Reviews are essential in the tourism industry. One could even argue that no other industry, not even restaurants, depend so much on it as our industry does. Why? Well, because of the uncertainty that comes as a result of traveling to a different place that you don't know and the "risk" associated to choosing wrong. No one wants to have their vacations ruined by a dirty hotel or spend a full day in a boring tour.
So, at some point or another, every single tour and activity operator has asked themselves, "Where should I ask my customers to share their reviews after they leave my tour or attraction?". We actually get this question from our clients all the time.
Back in the day, there was no doubt, you had to direct them to TripAdvisor, right? And then one day, they started hiding your company's information (specially your website) and selling your products if you were a Viator partner.
And along came Google, making it really easy for customers to provide reviews, but giving you no assurances of what they would do with those reviews. So you ask yourself, should I make the same mistake twice? So why not send them to your website, instead? Wouldn't that content help my website rank higher on Google? And if the answer is so obvious, why are so many companies pointing their reviews to third-party review sites like TrustPilot or Feefo?
There's probably a right answer to this question, but it will vary from business to business, depending on what your commercial strategy, how developed your website is, and where your business is located. If you want to know what are the PROS & CONS of each platform, please read below for detailed information. If you already know these details and you only want to see what platform we recommend based on the type of business you have, jump to the end of this article.
Like it or not, there's a good amount of people who will look for your company here, so you want to make sure your profile here speaks to your reputation. If you don't have one, start building it. Among tour and activity operators, this is probably the most controversial one as TripAdvisor owns Viator.com, the largest online travel agency for tours and activities. This is both, good and bad, depending on the operator's strategy.
Customers trust (still to this day) the reviews on this platform.
They will allow you to place as many online widgets on your website promoting this reviews for free.
Although it is not a nice process, if you receive an unfair review, TripAdvisor will work with you to see if they can remove it.
If you are already selling tours through Viator.com, getting more reviews (specially good reviews) will help your products stand higher in their listings (both in Viator and TripAdvisor).
What does that mean? That when someone is looking for "Best Things To Do in [city]" your products have a higher chance of showing up. The higher they show up, the more bookings you will get from this partnership. And don't forget this is the largest online travel agency for tours and attractions, so there's a huge potential to get volume here.
TripAdvisor has a tool that makes it easy for tour and activity operators to ASK for a review. You will basically have to upload an Excel with your customer's contact details and this will automatically trigger an email for them, from TripAdvisor, asking them for feedback.
Of course, this means you are basically giving away your customer but it's optional to use this and simple, of course.
By default, TripAdvisor will hide your website from the "Contact Details" panel of your profile page (even if you don't have a partnership with Viator). That means that, potential customers who find your profile page here, will have a harder time going to your website.
As a consequence of the above, if you are already selling your products on Viator / TripAdvisor, customers might just choose to book your tour or attraction within that same ecosystem which means that you will only be paid 70% - 80% of the price paid by the customer (depending on the commission you've agreed with the company).
Posting a review is incredibly hard. TripAdvisor will ask your customer too many questions and then, ask them to sign in, and who remembers their TripAdvisor credentials or has the app installed? In our experience, the "conversion" rate of people who you ask for a review on this platform vs. the people who actually do, is lower on TripAdvisor than it is on other platforms like Google.
Using TripAdvisor review widgets might lead to people clicking on them and booking your products on that website instead of doing it in yours (which once again, will affect you because of the commission they take).
There's so many things that Google represents and does, that no one really thinks of it as a "review platform". As a consequence, the majority of people don't intentionally "look for reviews" on Google. It's more like they "stumble upon them" after searching for a local business. Meaning, travelers may had been looking for that business' website, phone number or address, and because Google Reviews are embedded within that "Google Maps" or "Local Profile", they just clicked on it.
As a result, just like with TripAdvisor, people will post and see the reviews you have on Google whether you like it or not. So if you haven't really built a good amount of reviews here, start now.
Posting reviews on Google is super easy. Most people by default are already logged into Google when they are online. Furthermore, if they don't want to write a description, Google allows to provide only a star rating. Actually, if you own an Android phone, chances are that it will automatically ask you to post a review every time you leave a business. There's no stopping Google here.
Even though it is not totally clear HOW, there's pretty good chances that Google Reviews will end up helping your SEO. If that's the case, that would definitely be a PRO going for this platform.
If you are already selling through Reserve with Google (or whatever new form it takes after 2021), it is obvious that having good reviews and ratings on Google will increase your conversion rates.
If you are already advertising through Google Ads, you can showcase those reviews in your ads, if you meet certain conditions. This should allow you to "beautify" your ad and increase your CTR (aka. click-through-rate).
