All travel and tourism companies know that competitive prices and special deals are crucial to generating sales, yet how many acknowledge the perhaps equal importance of – and so prioritise – reviews?

A positive review often proves the tipping point for someone to book a holiday or make a reservation. Since the online review is far and away the most pervasive and impactful of review forms in today’s digital world, it is crucial for companies to not only have a review strategy but also a clear online review strategy.

Let’s take a look at two of the most important reasons why you need an online review strategy for your business…

Reviews are the backbone of consumers’ online research into a company

When it comes to making a decision on where to put our money, we as consumers want third-party information because we feel it is more objective and trustworthy. We think a product or service may be the one for us, but before committing we check out a few reviews, and the nature of those reviews helps to decide us.

In fact, a recent Nielsen study shows that consumers trust online brand or product recommendations above all other forms of advertising save for recommendations from people they know. Online consumer reviews rank higher, in fact, than professionally written reviews and branded websites.

Travel - Trust in online reviews

An investigation by US-based Lightspeed Research reveals that when it comes to booking a holiday 62 percent of the customers in their survey read online reviews before booking whereas only 49 percent checked out competitors’ websites. This suggests that your sales success is in some respects more dependent upon your own online review strategy than on the quality, advertising and prices of your competition!

Reviews mean better search rankings and more traffic 

Every company wants to appear on the first page of a Google search, knowing prospective clients often don’t look further than the first few displayed links. If for no other reason, then, you want online reviews as they boost your search engine ranking. They do this by suggesting to Google that your business is more popular than its competitors and so deserves a higher ranking in search results, and also by increasing the number of search keywords that will redirect to your site.

Furthermore, the more reviews on the internet the more chances you have of backlinks to your site. It is critical therefore that hotels and the like encourage satisfied customers to post online reviews. From TripAdvisor to Google, Yelp and Citysearch – you want your product or service spoken about online to generate traffic to your site and, ultimately, more sales.

The various ways of encouraging consumers to write online reviews is a topic for another time, and it is also one of the services that a digital marketing agency can offer its clients. The crucial first step is realising the importance and potency of the online review strategy and directing company attention and resources in that direction.

Some companies may wish to hand over the entire online review aspect of the business to a digital marketing agency, but as with any aspect of sales the lead must come from you, endowed as you are with the vision for your company brand and growth. Once you have formulated the concept and direction of your strategy, you can then hand it over to an agency to pad out and enact.

Online reviews are free marketing

Everyone loves free marketing, and this is exactly what reviews do for you. They have become an integral part of the modern-day sales cycle.

While some may harbour concerns that a negative review will prove damaging, this is not always the case. One customer’s complaint that a hotel is hard to access, being far from all major train and bus stops, tells another that it is remote and quiet, while another’s complaint that the foyer had kids running around tells a mom or dad that kids are welcome at that establishment.

Moreover people often trust reviews more if they see a mix of both positive and negative (all-positive, fake reviews written by the company itself are detectable). Of course negative reviews are not fun and need to be swiftly and wisely addressed, but this should not deter you from promoting online reviews as the benefits far outweigh the occasional detraction.

Perhaps surprisingly many of the top travel and tourism companies in the world today still do not have online review strategies in place, in spite of the research indicating that such strategies lead to higher conversion rates. This is clearly an aspect of business sales that can no longer be avoided, nor can it be relegated to cursory thought – it needs to be given prime place within a company’s sales strategy.