When it comes to the hospitality industry, reviews aren’t just ego boosters or destroyers – they’re an influential part of your brand’s SEO. Search engines care about what customers think of your brand, and reviews will inevitably play a role in your hospitality business’s rankings

It’s all about online reputation management. Handled correctly, customer reviews can improve search rankings and boost your SEO efforts. Ignored, they will have the opposite effect.

If there’s one thing that the past couple of years has taught us, it’s that travel has changed dramatically – and your strategies need to keep up with the latest SEO trends. That includes managing your online reputation via on and off-site reviews.

In this post, let’s find out why customer reviews can impact your SEO, how to handle customers’ good and bad reviews, and more hospitality SERP-related tips.

Why Search Engines Care About Customer Reviews 

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In 2022, it’s estimated that online hotel bookings will exceed $174 million across the globe. Currently, 72% of new customers won’t make their travel bookings without doing some kind of research – and a large chunk of that “research” includes reading reviews. 

So, why do search engines care about customer reviews? Because searchers care. 

Google, specifically, wants to give customers the best possible results for their queries. That means it looks for search results that are reliable, accurate, and trustworthy. How does it determine if a business checks those boxes? By reading reviews, alongside crawling the brand’s website and assessing other factors. 

The search engine giant takes review diversity, recency, and quality into account when running its algorithms. If you want your hospitality to rank highly for top subjects and keywords, then you need to ensure its finding the right information in your customers’ reviews – both on your website and on third-party sites. 

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On-Site Reviews 

Whether you’re pulling customer testimonials or letting users contribute feedback directly on your website, on-site reviews are powerful. 

Search engines love to see credible links to customer research, reviews, testimonials, and blogs on brand websites. This indicates that the brand is involved with its customers, but it also brings the most positive shopper sentiments to the forefront of the company’s online presence. 

Off-Site Reviews 

Reviews also play a huge role in your off-page SEO strategies. Google and all other search engines won’t just look at your hospitality company’s website – they’ll look at other sites like Tripadvisor, Hotels.com, and Expedia, too. 

A strong presence on those off-page reviews is crucial. It helps you build a bigger, more comprehensive picture of your brand for search engines to assess. When Google can find your brand on social media, third-party review platforms, and other blogs, it’s more inclined to deem it credible.

If your hospitality brand is struggling to rank well in search results, it could be a result of poor off-page SEO strategies. Moz even claims that third-party reviews could carry more than 50% of your ranking factor weight

Take a look at reviews on other sites and determine what can be done to improve your big-picture presence. The more off-page reviews and content your brand gets, the more likely you are to see your name at the top of important search results.

Of course, you’re happiest when you see those ego-boosting positive reviews role in. So, how do they help you rank better with search engines? 

What Do Good Reviews Do to Your SEO? 

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We don’t mean to state the obvious, but positive reviews are the ones you definitely want. They don’t just make your brand look good – they give you some serious brownie points with Google and the other top search engines.

Why do glowing reviews improve your SEO? Well, good reviews… 

1. Boost Your Click-Through Rates

This is a fancy way of saying that more people will click on your brand’s website when they see positive reviews online. More clicks = improved rankings in most cases, even though Google has claimed that CTR is not necessarily a ranking factor.

Think of it this way: are you more likely to visit the website of a hotel with a 5-star customer rating or one with a 2-star rating? More people will click on the 5-star hotel, and as a result, Google will most likely see that hotel as the better result to feature in searches. 

2. Lower Your Hospitality Site’s Bounce Rates

The travel industry boasts a 43% bounce rate, meaning hospitality businesses face a bit of an uphill battle when it comes to lowering click-and-leave visits from searchers. 

When Google sees people clicking on your website, only to leave (perhaps because they stumbled across a bad review), that’s a red mark on your site’s scorecard. Google wants to rank websites that give their customers exactly what they want- not hospitality sites that seem to scare visitors away left and right. 

If people read good reviews of your brand, both on and off the page, they are less likely to bounce away the moment they visit your website. That’s good for both your brand’s revenue and its search engine rankings. 

3. Help Brands Rank for Targeted Keywords

Lastly, good reviews are an excellent way to rank for specific keywords. As a form of user-generated content, customer reviews are viewed as extremely valuable and authentic in search engine strategies. If you can obtain a fair number of reviews that include your targeted keywords, that’s SEO gold.

