Google are warning business owners, including hotel and B&B owners, that “fake glowing testimonies” written by reputation management companies on Google+ Local pages will be taken down.
Google+ Local used to just be called Google Places. It’s essentially just normal Google search with a location slant. These local search results appear anytime an online user combines a search item with a geographical modifier, i.e., “B&B York.” The results appear as a listing and as pins on a map. They are sorted by their relevance, which is determined by how close each B&B is to your current location when you search.
One of the issues we return to time and again on theBandBer is online reviews. They’ve come to dominate the thoughts of many accommodation providers. The good ones give you a warm glow. The bad ones keep you awake at night. The fake ones send you into a rage.
When we first started covering this topic, there was relatively little good, consistent advice out there on how best to respond to feedback on review sites like TripAdvisor and various social media channels. With this in mind, we’ve frequently tried to offer helpful tips ourselves, in order to bring some clarity to the issue.
You may remember us mentioning a while back that the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency ordered TripAdvisor to remove the phrase “reviews you can trust” from its homepage. After many frustrating years for hotel and B&B owners, the issue of authenticity does seem to be getting more mainstream attention.
Now, one of the largest hotel companies in the world is taking matters into its own hands, by verifying all (unmediated) reviews on its own sites against a database of actual bookings.
Every B&B owner knows that the world of online reviews in a complex one, fraught with possibilities and anxieties in equal measure. Some accommodation providers have been given a terrific visibility/sales boost by excellent online feedback. Others (like this one) have suffered from malicious fake reviews. And some have tried to game the system by creating fake reviews of their own.
A former hotelier and now a specialist in online reputation management, Daniel Edward Craig is always astute and articulate. In a recent guest article for Hospitality.net, he raised the interesting issue of whether or not coming first in your local area on TripAdvisor is necessarily always a good thing. It could, of course, mean that your B&B is – like Mary Poppins – practically perfect in every way. But it might also mean that it’s… well, a bit too much of a bargain.
In what may be described as a very qualified victory, a B&B owner in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides has won the right to sue TripAdvisor in his native country for allegedly publishing fake reviews.
Back in August, it was reported that Richard Gollin, owner of the Baile na Cille B&B on the Isle of Lewis, had launched a small claims action at Stornoway Sheriff Court over what he said were ‘false and malicious’ criticisms. Mr Gollin claimed that these ‘fake’ criticisms had cost him valuable bookings of around £2,000 and that TripAdvisor had ignored him when he asked it to remove some postings. The guesthouse, officially rated on TripAdvisor as “#1 of 1 Timsgarry B&B and Inns” in Timsgarry, Lewis, currently has 58 reviews, 37 of which rate it as “excellent.”
Back in 2010, a UK reputation management firm called Kwikchex launched a campaign against TripAdvisor for publishing allegedly libellous anonymous reviews about hotels. In particular, it has been working with the Advertising Standards Agency to demonstrate how unverified reviews sites can be abused. However Tennessee judge recently ruled that there was no defamation caused by TripAdvisor including the Grand Resort, Pigeon Forge on its 2011 “Dirtiest Hotels” list: “It does not appear to the Court that a reasonable person could believe that TripAdvisor’s article reflected anything more than the opinions of TripAdvisor’s millions of online users.”
As reported by EyeForTravel, there was a big marketing, mobile and social media conference (read: digital bun fight) held in Amsterdam the other day. Attendees included four of the world’s biggest travel brands: Disney, KLM, Expedia and the Wyndham hotel group. They talked about how to get customers to your website and how to encourage them to book direct with you. Some of what they said was couched in the usual dismal marketing-speak (e.g. your website should be “platform and browser agnostic”, which just means that it should work on mobiles and different types of browser, like Firefox and Chrome.)
Like most visual aspects of life, a bed and breakfast’s website is very much a personal thing. That said, there are certain practical additions that are absolutely necessary to ensure you give yourself the best chance of getting extra bookings. Here are a few strategies that – if done well – can make a real difference.
1. Great images help your customers relate to your B&B. These are so important it’s worth considering getting them done professionally. Start by identifying what customers like or love about your property and then try to capture that in images. For example, make a note if you really want to show a particular aspect of your property or area that is seasonal: it could be bluebells, a certain shrub in full flower or the autumn leaves in woodland nearby. Never underestimate the power of these images as they really speak to us on a deeper emotional level.
There’s an interesting new article on EyeForTravel about the methods accommodation owners are using to keep customers on their own sites and prevent them gravitating away to OTA sites like Booking.com and review sites like TripAdvisor. It may be focused on hotel groups, but its lessons are equally applicable to B&Bs: