3 Tips from TripAdvisor

Tips directly from TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor Tips
TripAdvisor Tips

You can stumble across myriad views and opinions about TripAdvisor but here is a blog based on on a recent article directly from TripAdvisor.

 

There is a difference between “TripAdvisor rating” and “TripAdvisor ranking”

Your “TripAdvisor rating” is based on reviews this rating is 1-5 with 5 being the highest. Your “TripAdvisor ranking” is formed from your rating when compared with other nearby properties.

Tips from TripAdvisor

1) How to increase your TripAdvisor ranking ?

TripAdvisor says “The better your ratings – and the more recent your reviews – the higher your property’s TripAdvisor ranking can potentially go.”

They are not giving away the exact method or algorithm of ranking (you can’t expect them to) however it is clear that you should get more reviews and make sure they are good reviews to rise up the rankings.

2) Embrace and respond to negative reviews

Don’t ignore or hide away from negative reviews. Research shows “84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the hotel”

It is a good policy to respond to reviews (in an appropriate manner) as it shows that you value feedback and that you are trying to provide the best possible experience.

3) Do NOT offer incentives for reviews

TripAdvisor says “Incentives, like offering vouchers or upgrades in exchange for writing a review, actually violate TripAdvisor rules because special treatment or discounts can hinder the validity and accuracy of a guest’s reviews”

They will remove reviews they think have received an incented and penalties can be imposed on the ranking as well as not being eligible for their awards.

Freetobook is connected to TripAdvisor pay per click advertising see previous blog

 

TripAdvisor book now button
TripAdvisor Show Prices button can link to your property

8 Great Ways to Boost Bookings with Special Offers

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Special Offers can increase your profits!

Everyone loves a bargain, that’s for sure. Indeed, in these cost-conscious times, everyone practically demands a bargain. But Special Offers, if handled the right way, can be a great method of generating bookings you wouldn’t otherwise have had – and therefore boosting your revenues rather than diminishing them.

Here are some tips:

  1. Get what you want out of them. Use your Special Offers to encourage the right kind of bookings for your business. For some, that may mean long-stay discounts, because you take revenue on extras like food and beverages. For others, it might mean enticing guests to stay over low season dates. In both cases, the right kind of Special Offer can bring you extra business.
  2. Use them strategically. Switch a Special Offer on only when you know it’s going to be difficult to sell your rooms at your normal rate. This could be a particular night (i.e. Sunday) when business is slow.
  3. Spice them up with something extra! Consider adding an additional, cost-effective enticement rather than simply lowering your rates (e.g. a free box of chocolates and bottle of wine, free afternoon tea, kids eat free etc.)
  4. Make sure they’re an obvious bargain. Don’t just drop your rates and hope that someone will notice! Your online booking system must show the reduced rates as a discount/offer (e.g. 10% off or an extra night free) in order to create a strong perception of value and thus entice bookings.
  5. Make sure people actually know about them. Get busy advertising your latest Special Offer on Twitter and Facebook. And if you keep an email database of past customers (which you should), you could send a Special Offer email out to them as well, in case they want to stay with you again. (When you do this, make sure there’s a link to your website’s booking engine on the email.)
  6. Make them seem scarce. Have a Special Offer that expires relatively soon, to encourage customers to take advantage of it before it vanishes. Or, if you have only 3 room types, you could attach an offer to just 1 of them (i.e. the one you find most difficult to sell).
  7. Keep bargain hunters on their toes! Vary your Special Offers.  Don’t inadvertently lull your customers into expecting an offer over certain dates. Use different offer types and see what works best for you.
  8. Make them obvious. Put Special Offers where your customers will find them, right on your home page. Add them to your email signature too, so that you’re advertising them even during the daily routine of contacting people about other things.

TripAdvisor is a Booking Website – Are You a Winner?

Make no mistake, TripAdvisor is a booking website.

Get Online bookings on TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor and Online Bookings

It started off being only about reviews. But you just have to browse it for a few minutes these days as a customer to see that it’s encouraging you to check availability and make online bookings at every turn.

How has this come about? Over the last six months or so, TripAdvisor have been busy developing software that can connect rates and availability to a vast array of booking systems and online travel agents. These links facilitate live rates, availability and booking on TripAdvisor itself. It’s pretty clear (to us at least) that they want every property in the world to be bookable on their website and to do this they have made the connections to as wide a variety of systems as possible.

What does this mean to property owners? Well, one thing is certain: if you don’t have some way to feed your rates and availability to TripAdvisor, you will lose bookings to properties that can. You will not be included in many of the searches customers perform on TripAdvisor and this means that you, the unconnected, will lose bookings to the connected. To win, you have to make sure you are one of the connected.