There's no such thing as a free lunch. Google hasn't fully monetized its review business yet and it probably has big plans for it. So you really don't know what you're getting into by "giving away" those reviews right now. It happened with TripAdvisor, it happened with Yelp, and no one can assure you that it won't happen with Google. This company lives on advertising dollars and usually everything it does is related to expanding that business. Which is, essentially, the problem with TripAdvisor and Yelp too.
If you receive an unfair review on Google or even an erroneous review (such as one that discusses another business), removing it will be really hard. You can try to report it, but the chances of Google actually taking a look at it are really small.
If your reservation system does not allow you to sell through Reserve with Google and you are working with partners that do (Viator, Tiqets, GetYourGuide among many others), one could argue these reviews will only help boost those Reserve with Google bookings instead of driving people to your website.
Your Website (Own Engine)
There will always be pros and cons of collecting reviews in a third party site, right? So why not just try to collect reviews on your own website? Well, let's just see how this plays out:
You own those reviews and no one else can monetize those reviews.
Provided that you build or find an engine that actually allows you to use those reviews as original content for your website, this content could really help boost your SEO. Google is looking for pages with fresh content to place them higher on their search listings and new reviews can help you meet that standard.
The biggest restraint here is that no one will actually fully trust the reviews you have on your site. That's just the way it is. You may be showing 100% of the reviews you're getting and the full content, but your customers have no way of knowing that or being certain about it. So for the most part, these reviews will be ignored.
Most widgets you will find online don't actually build your SEO (tip: if you just have to paste an HTML code to insert it, Google probably can't read it). So if you want to boost your SEO you will have to find solutions that are probably going to be more difficult to implement in your website (and that can be more expensive).
After doing a similar analysis to what we've done here, lot of people wonder if there's a middle point between building reviews on your own website and something like Google / TripAdvisor. And there is, and it's usually in the form of a third-party review site that has a different model that doesn't depend (or at least not fully) on ad dollars. Usually what these businesses will do is offer your company different subscription plans to prevent any ads to be placed in your profile. The price of such subscription depends on how many widgets you want to put on your website or how many invitations you want to send to customers asking for a review. We've decided to talk specifically about TrustPilot because it stands out as the best one when it comes to SEO.
You can place widgets on your website and provide it with credibility. Even though not everyone is familiar with TrustPilot (it doesn't have the brand name of TripAdvisor or Google), one could argue that it will provide reviews with the third-party neutrality needed in your customers' eyes.
Because of their business model, as long as you pay for a plan they won't place an ad on your profile which means that they will always redirect your customers back to your site. Yes, it's an extra cost but usually any subscription plan will be cheaper than the sum of your agent's commissions.
According to SEM Rush, using snippets from TrustPilot can help boost your SEO. One of the reasons is the "beautification" of your search listing (aka. putting the stars next to your company's name). However, this also seems to be related the confidence that Google attributes to the third-party as the guarantor of such reviews. In the article, the SEO experts explain, "Google’s algorithm will tend to place you higher in the results as it will be more confident that your company is a good solution for its users."
Because you will be paying for a monthly subscription, you'll be a TrustPilot customer. Which means that they will have to listen and help if you receive an unfair review.
There's a fixed cost if you don't want ads to be placed on your profile. Once again, we could argue this could be lower than commissions, but if you are not working with external partners, then it wouldn't make too much sense.
It's one more platform to take care of. As established before, you'll have to monitor the reviews coming to TripAdvisor and Google (because they will come even if you don't drive customers there). Hence, adding one more platform is another task on your to-do list.
So what's the best platform for my business?
If you are a new business and don't have any reviews yet.
If you are a new supplier on Viator.
If you are trying to get better performance of your products or want to get ahead of your competition on Viator.
If most of your bookings are coming from Viator and you are not working with many other OTAs.
If your goal is to improve your website's SEO.
If you are selling directly through Reserve With Google.
If your customers don't get as involved with your brand.
How far will your customers go for you? If you think they are not motivated enough to include a lot of details in their review, then don't point them anywhere else than Google.
If you are planning or already doing Google Ads.
Unless you are an aggregator of tours or an OTA (where you are the third party that provides neutrality), we don't recommend any tour or attraction operator taking this route.
If your main goal is to drive people to your own website.
If the ROI of paying for a monthly subscription plan makes sense when compared to selling through third parties.
If your goal is to showcase credible reviews on your website without risking losing customers.
If your goal is to improve your website's SEO.
If you want to be able to prevent unfair (just unfair, not bad) reviews from showing.
If you've already made up your mind as to where you are going to point your customers for reviews, now's the time to think about how you are going to ask them for one. TourOpp GO! can help you get up to 5x more reviews than what you're getting now.
If you want to know HOW, just book a demo here.