With reviews becoming an increasingly powerful way to drive up travel firms’ Click Through Rates on Google, Travolution has had a quick look at how leading UK travel brands are exploiting this.
The search engine itself claims that having a decent star rating on search results accounts for a 17% uptick in CTR, up from 10% in quarter three last year.
No surprise, then, that the travel industry has been attracting the attention of a new generation of review management platforms like Feefo and Reevoo.
This has been transformative for some businesses in a very short space of time. Take Manchester-based online travel agent On The Beach for starters.
It started using Feefo in December and now enjoys a four golden star rating on Google thanks to nearly 3,000 reviews.
An idea as to how it was faring before using Feefo can be gleaned from Review Centre, where On The Beach’s 800-plus reviews are not exactly the most flattering, meriting only 2.2 stars out of 5.
Lowcostholidays.co.uk gets 4.5 Google golden stars thanks to its 802 seller reviews, the vast majority of which come from Trust Pilot.
Direct brand searches on Travel Republic and Thomas Cook both delivered PPC ads with a newsletter sign-up box and no star rating.
But a generic search returned ads with Travel Republic’s 4.5 star rating from 249 reviews, all but 48 of which are on Trust Pilot.
Thomas Cook’s entry on Review Centre does not make for pretty reading, the travel giant meriting just 1.5 stars out of 5, while rival Thomson Holidays fares little better with just two stars.
At the time of writing Travolution could not generate results for either Thomson Holidays or Thomas Cook that included Google stars, the former apparently having no PPC campaign running.
Thomson sister brand First Choice, now an all all-inclusive operator but with some remaining high street stores, gets a similar hammering on Review Centre from 205 reviews and, again, has just 2 stars.
However, in Google results it gets 4.2 stars but the search engine’s aggregated results only show 50 Review Centre reviews as logged.
So the picture is certainly confused and concern about the results on Google have prompted one industry chief executive to call on the search engine to up its game in this area.
Steve Endacott, who runs the On Holiday Group, said he has previously had a long-running battle with Google to ensure his reviews on the likes of Review Centre and Trust Pilot are being picked up.
“We have been pushing this for about six months. Google has made a big thing about collecting these reviews but they are not maintaining the links. They have to step up to the mark.
“Reviews are incredibly powerful. Google should either compete with Tripadvisor and put the resources in or get out of this area immediately.”The Review Centre blog says: “Google say that reviews aren’t added to Google Product in real time. That means if you’ve just got 30 reviews, you won’t see ratings immediately.
“From our experience with other Google products (rich snippets for example), we’ve noticed a lag time of about two months from something being approved, to it showing up in Google search results.”
However, Endacott said he believed that more onus was being placed on review platforms like Feefo, which was appointed a licenced partner with Google last August, and this raised questions about people looking to game the system.
Andrew Mabbutt, Feefo’s managing director, refuted this saying one of the advantages of generating more reviews through a system like Feefo is that a fairer and more accurate picture of the firm’s reputation emerges.
“If you go to somewhere like Review Centre, the majority of reviews are not very good because the only people motivated to go there and leave a review are the ones who had a bad experience.
“Most of the reviews on a lot of other platforms are generated because of emotion. I would say our system actually captures a much wider picture of the temperature of the business performance because there are a larger volume of reviews that generate the end result.”
Google declined to comment, but said its golden stars are awarded to advertisers with 30 or more unique seller reviews and with a 4 star-plus rating.