Due to the speed at which travelers are sharing their experiences on the site, TripAdvisor found instances where a newly listed property was able to skyrocket to the top of the rankings on relatively few 5-bubble reviews. They called these properties “fast-risers”.
Over time, TripAdvisor travelers would submit more reviews on the fast-risers, causing them to settle into more stable, accurate rankings. Unfortunately, while this transition was happening, TripAdvisor consumers may not have been seeing the most accurate rankings for the destination.
Fast-risers would temporarily enjoy higher positions before falling significantly in the rankings, and other businesses would appear lower than they would have otherwise.
To improve the site experience for travelers and businesses alike, TripAdvisor has enhanced its Popularity Ranking algorithm. The enhanced ranking results in a more accurate representation of a business’s performance over time.
These changes were carefully designed and tested to improve the rankings algorithm in some very specific ways, while maintaining the accurate standings of existing properties with great reputations among TripAdvisor members.
In designing the enhancements, TripAdvisor analyzed the hundreds of millions of reviews received over the past 15 years and how they impacted the rankings of properties over time. Based on this research, they redesigned the enhanced Popularity Ranking algorithm to value the quantity and consistency of reviews more significantly than in the past.
They believe doing so helps stabilize the ranking for all businesses, reduces fast-riser behavior and creates a more accurate overall ranking for travelers. The enhanced algorithm has been tested extensively – both internally and by analyzing how travelers interacted with the site as they’ve gradually rolled it out.
When did this happen?
In January 2016, TripAdvisor switched to using the enhanced Popularity Ranking algorithm for Restaurants and Attractions. Between February and April, they rolled out the algorithm for Hotels.
During the roll-out, there were some cases where the rankings would move independent of new reviews being collected. Those ranking changes were due to the enhanced algorithm accounting for more and more of the calculation for each property over time.
The enhanced algorithm is now being used on the vast majority of the site, and TripAdvisor claims the resulting Popularity Rankings have stabilized.
How the Enhanced Popularity Ranking algorithm works
The goal was to design an enhanced algorithm where a property settles into a stable ranking more quickly and avoids the fast-riser behavior. The Popularity Ranking continues to be based on the quality, recency and quantity of reviews that a business receives from travelers.
The final algorithmic input, for a small set of properties that violate the guidelines, are fraud penalties that exist to protect the integrity of the content on TripAdvisor.
The bubble ratings provided by travelers as part of their reviews continue to be used to rank properties. All other things being equal, a property with more 4- and 5-bubble ratings will rank higher than a business with lower bubble ratings.