Beware Review widgets that steal direct bookings

Our friends over at cobooking.com have shared their recent blog on the danger to direct booking posed by third party review widgets.

Cobooking exposes review widget dangers.

Image showing leaking pipe and text "Bad Review widgets leak direct bookings"
Bad Review widgets leak direct bookings

For far too many years we have put up with dodgy review widgets that cheat properties out of direct bookings. Widgets, badges and awards touted by large “reputable” businesses and placed on websites in good faith “trusting” these big corporations that pretend their main function is to “display” reviews, nonsense they are not to be trusted.

Cobooking and many others know that accommodation owners have been cheated because the hidden effect of these widgets is a significant loss of direct bookings. We are dedicated to the promotion of direct bookings so together lets call out the cheats and help remove these bad widgets.

Reviews are good but not all review widgets are good.

The value of having great reviews is undeniable. Almost all guests looking to book are keen to know what others think and reviews do a great job, so naturally you want to display them with widgets, buttons and awards.

However, there is a real danger of losing direct bookings from review widget links on your website and these could cost you a lot more than a bad review!

What do you mean, how do I lose?

The most common loss occurs when a review widget or badge is put on your website. Your guest naturally clicks the widget and is then led off to the review website. Now “your” guest is away on the review website where that website earns money by encouraging “your” guest to make a commissionable booking.

When you feed these review websites “your” guests (via the review widget) you lose direct bookings. In fact, it’s worse than that because they don’t care if “your” guest books your accommodation on their website, they earn commission on any booking “your” guest makes. So most websites offer your guest other accommodation options in order to increase their conversion.

Simply put, you sent your guest there to look at your reviews but they end up booking while there and not on your website. You’ve now lost a direct booking and have to pay commission, or worse still, they book somewhere else and you lose the booking entirely.

What is a direct booking unfriendly widget?

An unfriendly widget has links away from your website to another site where they offer your guest somewhere else to book or encourage them to book with a commissionable agency.

A friendly widget shows your reviews but does not send guests away to book with commission.

How do I know if the widgets, awards and buttons on my website are unfriendly?

Visit your website and follow the links just like a guest. By thinking and acting like a potential guest you’ll see exactly what your guests would see. Ask yourself what you’re being encouraged to do on that site and you’ll see just how direct booking unfriendly the process is.

Review widgets, buttons and awards are free?

Yes, they are free because the review website wants to get your customers onto their website. Is the cost of losing your customers worth the value of displaying reviews on bad widgets ? We are certain it is not.

Trojan horses have much in common with review widgets.

These buttons, awards and widgets are just like Trojan horses. They look like a gift, displaying your fabulous reviews but they contain a link that costs you direct bookings. Your great reviews are a result of your hard work and dedication so please don’t lose out from your hard work.

Review websites play heavily on the temptation to show off your reviews and that’s when they get you to put their Trojan horse on your website and you start leaking direct bookings.

How to fix it …

The simple rule is to never have a widget on your website that takes guests away to book with a commissionable source.

Remove widgets, badges and awards that lose direct bookings.
Replace unfriendly review widgets with friendly ones.
Show your review score or awards in an image with no links away from your website.
If you don’t understand how to fix it you should give your web designer a link to this blog, they will be able to fix it for you and stop you losing direct bookings …

At cobooking we believe that review websites have been abusing the good will of accommodation owners for many years by requesting they put bad acting widgets on their websites without adequately explaining their function.

Let’s campaign to spread the word and encourage companies to create direct booking friendly widgets, good honest widgets. Lets stop this loss of direct bookings.

Cobooking will be looking to create a direct booking friendly widget to help accommodation owners fight back.

Get going, become a partner and join cobooking if you have not already done so – sign up !

If you have already joined cobooking you can get involved in helping on the cobooking users facebook group (closed group for cobooking users only)

Reply to reviews for a 21% booking boost

Say something back to your customers

TripAdvisor research* finds that accommodation owners that respond to their reviews benefit with more booking enquiries, they say 21% more likely.

