Rethink Your Guest Review Strategy

It’s time to think outside of the TripAdvisor box with Facebook, GooglePlus and Pinterest Reviews –and guest interaction on YOUR WEBSITE. Oh, we all know how important TA is –and its an easy review mechanism. BUT! Did you know that asking guests to leave a review on TripAdvisor is leaving your lodging property vulnerable? If you continue to keep all of your eggs in the TripAdvisor basket, you give them undue power, pay more and more each year, and are not capitalizing on the opportunities of social media. If you’re sending guests only to TripAdvisor for reviews, then it’s time to rethink your guest review strategy.

Start with your Website. Independent Resorts, Inns, B&B,s -you KNOW your guests, they know you. Begin a strategy that encourages interaction between your guests and yourself -using your property’s website as the platform. Build and reinforce their positive experiences from their stay. Build a greater nurturing experience for them, encourage future visits and bring them further into your fold.Sterling Ridge Resort Comments

You’ve done the hard part. Why let TripAdvisor control and benefit from that relationship? Over the years, they have trained lodging owners and managers to use and consider TripAdvisor, like it’s a benevolent service, but don’t be fooled; they are a FOR PROFIT company and a big one at that. Why are you sending your hard-earned relationships to them? Its time to involve your past guests online with your business and at a far higher, more personally rewarding level than can be done with TripAdvisor.

Create a strategy, similar to Sterling Ridge Resort in Vermont, that pulls guests into your fully owned online presence, your own website. Ask for comments about your guests’ stay that will be posted exclusively on your website. Ask them to write a guest blog of their vacation (or an activity, dinner, etc.) or email you a favorite photo from their trip. You’ll want to offer a couple of involvement levels and ‘assists’ depending on the degree your various guests will choose to be involved. Be sure to make a super easy, enticing option for those that might resist. Make it fun and run a campaign from time to time giving something away. Over time, this single tactic has the potential to provide the best return –no exceptions.

Google Plus

Google Plus is one of the most important places for guest reviews. Aside from the growing audience with Google+, its direct connection to your Google Local (Places) account is priceless for conversions and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) aka Getting Found on Google. Having reviews for guests to read will pull them closer to your webpage, where you can actually make the conversion commission free; sidestepping the “Book Now” buttons that are populated everywhere (including your Google Places/local account) that try to persuade people to book with the many OTAs. Oh you’re not on an OTA? Oops! Then they’re using your ‘juice’ to sell to these shoppers to your competition!

Facebook Reviews

Facebook Reviews

Recently, Facebook revamped how Guest Reviews appear on lodging pages. Here is a screenshot of it in action on Posada Yum Kin’s Facebook page. This seems much more directed and appealing than the ‘app’ they had before. It shows how Facebook is embracing the travel space with solid effort. Sure, they might not take over TripAdvisor, but their reviews WILL be valuable in converting fans to guests.


Though its not technically a review, a picture is still worth a thousand words. Do your guests have a Pinterest page? Ask them. Connect. Follow them. If they plan to share their travel pictures on a board, let them know you’re excited to repin their pics to your properties’ board. This is a natural exchange for Pinterest users and hits a great female demographic and leisure travel decision-makers.

There are many social media networks that are important for travel, general and travel-specific, but lodging professionals are a very busy group. My advice is to get the ones noted above under control and moving before you spread yourself too thinly. Always make sure your basecamp is secure!

Facebook Business Page Rollout – version 2014

Facebook is once again updating their interface. This time it’s for their Business Listings. This updated Facebook Business Page Rollout will include many things that affect Independent Lodging Properties.

Facebook Biz Page -new 2014

New Facebook Business Page style – 2014

Here’s a short summary…

  1. Sometime soon when you log in, you will be ‘invited’ to join the waitlist.
  2. Later you will be ‘welcomed’ in with an Update Now button.
  3. You will notice that custom tabs have moved into the ‘More’ drop down, effectively burying your custom links like Email signups, and ‘Book Now’ buttons.
  4. The Admin panel will have a new look and some new features.
  5. Pre-scheduling is now done under the Activity Tab.
  6. Reviews cannot be removed as in the past.
  7. Highlighting Posts will no longer stretch them across your page.
  8. The first picture in photo albums is how the ‘featured image’ by default.
  9. Photo sizing in albums has changed dramatically. Once sizes are determined you will find them here. More explanation & detail is found below in the excerpt.