There is no excuse for missing out. Because TripAdvisor has connected with a massive range of booking engines, every property in the world will be able to get bookings from it. You only have to pick a system and get online. As for cost, TripAdvisor will charge on a pay-per-click basis for clicks through to whichever booking engine you’ve chosen.

So don’t let any more TripAdvisor bookings slip through your fingers or leak out to the property nearby. Get connected via freetobook today.

For More details click here – TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising connection

 

 

10 DOs & DON’Ts for Managing Good (& Bad) Reviews

There are good + bads ways of dealing with guest reviews.
There are good + bads ways of dealing with guest reviews.

We’ve all been there, whether we’re accommodation owners or not. We’ve all imagined we’ve done something well only to be brought up short when we’re told we haven’t. It leaves us feeling baffled and hurt – especially if we imagined we’d done our best.

If you’re the owner of a B&B, guesthouse or cottage and you receive a less than glowing review, the feeling is even more acute, because your property is your home – it’s not just a building where you go to work every day. The temptation is to take any negative feedback personally and react instantly. But if you allow yourself to do so, it can result in real damage to your online reputation. And in the modern digital world, where there’s so much scope for people to review absolutely everything, that’s something you want to avoid at all costs. What you need to do is take a deep breath, count to 10 and keep these (appropriately enough) 10 DOs and DON’Ts in mind…

1. DON’T Ignore it, no matter how unjustified or unfair it is. You might imagine that you’re maintaining a dignified silence, but to other users of the site (e.g. TripAdvisor) it’ll look as though you don’t care enough to respond. The review in question will therefore acquire unearned credence.

2. DON’T Respond in a defensive way that personally attacks the reviewer. You’ll do just as much harm as you would by ignoring it.

3. DO Thank the reviewer for his/her contribution.

4. DO Highlight any positive aspects mentioned in the review first.

5. DO Express surprise and disappointment that the reviewer had an experience that was in any way negative (thus implying that it was extremely unusual.)

6. DO Point out any factual inaccuracies in the review, but politely. By being polite and expressing regret you not only show that you care about your guests’ experiences. You also take the higher ground.

7. DO Take the conversation off-line: suggest that the guest contact you at your private email address, thus defusing the possibility of a public row.

But it’s not just negative reviews that require a response. Positive feedback on review sites is an incredibly useful free marketing tool, so it needs to be acknowledged too…

8. DO Once again, thank the guest for taking the time to write.

9. DO Highlight any specific aspects that they praised – if it’s good, it’s worth repeating.

10. DO Make sure your response includes details of your website, making easier for any fans of your property to pass on those details and book again.

reviews_cbowns
Think before you respond to reviews

With the huge increase in the number of people using social media, a guest’s opinion of your property is no longer limited to whatever site it originally appeared on. Reviewers can now also link back to their opinion on Twitter or Facebook. Other Twitter/Facebook users can then retweet/share it, allowing it to gain more and more traction online. You can’t afford not to be part of this conversation. But by getting involved in a dignified, circumspect way, you can turn it to your advantage and defuse its potential threats or get added value from the positive.

What’s Your Unique Selling Point?

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USPs can be powerful sales tools

USPs are all the rage these days, because they make you stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Given how full of character – and, yes, “quirky” even! – B&Bs and guest houses can be, they’re in a great position to sell themselves in this way.

Having said that, figuring out your USP can sometimes be a bit of a head-scratcher, so here’s some food for thought.

For one thing, the great advantage that all independent properties have is that they’re unique in relation to chain hotels: they’re smaller, more intimate and offer a more personalised service. But, as the owner of a bed and breakfast or guest house, how do you distinguish it from all the others in the area? Here are some things to think about…

  • Are you family-run?
  • Do you grow your own fresh produce?
  • Do you have a herb garden?
  • Do you do some home baking?
  • Are you pet-friendly?
  • Do you have a log fire?

If you can think of something, you’ll find it a lot easier to attract customers and get extra bookings,

Mind you, it’s not just a case of being unique; it’s also important to be unique in the right way. If you’re looking for a unique attribute that you can use to sell your property and nothing comes readily to mind, it might be a good idea to start by looking at your recent customers:

  • Who has booked your property in the past few years?
  • What kind of people are they? What are they interested in?
  • Have they written reviews on your website, or on TripAdvisor? If so, what have they said?
  • Have any of them told you that they booked your property for a special reason?
  • Has a certain local event or landmark brought them to your area?

