12 questions about TripAdvisor TripConnect you were too embarrassed to ask
For the first time, independent hotels and bed and breakfasts worldwide can bid directly in auctions to drive traffic from TripAdvisor to their websites. Owners of small properties will be able to drive TripAdvisor users to their own booking engines, sidestepping middlemen like online travel agents (OTAs) and Google Search.
If you own a hotel or B&B but find the above statements confusing, or if you aren’t comfortable with technology and digital marketing, then this blog post is for you.
Think of this as “the missing manual” for TripConnect.
What is TripConnect?
TripConnect is a new special website where you can place bids in TripAdvisor auctions. This website is a do-it-yourself service for buying traffic to your property’s own reservation system.
TripConnect works just like how you use Google AdWords, the search giant’s auction service, to buy advertisements in Google search results.
The more money you spend in TripConnect auctions, the more users of TripAdvisor will visit your TripAdvisor-area or property page, according to the company.
What am I bidding on?
The more money you spend, the higher your property’s listing will appear in TripAdvisor’s Hotel Price Comparison Search box. The higher your listing appears, the more likely TripAdvisor users will see it and click the link to visit your property’s booking page.
It is theoretically possible to out-bid the major OTAs and have your listing appear first in results.
TripConnect is possible thanks to the launch of Hotel Price Comparison, which allows visitors to TripAdvisor sites to see real-time room rates and availability from various booking partners side-by-side.
How much will TripConnect cost?
It is a cost-per-click (CPC) model. You’ll be charged the amount that you bid for each click your property’s website receives.
How can I predict how much money I will spend?
You can put a daily cap on your spending. For example, you could say that you want to limit your total bidding to $10 a day. After you hit your $10 limit, your link to your own property’s booking engine would disappear from TripAdvisor’s results page.
(Relatedly, TripConnect will not show advertisements for your property when you say it is unavailable. There will instead be a symbol — a little circle with a line through it — and the listing will be pushed to the bottom of the displayed results.)
TripAdvisor will give you a forecast of the volume of clicks you can expect to receive and what your bill will probably be for one month.
(You’re not required to participate for a full month. If you only want to participate for two weeks, for instance, you would take the company’s one-month forecast and halve it for a prediction.)
I own an independent hotel (or a bed and breakfast). Do I qualify to use TripConnect?
Your property’s website must work with an Internet Booking Engine (IBE) that has been certified by TripAdvisor. An IBE powers your property’s online reservation system, holding your rates and availability and using that information to allow users to complete the booking.
Not all IBEs can participate with TripAdvisor, though. (See below.)
To use TripConnect, you also have to subscribe to TripAdvisor Business Listings. (See more, below.)
What is an Internet Booking Engine (IBE)?
An Internet Booking Engine is not an online travel agency (OTA). An IBE is the technology that powers the booking option on a property’s own website. Two examples are WebRezPro Property Management System and FreeToBook.
Does my IBE work with TripConnect?
Maybe, maybe not. You’ll have to check the official list of certified Internet Booking Engines.
Only about 100 IBEs can work with TripConnect as of today, though 100 more are expected to be able to work with it soon. If your hotel uses one of the IBEs that works with TripConnect, then you can bid for traffic.
The number of IBEs accepted as of today represents an excess of more than 100,000 hotels worldwide.
However, there are 1.1 million accommodations on TripAdvisor, including about 725,000 hotels. So most properties in the world are unable to use TripConnect as of today. But a majority will be able to soon, says the company.
What are TripAdvisor Business Listings?
To use TripConnect, you have to subscribe to TripAdvisor Business Listings. This service debuted in January 2010 and allows property owners to add their own room rates and availability to their listing as it appears in most TripAdvisor search results. It also lets owners post direct contact details, such as a phone number and e-mail address, to their TripAdvisor listing, plus post customised special offers on high-visibility webpages.
The Business Listings subscription service ranges in cost, starting at a few hundred dollars a year for the typical B&B.
Monthly and annual subscription costs are tailored to the individual property, based on multiple factors including the location and size of a property, as well as the number of pageviews the property receives on TripAdvisor, amongst other factors.
More than 50,000 properties subscribe to the Business Listings service.
Will this help me improve my TripAdvisor ranking?
No. Your popularity ranking stays the same. Also, your bidding does not affect your property’s ranking on the city-level/destination page search results, which are driven by TripAdvisor’s popularity index and not the price index.
I am not located in the United States. Can I still use TripConnect?
You can use TripConnect no matter where your property is. It is available in 21 languages. Payment can be accepted in 11 currencies. TripAdvisor has a free webinar to help explain step-by-step sign up.
Do I need to work with an online travel agency (OTA), use channel manager software, or use Google AdWords?
No. You can skip the middlemen and drive traffic directly to your own site.
If you do already work with an OTA, nothing changes. The visitor to TripAdvisor can click on the search results link of their choice, be it the hotel itself or an OTA, and make their reservation.
How do I know if TripConnect is cost effective as a marketing campaign?
The product offers easy tracking of return-on-investment (ROI), showing you on a simple chart booking revenue versus advertising costs.
One catch: ROI tracking is only available if the property’s IBE has enabled tracking. The IBE must implement this function for it to work. If your IBE is not offering tracking as a function, you can use Google Analytics, the search giant’s reporting tool, as an alternative to using TripAdvisor’s data.
If you own more than one property as a small independent chain, you’ll have to create a log-in for each property and do bidding for each property independently. There’s no limit to how many hotels you can sign up, but most property managers will get bored or overwhelmed after about signing up about 10.
Sean O’Neill is Editor-in-Chief of Tnooz.
Before joining us, Sean was the future of travel columnist at BBC Travel, senior editor of BudgetTravel.com, and an associate editor at Kiplinger’s. He now lives in New Jersey, after a four-year stint in London. Follow him on Twitter.