Review Strategy Is Key to Restaurant Success, Says TripAdvisor Restaurants Marketing Leader

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The following post refers to the content of a talk given at a summit hosted by local marketing tech vendor Brandify. Brandify is Street Fight’s publisher.

Click here to watch the video of the TripAdvisor session.

What’s one of the secrets to a coveted top spot on a TripAdvisor Restaurants list? Respond to every review within 24 hours, said Mark Goloboy, the marketing leader for TripAdvisor Restaurants, at a panel during Brandify’s 2018 conference.

TripAdvisor Restaurants hosts pages for 4.6 million restaurants and has about 200 million users every month. “We are the world’s largest restaurant site—that’s something we’re really proud of,” said Goloboy, adding that helping restaurants manage their online reputation “is something we care deeply about at TripAdvisor.”

During his talk, “Reputation Management: An International Strategy,” Goloboy outlined a number of tips for restaurants hoping to draw new customers. While most restaurant owners indicate that social media is their number-one advertising priority, the marketing chief emphasized the oft under-utilized power of reviews to increase a customer base.

“94% of customers say that their dining decisions are influenced by reviews,” Goloboy said. “TripAdvisor has over 660 million reviews and pieces of content on our site,” and most people believe the reviews they read are accurate representations of their experience, he added.

In addition, 93% of people surveyed by TripAdvisor said they visited the site to leave mostly positive reviews, Goloboy said. Reviews on TripAdvisor restaurants average 4.3 out of 5 possible bubbles, meaning that most reviewers leave 4- or 5-bubble ratings.

The most expensive restaurants often do not top TripAdvisor lists. Instead, “it’s the restaurants that do better than you’d expect” that perform well, Goloboy said. “Meeting and exceeding expectations is how you do well on TripAdvisor.”

The TripAdvisor algorithm accounts for volume and quality of ratings, recency of reviews, and relevance with regard to specific types of food and styles of restaurants (i.e., best burgers in Los Angeles).

When restaurants respond to customer reviews, the average volume of reviews and the average rating for those restaurants is much higher relative to restaurants that do not respond. Those advantages can make enough of a difference in the TripAdvisor algorithm to push a restaurant from page four to page one on a TripAdvisor list, Goloboy said.

Responses should start with a thank you, show diners the restaurant is listening, use keywords that accentuate positive aspects of the restaurant, be positive and human, offer to help, offer to fix, and invite customers back, Goloboy said.

“85 percent of owners wish they spent more of their time marketing their restaurants,” Goloboy said, adding that he recognized that responding to every review in a timely manner can be a large ask for many restaurant proprietors. Brandify’s partnership with TripAdvisor aims to help reduce the time-consuming process; restaurant owners can respond to reviews through Brandify’s reputation management tool and use templates provided by Brandify.

The single most important piece of advice for restaurant owners and operators?

“Don’t shy away from negative reviews and responding to them,” Goloboy said.

Anna Kramer is a staff writer at Street Fight.