Hard to believe, but summer is just around the corner! With the weather heating up and children soon breaking from school, outdoor recreation businesses are poised to see an annual influx of visitors over the next few months, ready to enjoy the season.

With an estimated 65% of leisure travelers conducting research online before deciding where and how they want to travel, it’s critical that recreation businesses make sure their profiles are full of positive reviews and relevant information. As a case study, we thought we would look to some of America’s top recreation sites, its National Parks, as a baseline for insights and suggestions on how recreation businesses of any size can appear their best online and attract more visitors.

Reflective of the high caliber experience they deliver, all of the United States’s 10 most visited parks have impressive online ratings on profiles, with star ratings typically in the 4.5-5 star range on influential review sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor. Their profiles are also generally rich with high-quality photographs and relevant information that help prospective visitors to make their travel plans.

That said, while America’s top 10 National Parks have high average star ratings, they have a noticeable weakness in the number of reviews they’ve collected. Each of these parks receives millions of visitors a year, and yet on Google, for example, the highest number of reviews any one park has received is just over 3,000. In fact, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which gets the most visitors at 11 million annually, has only 803 reviews on Google, 207 on Yelp, and doesn’t collect ratings on Facebook at all. This means that the online reviews for Great Smoky Mountain National Park only represent a very small portion of the experiences of their total visitors (somewhere in the 0.01 range). While luckily Great Smoky Mountain National park’s small sample set of reviewers have rated their experience positively, a gap in visitor representation could pose a serious problem if that tiny sample of reviews was consistently negative. The last thing any business wants is reviews like the following (left on Yosemite’s pages) to take the forefront, especially if they aren’t reflective of a decent percentage of visitor’s experience:

Obviously, some of these reviews are ridiculous, and would likely be discounted if read. However, prospective visitors aren’t always going to be diligent about looking into the specific content of reviews, and may only take a quick glance at the number of negative reviews or the lower star-rating, possibly dissuading them from choosing a destination. After all, 40% of consumers only check an average of 1-3 reviews before forming an opinion of the business. That’s why it’s essential that recreation businesses attempt to get the most positive reviews possible in order to put their best foot forward online and mitigate the damage from any negative feedback.

One way to do so is to use a system like Signpost to collect visitor records and prompt them to leave reviews through intelligent, automated campaigns. Signpost is a surefire way for your recreation site to generate reviews that represent a sizable portion of your visitor’s experiences. For example, Signpost user Durhamtown Off Road Park in Union Point Georgia has a 4.8 star Google rating across 659 reviews. While Durhamtown Off Road Park receives thousands of visitors annually rather than millions, Signpost’s automated system has helped Durhamtown to receive more Google reviews than three of America’s most visited National Parks: Olympic (322 reviews), Grand Teton (398 reviews), and Glacier (515 reviews).  

One final insight to glean from the National Parks’ online presence is that sometimes with a larger recreation space, it can be unclear which page is the most accurate and which page promoters should leave a review. For example, when searching on Facebook for Glacier National Park, the following three pages show up:

 

Keeping the information on your complete and up to date with pictures and posts is an essential step in making sure your prospective visitors know which page to leave their reviews. In addition, perhaps the most effective way to make clear which pages are your official profiles is to have them verified when possible. If approved, verification usually takes the form of a small badge like a checkmark, as you can see exemplified on the top Facebook search result for Glacier National Park.

If your pages aren’t yet verified, you can click here to get started with Yelp or here to get started with Facebook. The process usually doesn’t take more than a week, and will make a significant impact in ensuring your visitors leave their reviews in the right place and building prospective visitors trust in the existing reviews you’ve made the effort to collect!

Bring on the Summer rush!