    PYK Facebook example

    ‘Old Style’ Facebook Business Page for Posada Yum Kin Hotel, Tulum, Mexico – 2014

  10. The Banner style has changed. It is smaller vertically and the name of your property will now lay on top of your banner image squeezing things even more and covering your image in specific areas.

You can read it directly from Facebook here.

Facebook says the key new features are:

  • Updated Page timeline design
  • Easier Access to key admin tools
  • Ability to Watch Pages

Utlimately, Facebook users will be the judge. Users include you and your future guests. While Facebook is obviously stepping up it’s monitization efforts, it’s important that they do not continue to send hoteliers away or cause them to minimize their exposure on Facebook. There many reasons to potentially do this; one of them being the building presence of Google and their entrance into the OTA space. 

One of my favorite blogs is Heather Turner’s Chef Forfeng’s Weblog. Heather a chef and consultant to B&Bs, is a key advisor on issues relating to restaurants and B&Bs. Below is the link to her entire blog and below that are some excerpts, I’d like to share on the upcoming changes.

When your page has the option to convert, you will see this (below) the first time you login. BEFORE you click update now for Fans, take a look and see if you have any tabs that are really important to you FIRST! (more on this in few screenshots down)


Heather on Albums…

Albums sizes are 518 X 518 (pixels)

  1. The other major change is photo sizing. If you post photos on your business wall, the new sizing is approximate 415W X 557H for vertical photos and 555W X 308H for horizontal photos. Sizes are approximate because I had to use a photo snipper, I could not find where the actual size is listed yet, (but this is close to what it will be).

Photos posted on your business wall are going to become somewhat smaller on the internal page viewer of someone’s feed. The sizing becomes 511H X 344W for vertical photos and 320W X 437H for horizontal photos*

I’ll correct the sizes when the official sizes are made public.

Because of the new photo size changes, where it previously was better to post horizontal photos, it now may be beneficial to try more verticals, as it’s taking up more visual timeline space or even albums in groups of 4 photos.  Albums 518 X 518 (pixels)  gives you more advertising eyes on space then single pictures now.

Heather on the Banner..

The biggest annoyance B&Bs will probably have is the new banner layout, Like, Follow, etc and the name of the business now overlays the banner itself, If you have a long description it brings the text up even further.
Essentially you’re losing almost ½ of the banner in terms of visual usage and if you have text in there now currently, you will have to revisit what it looks like when it converts. It also appears that the square avatar image has moved over very slightly more to the left hand side.

New Facebook Business Page changes Bed and Breakfasts should be aware of.

Google takes on the OTAs- Expedia,, Travelocity

Google takes on the OTAs and has decided to enter the OTA business directly through a licensing deal with Room 77. Room 77 is a OTA startup that currently has hotel listings located only in the US. Despite the money that is earned by Google from OTAs like Expedia, and Travelocity, Google Inc (GOOG) is moving boldly to play a larger role in booking hotel rooms—at the risk of offending some of its most important advertisers.

Google is adding more photos and reviews to its hotel listings, so they increasingly resemble those of travel search sites such as Priceline Group Inc. (PCLN) Expedia Inc(EXPE) and TripAdvisor Inc. (TRIP). And it is more aggressively promoting its “hotel-price ads” that post room rates directly as travel-search sites do.

The idea is to encourage travelers to plan more of their trips directly on Google. In the process Google gets them closer to making a booking, which experts expect will make referrals more valuable, prompting travel agencies and hotel operators to pay more for clicks on Google ads over time. It also encourages more hotel operators to place ads on Google directly, bypassing online travel agencies that charge commissions of up to 25%.

In its latest move related to hotels, Google on Monday struck a licensing deal that will give it access to technology from hotel-booking software startup Room 77 while adding engineers to Google’s hotel-search team.

