TripAdvisor Algorithm Updates Impact City Rank

by | March 26, 2018

TripAdvisor is shaking up their accommodation listings with some big changes that are having a serious effect on hoteliers. In the last two weeks, we have been watching an update to the ranking algorithm. This change is already majorly impacting many hotels across the country.

According to TripAdvisor, review quality, quantity, and recency are key factors in the calculation of City Rank. In a recent email to hoteliers, they noted a new factor: performance over time. There are surely other changes happening behind the scenes, which will not be released to the public. While TripAdvisor has told us that they are going to be continuing to update their algorithm weekly, these changes have already had drastic impacts on the city rank of many hotels.

Algorithm Change Analysis: San Diego

We analyzed city rankings, review numbers, and other factors about hotels from before and after the algorithm change. We found that some hotels dropped over 30 spots. One of the most dramatic changes was in a sample of San Diego hotels, where one hotel fell a whopping 66 spots (from a City Rank of 155 to 221). Meanwhile, the #124 hotel rose 113 spots to now be the #11 hotel in San Diego. In this competitive market, a change like that will have a huge impact on how travelers perceive their hotel options.

What caused hotels to drop and gain rankings? It’s hard to say without knowing TripAdvisor’s algorithm. We suspect that by adding performance over time as a ranking factor, they may have taken some weight away from review recency. There are likely other factors at play, which may vary by market.

In our San Diego sample, the ten hotels that grew in ranking the most all had a Certificate of Excellence. Of the ten that fell the most, none had the Certificate. However, in a sample of Boise hotels, almost equal numbers of hotels in the top and bottom groups held the certificate. Therefore, the Certificate of Excellence is likely not a sole contributor to the ranking change but may have an influence. It is worth noting that the Boise market is about 1/4 of the size of San Diego, so there could be different factors for cities of different sizes.

Free TripAdvisor Listings vs. Business Advantage

TripAdvisor Busines Advantage

It is worth noting that hotels that pay the additional fee to be a TripAdvisor Business Advantage Member were found in both the groups of hotels that were most impacted. It is not likely that TripAdvisor awarded companies that paid for their profiles over those who didn’t.

That being said, of the hotels we analyzed, we found one interesting difference. The hotel that was hurt the most by this algorithm change had zero conversions on the OTA deals on their TripAdvisor page. About 45% of clicks on their TripAdvisor profile went directly to the hotel website, 45% of clicks were on their Special Offer, and the remaining 10% of clicks were split between click-to-call and Hotel Packages. Meanwhile, 5% of clicks on a local competitor’s TripAdvisor profile were to an OTA deal. That hotel was in the top group of gains; they rose 47 spots from hotel #137 to #90.

Ongoing Algorithm Changes

According to TripAdvisor, ongoing changes will be made to the algorithm on a weekly basis. It is unclear if we will see a correction to the hotels that were the most impacted, or if they will need to slowly gain back their ranking over time. We will continue to monitor these changes.