Decoding TripAdvisor: An Advanced Guide to Rankings

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Rank High on Tripadvisor

When it comes to online sales, TripAdvisor may be tourism’s answer to Amazon. By highlighting social proof, offering booking immediacy through 3rd parties, and utilizing various tactics for user engagement, the website has become a high ranking, widely used portal for people across the globe to plan holidays.

Just how popular is TripAdvisor? Well on average, the site gathers 390 million unique visitors per month. Per, the site ranks 82nd for all sites within the United States.

Conversion rates sit at about 6%, so by very simple calculations, that comes out to 23.4 million people making an action on the site monthly!

Clearly, collaborating with TripAdvisor can be a lucrative venture for tour and travel based businesses. TA makes this pretty easy, with a management portal hosting advertising tools, content management options, and even the ability to respond personally to reviewers.

These tools come into play when companies wish to control their presentation, but even more importantly, how highly they rank – because above all, a business must be seen in the first place or all other work is moot.

When tourism consulting, we’re often asked if there’s anything a company can do to rank higher.

The short answer is: yes. The long answer? It’s always changing and you must stay on top of it.

To make the topic a bit easier to digest, we’ve spent some time analyzing TripAdvisor’s Popularity Ranking Algorithm, and charted the best routes to get in front of the eyes of travelers.

Enhanced Popularity Ranking Algorithm

Last year, TripAdvisor analyzed the impact of hundreds of millions of reviews over the past 15 years - then creating the Enhanced Popularity Ranking Algorithm. The purpose was to help stabilize rankings by increasing value in both consistency and quantity of reviews. This is important because the change not only decreases fast-riser behavior, it incorporates more accuracy to the overall ranking.

The enhanced Popularity Ranking Algorithm is based on three key ingredients:

  • Quality: “Inflate your bubble.” TripAdvisor uses bubbles instead of the common star rating approach. Properties with better bubble ratings will still rank higher than those with lower ones. Go after those 5 bubble reviews!
  • Recency: Was your property lacking a bit 2 years ago? Have no fear! TripAdvisor has taken in to consideration the importance of recent reviews for the most accurate ranking of customers' experience. This means that your reviews from last year won’t weigh in as much as your average reviews from last week.
  • Quantity: “The more the merrier.” The number of reviews is an indispensable reference to travelers when researching properties on TripAdvisor, helping the overall accuracy of the ranking. Do NOT be shy about asking guests to leave a review of your property.

Website Engagement is Key

When noting "engagement," we're referring to interactions on a website. On TA, web visitors are doing much more than just reading!

With TripAdvisor being the world’s largest travel site* (*Source: comScore Media Metrix for TripAdvisor Sites, worldwide, November 2016), it is not surprising to learn that travelers are adding 200 new contributions to the site each minute. It's crucial for businesses to garner as many of those contributions as possible – reviews, review votes, image uploads, etc.

Important note for B&Bs and small business owners: you'll have to step up and compete with the big guys, as size does not matter to TripAdvisor's new algorithm. The site’s analysis established that although smaller properties obviously pull in far less visitors, they still benefit from the ability to provide more personalized attention and service, theoretically resulting in more guests (quantity) who are inclined to write good reviews (quality).

Virtuous Circle of Guest Engagement

During Tnooz’s webinar on TripAdvisor ranking improvement, Brian Payea, Head of Industry Relations at TripAdvisor, shared the importance of the “Virtuous Circle of Guest Engagement” in order to drive results.

High performing properties benefit from the circle, which drives success using the ranking algorithm’s main ingredients - quantity, recency, and quality.

At the core:

  • Encourage guests to write reviews
    • Recommended Review Collection Tools

      Review Express: Learn more about it here.
      Reminder cards or stickers

  • Monitor reviews, then share with operational team
  • Make changes based on guest feedback

Encouraging guest reviews is a huge factor of staying engaged. In fact, PhoCusWright data shows that more than half of travelers will not actually pursue a booking until they have read the reviews.

Conclusively, highly engaged properties have 4x more average page views per month. Top performing properties generally have at least one active verified owner in TripAdvisor’s management center, a minimum of 10 management photos, and respond to more than 25% of customer reviews.

Top Takeaways

Although explicit details of TripAdvisor’s rankings algorithm are not divulged to the public, it is apparent that the site values content. (After all, it helps their own rankings in Google.)

Remember that "nothing is free" - the tools TA gives companies are above all, set to help the site's own popularity and Google indexing. This is perhaps why there is no TripAdvisor "business help" phone number (or at least one that is easy to find.)

However, if a business owner does invest effort into essentially building out TripAdvisor with fresh, relative, clear content, they will be rewarded. This is the best route to ranking higher, given they also focus on the company product itself, using feedback from reviews.

Here's a few specific tactics we've found to help businesses rank higher on TripAdvisor:

  • Collect More Reviews:
    • Make sure that “front line” employees have a plan and approach for requesting feedback.
    • Cover the importance of reviews throughout every internal company meeting.
    • Explore having a dry erase "leader board" noting the number of tour guides' individual 5 star reviews to increase competition and create top of mind awareness for staff.
    • Utilize review collection tools from TripAdvisor's management portal.
  • Respond to Reviews:
    • Be sure to respond to reviews, good and bad, and in a timely manner. Remember that the world is reading these responses, so be graceful and make sure to note the selling points of your property.
  • Marketing:
    • Use “highly reviewed on TripAdvisor” on brochures and marketing materials, gaining visitor trust and reminding them that you are listed on the site.
  • Sales:
    • Work with Viator or (the site’s 3rd party resellers) to offer all versions of your product and create packages.
  • Create Content:
    • Highlight your property with stunning imagery – it will go far.
    • Keep contact information and "About" section up to date - and maximize potential with top selling points!
  • Heighten Your Product:
    • Listen to what guests say, and then make product updates based on their feedback.
  • Do Not:
    • Do not host a computer for the public to offer TripAdvisor reviews of your property on site – it may be flagged as a questionable contributor. 
    • Do not submit or harvest false reviews – if detected, TripAdvisor can and will highlight your property with a big, red notice.
    • Do not offer a reward or monetary bonus for top tour guide review collection. It can get you flagged.
  • Top Take Away: Be proud of your property and don’t be shy about highlighting it!!


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