tripadvisor paris
1413 days ago
 

TripAdvisor defends link policy on Business Listings, not search engine-friendly

tripadvisor parisThe core principle behind the paid-for Business Listing service on TripAdvisor is that it gives a hotel the chance to officially put itself in front of a huge audience.

At the end of April 2010, almost 12,000 properties around the world had signed up to the service.

One element of a Business Listing (alongside be able to include a telephone number and email address on hotel pages) is a direct link to the hotel’s website.

While this, hoteliers and TripAdvisor would hope, may drive some traffic to a property’s website, those in the search community see it as having an added benefit – SEO.

Such a hope is even more important to search engine optimisers given that TripAdvisor has a page rank of 8/10. In other words: it carries a lot of Google juice.

Unfortunately, one digital marketing agency, US-based Screen Pilot, which has a number hotel clients including Noble House Hotels and Little Palm Island, took a look behind the scenes and surprised by what it found.

After analysing a number of New York hotel properties that have taken up the service the agency discovered the properties did not have any backlinks from the TripAdvisor Business Listings.

Examination of the source code revealed that the script on the TripAdvisor hotel pages did not allow any link to be indexed by search engines.

“As business owner you are still getting the traffic from people clicking on the link in your listing, but from an SEO standpoint you are not getting the link juice,” the agency says.

“The moral of the story is this, be sure you know the full SEO benefit you are getting from purchasing a listing on any social travel related website, especially TripAdvisor.com, if that is something you think you’re getting. In their defense, we find nothing on their site that remotely even leads anyone to believe that there is SEO value in a Business Listing, it simply is assumed that because they are offering a ‘link’ to your property website, there is inherent link value associated with it.”

TripAdvisor says in its current form the product is not intended to be an SEO tool. It adds:

“We are not an SEO agency. With Business Listings, we are providing direct traffic to hoteliers, inns and B&Bs from their listings page and now from several prominent pages on the TripAdvisor site as they can create a special offer for free as part of their Business Listings subscription.”

ScreenPilot also points out that one way around the no-follow code rule (if the juice is important) could be to simply post a URL into a review, as they found a backlink to one of the New York hotels using this method.

It turns out that the link in question came from the French TripAdvisor site yet posting links on the .com or other TripAdvisor country sites is forbidden.

TripAdvisor says it is looking into the discrepancy.

When asked if Business Listings FAQs would be changed to let potential buyers that links are not indexable in search, TripAdvisopr says:

“Our FAQ is constantly evolving and we amend it from time to time with new information to anticipate questions our customers may have. Presently, we do not offer information on SEO, as the product is not intended to be an SEO tool.”

 
 
Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.

He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.

 

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  1. Mike's Road Trip

    Interesting find, but not surprising. As a travel writer I have been questioning TA’s tactics for some time now. I really think it all comes down to TA wanting their cake and eating it too. I’m also confused why they don’t link up videos to reviews. In other words, if you’ve taken a video and want to embed it into your review… TA doesn’t do it. Videos reside somewhere else that no one can find. Why do they bother encouraging video uploads? Just doesn’t make sense. Do they not realize that “video” is the future. Will be interesting to see if someone like Yelp knocks TA off the block, much like Facebook did with MySpace.

     
  2. TripAdvisor Business Listings growing, China losses adding up | Tnooz

    [...] Among the highlights for TripAdvisor in the second quarter, it had 15,000 hotels signed up for its subscription product, Business Listings, which was launched in January. That’s up from nearly 12,000 in late April. [...]

     
  3. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Piotr: Very interesting analysis. I hope others see it and comment.

     
  4. Piotr Majdan

    I suggest to take a look at the ROI perspective of Business Listing
    http://blog.miraiespana.com/tripadvisor-business-listing-analysis/

     
  5. Scott Edwards

    Just when will people learn that Tripadvisor is now there just to make money for Expedia, simple as that.

     
  6. Part Two of Four: TripAdvisor CEO explains link policy, feels the hotel love | Tnooz

    [...] to list their phone number, email address and website homepage on TripAdvisor domains, but the source code uses a no-follow rule, meaning the link can’t be indexed by search [...]