In terms of finding something unique, customer feedback can be your most valuable resource.

USP_ebookIf, having done all this, you still feel that your property still doesn’t have an obvious unique attribute, there’s always the option of creating one. If you’re in an especially beautiful part of the world, you could study some local history and offer walking tours that focus on that. Seasonal unique selling points are another great way to keep business coming in all year round: you could focus on an outdoor facility, like a patio garden, in summer, and an indoor facility, like a real log fire, in winter.

Once you’ve settled on a unique attribute that you’re confident about, the other most important strategy is not to undersell it. Make sure it’s prominent on your website and try to complement it, if possible, with the best possible photos.

How To Avoid That Dreaded Overbooking

Is overbooking a sign of marketing success, process failure or just bad luck?

There’s a real stigma attached to over/double booking. Why?

  •  Is it the failure to deliver on a personal promise made to your customer?
  • Or is it the fear of your contractual obligation once a booking has been made?
vacancy by LOLren
Fear of overbooking can lead to empty rooms!

In these days of litigious customers and a compensation “culture”, it’s no wonder that small businesses err on the side of caution. These valid concerns appeal to our most human of instincts: fear. Yet when you de-construct the problem, it’s not as bad as looks!

Most businesses need to maximise their chances of getting bookings and the most effective place for this is online.  The more places you can be found and booked, the more bookings you are likely to attract. But by increasing your exposure online you may also increase the risk of double booking.

Many businesses have held back from maximising their online advertising for fear of double or overbooking. There must be thousands of lost bookings every night because businesses don’t feel confident offering their full availability.

So if you sell across a variety of places online (i.e. channels like Booking.com, Bed & Breakfast websites etc.) then you need to ensure various systems are kept in sync. It’s time consuming and can be a stressful process.

One option is to show only a selection of rooms on each channel, so they are distinct and when they run out they can’t overbook. It’s not very efficient and you need to know what channels will sell what rooms best and when.

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Effective channel management can avoid lost bookings

Another solution is to have your booking system linked to your various sales websites (or channels), so that your one diary keeps all the other channels up-to-date. This means any phone bookings you add to your diary update all the channels and any website bookings automatically appear in your diary. This technology is usually called “channel management”.

When you consider the benefits of extra exposure, additional bookings and time saved updating various sites – not to mention the end of all that worrying – channel management can represent great value. Ideally you want a channel manager that works with the key channels, is flexible and isn’t too expensive. There are some clever “pay-as-you-go” options available where you pay according to the number of bookings you receive.

This technology can free up a lot of time and allow you to disappear for the odd week (or longer) without having to take the mobile phone and diary with you!

Even if you don’t go for any of the above options, I would stress that the fear of an overbooking should not stop you selling your rooms.

After all, the definition of overbooking is the deliberate practice of hotels to take more bookings than they can accommodate in order to avoid empty rooms, on the basis that there will be no-shows and cancellations.

This is hardly a claim that could reasonably be levelled at a B&B or guest house. Most customers, if contacted quickly, will understand that with modern technology it’s a rare possibility and not a result of negligence or greed on your part.

That’s a different story if you are a large hotel that regularly overbooks and then “bumps” or “moves” a customer on arrival and just blames someone else! Been there and got the scars to show it!

The Benefits of Getting “Together” in Torbay

Accommodation associations the length of the country are benefiting from freetobook’s innovative “Together” product, which allows them to market themselves more effectively as a group.

getTogetherTopLogo-click-for-videoIt’s already revolutionising life for members of the Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group (FWAMG) up in the Highlands. Now it has also been adopted by the Torbay Booking Association down in Devon.

The Torbay group consists of over 20 hotels, B&Bs and guest houses, ranging in size from 6 – 14 rooms. Their new “Together” site, which went live last week, is called www.torbaybooking.co.uk

Now these small, individual properties will no longer have to go it alone in an increasingly competitive world where big budget chains dominate more and more. Thanks to “Together”, they’ll be able to benefit from strength in numbers and take advantage of all these innovations:

(1) Increasing conversions by giving customers a fully functional booking engine

(2) Bookings are kept and shared within the group

(3) If members are full, they can see who else is available

(4) They can track bookings through their “Together” booking engine

(5) They can also track the success of any marketing campaigns

And, best of all…

(6) All bookings are commission-free!

Scotland’s Best B&Bs and the Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association are also using our terrific “Together” product. You can find out more about it HERE

3 Things You Need to Know About Mobile Bookings

smart_phone_okalkavanEvery day, more and more people are using iPads, iPhones, Androids etc to book hotels and B&Bs.

