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Everything You Need to Know About the TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking Algorithm

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Everything You Need to Know About the TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking Algorithm

Learn all about the TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking Algorithm, including how it’s used to rank accommodations, attractions and restaurants and how it has evolved over the years.

How the Popularity Ranking Algorithm Works

The Popularity Ranking is based on the quality, recency and quantity of reviews that a business receives from travellers. The final algorithmic input, for a small set of properties that violate our guidelines, are fraud penalties that exist to protect the integrity of the content on TripAdvisor.

Quality

The bubble ratings provided by travellers as part of their reviews continue to be used to rank properties. All other things being equal, a property with more 4- and 5-bubble ratings will rank higher than a business with lower bubble ratings.

Recency

We believe that recent reviews are more valuable to our travellers than older reviews. They give a more accurate representation of the current experience at the property. To take this into account, we continue to give more consideration to fresh reviews over those that were written in the past. This means that reviews – even excellent ones – that are more dated will not count as much towards a property’s ranking as a review written last week. Even though these reviews do not have as much weight in the ranking, they are still visible to travellers in the Traveller Rating bar chart, in the overall bubble rating on each listing as well as in the review history.

Quantity

The number of reviews is a critical indicator to TripAdvisor travellers about a property. TripAdvisor consumers read multiple reviews to help form a balanced opinion on a business and tend to have more confidence in their decisions when they see agreement across a large set of fellow travellers’ reviews.

The enhanced algorithm quantifies this intuitive notion of confidence in a statistical way. As we accumulate more reviews on a property, we have more confidence in the potential experience it provides to guests. Once we've reached a critical mass of reviews, we're able to more accurately predict that property's ranking.

When we talk about quantity of reviews, it is important to note that a property doesn’t have to have more reviews than others. It just has to have enough reviews to allow for a statistically meaningful comparison to other properties. For instance, a business with 110 reviews isn’t necessarily going to be rated higher than one with 100 reviews that were received in roughly the same period of time. This is because they both have enough reviews to make us confident in the potential travel experience they can deliver.

Putting It All Together

In summary:

  • More reviews are better than fewer reviews;
  • Good reviews are better than poor reviews; and
  • Recent reviews are better than older reviews.

These factors interact over time to determine a property’s Popularity Ranking.

For example, the quality and quantity of reviews are compared to assess the consistency of the experience provided by the property. Our algorithm rewards consistently good behaviour: A property that has many consistently good reviews will rank higher than one that has many reviews, some of which are good and some of which are poor, all other things being equal. That’s because we can have more confidence in our ranking if a large number of travellers are reporting consistent experiences at that property.

Similarly, recency and quantity of reviews are closely linked. When a property has lots of recent reviews, they are more highly valued in our calculation because they improve our confidence in the current experience at the property. A large number of reviews that are several years old will not provide TripAdvisor or our travellers with as much confidence on what the property is like today.

How Has the Popularity Ranking Algorithm Evolved?

To improve our site experience for travellers and businesses alike, we enhanced our Popularity Ranking algorithm in 2016. The result is a more accurate representation of a business’s performance over time. These changes were not undertaken lightly and were carefully designed and tested to improve our rankings algorithm in some very specific ways, while maintaining the accurate standings of existing properties with great reputations among TripAdvisor members.

In designing the enhancements, we analysed the hundreds of millions of reviews on the site and how they impacted the rankings of properties over time. Based on this research, we designed the enhanced Popularity Ranking algorithm to value the quantity and consistency of reviews more significantly than we have in the past. Doing so helps stabilise the ranking for all businesses and creates a more accurate overall ranking for our travellers.

Some Questions and Answers

How does the emphasis on review quantity influence smaller properties?

In practice, our analysis found that while smaller properties tend to receive fewer reviews because they have fewer customers, the personalised attention, service and care that they can provide often results in more of their guests being willing to write reviews. As a result, we’ve found that smaller properties are able to effectively compete with larger competitors in our Popularity Ranking.

Why is Property A above Property B?

In most cases, this is because A has a statistically better set of reviews (based on quality, quantity and recency) than B and we’re more confident of the experience it can offer to potential guests.

Why is Property A above Property B when Property B has more reviews?

If their average ratings are identical, this is most likely due to B having older reviews than A. Older reviews count for less, so even though the “raw average” of B, as shown on the Traveller Rating bar chart, looks better, we rank A higher. It’s also possible that A has a more consistent set of reviews than B. Finally, it could be that B is under a fraud penalty.

Do Management Responses factor into the Popularity Ranking?

Management Responses are not factored into Popularity Ranking. However, research shows that when an owner responds promptly and professionally to a review, addressing any specific complaints as well as the positive comments, it can make a big impact on prospective customers. A recent Phocuswright1 study shows that 85% of travellers say that a thoughtful response to a review improves their impression of a hotel, and 65% are more likely to book a hotel that responds to reviews versus a comparable hotel that doesn’t.

Does having a commercial relationship with TripAdvisor impact my Popularity Ranking?

No. A business’s commercial relationship with TripAdvisor has absolutely no impact on Popularity Rankings. While we think it's helpful to be able show consumers whether you have availability for their search dates and help them book, or provide a website link or phone number, these have never been part of the Popularity Ranking Algorithm.

How often is the Popularity Ranking calculated?

The ranking is re-calculated daily based on new reviews received that day.

Do the sub-ratings (cleanliness, service, etc.) impact my ranking?

Sub-ratings do not factor into the ranking calculation. However, they do provide travellers with valuable information on your business. 

  • 1. The 2015 ‘Custom Survey Research Engagement’ was an independent study of 14,991 respondents conducted by Phocuswright on behalf of TripAdvisor. Phocuswright fielded an online consumer survey between 8 April, 2015 and 29 April, 2015, driving responses via pop-ups on TripAdvisor websites in the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Russia, Australia, India, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The survey targeted users of the website’s hotel reviews who have also purchased lodging for travel within the past 12 months, and planned their own trips. Respondents were invited to participate in the survey while visiting the TripAdvisor website via a link which directed them to an online survey instrument.
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