Demystifying TripAdvisor's hotel ranking system


TripAdvisor has become the first port of call for many travellers when choosing where to stay and what to do once they've arrived in a new city. TripAdvisor was one of the first companies to take advantage of crowd-sourced or user-generated content. Since its birth in 2000, many sites like Yelp have imitated this model with great success but TripAdvisor's first mover advantage means it is the go-to site for travellers as not only does it rank properties based on user reviews, it also allows members to engage in forums on every topic you can imagine. The elusive 5-star review can turn the fortunes of a property around. But how does one get this ranking? Well, TripAdvisor's Popularity Index algorithm is based on three key ingredients:

  • the quality
  • the quantity
  • the recency of reviews

TripAdvisor are adamant that their scores are reflective of users views and opinions and they "take content integrity very seriously and screen every review. If you are caught breaking our guidelines, it can take a big hit on your popularity ranking.” In short, don't try and cheat the system as you'll get caught!

But, TripAdvisor doesn't advertise all the elements of the Popularity Index algorithm. It also doesn’t let us know the weighting of each factor. For example, it doesn’t tell us whether a property’s average review score or whether the total number of reviews are more important.

We decided to do a little digging: What exactly affects your TripAdvisor score? 

I'm not going to lie, the results of our research aren’t entirely conclusive, but they will give you a better idea of how the Popularity Index works. What we found was that:

1 extra point on average review score will, on average, increase Popularity Index rank by 321 places.
1 extra review will increase Popularity Index rank 1.5 places.

What that means for you

When calculating ranking, TripAdvisor weights a property’s average review score 20,000 times more than its total number of reviews. So, if your average review score stayed the same and you only increased the volume of reviews, it would take 2,1400 reviews to increase your rank by the same amount as one average review point. carried out a study last year and based on their data in the Bangkok market, came up with a rough approximation of weighting: From what we can tell, the average review score of a property counts for 85% of the Popularity Index ranking.

The total volume of reviews counts for 6% of the property’s ranking.

9% is left unexplained.

We can speculate that some of this 9% is recency of reviews. This can also be where TripAdvisor factors in punitive action for violations of its guidelines, and it can include factors that are yet unknown to the general public.

What are the key takeaways?

To move up on the Popularity Index, improving customer experience is far more important than getting a greater volume of reviews. But, don’t forget: As a function of averages, it is more difficult to improve your ranking on the Popularity Index as you climb the scale. So, if you’re already trending toward the top of your market, it may be necessary to get a greater quantity of recent reviews in order to dominate your competition.

What should I do? 

While it’s important to get as much guest feedback as possible, it is much more important to listen to your guests and put their feedback into practice.
TripAdvisor says, “The key to building a successful business and a higher popularity ranking is stellar hospitality and paying attention to your customers’ needs. Encourage customers to write reviews, learn from them and watch your hard work pay off.” 
One way to boost your review volume on TripAdvisor is to use a post-stay survey product that automatically emails guests after checkout to ask them to leave feedback. Frontdesk Anywhere PMS allows you to send such automated emails to your guests. We would suggest including the Tripadvisor link to review your property or a slightly more refined strategy, asking first in your email how many stars they would give you, and redirect them to the TripAdvisor link if they're satisfied, and to an internal improvement survey if their feedback is negative. This would generate many more reviews and ensure they're mostly positive. It's important to remember that TripAdvisor does punish hotels that post fake reviews with a bad ranking and there are a lot of different ways you could get caught! 

If you have any questions or comments please get in touch.

The Frontdesk Anywhere team