But the move is risky: Online travel agencies are among Google’s biggest advertisers. Priceline Group will spend more than $1.5 billion in 2014 on Google advertising and Expedia could spend another $1 billion, mainly to attract hotel bookings, estimates RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney. Those two alone could account for nearly 5% of Google’s ad revenue this year, Mr. Mahaney estimates, even though the company has over a million advertising customers.

The hotel-price ads on Google are “a game changer,” said Erik Muñoz, an executive director at hotel-booking software company SiteMinder. He said Google’s new ads allow hotels to compete with online travel agencies for a direct booking, potentially driving down their costs.

“Any time you’re dealing with Google it pays to be careful and know what its long-term strategy is,” says Tom Botts, chief customer officer at Denihan Hospitality Group, which is testing the virtual tour at its Miami property.

The relationship between Google and online travel agencies can be even more tense. They fear Google’s moves to establish direct relationships with hotels, said one executive of Orbitz Worldwide Inc. (OWW) Expedia and TripAdvisor are members of, an advocacy group that highlights what it sees as Google’s anticompetitive practice of promoting its own services in search results. Even so, they remain big spenders on Google advertising because of the valuable leads.
Read more at Places

With continuous improvement of their ‘Google Places’ interface, Google has been developing their ‘hotel search’ offerings. Users searching for hotels will find virtual tours, reviews, ratings, directions, pricing and much more. With the integration of Room 77, they will be able to book directly with each hotel through the Google Search interface. This indeed is a game changer.

For independent hoteliers, a few questions come to mind. How much will their cut be? Expedia commissions are currently at 25% and between 15-20%. Will the Google/Room77 pricing structure be the same or will they create a hybrid structure that includes advertising? How will they incorporate Google Adwords into the equation. Will it be an extention of their Adwords Express where advertisers can place an ad right from their Google Places account?

Finally, the moment many hoteliers have been waiting for… The end of the OTA. Or is it? It might not yet be time to do the happy dance. Not until we learn if it is a fresh approach possibly bringing hotel costs down and increasing actual bookings or just ‘more of the same’ albeit on a grander scale. Or possibly something more sinister? The important question is…  What will it mean for independent lodging owners?

Stay tuned… this is promising to be quite the ride. Whether it’s a fun ride or not, at least for independent lodging professionals, will be determined at a later date.

A Likely TripAdvisor Connect Scenario

Let’s cut through all the noise of the upcoming TripAdvisor Connect announcement with a real life example of a likely TripAdvisor Connect scenario. In last week’s post, Rolling Out TripAdvisor Connect, we dissected the FAQ posted by Trip Advisor and speculated a bit on what’s to come based on what industry insiders are discussing. What will it all mean for you?  Today, let’s dig into the details.ROI of TripAdvisor Connect

I was recently negotiating with one of TripAdvisor’s sale team while working on a client’s behalf. They kindly provided the past year’s data for the hotel. The scenario below is set-up using an approximation of that data for a feasibility study on implementing a TripAdvisor Connect campaign. So even though this article is speculative, it is based on actual data provided by TripAdvisor for a small independent hotel.

The TripAdvisor ROI Calculator reports this 10-room hotel had approximately 70,000 Pageviews annually on its Trip Advisor page and experienced an estimated click-through rate (CTR) of 5%, which is 3500. From the CTR, TripAdvisor derives the expected conversion rate (5% again) predicting the hotel will end up with 175 in annual bookings from their site. Sounds good, eh?

Each TripAdvisor Business Listing subscription is about $9-1,000 usd per year.

With the new TripAdvisor Connect program, the CPC to capitalize on all of these click-throughs, is estimated to be about $2-3 per click (industry estimate from We’ll use $2.50 each for today’s calculation. But remember the OTAs are also competing for this position, so it may actually become quite a bit higher.

ROI TripAdvisor Connect

Based on the last year’s numbers the CPC campaign would use an annual budget of $8,750.00. The business listing and CPC come to an approximate total spend of $9,750.00 and would earn an annual gross total of $31,500 (based on a $90 per night room with 2 nights each on average) for the hotel.

