Where to Look For Guest Reviews (+ Best Practices for Managing Them)

Guest reviews were once a line or two in a pen-and-paper book, and went largely unseen unless a potential guest was visiting the physical establishment. The internet has rapidly revolutionized the method of feedback and increased the audience for those reviews exponentially -- but that isn’t always a good thing for hotels.



Hotel owners and property managers have learned that it pays -- both literally and figuratively -- to keep a very close eye on reviews for their property and to act swiftly in the event of a problem.

Being quick with an appropriate response demonstrates a proactive, guest-centric attitude that appeals to potential customers, just as a slow or rude response has the opposite effect on capacity rates.

Not All Reviews Are Made Equal

So how does a property or hotel balance responding to comments and navigating damage control when a complaint is so visible?

The short answer is that it really depends on the site you're dealing with. In general, however, be aware that bad reviews are something like tattoos -- once you have one, it's likely not going anywhere.

Most travel sites maintain integrity by proudly stating that companies cannot pay to remove or hide reviews of any sort, good or bad, and that means that property responses are make-or-break territory.

Common Review Locations

1. Hotels.com & Kayak.com

Where big-budget ad campaigns go, people typically follow -- especially when it's as easy as typing a web address into the smartphone they're already holding.

The prolific, and some might even say aggressive, marketing campaigns of both Hotels.com (originators of the bearded, uniformed-decked Captain Obvious character) and Kayak.com (which coined the ever-catchy "search one and done") have paid off.

Both sites are the go-to for would-be vacationers or individuals shopping for hotel rooms while planning a trip. The ratings that individual guests leave on the site, both of the "star" variety as well as certain tags -- great food, good location, etc. -- help determine how high or low your property ranks in the overall results.

A particularly proactive hotel can, through their own efforts both on-site and online, nudge their business higher than it might appear otherwise on a search engine like Google. It's a smaller, extremely specific pond and that makes it considerably easier to fish for great placement.

What if I get a bad review?

Guest reviews on these sites are a huge indicator for customers, as your competitors are only a few pixels to the right or left. Be sincere, never rise to the bait of difficult guests, and factually correct any misinformation without being condescending.

If a guest mentions the pool was dirty, explain that your facility has a pool service come by twice a week, or if they complain that the room was too hot or too cold, mention that your in-room HVAC units are periodically serviced for accuracy and thank them for bringing it to your attention.

Arguing with guests or letting your anger show in review comments will almost universally come off as defensive and portray your property in a bad light. When in doubt, ask someone that isn't affiliated with your property to read your response before posting it. A fresh set of eyes can reveal biases that you might not have otherwise noticed in your responses to guest reviews.

2. YELP & Google Review

Yelp was once the undisputed king or reviews -- so much so that "Yelping," meaning to leave a review on Yelp, became something of a verb in its own right. These days, the site struggles with the eternal problem of fake reviews.

Whether they're motivated by rival businesses or political stances such as Virginia's Red Hen restaurant in its now-famous incident with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, once the Internet feels strongly about a business it typically marches to Yelp brandishing torches and pitchforks. Yelp's response to this tactic has been to implement particularly unforgiving filters, checking everything from a poster's hometown to their history of reviewing before allowing a particular review to see the digital light of day.

One of the best ways to solicit reviews that will make it past this unyielding gatekeeper is to offer a Yelp-related bonus or freebie with a stay (avoid outright discounts, as this may cause an ethical issue.) If you entice reviewers that already have a healthy history on Yelp, their reviews are less likely to get filtered out.    

Google reviews are still a relatively big player in the grand scheme of reviewing platforms. Their reviews will, unsurprisingly, show up in conjunction with a search for your business and may be a potential guest's first contact with your fans or detractors.

When trying to find a last-minute place to stay for the night, these reviews can be the push into your lobby or the nudge into a competitor's, depending on how positive or negative the reviews appear to be. Always make sure you "claim" your business on Google in order to gain access to response capabilities.

What if I get a bad review?

Much like Hotels.com and Kayak.com, Google and Yelp allow you to respond to posted guest reviews. Follow the same guidelines and be consistent about responding to each and every negative review, or, ideally, every review regardless of tone, with a personalized note.

Positive "Thank you for staying with us!" style notes on good reviews can encourage repeat business, particularly if you don't use the same cut-and-paste response for each review.

3. Facebook Business Page Reviews

With Facebook's recent emphasis on non-business content sending a clear message to the world, Facebook reviews aren't nearly as important as they used to be.

That doesn't mean that you can afford to ignore them, of course, but they fall much lower in the hierarchy of concern than the other sites mentioned above. Where the focus of these sites is typically review-based, Facebook business page reviews are more of an incidental side note. Customers on the page are far more likely to be interested in hours of operation or a contact number.

A caveat: Reviews might not "sit" in their proper place on Facebook. When a customer has a problem with your company, don't be surprised if they "tag" your company in a post on their own Facebook page to air their dirty laundry. If this is the case, you may or may not be able to respond to it!

What if I get a bad review?

If you can respond, it's always an excellent idea to ask them to contact you privately to settle the matter -- and verbally request they amend their review with an update on the resolution.

4. Forums & Blogs

Largely a collection of like-minded people, these communities can have strong word-of-mouth potential for enticing new guests, but the audience is degrees of magnitude smaller, and thus the effects of a review -- positive or negative -- are also considerably smaller.

If a well-known local blogger with a large following organically "talks up" your establishment, it's worth reaching out to them to thank them and build additional goodwill. A contest or giveaway is also an appropriate discussion, though your marketing cost will need to be carefully balanced with their audience reach.

What if I get a bad review?

Don't panic. Unless it's a particularly well-read and well-circulated blog, it's not likely to have much of an impact. If, however, it starts showing up in the first page of your own Google search results, you may need to reach out to the blogger or forum poster directly to attempt to make things right. The good news is, it's fairly easy for an author to take down a blog post if an outstanding issue gets resolved to their satisfaction -- it won't linger in perpetuity the way a harsh word might on a review site.


Stay Alert!

No matter where and how reviews of your property are appearing online, you should be aware of them as soon as possible.

The faster you spot an issue, the more tools you have at your disposal to fix it -- and that ultimately means happier customers. Set a Google alert for your business name and you'll get an email anytime someone mentions the name of your establishment online, be it in guest reviews or a "Top 10" blog for your city. This smart, easy move ensures you'll always be ahead of the game when it comes to your reviews -- not playing catch-up.

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