Pretty soon more people will be booking travel via mobile than on old-fashioned desktop computers. Google – the (current) kings of all things search – regularly produce stats on the growth of mobile. Here are some of the most eye-catching latest figures:

(1)   Almost half (47%) of all travellers now start their travel planning from a mobile device.

(2)   Today, 40% of leisure travellers and 36% of business travellers use mobile search engines to find hotels and book overnight accommodation.

(3)   By the second quarter of 2013, travel-related search queries will increase by 68% from smartphones and 180% from tablets. As you can see here…

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But perhaps most important of all is the news that far more last-minute bookings are made these days from mobile devices than desktop computers. Properties whose websites are not optimised for mobile are missing out these bookings, since, according to Google, 36% of last-minute travellers said that difficult mobile navigation is the main deterrent from booking…

google_mobile_2012_part3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So don’t put it off any longer. Get a mobile-optimised website and a mobile app today. You know it makes sense!

Winning Images – Part 2

5 More Ways That Great Photos Can Boost Your Bookings

Book Direct for the best price

Great photos can massively enhance the first impression guests received from your website – and therefore boost your bookings. Here are a few clever strategies to really drive home the benefits that excellent visuals provide…

 

  1. the-lion-inn-suiteCollect lots of terrific photos of your property by all means. In particular, make sure that your room photos present your accommodation in the very best and most flattering light. But once you’ve done this, chose a SINGLE PHOTO that you’ll use to convey everything you feel is best about the experience your offer your guests. Use the photo as a kind of unofficial logo anywhere you can – on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Places (and whatever other ‘must do’ social media channels are lurking over the horizon!) Once people see it often enough, they’ll associate it instinctively with your property.
  2. When you (or your web designer) is updating the photos on your site, make sure you think carefully about how you name them. Well-named photos add a lot of Search Engine value to your site. It may seem a bit unwieldy, but make sure the file name for each photo includes the name of your property and where it is (e.g. mayfield_guesthouse_norwich_bedroom1.jpg) rather than just (room.jpg). Lots of people find accommodation by doing geographic searches like “B&B in ­____” or “guesthouse near ­____”. Naming your photos in this way will help them find you. Congratulations, your site just got “Searchier”!
  3. the-lion-inn-foodGreat photos of rooms are the gold standard when it comes to visuals that will entice people to stay with you. But other types of photos can also be great when it comes to really emphasising the cosy, personal experience that people crave. If you take great pride in your home cooking, for instance, have some great photos of your meals on your site. If you’re on the coast with spectacular views, emphasise those. In other words, find your unique selling point and push it as clearly and concisely as possible through your visuals.
  4. Putting guest reviews (even TripAdvisor reviews!) on your site can be a terrific way of establishing trust (i.e. “Look, we’re a wonderful property with nothing to hide and here are the reviews to prove it.”) But some people these days don’t even have the time/patience to read reviews. A Guestbook page with a few photos of you with your guests (ideally smiling!) creates an instant and very powerful positive message. They’re also great for your Facebook page.
  5. Going back to how people search, it can be immensely useful to have a “Local Area” page on your site, with lots of smartly-labelled photos showing nearby attractions. Placing yourself within your community means that you become a strong part of its online presence and an advocate for it. It also means that you’ll score well, once again, with Search Engines if anyone searches for a local attraction then starts looking for accommodation.

Winning Images – Part 1

Great Visuals Sell Accommodation

bestPriceTickBig hotel chains have the largest marketing budgets, so their websites must always be the ones that attract the most attention. Right? Wrong. In the USA recently, it’s the websites of smaller, boutique hotels – and even B&Bs – that have been generating the most buzz in the media. Why? Because these smaller hotels are much better (and quicker) at adapting to what customers want when booking accommodation online. And these days…

It’s All About Images!

A strong visually-oriented layout is the only way to go, because (and this can’t be emphasised often enough)…Photos sell rooms.

1. Good photos.
2. Big photos.

And, most importantly…

3. Prominent photos

Here’s a great example of a rooms page (courtesy of the Lion Inn, Winchcombe)…

 lion_inn_rooms

Don’t force your customers to hunt around for images that will tell them what the place they’re thinking of staying at actually looks like. Put them front and centre. You own a great property – let the world know about it!

So, even if you don’t want to redesign your whole site, at the very least get your web designer to boost the size and number of quality visuals on the front page and all the room pages. And, ideally, add a big, unmissable link on the front page itself that shouts, “ROOM IMAGES.”