More reviews, higher rating

Cornell study reveals link between more reviews and a better TripAdvisor rating.

While there have been several studies on hospitality business reviews, none explored the relationship between a property’s rating and its number of traveler reviews until now. The groundbreaking Cornell study “Online Customer Reviews of Hotels: As Participation Increases, Better Evaluation Is Obtained” revealed several key findings that could impact how you grow your business moving forward. And to help you make the most of these results, we’re also including some tips so you can turn scholarly insight into hotelier action.

Key insight #1: An accommodation’s early reviews tend to skew negative.

According to the study, the average rating for a hotel with 11 to 20 reviews is 3.5, with terrible reviews (with a rating of 1) at close to 12%. Why? Researchers point to early guests having negative experiences that surprise them, such as expecting more than might be reasonable (due to lack of information about what they will find at your property). Still, researchers also stress that early negative feedback is a prime opportunity to improve service for future guests, stating that, “All researchers and many managers agree that negative [reviews] are a source of free and valuable information on how to improve services.”

Turn insight into action: Encourage more reviews. Researchers suggest emailing guests a link to review your property. Want to save time sending these emails? Try Review Express, the free TripAdvisor tool that sends recent guests a link to review your property. In November 2013, businesses that used Review Express for the first time got 33% more reviews overall! Plus, you can use Review Express automatically through certain internet booking engine partners, or use customized Review Express through your TripAdvisor Management Center.

Key insight #2: As reviews increase, the ratings in these reviews are more positive.

As a property gets more reviews, the average rating steadily increases from 3.5 to 3.9 with 101 or more reviews. Correspondingly, terrible reviews decrease by more than half while excellent reviews (with a rating of 5) grow by half.

Turn insight into action: Respond to both positive and negative reviews. This serves several vital purposes. For positive reviews, you get to thank someone who volunteered to review your property – and helped balance out negative earlier reviews – while reinforcing that you care about the guest experience. And for negative reviews, it’s your chance to apologize, respectfully share your side of the story and explain what you’ll do to prevent any problems from happening again. That way, you connect with these influential early guests and manage expectations for future guests as well.

Key insight #3: More reviews mean more accurate ratings.

What is standard deviation?

Standard deviation measures how much variation exists in a set of data. In the case of hotel reviews, a lower standard deviation means more travelers gave a rating closer to the average rating for your property.

Researchers determined this by looking at the standard deviation, or spread, of ratings as the number of reviews goes up. The result? Standard deviation decreases by almost 25%, from .72 to .55. So in addition to ratings becoming more positive with more reviews, individual ratings also tend to bunch together closer to the average rating, which means your resulting average rating is likely a more accurate general consensus of traveler opinion.

Turn insight into action: Track performance to uncover insights that help you improve even more. Tools like Market Metrix, TripAdvisor Snapshot and TripAdvisor Property Dashboard provide analytics you can use to optimize your marketing and operations with a better understanding of your audience, your property page performance and even your competitors. For instance, if you notice that many of your negative reviews are due to cleanliness issues, communicate and retrain your housekeeping staff to address the underlying cause.

Key insight #4: Positive reviews are more common than negative reviews.

After examining over 1.28 million reviews on TripAdvisor, researchers determined that hoteliers should embrace guest reviews. In fact, more than 70% of these reviews had a rating of 4 or 5 meaning very good or excellent, while only 15% of these reviews had a rating of 1 or 2.

Turn insight in action: Share your TripAdvisor rating and reviews. Not only will they give you an easy way to add new content to your website and social media, but they’ll also inspire confidence in travelers researching a stay with you and keep them on your website. Take a look at the various free and easy-to-set up TripAdvisor widgets you can use to spread the word from travelers!

Read the full report on “Online Customer Reviews of Hotels: As Participation Increases, Better Evaluation Is Obtainedat Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.

Source: “Online Customer Reviews of Hotels: As Participation Increases, Better Evaluation Is Obtained.”

Santiago Melián-González, Jacques Bulchand-Gidumal and Beatriz González López-Valcárcel. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. March 2013.

Last Updated: January 14, 2014