Consumer habits have changed dramatically in the last few years, and nowhere is that more evident than in the travel and tourism industry. Increasingly sophisticated consumers now have a number of powerful tools at their disposal, including customer reviews, and the convenience and ubiquity of smartphones and tablets not only allow them to consume more content for longer periods of time, but they can do so from wherever they happen to be, no matter the day or time.
With everyone spending all this time researching future trips online, most travel and tourism businesses realize that customer reviews are a vital resource for potential patrons who want to evaluate a hotel, location or attraction. But reviews are important for business search results as well.
As of last June, some of Google’s local search results began to appear as a row of images across the top of the page. This new display – or “carousel” – brings together all the best local results for searches related to travel, restaurants and hospitality. It’s also expanding to include other categories such as sports and entertainment, among others.
Now when you type in a query like “hotel downtown Minneapolis,” the search engine prominently displays reviews, ratings and images for 20 sites. Google ranks the locations based on a combination of quality and quantity of Google reviews, according to a study by Digital Marketing Works. This means that customer reviews, for a growing number of travel businesses, now play an integral part in Google’s search results.
Whether your customers are looking for a boutique hotel near the ocean, theater tickets or recommended restaurants in the city they plan to visit, sorting through all the information can be difficult. For travel and tourism businesses, and a growing number of others, maximizing the impact of reviews is more important than ever.
Here are some ways to harness the power of customer-created content:
- Consider customer reviews as part of a bigger strategy that also includes paid and owned media. Hotels, restaurants and other hospitality brands should optimize for all aspects of Google. High-quality website content, customer reviews and advertising content work together to drive search results.
- With a bigger emphasis on reviews, there’s also increased value in Google reviews. If your business hasn’t done this already, set up a Google Places page and a Google+ Local business page (customers can write reviews in both locations). Although non-Google sources for reviews come up in search results, Google places more emphasis on reviews from its own sites.
- A higher quantity of reviews could give your business a better location on the carousel. Encourage customers to review your business on Google+ and Google Places; include a request on a receipt or in a follow-up email after the guest has returned home. You can also link to the review form on your website and in marketing promotions.
As Google’s search algorithm becomes increasingly sophisticated, reviews will take on even more significance, becoming more personalized and locally focused. To stay ahead of the pack, and make your location or attraction more enticing to travelers, start taking advantage of this valuable tool now.