As the world slowly begins to reopen, people are booking more trips – and with that, more hotels. In 2021, 76% of people report planning to travel more than they did in 2020, with 60% reporting that they want to travel more than they did in 2019, pre-pandemic.
For hotels, this can be an exciting time as more people are on the move; however, 83% of US adults want to book their trips online – so your hotel’s online reputation can have a huge impact on whether or not guests will book with you.
To make sure your hotel is prepared for the increase in travel in 2021 and 2022, we’ve put together a hotel reputation management guide to help you understand the steps you can take – and the significance – of improving your hotel’s online reputation.
What is online reputation management?
Online Reputation Management, or ORM, is the strategy or strategies used to influence the narrative around your business online. ORM strategies are made up of a combination of SEO and marketing tactics with the goal of creating a strong online presence to 1) establish yourself and your business online and 2) create a foundation to combat negative news, reviews, or other unsavory search results about you or your business, should the need arise.
Although SEO strategy is a foundational element of an effective ORM strategy, ORM, unlike SEO, targets branded keywords specific to your business, as opposed to wider, more competitive keywords.
ORM can be proactive or reactive, depending on the needs of your business and when you begin implementing an ORM strategy. Reputation management can not only protect your business from a reputation crisis, but can help you establish your business well online, to give guests the best understanding of your hotel and what you can offer.
Why does hotel reputation management matter?
Your online presence is often the first impression prospective customers get of your hotel. 97% of people go online to learn about local businesses, and 74% of travelers use the internet when planning their trips. How you appear in these searches has a significant impact on your reputation, and whether or not customers will choose your hotel.
When it comes to online reputation management for hotels, the most important factor – besides showing up and standing out in results – is reviews. According to TripAdvisor, over 90% of people report reading online reviews when they’re deciding which hotel to book. What’s more, over 50% of people say that they will not book a hotel with no online reviews. Not only is it vital to receive customer feedback, it is important that the majority of those reviews are positive.
While one negative review won’t tank your hotel’s reputation, it’s important to maintain your online presence and do what you can to put your best foot forward online. The impact of negative results – bad press, an unsavory review – is significant. Businesses with one negative article online risk losing nearly a quarter of prospective customers. And it gets worse – businesses with four or more negative articles can lose up to 70% of prospective customers. Negative reviews can also have a significant impact, with 92% of consumers reporting that they are less likely to frequent a business after reading negative reviews.
While you can’t control what people say about your hotel online, you can take steps to protect and improve your online reputation. An effective ORM strategy can not only protect your hotel in the wake of a PR crisis, but can provide opportunities to connect with more guests and help you represent your hotel well online.
As more people look online to learn about and book hotels, an ORM strategy is not optional. Read on to learn our top 14 tips to improve your hotel’s online reputation.
Hotel Reputation Management: 12 Tips to Manage and Improve Your Online Reputation
- Get Familiar with Your Hotel’s Results
Understanding where you’re starting from is the first step in developing your online reputation management strategy. Search for your hotel in an incognito browser with a cleared cache in order to get the most accurate results.
Before you begin improving and curating your online presence, you will need to make sure you’re findable. If your website doesn’t show up in branded search results, you need to check if your website is indexed in search. To check this, search “site:[your site]” in Google. If your site is indexed, but isn’t showing up in branded search results, or your other owned assets aren’t appearing, that’s where you’ll need to start. Read here to learn how to optimize your owned assets to make sure you appear in Google search results.
If your hotel does show up in search results, take note of what you see. What shows up when you search for your hotel? Are the results about your hotel, or are they unrelated? Are the results owned properties (such as your website, social media, etc.)? Are they neutral, positive, negative, or a combination?
Searching for your branded keyword can help you define your goals. Do you need to refine your SEO strategy to improve your visibility in search results? Is there negative press you need to address? Do you need more positive reviews? Is any of the information outdated? Once you know where you’re starting, it becomes much easier to determine where you want to go.
- Optimize Your Hotel’s Website
Once you have gotten a sense of how your hotel looks online, it’s time to optimize your website. Your website should provide current and prospective guests with a positive user experience, accurate information about your hotel, and an intuitive and navigable booking process. Websites that have inaccurate or out-of-date information, load slowly, or are difficult to navigate can deter users, hurting your chances that they will complete a booking.
