch, to prevent overbookings. This can help make the first page of Google results for your brand under your partial control.
Besides the big OTAs, there are dozens, and even hundreds, of smaller niche online travel agencies. Your property may have a presence on them. Ensure that your hotel’s listing is correct. If they have outdated photos, send them new ones. If they have the wrong prices, use a channel manager to give them the correct prices. If they have unfair reviews, reach out to them to correct the situation.
As mentioned earlier, listing your property on high-ranking OTAs is a great tactic for reputation management. Take a look at all the niche OTAs myallocator supports. Listing your beds on many of them will not only increase your occupancy, but it will help you control your search listings..
All it takes for someone to file a complaint against you with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is an Internet connection. While it is unlikely that the BBB lists smaller properties, anyone can add you to it without your permission. It’s worth your time to visit the BBB and search for your property, to see if there is anything there.
Most chatter about your property on Facebook is private, which neither you nor the public can see. Sometimes there are public places on Facebook, like public Pages and public Groups. Here, guests leave reviews, comments, and links attached to your brand name. Search Facebook to find them.
Do you own a Facebook Business Page for your property that you never log into? Go and check it out. Guests can leave ratings and reviews on it, and even advertising, links, and spam. Clean up anything that is inappropriate, and then make sure that you check your page in the future.
Even if you never made a page for your property on Facebook, there may be one there. In the past Facebook has auto-generated pages for local businesses. Your guests can also create new pages for your property. You may find more than one listing on Facebook using your brand name. Claim them for your own so you can merge them and present correct information.
Another reason this is important, is because Facebook content tends to rank well on Google Search. A hotel’s Facebook page often appears on the first page of Google results for branded queries. Make sure your Facebook page is in order, just like your lobby.
Oyster is a company that sends people out to hotels to review them in-person. One of their anonymous reviewers may have already visited your property. Go to their website and search for your property. If you find a review that is not up to your standards, contact Oyster and negotiate with them. They may have just gotten you on a bad day.
Local Directories & Newspapers
There are hundreds of thousands of small community-websites and regional newspapers. Search for the ones in your community. Does your local TV station have a website with reviews of local businesses? Check it out, and look for your property. Many local newspapers will have reviews of restaurants and other local attractions. See if they list your place.
Only the Beginning
The web is a deep place. It’s a fool’s errand to chase down each instance where guests talk about your property. Instead, focus on the ones that future guests are most likely to see. Use this article to help you start, and revisit your reputation management throughout the year. This way, you can catch things before they can damage.