UGC (User Generated Content), especially in the form of customer reviews, can send scads of excited visitors to your door credit card in hand, or destroy your business's reputation overnight by polluting SERPs. It's certainly a double edge sword.
More and more search marketers lay awake at night, in pools of sweat, freaking out about losing brand control in light of UGC. Hospitality industry SEM success can be the stuff of peaceful dreams or horrible nightmares. Unfortunately/luckily it's all in the hands of actual customers-or well placed shill reviewers.
What sites does Google mine hospitality reviews from, many of which are submitted by the public? How does a hotel or restaurant business get a grip and influence reviews? What major travel and review sites should hotels and restaurants point happy customers (or savvy stand-ins) towards in order to bolster, cleanse, and protect reputation?
Miriam Ellis has published an extremely practical case study over at SearchEngineJournal, profiling websites from which Google harvests reviews showing up in the ever dominant (and now 10-list) “one box” results. She profiled “1000 reviews listed in Google Maps for hospitality industry businesses" and shared results.
If you're objective is to “finesse” reviews from your restaurant or hotel's happy customers, the majority of the 34 sources listed accept public reviews and are therefore susceptible to (at least) some level of manipulation by pleased patrons or savvy local search marketers. Aol.com to Zagat.com, Google's predominant hospitality site sources are listed along with suggested strategies and tactics.
In the rollercoaster world of Google SERPs, especially in light of Universal Search and ever-expanding local search, the landscape is frighteningly fluid. Sites like Yelp appear, disappear, and reappear in Google reviews practically overnight, leaving narrowly targeted review-writing campaigns subject to overnight obsolescence.
Hedge your bet. Miriam's post lays priceless groundwork to cast a wide net, understand, and influence the multi-headed Google review SERP monster to your hospitality business's benefit.
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