As many as 93% of consumers report that reviews influence their online buying decisions. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the vacation rental industry follows the same trend. After all, no one would book a rental without reviews. Therefore, securing online reviews and good guest feedback plays a vital role in the marketing strategy for your vacation rental. These reviews can help increase high-quality bookings as well as boost revenues. So let’s take a closer look at why these reviews are essential, how you as an Airbnb host can encourage reviews, and we’ll also even discuss a few things you shouldn’t do.
Why reviews for vacation rentals are so important
There’s also a lot of psychology that goes into online reviews, namely, something called social proof. This happens when someone is influenced to do something based on what they see others do. When it comes to vacation rental reviews, it’s pretty simple. When potential guests see that others enjoyed your vacation rental property, they’ll assume that they will too. Christophe Salmon of Revyoos (an industry-leading review management app) puts it in simpler terms: “Your reviews are the golden nuggets of your business, and their impact in terms of generating trust, increasing your SEO, and boosting your bookings on your own website is huge.” Christophe adds that these reviews must be genuine and verified (more on that later in this article).
Reviews increase bookings
Reviews play a vital role as you look to increase your bookings. Let’s take a look at the numbers. TripAdvisor discusses a study from PhoCusWright, which shows that 83% of participants explained that reviews helped them choose the right place to stay. In addition, 53% said they would not book someplace without reading reviews first. And an astounding 80% of travelers said they would read between 6 and 12 reviews before booking. In each of these cases, reviews helped drive bookings.
Reviews build trust
That social proof also does something else very important: it helps your potential guests feel comfortable and trusting of your services. People need to feel safe as they make their bookings, and if you have reviews showing that you create a safe space and are, therefore, trustworthy, you’ll be able to earn more bookings.
Reviews help improve your business
Overall, these reviews will help you improve your business and the service you provide. In addition, these reviews will highlight the extra special features of your rental which will only help you earn more bookings.
Good reviews also validate that the host is doing something right. This gives hosts more leeway to charge a higher price per night. After all, if an expensive rental keeps getting great reviews, it has to be worth it, right?
Then there are bad reviews. These aren’t necessarily bad if you handle them right. Bad reviews are also a great way for a host to evaluate their performance, filling the gaps where needed to improve the next guest’s stay.
Just know that OTAs like Airbnb, Expedia, Vrbo, and Booking.com use your reviews to determine your property listing’s visibility in their search engine results. The more positive your reviews, the more front and center you become. Websites value social proof too.
So, as you build your platform, be sure to include reviews as a central piece of your process. These reviews can become powerful marketing tools, and you really don’t have to put much effort into getting them at all.
The first step to 5-star reviews is… being open to feedback
In the beginning, your goal should be to get any kind of feedback. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be 5-stars across the board! When you first start out, the first few reviews serve more to show potential guests a few things:
- Others thought the rental was somewhat worth staying in.
- The previous renters were generally satisfied with their experience.
- If there were issues, you corrected them.
- The rental is not a scam or a fake listing.
Though you may like to see perfect reviews, it’s essential to remember that it’s not professional to contact the guests after the review is left, regardless of the feedback you get.
The second step to 5-star reviews is… offer an amazing guest experience
Whether you have had an active vacation rental for five years or two days, it always pays off to ensure your guests have an incredible experience. You can do several thoughtful things that will show your guests that you care about them and want to help them have the best stay ever. Consider some of these special touches:
- Offer a digital guidebook with everything your guest needs to know from check-in to check-out at your vacation home. Hostfully offers an incredibly convenient platform on which to host your guidebook. Your guests will love this extra touch.
- Offer a welcome basket full of local goodies.
- Be sure you have a fridge stocked with essentials like milk, eggs, and common condiments.
- Put out fresh, local flowers on the dining table.
- Stock your bathrooms with plush bathrobes and special toiletries.
5 tricks to get guests to review your vacation rental
There aren’t any quick hacks or silver bullets to guarantee all guests will leave reviews after every stay. However, there are a few ways you can increase the odds:
#1: Ask for a review right at checkout
The best time to ask for a review is when the vacation is fresh in your guest’s mind. So why not take a moment after your guest tells you they have completed check out to ask for a review of their stay? You can even automate this process with Hostfully’s Property Management Platform to send messages based on certain triggers.
Most of the time, guests will agree and leave a testimonial and star rating for your short-term rental within a few moments. But if you want to increase your odds, you can end your request by appealing to the guest’s sense of kindness. Explain to the guests that reviews are important to you because they help you improve the rental and attract great guests like them in the future.