To keep up with your website’s performance, register your site in Google Search Console (GSC). GSC has tools that allow you to monitor your website’s traffic and overall performance, as well as ranking factors that can impact where your hotel’s site shows up in search results.
Updating and improving your website should be an ongoing and iterative process. Stay aware of things that can harm your site – broken links, slow load times, etc. – and pay attention to increases in bounce rates or decreases in traffic.
- Claim Your Google My Business Listing
Local search results are vital for hotels, as they serve specific locations. To show up in local pack results (the map that shows up in results for local queries listing businesses, ratings, location, etc.), you must claim your hotel’s Google My Business (GMB) listing.
This listing, which populates on the right side of results for search terms related to your hotel, provides prospective and current guests with important information about your hotel, including hours of operation, address, and Google reviews. The average Google My Business listing is viewed over 1,200 times every month – for many new guests searching for more information about your hotel, your GMB listing will be one of the first places they look for hotel information, reviews, and more.
To set up a Google My Business listing, the first step is to see if Google has already generated one for your hotel. To do this, search for your hotel. If you do see a listing, you can click “Own this business?” to go through the steps to claim the listing. If not, you can create a listing for your hotel. To learn how to create a Google My Business listing, check out our step-by-step instructions.
Bonus Tip: In addition to claiming your Google My Business listing, include your office address or addresses in online directories, social media profiles, and on your website, and create content relevant to your community or area(s) of operation to make the most out of local search.
- Request Feedback from Your Guests
Reviews are vital for hotels, and play a huge part in defining your hotel’s online reputation. According to Expedia, over 70% of travelers would pay more for a hotel with a higher review rating than selecting a hotel by brand. Additionally, according to TripAdvisor, given the option between two identical properties, nearly 80% of customers would choose the hotel with the higher rating.
As a result, whether you’re working against some negative reviews (everyone has them!) or trying to build out your overall number of reviews, asking for feedback from your customers will need to be a part of your ORM strategy.
And yes – it is as simple as asking for feedback. 70% of consumers report leaving a review if asked. To increase your chances of receiving a positive review (beyond providing a positive experience), follow up with your guests soon after their stay, and make sure your message is specific to that particular guest’s experience.
- Keep Up with Your Reviews
As with any aspect of your online reputation, knowing what you’re working with can help you define what you need to improve. Take a look at your reviews and gauge where your hotel stands. How many reviews do you have? What is your overall rating? Are the reviews generally positive? Negative? Are there aspects of your hotel – positive or negative – that come up often?
Make sure you do this regularly. Not only will your reviews and ratings change as more guests write them, but more recent reviews tend to have more of an impact on users. 80% of consumers cite recency as an important feature of reviews, with 73% of consumers reporting that they only pay attention to reviews written in the last month. In fact, 50% – half of online users! – only take reviews as recent as the past two weeks into account.
Reading and continuing to monitor your reviews will not only help you understand what your current and prospective hotel guests are seeing when they look you up online, but can help give you insight into aspects of your hotel that are particularly outstanding or harmful to your reputation.
- Respond to Customer Reviews
Responding to reviews can do wonders for your hotel’s reputation. Not only has Google confirmed that responding to reviews has an impact on your business’s SEO, but responding to reviews can improve your credibility and care to customers. 96% of consumers report reading a business’s response to other reviews when researching a business and, according to TripAdvisor, 65% of users would rather book a hotel that responds to reviews over one that doesn’t.
What’s more, responding to negative reviews can turn a bad situation around. Responding to a negative review with a compassionate and helpful response can improve your hotel’s reputation – 85% of users report that their impression of a hotel improves when they read a good response to a bad review.
How you respond matters. 96% of consumers reported reading business’s responses to other reviews, with 40% reporting reading those responses every time they were researching a business. When considering responding to a negative review, always consider:
- When was this posted? People expect timely responses to their reviews, with 20% of users expecting to receive a response within one day of posting a review. Monitor your reviews regularly so you can address any new reviews quickly.
- Is this criticism valid? If the criticism is not legitimate or relevant to your hotel, or if you do not recognize the customer, you may be better off leaving it be. If you can’t validate or address the complaint, you run the risk of coming off as defensive or dismissive, which can just add fuel to the fire.