The TripAdvisor take is roughly ONE-THIRD of gross sales ($9,750 is 30.95 percent of $31,500). Since a large part of the click-throughs last year went to OTAs and this new tool was invented to ‘even that playing field’ a shift could occur and that number may increase substantially. And remember, this cost does not factor in website upgrades, pass-along costs from your IBE provider, etc.

It’s important to note that this small hotel actually tracked their conversions from TripAdvisor and realized only 23 bookings, not 175, as projected by TripAdvisor. That equated to about $4140 in actual sales.

What are your TripAdvisor numbers? Is your system able to track where your leads come from?  If not, do you track them manually? How much would you be willing to pay for the new CPC campaign tool from TripAdvisor? Please share your anticipated results or thoughts on this trending subject below in the comment area.

This is the second of a four-part series on the expectations of Trip Advisor Connect brought to you by Social Energizer, Independent Hotel & Lodging Marketing and Operations Integration Advisors. There’s a lot to sort out in today’s online hotel world, let us help you plan your course!

Give us a call today!

Next week I will review and compare the various Internet Booking Engine offerings. If you’re not onboard with the new TA Connect service, our final post of the series will offer ideas on positioning your property to minimize the disadvantages this may bring to the lodging industry.

Funniest Spam Comment Ever!

Battling spam is an unthankful task for any blogger. But this spam comment is too funny not to share!


“certainly like your website but you need to take a

look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number

of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very

bothersome to inform the reality however I will surely come again again.”

Oh my! Now I’m getting insulting spam comments, as they ‘inform the reality’ and ‘come again again’. Sigh… I am left shaking my head and laughing softly to myself. I couldn’t help but share this one -just before hitting the delete spam button.

When it comes down to it, I really do not understand spam. There! I said it! I know what spammers are trying to do, sell on the long shot, scam, establish links for better SEO, etc.. But seriously… how can this help them achieve their goals?

No spelling errors found

Recently, I had a friend that was hacked on Facebook and ‘she’ then told/spammed everyone of her Facebook friends that she had lost 21 pounds! The girl probably weighs 110 pounds soaking wet.


Oh well, stopping spam entirely is futile. I don’t get it, but I do get why I update my Akismet spam filter and use it religiously on all of my customers’ sites and my own. If you’d like to read more spam and how to control it, you can read it here on one of my earlier posts, it was actually a series of four, why not so read them all.

BTW- I know I’m being a bit anal, but there weren’t any typos in the story that was spammed. It’s about Warm and Sunny Tulum, Mexico at a fabulous boutique hotel that I help with and sometimes blog for.


The Influence of Mobile Purchasing on Travel

The infographic below summarizes the behavior of mobile purchasing on Travel based on mobile users in the UK. This demonstrates why lodging managers should be checking to see how their websites and online booking engines appear on mobile devices -particularly tablets.

Here are the key findings on mobile travel purchases from Tnooz.

“The study also shows how key pricing is, with price comparison sites coming top in mobile travel activity and a quarter saying they make a purchase based on price.

Brand preference and price were given as the top two reasons for making a purchase with a third saying they already had a brand in mind.

More details are handily displayed in the infographic below but here are a few highlights:

  • Almost half of mobile travel searchers make a purchase with about a third completing it on their mobile device
  • 31% say they plan to purchase within a day while 60% say within a month or longer
  • Most mobile travel searches are conducted for flights (81%) followed by hotels (67%)
  • 55% of travel searchers say they are researching a planned purchase
  • More mobile travel research is conducted while at home – 83% for tablets and 46% for smartphones”

Mobile Infographic for travel

Nielsen surveyed 1,500 smartphone and tablet users for the study as well as drawing intelligence from its Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6000 Apple and Android users.

And just for fun, I’ll add this infographic in from last fall on mobile purchases within the US  from Business Wire.

