I post the occasional review on Trip Advisor if I’ve particularly liked or disliked something. Given that I’ve never seen any real benefit to me of doing that – they won’t allow you to link to any other site – I usually just keep the TA review short and use my more detailed content on one of my own sites. I only do it because sometimes TA can be a useful source of advice although too often it’s full of shill reviews. People either post great reviews about their own venue or post rotten reviews about their competitors – or they get other people to do it for them. Any review on TA has to be taken with a large dose of salt.
Trip Advisor sent me an email today announcing their 2012 Top Contributors of the Year. The winner of the Top Reviewer category had clocked up 859 reviews. And the longest review was a “whopping 11,171 words”. Hmm. Why would anyone do that rather than post the content on their own site, which they can monetise as they see fit? There’s definitely something worth looking into here.
I was approaching it from the point of view that if I raised my profile on TA, then somehow it might help to drive traffic to my own travel-related sites. Needless to say I was being too optimistic again. The first thing I unearthed is that you can get paid for writing fake reviews on TA. Well, I knew about fake reviews, I just hadn’t realised before exactly how blatant the dishonesty is. I’m not saying that’s what this latest winner did, but it certainly does explain why some people would write so many reviews on there.
Here’s an article from last year which explains that some hotels even go on to the freelancer sites and openly tout for fake reviews.
Well, I guess that’s one way to make money from Trip Advisor, but it’s a thoroughly dishonest one and certainly not what I’d had in mind. I tried again, but all my research led me down the same path – how to make money by posting fake reviews on Trip Advisor. There are even sites which detail how to create a cottage industry writing fake reviews on TA.
It seems that part of the problem is that TA allows anonymous reviews. Sure, there may be concerns if you give your real name and an irate hotel owner comes after you. But really, what faith can any traveller put in anonymous reviews? Apparently TA have taken some steps to prevent shill reviews, but as with most of these lumbering behemoths – Google, Amazon – they’re clumsy about it. I’m inclined to think it would be better to allow people to use their own names including a link to their own websites. Then any reader of the reviews could check out the writer according to what they’ve written on TA and elsewhere. As it stands, there doesn’t seem to be anything to stop people setting up dozens of different identities using various webmail addresses and get paid to post fakes. Meanwhile, there’s no incentives for honest people (like me!) to bother giving any detailed information.
Mostly I don’t bother much with TA – I’ve probably done fewer than a dozen reviews over several years. I was just wondering if I’d missed a business opportunity. It doesn’t look as though I have. Perhaps you know better. Do you know of a way that you can use TA to help promote your own travel website? Please comment if you have anything to say about all this.