- Having a star rating appear next to your search listing can help you stand out from your competitors.
- Google uses rich snippets, a form of structured data, to create your star rating in organic search results.
- According to Hitsearch, 3 factors influence getting a Google star rating: trusted review sites, schema markup, and site authority.
Star ratings are used to rate just about everything, from movies, to restaurants, to road safety tests in the automobile industry. As consumers, we understand the star ratings system and use it to help inform our purchase decisions. This includes our travel decisions. Star ratings help us determine the best airlines, cruises, attractions and hotels to book. For this reason, most major travel websites today have embraced star ratings, including review sites like TripAdvisor, OTA channels like Booking.com, meta-review sites like Trivago, social media platforms like Facebook, and even search engines.
In this article, we take a deeper dive into Google’s star rating system and how to use it to your hotel’s advantage in organic search results.
Why Star Ratings Matter
Having a star rating appear next to your hotel in Google search results can be extremely beneficial. Star reviews are eye catching, helping your property stand out from competitors on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). They provide an important element of social proof for travel shoppers, invoking a sense of confidence in your hotel based on what other guests have said. Furthermore, star ratings have been found to boost click-through rates by up to 29%, increasing traffic to your website, and potentially more bookings.
How the Google Star Rating System Works
Google first introduced a star ratings system (known as “seller ratings“) back in 2010. This feature made it easier for people to identify highly-rated merchants when searching on Google.com.
Seller ratings were originally intended to be used by Google Adwords and Google Shopping to accompany paid advertisements.
However, Google soon extended its use of star ratings to organic search results as well. For this, Google uses something known as rich snippets. Rich snippets are a form of structured data that makes it easy for Google to extract relevant information from a webpage and display it as a “sneak preview” in Google search results. For example, if you use a review widget to embed reviews on your website, Google is able to read that structured data and extract important information, like the review rating, user name and their comment, and display it within an organic search listing. The intention is to help searchers find exactly what they are looking for on Google with minimal effort.
Rich snippets extract important data to display in organic search results
How Does Google Decide Your Star Rating?
Google collects review data from a number of different “trusted” review sites. To be ‘trusted’ by Google, these sites must gather their reviews using certain criteria, which are, as usual, only known to Google. Google then aggregates this data to display an average star rating.
Trusted Review Sites
As mentioned above, Google gathers review data from a collection of “trusted” review sites. This ensures the reviews are legitimate and come from real customers/guests. Given that no single review site is the most trusted, the best thing you can do at the property level is:
1) Deliver an exceptional guest experience
2) Ask your guests to write a review online
Their reviews can be submitted to any well-known and reputable site. For example, an OTA site like Expedia (assuming they booked through that channel), your hotel’s Facebook page, or your Google Business Listing.
It’s worth noting here that reviews submitted to your Google Business Listing can also help boost your odds of being featured in Google’s Local Listings section of search results (see example below). This section appears below the paid ads and above the organic listings, making it arguably the best location on the page you can get for free. The local listings section is limited to three business listings, so it’s highly competitive, but extremely valuable if you can get featured.
While Google’s local listing section is a subject unto itself, it largely draws from what’s featured on your Google Business Listing. So, when guests write a review about you on Google, it not only helps your star rating, but increases your odds of being selected for the local listings section (win/win!).
To submit a Google review, your guests will need a Google account (e.g. Gmail account). They then simply sign into Google, search for your hotel on Google Maps, and select Write a Review in the left hand menu.
Once you start getting reviews on your Google Business page, as well as third-party sites, you need tell Google about it. This can be done by adding schema markup code to your website. Talk to your web developer about this. They should be familiar with schema markup code and how to add it to your site.
Like other elements of SEO, your website’s domain authority can influence your star rating on Google. The best way to improve your site’s authority is to improve the quality and relevance of your content, share your content online, and ensure that your website is SEO-friendly. Consider what content would be helpful to your ideal guest. For inspiration, check out this article on how to craft compelling website content.
Once you’ve addressed the 3 factors listed above, be patient. Remember, SEO is a long-term game, and a star rating won’t magically appear for your hotel overnight. The best thing you can do is provide exceptional service to your guests that warrants a 5-star review and encourage them to write a review online. This will give Google a nice big sample of reviews to aggregate.
While it may be frustrating to play the waiting game with Google, once your SEO efforts start being recognized, they will pay off for your hotel in leaps and bounds.