Infographic for mobile travel purchases

New Trip Advisor Blackmail Tool for Lodging Managers

Real help for Hotel Reputation Management, Trip Advisor Blackmail Tool for Lodging, Hotels, Inns and B&Bs

Ever have a guest tell you that if you don’t do ‘x, y or z’ that they will write a bad review about you or your property? Now there is help for hoteliers, it’s the Trip Advisor Blackmail Tool for lodging owners and managers! While helping small hotels manage their online reviews, this question has been asked more than once during Social Energizer’s lodging-specific social media coaching sessions. Trip Advisor is finally addressing these concerns of property owners by providing a proactive means of reporting them –smart idea! We applaud Trip Advisor for taking action on what can easily be the downside of living in this review dependent world.

The power of Trip Advisor is obvious. Travelers now read on online reviews 81% of the time while planning travel. This trend is growing every day. With Facebook now entering the travel review arena, this percentage is likely to increase even more.

Here is what Trip Advisor had to say about their new tool, “We hear from owners that potential “blackmail” –when a guest threatens to write a negative review unless a demand for a refund, upgrade, or other request is met – is an occasional concern. We now have a way for you to proactively report these threats more easily, before a corresponding review is potentially submitted. Immediate reporting of blackmail threats can supplement our investigative procedure and help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site.

Trip Advisor Support Page

Trip Advisor says that blackmail threats are taken seriously and in some countries may be illegal. The process for reporting a potential blackmail threat is to log in to your property’s Management Center. Go to “Manage your reviews” and click on the link under “Dispute a review”. Use the drop down where it says, “Please tell us what the issue is:” and select “Report blackmail”. This brings up a form that allows you to provide the following: Reviewers Name (potential blackmailer), Email, Origin, Stay dates (month & year), and a Comment with as many details as possible about the incident.

The trick is to report this as soon as the blackmail type remarks are made. Be very proactive. That way Trip Advisor will have it on file and it will match to any subsequent review before it is posted online. Trip Advisor may follow up with you for further information, so you should keep all documentation and notes in regard to the incident.

If a review is posted before you can report it, then the procedure is a little different, and likely may be less successful. Instead of selecting “Report Blackmail” from the drop down, you will need to select “Report a problem with a review” and “Review is Suspicious” as the problem, add the details to the “Other” section.

In neither case, does Trip Advisor guarantee a removal of the review. They put them under review, with the more proactive “report blackmail” claim having more credibility. While under review, they suggest you post a response using their tips and videos for guidance.

I found this a bit ominous. “Please note: property managers who abuse this new tool will be penalized.” It’s Trip Advisors’ warning at the bottom of their policy page, but I wonder what penalty could be worse than getting a poor, undeserved review? Nevermind, I really don’t want to find out. Do you?

Source: Trip Advisor

Make The Most of Your Hotel Facebook Page

Drastically increase reservations by making the most of your Hotel Facebook Page. Using a few of these ‘secrets’, focus your Facebook Page efforts to relate better with potential guests and ultimately produce more bookings.Travel Leisure Facebook Post Times

  • Use Facebook’s new timeline for businesses to get better exposure, more interaction and increased bookings
  • Add an Online Booking Engine to directly and easily convert FB visitors into reservations
  • Use some age-old marketing tactics to grab attention. What worked well for you offline? Convert that type of promo into an online Facebook version.
  • Learn when to post and how to track your progress

Still not convinced that time spent on Facebook is worthwhile? Or that you are doing it right?

Here are some facts about posting:

  • Brands that post one or two times per day see 19% higher interaction rates
  • Pages that post more than seven times per week actually see a 25% decrease in interaction rates
  • Interaction rates for weekends posts are 14.5% higher that  ones done during on weekday s, yet only 14% of posts are published on weekends.
  • Posting at night gives 14% better results than during the day.

Yes, you really can get bookings from Facebook! These steps are just a few of the things you can do to make the most of your Facebook Page. Just like any promotional channel, the more you put into it the more you will get out. Unlike a simple ‘promotional channel’ however this social media network allows you to let your potential guest get to know you better. Interaction is the key. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but by engaging with guests before check-in you are setting their expectations and providing valuable information to them for their stay. Think of it as your virtual Front Desk.

