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Ah, the TripAdvisor top five…

The acclaimed spots wanted by so many, but claimed by so few.

So what actually makes a tour or activity operator climb the ranks all the way to the top? Are their tours that much better than everyone else’s on the block?

Not so much, no.

So what exactly are their differentiating factors?

They have a pretty stringent plan that they use to rake in the reviews (and respond to each and every review that comes in). But they know that getting to the top will require some work outside of the confinements of TripAdvisor.

Here are some of their well-kept secrets that they most certainly don’t want you to know about:

#1: Build a relationship with the community.

A lot of successful tour and activity operators can owe their success to good old-fashioned hustling.

They aren’t afraid to go out into the community and make their presence known. But do they expect love at first sight? Absolutely not.

They know that all of the hotels, hostels and local attractions have been ruthlessly wooed by every other tour operator in the area.

So instead of expecting a big payout from a single meet-n-greet, they switch it up by doing things a bit differently: they add relevancy and value at every turn.

Or for some, every pedal.

Case in point: we’ve got one client who makes a printed weekly event calendar of his city. He then has a team member cycling around the city, dropping off the calendars at every local hotel and hostel.

Time-consuming? Yes.

Costly? Oh, hell yeah!

Rewarding? I’ll put it this way — you have one chance to guess which operator is the clear number one in his city.

#2: Keep up with digital trends.

The vast majority of the operators flying high on TripAdvisor have websites. But they understand that it takes a lot more than a website to really get themselves into their number one position and sell more tours.

So you might have a phone number, email address and even a contact form on your website. BUT, speak to any millennial (especially those living outside of the US) and they’ll tell you that they’re turning to WhatsApp for day-to-day communication.

To leverage this incredibly popular platform, some tour operators have gone so far as displaying their WhatsApp on every promotional and marketing collateral they have — including their website.

In fact, La Bicicleta Verde, a tour operator that we work with, has been inundated with WhatsApp messages after he made this incredibly simple change.

#3: Take a hard look at your website

Not only do the top five tour operators have websites, but most of them have websites that are built to sell tours.

Because those that take selling their tours seriously know that people are typically going to click on the ‘website’ link found directly on their TripAdvisor profile. And they absolutely know that if they have a bad website that isn’t representative of their company, their tours are going to sink faster than you can say Titanic.

So, they make sure that their website not only looks good, but they also take heed of the one thing that matters most according to website users — they make sure that it is incredibly easy for the viewers to find (and purchase) the tours that they’re looking for.

Here are a few tips to help you achieve a better and more effective user experience on your website:

  1. When it comes to your website’s headline, this is not the time to let your inner poet or novelist shine. Clarity is always going to be the winner here.
  2. Make the navigation completely intuitive. Have a menu with tour types displayed directly on your homepage (and make sure that a ‘View Now’ button is visible for each tour option). Check out the tour navigation on Icy Strait Point’s homepage.
  3. Write your tour descriptions for both the scanners and those hunting for details. Include key facts in bullet points, while laying out the details in longer paragraphs.
  4. Make sure that you have a ‘Book Now’ button clearly displayed next to every tour option.

#4: List your tours…everywhere

All those highly ranked tour and activity operators know that in order to lead the pack on TripAdvisor, they need to spread their wings and turn to other websites…

…because they can’t rake in those reviews if no one can find them in the first place.

So they get listed everywhere that’s relevant for them. Their tours are listed on Google, Bing and even Yahoo. They are on Yelp, GuideAdvisor and any marketplace that is relevant for their tours.

Thanks to a quick and easy listing on Google, a simple search of ‘bike tours in Santiago, Chile’ produced this result for La Bicicleta Verde:

#5: Show off those rankings.

Any savvy player in the tourism game knows that people are naturally influenced by their peers — and they know that they can use this bit of human psychology as a driving force to sell their tours.

So they use testimonials from their customers on their websites, which is a good start. But some tour operators know that their viewers are getting savvy too. Viewers know how easy it is to fabricate a testimonial, so they’re looking for testimonials that just seem a bit more…real.

The answer? The TripAdvisor widget.

It’s super easy to integrate on your site and will show off your hard-earned ranking and reviews in real time. Check how Icy Strait Point has it displayed on their website (and notice how it’s strategically placed next to an impossible to miss ‘Book Now’ button).

So you wanna be on top?

If you want to compete with the top players, stop waiting for something to ‘hopefully’ happen and start working on and implementing an actionable plan that will leverage your tours all the way to the top.

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