Senior SEO Consultant

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Google has had a strong involvement in the travel industry for a number of years now, including their own offerings and even offering a price change guarantee for flights, and in the same week that Google have announced changes in how they perceive websites to be handling reviews for “self-serving” purposes, they’ve made changes to how their native products display reviews for hotels.

Google has been making SERP native products for the travel sector for a number of years now, and have been increasing both the reach and capabilities of the Hotels and Flights products in recent months – to address more user concerns.

Google is able to do this due to the amount of data, both quantitative and qualitative, that we as users have shared online about our own travel experiences. Along with products and some commercial services, I’d wager that as users we’re more vocal and opinionated about travel experiences than most other sectors.

The types of data we’ve shared online for hotels, BnBs, and resorts over the years have included:

Commercial Data Shared By Service Provider

  • Service price & availability
  • Service inclusions & exclusions (I.e. breakfast, Wifi, all-inclusive)
  • Room/service rating (typically attributed by a third-party or industry body)
Data Shared By Service Users

  • Review of the service (quantitative through stars, qualitative through written review)
  • Image uploads of experience

 

Because we’re so ready to share our experiences, both positive and negative, and in a uniform manner we’ve made it extremely easy to map reviews of a hotel, BnB or resort between different review platforms such as TripAdvisor, Facebook, Yelp, and Google My Business.

Collating Third-Party Reviews

A few months ago, Google began to introduce new knowledge style panels around product related searches, collating prices and reviews from a number of third-party platforms. An example of this being a search for [lamy safari fountain pen]:

SERP features for an exact match product search

It’s worth noting that none of the information in the prominent panel comes directly from Google. The “details” tab description comes from cassart.co.uk, and is unattributed (so it’s stolen content?), and shops opens up a lightbox listing paid for listings for the product.

But the reviews, the reviews tab contains 1,146 reviews taken from Walmart, JetPens, Goulet Pens, The Pen Company, Dick Blick, Mighty Tape… And has a search function for users to find them.

Applying Collated Reviews To Hotels, BnBs & Resorts

This principle that we’ve seen with products now appears to be being rolled out to the accommodations industry. Using the Savoy, London as an example, the Google My Business listing now contains reviews not only from the Google My Business listing, but from all sources online:

Savoy London, reviews collated from third-parties on Google

Above the fold, users can see a summary of reviews, as well as filters to view reviews from a number of third-party sites as well as by traveler type.

This rollout is also affecting small BnBs as well, and not just the larger names in accommodations.

Adam & Eve Hotel in Blackpool also getting the new Google review treatment.

What This Means For Hoteliers

This means that taking ownership of your online presence is more important than ever, and also means that to an extent, you’ve lost a degree of control over your digital footprint.

In the past, getting a negative review on Orbitz or Wotif might not have been too much of an issue, as your core user base all go to TripAdvisor and not those platforms – but now those negative reviews are alongside your TripAdvisor, GMB, and Facebook reviews in a prominent location.

You need to be active in monitoring for negative reviews online, and active in responding to them – regardless of the platform they’re posted on.

There are a number of ways you can do this, some more scalable than others:

  • Manually searching for your “hotel name” +reviews
  • Using a scraper and proxies to automate the above task
  • Using a tool like Mention.com for monitoring

Regardless of the method, it does mean an additional (and reoccurring) task to do in marketing your hotel online, but for smaller hotels and Bnbs it’s possible to get away with the first bullet point and use advanced search operators, such as:

HOTEL-NAME LOCATION +TripAdvisor +AccorHotels +Booking.com +Expedia +Travelocity +Orbitz +Ebookers +Hotels.com +Wotif +Agoda +Priceline

And if you find you’re getting reviews from sources not already included, add them to the end with a + in front of the site name.

 

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