Using Facebook is an affordable and vital way of getting new business. We can help you navigate (and ROCK!) these steps. We’ll show you how to begin to actually book business on Facebook and automate many of your social media functions. What are you waiting for? Are you doing these steps well enough to actually see the pay off? Let’s get to work and make this a solid part of your marketing mix.

Sources: Linchpin SEO

Online Hotel Marketing

When it comes to online hotel marketing, Social Energizer can help you tackle the tough parts. Each solution has been researched, tested and chosen for features that will quickly help you make the most of getting online. You’ll be amazed at our focus on choices that let you work less, not more!

Online Booking Engine on your website

A Smart Website that gets found in Google searches, connects to Facebook, is dynamic and changing each week, is informative with easy-to-find answers, and integrates with your property management system.

Property Management System -we have teamed up with one of the best PMS companies in North America for small hotels and can help implement their system at your hotel quickly and efficiently. Have the best of both worlds, state-of-the-art technology, backed by local and personal assistance that is able to focus on your business’ needs.

• GDS/OTA Integration Assistance -from strategy to implementation, our assistance will save you hundreds of hours of work and frustration. Optimize your new PMS with seemless integrations to your favorite online partner. Using our strategy, you will discover how working with online partners can be a WIN/WIN for everyone -without costing you an arm and a leg!

• Merchant Account / PCI Compliance -Allow guests to charge their room charges right from your website  booking engine and your staff to charge from within the reservation -all with lower fees than you are probably paying now! Then have those monies deposited to your bank all from within a controlled and trackable interface. Exceed the standards that credit card companies require for processing credit cards with PCI Compliance.

• Social Media integration and automation -social media is a lot of work, but the payoffs can be the most significant of all possible efforts. Integrate to reach full impact. Automate for efficiency and the sake of your sanity! After all, you have a hotel to run.

• Mobile Website so potential guests can find you on the go. Over 30% of travelers now find their accommodations by connecting to the Internet via their cell phones and tablets. Can they find and use your mobile website?

Automate routine guest communication -Welcome, cancellation and after-stay follow-up emails can be set-up to almost run on their own. Now, won’t that be a lot of work off your plate?

Marketing -run an ad campaign on Google, email campaign to your past guests, send press releases to online media outlets of your latest accomplishment. That’s just the start of the things we can do together!

Business Support -email with your domain like, learn to utilize free powerful online services that will revolutionize the way you do business.

Learn and stay up-to-date -It’s a new world out there. Learn about new trends, opportunities and threats that relate to travel and hospitality.

For a full list of our services be sure to check out our ‘Services‘ page.

Today’s Travel Decision Cycle [TRAVEL INFOGRAPHIC]

Today, we look at how travelers increasingly use online media and mobile technology throughout the various stages of travel. The art of travel has changed and the Travel Decision Cycle has evolved. The former model that usually included a travel agent and resources like the OAG (Official Airline Guide) no longer fits. Today’s model includes much more depth and social interaction in the ‘Planning’ stage, more automaton of the transactional ‘Booking’ stage and once again, more depth and social interaction in the after-travel phase of ‘Sharing’.Travel Decision Cycle

Travel Decision Cycle 

The stages of the Travel Decision Cycle are:  Dreaming, Planning, Research, Travel Reviews, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing. The travel infographic below shows some of the online companies that support this market. Some companies, like Trip Advisor, Facebook and Pinterest have services that support more than one stage.

Top Online Travel Companies

As of this writing, these are the big players in travel: TrippyPinterestGogobot, Citybot, Tripline, TouristEye, Worldmate, Tripit, RelaxWisconsin (a product of, Momando, Virtual Tourist, Facebook, Fodor’s, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google Places, IgoUgo, Yahoo Local, Kayak, Hotwire, Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline, CheapOAir,, Hipmunk,, Orbitz, Hotel Website Booking Engines, FlipKey, AirBNB, HomeAway, VRBO, Foursquare, Tripwolf, and Flickr.

Watch for future articles on each of these providers and the roles they play in each part of the travel cycle. Do you know of some we’ve missed? Please add them in the comments and we’ll add and update the infographic.