Ever been an ignored customer at a coffee bar or restaurant, seen but just not important enough to respond to? Well that’s how it looks when a customer reads your reviews and finds no responses. They have to assume you don’t care as much as the properties that do take the time to respond.

Perhaps you are extremely busy or don’t need the bookings, so just like the coffee bar,  ignored customers will go and find somewhere they believe does care. According to TripAdvisor’s research it’s exactly what happens, they say up to 21% more bookings go to properties that take the time to respond.

When you do answer reviews (both the good and bad) it *shows* …..bang ! right there and then in front of them – this accommodation is engaged, caring, listening. Displaying this level of engagement is of course

Review sharing widget for hotels

quite different from just *saying* it on your website or in emails.  If you really want customers to believe it then you have to find ways of *showing* it. The ability to respond to reviews is a marketing gift so use it to show how engaged you are.

You might not love TripAdvisor but can you afford to ignore them ? They undoubtedly have a vested interest in getting you, the property owner, to engage with their site (respond to reviews) but even with this in mind we still agree that reviews count.

At freetobook we have been developing review and feedback technology for years, you can already tweet, facebook or place your freetobook reviews on your website and of course you can respond to them. Our customers can make full use of these and many more functions in their “Home” tab by clicking “Reviews” on the orange bar. If you are not yet a customer, what are you waiting for? Join up today for free, no risk and let us show you what you are missing at freetobook.

Related blog articles from the past

Share your reviews online for direct bookings

10 Tips on managing good and bad reviews

Customer reviews a winning strategies

Review Express by TripAdvisor

* TripAdvisor press release Sep 3, 2014

TripAdvisor book now button for direct bookings

Direct commssion free bookings on Trip Advisor

Just mention the name “TripAdvisor” to independent businesses and you are guaranteed to get some interest. Businesses have to take a pragmatic view when considering what tools and partners they need to make themselves more successful.

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

TripAdvisor is without doubt a very powerful influencer for your customers because it helps them gather information from other customers i.e. people just like them. Lots of studies have shown that people value and trust the advice of friends and family far more than anything else. That’s not new, since time began we have always asked for the advice of those closest, those who you trust.

Like most things on the internet it’s not perfect but that doesn’t lessen it’s importance to your customers. Good businesses engage with their customers, listen to their feedback and react accordingly and TripAdvisor provides one of the platforms to do that. Time invested in that is money well spent because it’s highly visible and highly searchable. Managing your reputation is critical in this increasingly connected world.

Many businesses rely heavily on their reviews to attract new customers and now there is a way to get direct bookings, not just referrals, from your TripAdvisor page. It’s not free but then TripAdvisor is not a charity, it provides a service to you and your customers.

You can place a direct link to your booking engine on your profile and every time a customer searches your availability you pay TripAdvisor – a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model where each search is a click. The service is currently only offered on a wholesale basis i.e. individual properties can’t do it themselves they have to go through a service provider and properties do not need a business listing.

The direct link is valuable because customers are usually at the end of their purchasing cycle when they are looking at your profile….so they are ready book. When you consider all the marketing that has preceded that point i.e. providing a service that encourages reviews, advertising in different places etc. you can see that you are about as close to “closing the sale” as you will ever be. That’s where you have to make it easy for the customer…..search and book here!

The service is offered on a 3 month trial basis. TripAdvisor will give you a cost per click and estimated budget required for those 3 months based on their history of your page. How do you know you’ll get value for money? Well, you don’t at the outset, but at freetobook we will track and monitor every search and booking to give you a definitive return on investment. It’s that level of information that gives you the control to make a 100% informed decision on your marketing spend. If you have already invested heavily in your marketing this is well worth a try.

Boost sales by displaying your best reviews

With freetobook, you can now choose to publish reviews alongside your search results and to control which reviews you display. Early evidence shows that it can definitely help to increase your conversion rates.

Some properties are already benefiting from being able to do this, as you can see:

booking page with reviews

If a prospective customer clicks on the “reviews” box on the right hand side, they’ll be able to view a full list of guest reviews.

To activate this new functionality, log in to freetobook and go to the “Reviews” subtab.