For example, let’s say your hospitality business is trying to rank for the phrase, “easy hotel reservations.” If someone is singing praises about your company’s “easy hotel reservations” in their reviews, that’s hugely beneficial when it comes to ranking for the phrase in the future. 

Google hates keyword stuffing, but it sure does love organic keyword usage, and there’s nothing more natural than a well-written positive review. 

Tips for Responding to Positive Reviews 

Now, remember: positive reviews won’t pack nearly as powerful of a punch if you ignore them. Your brand needs to respond to each and every review, including those singing your praises. 

When you respond to positive reviews, make sure to:

  • Say thank you to the customer/writer. 
  • Personalize the message (no copying and pasting responses).
  • Be concise but specific and kind. 
  • Express gratitude rather than self-congratulations. 
  • Give the customer a reason to come back again. 

When you respond to positive reviews, you give Google yet another reason to believe your business is valid, trusted, and responsible. 

But what happens when the review is less than kind? This brings us to the topic of bad reviews and SEO.

How Do Bad Reviews Hurt Your Hospitality SEO? 

Bad reviews are usually, well, not good. In short, they can hurt your brand’s reputation and cause search engines to associate negative keywords with your business. 

For example, take the phrase “lost reservation” in the hospitality industry. That’s a keyword you really, really don’t want to be associated with your brand – but if it appears in several angry reviews associated with your brand, Google may begin to associate it with your company. 

If you get enough bad reviews (and bad associations), Google could very well begin to exclude your brand from top rankings for the keywords you do want. 

In most cases, a few bad reviews aren’t the end of the world. The problems arise when these bad reviews become consistent and when your brand fails to address them appropriately.

Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews 

Speaking of addressing negative reviews, it’s crucial that your hospitality brand responds to every angry, upset, or derogatory review that is posted – no matter how nasty it may be. 

Google (and other searchers) want to see your brand take ownership for wrongdoings and treat unhappy customers with respect. Address the issue, make the necessary apologies, and explain how your brand will do better in the future. 

It’s best to respond within 24 hours if you want to minimize the damage to your online reputation. Acting quickly is also the best way to change the negative reviewer’s mind and maybe even get them to delete or change their bad review.

Are Negative Reviews Ever Helpful

Actually, sometimes negative reviews can actually aid your SEO strategies. Let’s talk about how. 

1. They Make Your Brand Seem Real 

The internet is flooded with fake reviews, and the hospitality industry is especially hard-hit by fraudulent content. Some five-star reviews are forged to boost brands’ rankings while other negative reviews are faked to unfairly bring down the competition.

Either way, you need to assume that your customers are somewhat skeptical when it comes to your brand’s online reputation. They aren’t just reading reviews to learn about your company – they’re assessing your credibility and authenticity, as well as that of the reviewers. 

Hospitality brands with nothing but glowing reviews seem a little… sketchy. People like to see a few mediocre or even bad reviews thrown in simply because it reassures them that real customers have feedback. Surprisingly, much research has found that searchers believe negative reviews are far more credible and positive ones.

Google is the same way. Your bad reviews humanize your brand, and even if they put you in a negative light, they also make you look real. 

2. Bad Reviews Are an Opportunity for Improvement 

This might sound like a backhanded compliment, but it’s true – Google likes to see brands that respond, act, and improve after receiving poor feedback.

Customers and search engines both appreciate companies that play an active role in managing their online reputations. It makes them seem like living, breathing brands rather than a fake name plastered on a quickly drawn-up website.  

In fact, Google has actually confirmed that responding to bad reviews can help improve your ranking. Its support page for Google My Business tells businesses to “interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.

As you can see, bad reviews do serve a purpose when it comes to your SEO strategies. You just need to play your cards right when the next unkind review comes rolling in. 

In Conclusion 

There you have it – a quick but comprehensive guide to how reviews impact your hospitality brand’s SEO. We covered the benefits of both good and bad public feedback, as well as ways to respond to reviews and boost your organic search rankings. 

Do you have further questions about customer reviews and hospitality SEO? Don’t hesitate to contact our team at Lure Agency. This stuff is our bread and butter, and we’re happy to help hospitality brands cultivate and improve their SEO strategies.