- Can the problem be addressed? The most effective response to a negative review is one that acknowledges the concern and provides a solution. If you are not able to provide some sort of solution, the problem will not be solved, and it’s likely the guest that posted the review will still be dissatisfied.
- Use Multiple Review Sites
In addition to the reviews on your Google My Business listing, there are several review platforms where potential guests will look to find reviews of your hotel. Creating and maintaining profiles on these sites can provide you with more opportunities to make a good impression, as many of them will look to these sites as reputable resources to learn more about your hotel.
These sites can occasionally automatically generate profiles for businesses, giving you the option to claim them. Claiming these profiles will help you ensure that all information is accurate and well-represented, giving the best impression to guests.
Some of these review websites include:
- Don’t Forget About Mobile Users
In 2021, mobile users are more important than ever when it comes to your ORM strategy. Since Google’s Mobilegeddon algorithm update in 2015, and the more recent Mobile-First update in 2016, Google’s prioritization of mobile users has made the mobile-friendliness of your site a key factor in determining where your website ranks in results.
What’s more, how your site runs on mobile devices has a huge impact on user experience – and more users are using their mobile devices to search online than ever. In 2021, mobile accounts for over 55% of all website traffic, and 70% of all hotel customers do their research on a smartphone.
Make sure your website is optimized for mobile users by making sure text and images scale, links aren’t too close together, your site runs quickly, and that there aren’t too many annoying pop-ups. Format your booking page to make it easy for mobile users to book a room at your hotel, and pay particular attention to mobile traffic and feedback related to mobile experience.
- Utilize Social Media
While your website is the most essential owned asset for your hotel, your social media profiles are a close second. Customers are already familiar with social media platforms, and expect to see your brand on there. What’s more, a strong social media presence is about an optimized profile and regular posting – you don’t have to worry about site structure, loading times, or the best way to format your site. Once you’ve built out your profiles, you can just focus on connecting with your audience, instead of many of the technical elements of SEO that matter when it comes to other owned assets.
Social media also provides opportunities to connect with and grow your audience. There are several reasons people join social media, and while researching businesses may not be one of them, it ends up being one of the most common reasons people use social media. Over 50% of consumers follow a brand on social media to learn about new products and services.
Social media can also improve your branded search results. Not only does having a profile help you increase your hotel’s presence on that particular platform, but many of the most popular social media platforms rank well in search results, which can help you improve your overall online presence as well as your presence on a particular platform.
- Stay Up-To-Date on Your Industry
Staying informed on changes and trends in your industry can help you serve your guests well and stay on top of the conversation. What’s more, staying aware of industry trends and news can help you from making a misstep with a social media post or saying something a bit off during a significant event.
For example: in 2021, sustainability and environmental-friendliness is growing as a factor that influences which hotel guests choose to stay at. If your hotel doesn’t prioritize sustainability, knowing that this is influencing prospective guests can give you insight into key changes you can implement to better represent your customers’ values.
- Check Out the Competition
In any industry, how you perform is directly influenced by how your competitors are doing. The same is true when it comes to how your hotel looks in search results.
To see how you measure up against the competition, Google search terms that you would like to rank for and see how you compare. If your competitors are outranking your website in results, try to understand why. How do they incorporate the keyword on their site? Do they have content targeting that keyword? How is their website configured? Are there any elements present that are missing from your site?
Often, there are several businesses competing for prominent positions in search results for industry-related keywords. Depending on the search volume (how many people search) for these keywords, some are more competitive than others. Understanding how your competitors rank, and identifying why, can help you make those improvements to your own online properties.
Another way to understand the SEO strategies of your competitors and improve your own is to see how their branded results look. Just as we recommend that you get familiar with your own, getting a sense of a competitor’s branded results can help you identify which properties they leverage for their own strategy, which can fill in gaps in your own.
- Consider Hiring a Reputation Management Firm
Developing an online reputation management strategy for your hotel can seem daunting, particularly if you are experiencing a PR crisis. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to addressing your online reputation, you may want to hire a professional.
An online reputation management company can help identify areas in need of improvement, develop an effective reputation management strategy, and do the work to improve your reputation online so you can focus on your hotel and your guests’ experience.
If you’re interested in hiring an online reputation management firm, schedule a free consultation with Status Labs to determine what course of action is right for you.