Your vacation rental is in great shape, has plenty of amenities, and a guest book full of kind notes from happy guests, but you’re still not getting a ton of online reviews. How could that be?
The unfortunate truth is that guests don’t realize how important reviews are to you as an owner. When they don’t know that reviews are important, they’re never going to sit very high on your guest’s priority list when they get back to their day-to-day lives – unless you’re prepared to do a little work.
Why ARE Reviews So Important?
If you’re new to the vacation rental game, you might be wondering if reviews really make that big of a difference to your vacation rental’s performance.
In fact, reviews are often the deciding factor in whether travelers choose to book your property. A TripAdvisor study found travelers are 80% more likely to book a vacation rental that already has reviews.
What’s more, properties that have rave reviews can often command a higher nightly rate than those without reviews. When potential guests see that lots of previous visitors have had an amazing time at your property, they’re more likely to book – even if your property costs a little more than a property with only one review.
Getting the word of other satisfied customers attached to what you’re selling is called “social proof” – and it’s a powerful force in vacation rental.
Bottom line: if your listing doesn’t have a lot of reviews, you’re likely losing both bookings and income. So how can you convince your busy guests to take the time to leave your property a review?
We’ve compiled our best dos and don’ts for getting more reviews on your listing.
Do: ASK for a review!
The first step is easy. Follow up with guests after checkout with a phone call, personalized email, or a handwritten note (for extra credit!) and ask them for a review.
It’s ideal to get in touch within a day or two of checkout, so guests will remember that they loved sitting on your deck and enjoying a cup of coffee in the mornings, or that your bathroom was perfectly stocked with all of the toiletries and freshly laundered towels they needed. Those are the kinds of detailed reviews that prospective travelers love to read.
If you wait too long – say a week or more after they check out – your guests will have returned to their daily lives. While they’ll recall that they had a nice stay in your home, those little details won’t be as easy to call to mind.
The fewer details they have to rave about, the less likely they’ll review. After all, they’ll think, do they really have much to say? Is it really that important?
Make the decision easy for them with a prompt request for a review while they’re primed with their recent memories.
Bonus tip: include a link or address to the page where they can leave their reviews. The easier it is for your guests to leave a review, the more likely they are to do it!
Do: Appeal to their sense of kindness
Thank guests for booking your property and politely ask them to leave a review about your property. Communicate that their feedback is really important to the success of your vacation rental, and that you rely on reviews to make improvements for future travelers.
Appeal to your guests’ desire to be kind and helpful. Let them know they’re doing you a huge favor by writing a quick review. Not only is it true – it’s a powerful incentive.
People like feeling connected to other people, and one of the ways we get that connection is by trading kind gestures. When you ask nicely for a review as a favor, you’re reminding your guest that a real human being was behind their enjoyable stay – and they’ll start thinking they’d like to say thank you.
That sense of goodwill is going to come across in a heartfelt review that will make future travelers feel confident about booking your property.
Don’t: Forget to write reviews for your guests
One of the best ways to encourage guests to review your property is to write them a review first.
Airbnb has always allowed both guests and hosts to leave a review, and now that exchange is available on Homeaway and VRBO as well. You can give your guests between one and five stars to indicate whether you’d recommend them as guests to other owners.
When you do, your guests receive a notification that they’ve been reviewed by their host and that they can see their review – after they leave one for you! Guests want to know what you said about them, and their curiosity often entices them to leave a review for you.
Don’t: Offer incentives
It’s not a good idea to offer incentives for reviews.
Seems counterintuitive, right? But studies have shown that people often find incentives a deterrent when doing “good deeds” like leaving a kind review.
If you do something nice out of the goodness of your heart, you feel good about yourself. If you get bribed into doing it, it doesn’t feel as good – and you kind of feel like you were coerced into saying those nice words.
Instead, appeal to their sense of goodwill.
“I hope you had an amazing stay. It would help us find more amazing guests like you if you could take a few minutes to leave us a review! We’d really appreciate it. Thanks, Bob and Mary.”
Bob and Mary gave the guest a lovely stay, so the guest wants to give Bob and Mary a little thank-you in return. We all love these types of warm, person-to-person interactions, so don’t rely on incentives. Rely on human contact.
Do: Give your guests a call
You’d be surprised by how impactful a quick phone call can be for getting reviews. It’s an easy way to show your guests that you really do care about their experience at your property.
Some of our most successful vacation rental owners call guests right after they check in, and right after they check out, just to make sure everything went all right. These small gestures create a lot of good will, which often translates to fantastic reviews that keep the bookings rolling in.
Give guests a call after they check out and ask them if everything was satisfactory during their stay. If they report any issues or provide feedback on what you could improve, assure them you’ll make those changes and thank them for the information.
If your guest was largely happy with their stay, explain that reviews are helpful to your business and ask them if they would be willing to leave one. A sample script might go:
“I’m so glad you had a good time, and I appreciate you letting me know about that one little issue. If you have a few minutes tonight, would you please leave a review? It makes a huge difference to me.”
Then ask if they’d like a follow-up email to remind them. Often they WILL want one, because we all know how we forget things. Now you can feel free to nag them one more time – you were invited, after all!
Don’t: Worry about negative reviews
Some vacation rental owners are afraid to ask for reviews because they’re worried guests might say something negative about the property. While of course you shouldn’t actively solicit reviews from guests with whom you’ve had a conflict, don’t let a general fear of negative comments stop you from inviting guest feedback.
As it turns out, a couple of less-than-stellar reviews can actually make your listing seem more trustworthy and help you get bookings.
A study by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center found that 5-star ratings come across as ‘too good to be true.’ People tend to be more skeptical of properties with perfect ratings, while the 4-star range actually the sweet spot for influencing sales and bookings. So a couple of critical reviews might even make your property more profitable!
Plus, negative reviews are a great opportunity to show that you’re attentive and will respond quickly if guests have any issues at your property.
Let’s face it: stuff happens. Light bulbs burn out. Drains clog. Your cleaning person forgets they were supposed to come today.
You can’t avoid every negative experience. But if you’re responsive and get the issue resolved quickly, you have nothing to worry about. Guests will usually write a kind review about how you came to their rescue and solved those small problems for them so they could enjoy the rest of their stay. They might dock you a star, but the story they tell about your attentiveness does even more work for you than a five star review with the words: “Great place!”
Travelers who read that four-star review will feel more confident about booking your property, not less. They’ll know this property comes with a host who will swiftly address any issue that comes up – and wouldn’t you want a host like that yourself?
Go get reviews!
Great reviews are within your reach. Just remember to personally get in touch with every guest after check out and let them know why it’s so important to you to get feedback about their stay. Sound like hard work? It is. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you’ll see the payoff in reviews, bookings, and income.
Got a prime tip for how to get more (and better) reviews! Leave your suggestions for other owners in the comments!
Being a successful owner requires more and more of a time commitment. If you’re feeling worn out by all the new demands on your time, know Evolve actively solicits reviews on behalf of our owners – in addition to the countless other ways we make vacation rental easier. Check out our full list of vacation rental management services here.