Yes, yes you've heard it before — good reviews equal to glory, success and eternal happiness, right? Ummm…no, sorry. Technology has changed, booking trends have changed, even the human brain has changed and it turns out that a positive review is only as effective as the wording it uses.
A 2015 Microsoft study found that, on average, people now only have an eight second attention span. Even the humble goldfish boast nine seconds of concentration. You know what that means, right? One, two, three, four, five, six seven, eight….and you've lost your audience. Bad news if your reviews are only just starting to describe how the palm-fringed terrace of your restaurant shivers in the morning sea breeze.
Anecdotal experience and the latest Google algorithm have backed up the findings. According to various studies, customers (in particular millennials) are now researching and booking in micro moments, when traveling or waiting at the bus stop, rather than in dedicated time slots. Google meta search has also began to value shorter reviews. But it is the customers who write the reviews, so what's a hotelier to do?
Here are the three tricks to achieving review success:
1. Trick #Take control and micro review
You can't possibly micromanage what your guests choose to write. That would be weird, not to mention that it's hard enough to encourage guests to leave glowing reviews as it is, and descriptive reviews appeal to many travelers and also help with rankings.
What you can do to reach review equilibrium, however, is become more active with visitors who aren't as keyboard happy. That means devising some kind of brief form, survey or questionnaire, asking guests to fill it out and then converting it to a review on their behalf.
The survey simply has to cover the areas of most interest: location, amenities, staff, look, proximity to attractions, anything that appealed in particular, the nationality and name (or chosen moniker) of the guest and additional comments. With all of the information available, it should be easy to come up with a quick, punchy review that highlights everything that potential guests are looking for.
Fantastic hotel! Centre of the city but close to the beach. Excellent buffet breakfast. Restaurants and bars at the doorstep. Clean, large, modern rooms, free Wi-Fi, keyless entry, good shower. Parking on-site. Definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Sydney.
~ Keira, Auckland, NZ.
2. Trick #Engage
Longer positive reviews are excellent; they provide an audience with a personal, trustworthy source and many details that may interest particular travellers or those who have committed to staying at your hotel and would like to know more.
Too many long-winded reviews, however, and your intended audience may never get to find out about your gym, pool or butler on roller skates. A good way to cheat the system a little and influence your SEO is to respond to particularly great (but long) reviews and offer a kind of summary for Google bots and anybody else who might be interested.
This response shouldn't reiterate everything that was written — focus on one or two things that you'd like to highlight or find particularly pertinent and comment on those.
Hi Linda! We're so pleased you enjoyed your stay at Hotel Awesome! We're particularly delighted that you loved our rooms — we've worked really hard on modern design and comfort, so as far as we're concerned it's 400-count Egyptian sheets or nothing. It's also good to hear that our complimentary personal trainer was a nice surprise for you. We can't wait to have you back again.
~ Regina Koller, general manager
3. Trick #Wording, wording, wording and a bit of journalism
Be mindful of your wording when writing micro reviews or responses — it can't be too repetitive, but also has to be accessible. It should be descriptive but not too obscure. The aim is to find the most efficient way to communicate what you want, without confusing anybody.
So how can you find a happy medium between being informative and long-winded? Follow a few of these tried and tested rules of journalism:
- Set a word limit (and stick to it)
- Follow an inverted pyramid structure: most relevant information first, additional details later.
- Proofread (even the shortest text)
- Research (know what your audience is looking for)
- Compete (check out what the competition is doing)
- Language and tone (keep it consistent with your brand and accessible to your audience)
Photo credit: Frederico Cintra
10 Tips what to do with Negative Reviews
Negative reviews don’t have to ruin your day. In fact if handled correctly, they can be a powerful tool. According to recent industry research, most travellers are critical thinkers who can have their opinions swayed if a negative review is addressed in the right way.
"With a laptop and a cup of coffee as constant companions, Agnes Stockburger lives out her life as freelance journalist, editor and published author. She once used her wordsmithery to enrich lifestyle and B2B finance publications in Sydney, Australia, but has since made her home in Munich. These days she spends her time analyzing OTAs, writing articles on a range of topics and trying to teach her toddler not to eat rocks."