Recently, Google has implemented some important changes to its review product that hoteliers, lodging operators and hospitality business should be aware of. This includes enhancing hotel pages with review filters, search and sorting options as well as reviews from other sources. The company is also very proactive about soliciting reviews from users. As a result, Google review volume has spiked for hotels around the world.
Google reviews are part of the overall Maps ecosystem and achieve a tremendous amount of user engagement, according to Google. Google Maps is constantly improving, with more than 25 million updates made each day throughout the world.”
During a recent ReviewPro webinar, Cliff Galitz, Partner Development Manager at Google, explained changes to Google’s review product, which are summarized below.
When you search hotels in a destination and select a hotel, a series of tabs appears at the top of the page, including a Reviews tab. The Reviews tab shows at the top an upper histogram and summarizes the reviews and ratings submitted directly by Google users.
Reviews on other travel sites
Google now displays reviews from other sources in addition to reviews from Google users. Below the rating summary there’s a complementary section with data from select third-party partners with quality content that is trusted and valued by users.
Reviews are one of the most valuable information sources for travelers when they search for hotels, according to Google. The company is constantly looking for ways to improve the user experience and believes that the inclusion of reviews from partners helps users make an effective decision on where to stay.
Ratings by traveler type
This section shows a summary of review scores segmented by traveler type that’s provided via license from reviews around the web. At the bottom of the page users can scroll down to read complete review text from these sources.
Users can also search reviews to find any reviews that mention a particular topic of interest such as the pool, a local transit station or a nearby point of interest. There’s advanced sorting and filtering on this search so users can quickly find the most relevant review content from Google and partners.
Impact on rankings
According to Google, review and photo content is clearly valued by users, and as a result this content does play into how search results surface on Google—something hotel managers should be aware of.
Hotel search is an organic experience, and Google uses machine learning to find the most relevant hotels for every user search. The model takes into account many organic factors, including location, but also customer ratings and the overall availability of useful information in the listing.
As for management responses, there’s no direct correlation with the responses and positioning, according to Google. Yet there are many other benefits to providing thoughtful, meaningful responses, particularly in the case of negative comments.
Benefits of review volume
Review volume can have positive impact on a property’s visibility too. With the new reviews search feature, more reviews may naturally lead to better information from guests that is important and helpful to other users. Users will also want to see recent reviews, so it helps to have a steady inbound flow of reviews.
A few simple ways to improve the volume and quality of review content on Google include prompting guests to leave a Google review through guest satisfaction surveys, adding a link to leave a review in correspondence to guests, and using the Google My Business (GMB) platform to respond to user reviews.
How and when to dispute a review
In addition to educating users on what makes up a good review, Google does some moderation to block, for example, profane reviews or other violations of Google policy.
While Google stresses that responding to reviews is the best way to engage with guests and try to correct misinformation in a review, businesses also have the option to flag an inappropriate review that violates Google policy to Google My Business or on Maps.
Before doing so, check Google’s policy and flag only reviews that violate policies. Don’t flag a review just because you disagree or don’t like it. Google doesn’t get involved when merchants and customers disagree about facts because there’s no reliable way to discern who might be right or wrong about a particular customer experience.
If you feel there’s some legitimate reason why a review should not apply to your business, you can flag it for removal, in which case it should be evaluated and potentially removed. Be patient. It can take several days for reviews to be assessed.
Note too that outdated photos submitted by users that are no longer relevant can also be flagged for removal.
For more information about Google’s review policy, click here.
Google’s Questions & Answers feature
Recently, you may have noticed that Google users have posted questions about your hotel on your listing. In Google Maps users can ask and answer questions about places and businesses, and business owners and others can respond.
The manager of your GMB listing will receive notifications about new questions. Note that Google users can respond to the questions too, so it’s important to monitor answers and respond quickly and thoroughly. The answers can provide a great living FAQ about your business.
Similar to reviews, inappropriate or irrelevant content can be flagged for possible removal.
Google has seen tremendous user response to the new content and design, including significant uplift in user happiness and a doubling of review and photo views. There are also early indications of a significant increase in both clicks and room bookings.