How Legitimate Are Online Hotel Reviews? – How to avoid getting scammed

Last week, Masterkey USA put an ad on Charleston Craigslist for freelance writers/bloggers.

The ad said:

  • You do not have to be a good writer
  • We will provide the keywords for you to use
  • You will be helping our hotel clients grow their business

We wrote to Vishal and inquired about opportunities to write for Masterkey.  We did not get a response and the ad has since been taken down and removed.

Masterkey USA is a hotel marketing agency that increases hotel clients sales performance and helps their online presence.  Masterkey Hotels is a chain of hotels out of the same region as the marketing firm.  We cannot confirm a direct connection, but location, name and industry indicate a potential partnership.

So, what was this ad looking for?  Very simple:  They were looking for people to write false online hotel reviews to boost their client’s reservations and occupancy rates through unethical business practices.

As a consumer seeking a place of lodging, we typically look for three key elements:

  • Affordability – Based on the region and value added (attractions, dining), what hotels offer the best rates.
  • Volume Reviews – If more people stay at a hotel, the better it must be.
  • Quality of Reviews / Ratings – What hotels have the highest average ratings.

Quite simply, if a hotel has 500 reviews averaging 4.5 / 5.0 stars, they will have a higher conversion rate of new customers than a hotel with 50 reviews and an average 3.0 / 5.0 star rating.  The filters of online review sites such as TripAdvisor, Hotwire and Kayak allow you to sort by rating, cost and number of reviews making it very easy to make a quick booking decision.

When companies like Masterkey USA hire people to fill in the blanks and write five star reviews, it only hurts the consumer.

How can you avoid making a poor decision when choosing a hotel?

  • Look for longer more thorough reviews.  Don’t just read the first few reviews.  Scroll down and look for the longer reviews that provide very specific detail on their stays (room quality, customer service, location, dining, etc.)
  • Don’t let the number of reviews affect your decision.  If a few hotels stand out with an enormous number of reviews, don’t let that be your only determining factor.
  • Look for reviews that match your personal needs.  If you are a family of four, don’t read a review from a honeymoon couple.  Look for family relevant reviews.
  • Thoroughly scroll through the visuals.  Pictures paint a very strong story.  Look at images of the lobby, rooms, food, parking lot and create a visual of what your stay may look like.
  • Focus on amenities.  Does this hotel offer what you need?  Some love free breakfast, while others prefer a gym that is open 24 hours.  Factor in your habits and what amenities meet them to your final decision.
  • Distance to destinations/attractions – How close is your hotel to the attractions you want to see.

Make your vacation memorable starting with the right lodging decision.  Good luck and make great memories.

 

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