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6 ways TripAdvisor determines your rating

Posted by Michael McKay on Dec 19, 2014 8:00:00 AM
Michael McKay

TripAdvisor is a bit of a black box when it comes to ratings. Their algorithms are forever changing and for the most part they are tight-lipped about how they determine their scores.

This said, TripAdvisor has shared some forms of measurement they use when determining your rating.

The first is the Popularity Index, which compares businesses based on their popularity, as measured by the quality, quantity and recency of their TripAdvisor reviews.

The second is the Bubble Rating, which is an absolute measure that takes into account the quality, quantity and age of individual travellers’ ratings and reviews from one bubble to five bubbles, with one bubble meaning “terrible” and five meaning “excellent”.

“Sure,” you’re thinking. “That doesn’t help.” I know, and whilst I can’t claim to crack the code, I have done some digging around and come up with a few factors that I personally think have a lot of weight in determining a business’s TripAdvisor ranking.


1. Number of reviews

TripAdvisor has openly shared that the more reviews a business has, the higher the ranking is likely to be.

I would even go so far as to say that it is better to have hundreds of poor reviews than a couple of outstanding reviews because it shows that people are interacting with your business more often. Essentially, it makes you more trustworthy.


Get in the habit of asking every guest for a review (unless of course they had a terrible experience).

2. Quality of reviews

According to Rezdy, 48% of TripAdvisor reviews are 5-stars and 29% are 4-stars. It means less than a third are 3-stars or less.

I think a couple of things can be deduced from this. First, a string of 5-star reviews isn’t necessarily going to give you the perfect overall score. The second is that low ranking scores can play a big part in bringing down your score because they’re so rare.


Study every review of 3-stars or less. Find out why they didn’t give you 4 or 5-stars. Even if the reason is seemingly pedantic, address the problem.

3. Reputation of the reviewer

TripsAdvisor has openly shared that the quality of the reviewer affects the weight of the review.

It’s hard to define exactly how TripAdvisor determines how important (or seasoned) a reviewer is, but I think the biggest factor would be the number of reviews a reviewer has made.

Other considerations could be how close their reviews match up to the average reviewer. For instance, if a property mostly receives positive reviews, but they give a negative review (or if a property mostly receives negative reviews, but they give a positive review), I can imagine TripAdvisor placing less weight on their feedback, as they are not an ‘average thinker’.


Ask reviewers how often they post reviews. If they post often, put in an extra effort to encourage them to post one for you.

4. Recency of the review

TripAdvisor has also shared that reviews depreciate with time. That means that the most recent reviews have more weight than the least recent. It means a poor review will eventually go out of date, but so will a positive one. This gives those who buy rundown businesses a chance to turn things around.


Don’t get caught continually looking back to that one 1-star review. Instead, put an action in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

5. Frequency of reviews

TripAdvisor is likely to be suspicious if one week you receive 50 reviews, and then you don’t receive any reviews for a year, before again receiving 50 reviews all in the space of a week.

The main reason is that you are not showing consistency. Think of it like this, why would TripAdvisor send their visitors to your business when one day it appears you offer phenomenal service and the next day you don’t. It’s too risky.


Be consistent when encouraging people to review your property.

6. Criteria rankings

I think it’s fair to say that TripAdvisor would favour certain criteria over others.

There is no way to know how exactly they would select these, but when we look at a hotel for instance, we see that the rating summary lists location first, then sleep quality, rooms, service, value and cleanliness. This said, I speculate that they are most likely to value a reviewer’s thoughts on location first, then sleep quality and so on. Who knows for sure if this is right, but it’s worth considering.


Under promise, over deliver on all of the below criteria, but mostly specifically ‘location’ and ‘sleep quality’.

A theory (this is a far shot, but a shot nonetheless)

This is 100% speculation, but I thought it was a good way of showing how TripAdvisor potentially brings a number of elements together.

Rating = (vR+mC)/(v+m)

  • V = Number of reviews
  • R = Average review rating (of the property)
  • M = Minimum reviews required
  • C = Average rating (across all properties)


Property A has 81 votes with an average rating of 4.5
Property B has 20 votes with an average rating of 5


C = 4.8 (which is the current average TripAdvisor rating – 2014)

M = 10 (this is a guess)

A Rating = (81*4.5 + 10*4.8) / (81+10) = 4.53 out of 5 = 91%
B Rating = (20*5 + 10*4.8)/ (20+10) x 20 = 3.26 out of 5 = 65%

Thus, Property A has a significantly higher popularity index (%), despite having a lower bubble rating(stars).

The complicated part is figuring out R (average review rating of the property). This is a combined score that takes into account an ‘overall score’ given by the reviewer, plus individual scores based on ‘location’, ‘sleep quality’, ‘rooms’, ‘service’, ‘value’ and ‘cleanliness’.

The most impossible thing is working out how the equation takes into consideration recency of reviews and frequency. Sheeeeeet! I tried.


This may all seem a little complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. You can get the most out of all of the above points by simply following these three steps.

  1. Go above and beyond to ensure every guest has a great experience
  2. Encourage every guest to post a review
  3. Read every review with an open mind and adjust your systems to incorporate their feedback


Topics: Hospitality marketing, Hotels, Restaurants, Bars