Google vacation rental partners differ over whether to name guests in reviews

Airbnb, TripAdvisor and Holiday rents are active participants in the Google Year vacation rental feature, but they have a curious approach to customer feedback on the platform – no usernames.

If you read a customer’s review of a vacation rental listing provided by Airbnb on Google’s travel pages to Chicago, London, or Bangkok, all of the reviews appear to be from what is tagged as an “Airbnb reviewer.” com ”instead of Hazel P. or Betty M., for example.

It’s a sterile approach to user-generated content, but it may be a strategic decision. Why give Google the more personalized experience with reviewers that travelers might enjoy on Airbnb or TripAdvisor?

“The Airbnb and TripAdvisor brands can be powerful enough to compensate for the loss of user generated content / trust signals,” said Scott Breon, chief analytics officer and chief revenue officer at Vacasa. “It can also be a A B market vendor test – not coordinated by Google. “

An Airbnb user review as it appears on Google vacation rental pages.

On Google vacation rental pages, guest reviews are snippets of static reviews. There is no need to click for more information about the examiner and their examination history.

Compare this approach with the way Airbnb manages customer reviews on Airbnb.com. As the Airbnb.com screenshot shows, each guest review has a first name and photo of the person, and users can click on the photo of “Irene,” for example, and read that she joined Airbnb in 2017, lives in Decatur, Georgia. , and for context, Airbnb customers can read reviews of it from hosts in Sydney, Australia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida in the United States.

A user review as it appeared on Airbnb.com.

Unlike Google’s travel pages, Airbnb.com users can also click on guest photos to view information about them and read what previous travelers have said about their stay.

The experience of reviewing Airbnb and TripAdvisor.com guests on their own websites is much more engaging and community-driven than what Google’s vacation rental pages currently offer for these brands. And, conversion issues – the degree to which customer reviews lead to bookings – aside, that’s probably the point.

In other words, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Holiday Lettings probably want to keep the good stuff – the most engaging customer experience – for their own websites rather than cede that pitch to Google. Google, after all, is both a partner and a competitor.

So for TripAdvisor and its Holiday Lettings brand, their customers’ reviews on Google vacation rental pages have no username that we found other than “TripAdvisor.com reviewer” or “Holiday Lettings reviewer”. . These could also be part of the A / B tests; We have seen vacation rentals from these brands on Google that when you click a Reviews button, Google says, “The content of the review is not available for this rental”.

In the case of Airbnb, the current way it offers guest reviews on Google vacation rental pages is indeed an A / B test performed by Airbnb. Airbnb declined to comment on the issue.

TripAdvisor declined to comment on its approach to customer reviews in Google vacation rentals. TripAdvisor spokesperson Kevin Carter said that “we do not disclose the details of our license agreements.”

According to Google, it is the vacation rental partners themselves who decide whether or not to send Google the names of their reviewers. Google asks all vacation rental partners to provide traveler reviews, but it is not an explicit obligation to send them to Google.

The more personal approach

So while Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Holiday Lettings apparently don’t offer reviewer names in Google vacation rentals – at least in all of the Skift searches seen in markets like Chicago, New York, London, Bangkok and Singapore, other Google partners are doing it. in effect provide reviews with the names of reviewers. First name, and the initial of the name, ie.

Google partners providing customer reviews with names like Charlene Q. or Jose L. include Vacasa, Vrbo, and RedAwning, for example. Another Google partner, United Rentals, wasn’t providing Google with any guest reviews in the dozens of searches we did.

Rentals United CEO James Burrows told Skift why. “We are a pure channel manager, Vacasa is a building manager, and Red awning is a marketing platform, ”Burrows said. “As a channel manager, we don’t collect reviews at this time, but Google is integrating our properties at high speed. “

In fact, RedAwning CEO Tim Choate said the company is mixing the two approaches – reviews with names and reviews without them – on Google vacation rental pages.

“I don’t know what the overall impact is, but to me the reviews seem more personal and real with a guest name than without,” Choate said.

Booking.com and Agoda, which are sister companies, do not partner with Google in its vacation rental meta-search or price comparison function. Agoda in Southeast Asia was actively involved in launching Google vacation rentals and then gave up, preferring to push direct bookings to its own sites.

No monetization yet

It’s worth noting that Google’s vacation rental pages are only one year old and will evolve, as will its handling of partner guest reviews and the overall booking experience.

Many people may not be aware that unlike the bidding process to gain a presence on Google’s hotel pages, Google’s vacation rental functionality is free for vendors at this time; there is no tendering process.

In a variety of global markets that we have covered, Expedia’s Vrbo has a disproportionate presence compared to Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Vacasa, Holding Lettings, RedAwning, and Rentals United, for example.

The reason for Vrbo’s high visibility on Google vacation rental pages appears to be due to its “content, quantity and review content,” RedAwning’s Choate said. Another factor, Choate added, is that Airbnb might not give Google access to many of its homes and apartments.

Vrbo did not respond to a request for comment on these issues.

Google review approach

In Google’s hotel pages, customer reviews of partners of brands such as Booking.com or Expedia.com coexist with reviews written by Google users.

However, there are no Google user reviews on its vacation rental pages yet. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Google is likely collecting its own customer reviews of vacation rental properties and would likely publish them at some point.

Google’s various partners undoubtedly test the performance of their anonymous customer reviews, customer reviews by first name only, and whether or not to provide Google with customer reviews.

How will ROI be impacted by the different embodiments of customer written reviews on Google? Will the return be high enough to prevent Google from offering Google the kind of user engagement with more personalized reviews that customers appreciate on brands’ own websites? These are probably some of the calculations.

When it comes to the pros and cons of personalized guest reviews versus simply branded reviews, consider that on Google’s hotel pages, online travel companies such as Expedia and Booking.com are marketing at various times their properties like this: “Read reviews from real customers. Get instant confirmation.

These are real customer reviews over the company-labeled antiseptic version.

How is Google Vacation Rentals performing?

Heather Richer, Marketing Director of RedAwning, said that Google Hotel Ads for Short Term Rentals, this is how the vacation rental feature is known, is “just in its early stages, but it’s getting started. definitely drive more traffic, and we’re seeing more volume customers. “

As Google adds more partner homes in Google’s vacation rental functionality, “it’s clear they’re trying to provide a more in-depth, contextual experience so the customer can dream, shop, and make a decision on Google. “said Richer.

As in other industries where a similar user experience takes place, “Google just passes the guest to the transaction stage, making it a ‘zero click’ experience for the traveler,” Richer said.

Whether it’s for Google search, maps, driving directions, flights, hotels or short-term rentals, once consumers learn that Google is the where to go for travel information, then competitors would be at a disadvantage.

This is one of the reasons why Booking.com and Agoda are not currently participating in Google’s new vacation rental feature. Participation can prove to be an existential issue for the entire short-term rental industry.

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