     
  7. TripAdvisor: Why we chose Facebook instead building our own social graph | Tnooz

    [...] the introduction of TripAdvisor Trip Friends, the collective wisdom of the crowds is enhanced by the wisdom of friends, allowing travelers to [...]

     
  8. Anil

    @Claude, well said – 12,000 hoteliers agreed to pay for this :)

    a. It was understandable if TA was worried about spam links get through on their pages. But c’mon, these are business listings ‘paid for’ by hotels – not some random spammer! Why shouldn’t a hotel get some extra benefit from their paid business listing link? I guess TA must make the links ‘dofollow’ – they lose nothing.

    b. Hotels haven’t also woken up to the fact that TA still features OTA links on their hotel pages with Business listings. Has anyone calculated the commissions(15-25%?) which hotel loses when bookings come thru’ OTAs – when ideally it should have come direct to hotel website, if TA removed OTA links from paid hotel pages. Not very fair I feel.

    Or may be it’s just me:)

     
  9. Happy Hotelier

    Hm I did buy a link. Grrr

     
  10. Claude

    Agree with @Patrick

    TA Works only one way for SEO and for other way they are doing business.

    They are not in the travel industry, they are in the media industry and end users give them free data (UGC) and hotels give them a free name and brand to do their media stuff.

    And now, 12 000 hotels are willing to paid !!!

    LOL

     
  11. The Week in Travel Tech - TripAdvisor LinkGate, iPhone 4, Social-Search Battle | Tnooz

    [...] TripAdvisor defends link policy on Business Listings, not search engine-friendly [...]

     
  12. Patrick

    To be noted : TA never makes direct links, even when sending to tourism boards. On the other hand, all its widgets link back to its pages…

    Works only one way it seems

     
  13. Casey Cheshire

    I’m with Pete. This type of an “issue” doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me either. Wikipedia entries have similiar no-follow links that provide traffic more than search power. Link buying in general is a spam technique that has been around since the dawn of the PageRank and these days is more likely to get you penalized than anything.

    In the end, business listings on TripAdvisor gain tremendous amounts of business from traffic earned by top reviews. It’s a type of Google for the human experience.

    Oh and those links from business listings are quite worth it. I’ve been much more apt to book with a B&B I can quickly navigate to.

     
  14. Pete Meyers

    I’m not at all surprised this is the case. TA is far too savvy to offer a paid service that could be interpreted as a paid linking model masked as business listings.

    Good point, Stuart, about the need to clearly state this within FAQs or other documentation.

     
  15. Tweets that mention TripAdvisor defends link policy for Business Listings | Tnooz -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dennis Schaal, Stuart McDonald and Miles Media, Kevin May. Kevin May said: TripAdvisor defends link policy on Business Listings, not search engine-friendly http://bit.ly/9sPF6f [Tnooz] [...]

     
  16. Stuart

    Very shabby — even given the hoo haa regarding paid links (which I guess these effectively are). Perhaps it would be prudent/ethical if a note evolved onto their FAQ stating that business listing links are non-followed.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @stuart – as outlined above, we asked if they would be changing the FAQs to reflect this SEO issue…

      I wonder if much is made of it here whether it will prompt them to do so?

      Nevertheless, I wonder how much assumption is made that the links are ‘hot’?

       
      • Stuart

        Looking at a lot of hotel’s websites I doubt many even know what nofollow is. They think they’re buying a link to their site — not half a link to their site. And really, lets face it, it was a pretty crummy move to never list the website links in the first place (without payment being required).

         
  17. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Most publishers do not see themselves as being in business to be an SEO tool, yet take a different stance than TripAdvisor with its no-follow-back rules.

    If TripAdvisor really wanted to be a good partner with its hotels, it would reconsider its policy.

     
    • Milford Sound

      The taking of fees for business listings and leaving on OTA’s on the trip advisor site is appalling, they even deliberately place it just above the compare prices box that has no link to your own online booking. Have a look at http://www.fairefees.com for more on this subject, they have a bit of a rant!

       
 
 

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