If you wait until guests get home, the vacation will already be a fading memory. That’s where you risk getting a generic review like “great place” instead of a more heartfelt, genuine, or emotional one (which looks better on your review page).
Not quite sure how to phrase the review request? How about using a template like this one:
Hey there, [GUEST NAME]!
I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing stay in [CITY]. Thank you for completing the checkout process; I really appreciate your time and diligence.
As you are heading home, I just wanted to thank you for staying in our vacation rental. It was a true pleasure to host you. We would love to hear about your stay when you have a few minutes. If you are able, we would appreciate a review of our property.
You probably know that these reviews are so helpful for any small business. They also give us a chance to make your future stay even better. We love attracting guests as wonderful as you, so your words will also help us grow our business.
Soon, you will receive an email asking you to complete a review. It would be so very helpful if you would follow the instructions to give us your valuable feedback.
Thank you, and we hope to host you again real soon!
#2: Make it easy for guests to review you
The modern traveler is used to having everything they need at their fingertips. If you want to increase your chances of a review, make it easy for your guests to do so. One easy way to do this is to leave a mention in your digital guidebook asking for a review in the checkout instructions section.
If you do not receive a response three days after checkout, you can send another email request. If you still haven’t gotten anything after a week, it is ok to send another.
#3: Review your guests the same day they checked out
Guests aren’t the only ones that should be leaving reviews. As a host, you have the option to leave a review on the app about how the family treated your home during their stay.
Leave this review on the listing site where the booking was made a few moments after you complete your inspection and the guests have checked out. They’ll be notified that you left a review about them but won’t be able to see it unless they reciprocate. This simple trick appeals to the guests’ curiosity and is an extra incentive to get them to leave their own reviews.
#4: Boost review counts across multiple platforms
A problem any vacation homeowners and property managers face is that they manage numerous online reviews across different platforms. This means that if a guest leaves a positive review on one site, it’s only visible to those who visit that site.
Hostfully allows hosts to sync all their reviews so that guests can see reviews from other sites on the one they’re booking. By using this feature, hosts can instantaneously boost their review count with a click. Note that this feature also enables vacation rental owners to display their reviews directly on the property’s own website.
#5 be responsive to reviews
Every now and then, you’ll probably get a bad review. And that’s ok! All feedback should be acknowledged. If you have great reviews, thank them! If you have some less than stellar reviews, listen to their feedback, and use it as an opportunity to improve. As this is a benefit to you, remember to thank them too. STAAH can help you manage your rental’s reputation through reviews.
The 4 don’ts of guest reviews
Although reviews are critical to the success of your vacation rental business, there are a few things that you should not ever do:
#1 Offering to pay for positive reviews
To put it simply, this is illegal in the US. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines, but basically, you can’t offer a reward in exchange for a positive review. Similarly, paying for positive reviews is against the Terms of Service (ToS) of the major vacation rental platforms. So why risk fines, getting banned from a platform, or the future of your vacation rental empire? Better to avoid these risks and attract reviews in a natural way.
#2: Pestering your guests via the app and phone calls
If you used the above strategies and a guest has still not left a review, there’s probably a reason. Pestering your guests via multiple messages on the app or phone calls will not only deter them from leaving a review, but it’ll also prompt them to write a negative one.
#3: Communicating too long after the vacation
Asking for a review days or weeks after the guest leaves will often earn you a rather bland bit of feedback. You may get something like “good stay,” but that doesn’t offer much information to your rental and future guests. After about a week, guests have either returned home or are on the next phase of their vacation. There’s also a good chance their memories may have faded. If you don’t get a review in the few days following their departure, it’s best to move on.
#4: Ignoring guests after they leave you a review that doesn’t match expectations
It’s hard not to take negative reviews personally. We get it. But a single one-star won’t sink your business. It can actually be an excellent opportunity to show potential travelers how you responded to the unhappy guest and improve.
Be open to feedback and accountable for any mistakes or errors you make. Your professional and honest response will speak volumes about your character and business practices.
On the flip side, properties with all five-star reviews tend to set off red flags for interested guests. It gives the impression something was doctored. So if you get a negative review, consider it the Wabi-Sabi of your rental.
Wrapping things up
Reviews are one of the best ways to market your vacation rental. They give interested guests a real-world account of what the home has to offer. With just a few tricks, you can boost your review count. So get out there and start collecting!