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Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Koshkha and I am a (mostly) reformed review site addict. I had it bad - really bad. I was logging on at all hours of the day or night, wandering through life with a head full of review ideas, seeing every thing that happened to me, everything I bought, everything I ate, and everywhere I went as source material for my next fix/review. A bunch of good ratings and nice comments would send me up for the day and a nasty revenge rate or spiteful comment could bring me straight back down again. Things were getting pretty desperate.
Like an alcoholic I'm maybe only a few reviews away from slipping back into the habit but I think I have things under control. In fact I went two months without posting a review in the summer and I've even gone whole days without logging on. So I'm a reformed addict - but the only trouble is, getting off Ciao and dooyoo was like weaning myself off one drug by getting involved with another. I am - without question - now a trivago addict.
~ How I found trivago ~ Like so many poor souls it was an innocent enough transition. There I was, minding my own (and everyone else's) business over on the review writers forum (membership of which is almost always a sign of advanced addiction). I was splitting my time between the twin evils of Ciao and dooyoo when I read about a new travel site called trivago. One of the members invited me to join and that was that - within a few weeks I was hooked. The invitation should have come with a 'this site can change your life' warning.
~ What is trivago? ~ trivago (irritatingly always with the affectation of a small 't') is a travel website that generates its income through commission earned when visitors to the site click through to book hotels with the site's booking partners. That's quite a well-used business model and there are many sites doing similar things. There are two key differences with trivago; firstly that it's so much MORE than just a site that links you to hotel bookings and secondly that they pay really well if you are willing to put in the time and effort.
The site was created by some German Ciao people who wanted to create a more travel-focused website. They probably annoyed Ciao by going as Ciao won't pay me a single penny for writing this (very long but hopefully helpful) review. However, if any Ciao members would like to join trivago after reading this, please do me a really big favour and let me invited you. I can give you the link that identifies me as the person who invited you in your guestbook or if you trust me with your email address (in the personal GB) I can send you a proper invitation. That way if you become active, I can at least earn a few shares of commission.
There are currently six trivago 'platforms' - i.e. different language versions of the site. All the platforms are integrated - unlike Ciao or dooyoo where membership of a UK site doesn't give you any right to privileges on the other language sites.
The first trivago was the German platform - trivago.de - we were next with .co.uk, then the .fr and .es French and Spanish sites followed. Recently they've introduced .se for Sweden and a Polish one that's probably .po but I've never bothered to check. I believe there's an Italian version on the way as well as Bulgarian one in development.
Unlike Ciao and dooyoo who also run lots of different language platforms, with trivago they are all integrated. You can write in any of the approved languages - but being a Brit, not surprisingly, I stick to English - although I do dabble a bit in approving things for the French site when they get too many tasks on their plate. The two most senior members of trivago.co.uk both also speak German and whilst you certainly don't NEED to speak other languages, if you do it can really be an advantage at times.
~ What's the point of trivago?~ The aim of trivago is to build the world's most comprehensive travel database - a place you can go to when you want to plan a trip, where you'll find not only information about hotels, but also about all the great attractions in the area. And unlike a tourist office website that will tell you that everything is absolutely fantastic, at trivago you'll get a more balanced picture.
~ How would I use it? ~ Say you are planning a weekend city break and you are interested in visiting a particular museum; in the museum profile you'll get some basic information such as where it is, how far from the railway station, when it's open, what it costs and a bit about the main exhibits. Next you can read reviews written by the members and see photographs that they have taken and added to the site. You'll also find a list of 'weblinks'to explore. These, as the name suggests, are links to websites about the museum that the site members have found and think might be interesting for you. You'll also find 'external reviews' which are summaries of what other reviewers and guidebooks have said about the museum. With all that info it's not hard to get a clear picture of whether the attraction is what you are looking for.
~ So how does all that information get onto the site? ~ Easy - it's there because we put it there. The members add all the content.
~ I don't want to join but I might like to look - How good is it for finding hotels? ~ I've been using the site for a year and can honestly say the last thing I'd ever do with it is book a hotel (and I think many other members would probably agree with me on that). Mind you, I wouldn't use Ciao or dooyoo for their intended purpose either so that's not necessarily a bad thing. The informationtion available about hotels is good and often better than elsewhere but the prices don't seem to be very competitive. But thankfully, lots of people do use it and their activities pay for the rest of us to have fun.
~ How do I know the information is genuine? ~ There have been a lot of well-publicised cases of hotels and other tourism organisations 'spamming' some of the well known travel and review sites. Think about some of the 'reviews' you see on Ciao or dooyoo - written by someone completely new who never read or rated anything else and never came back to write another review. A month later they sign up again with a new identity and write another equally glowing review about the same topic. They aren't hard to spot. It only takes 3 or 4 glowing reports written by the hotel itself or their PR company or a few really bad ones written by the hotel down the road that wants their business to skew the ratings of a hotel. This can't happen at trivago.
Firstly there's the breadth of sources from which information is gathered (including many of the major guidebooks that are trusted by many millions of travellers); secondly only members can add content (with the exception of personal reviews - and any fraudulent 'guest' reviews are soon spotted and removed); thirdly, content has to be 'approved' by a member of a higher level before it can be added. So if you are a dodgy hotel looking to pass yourself off as second only to the Ritz, you won't get away with it at trivago.
~ How's trivago different from the review sites? ~ A lot of members come to trivago from review sites like Ciao and dooyoo. Others find us from tripadvisor. Most come because they are looking for somewhere else that they can post their travel reviews. But once you arrive you'll soon learn that it's a very different place from the review sites and writing reviews is just a tiny part of what you can do on trivago.
Firstly, you can't rate other people's reviews - at least not until you reach level 4 and in order to reach that level you have to prove you understand the site and its many different tasks.
Secondly you can't leave - or receive - comments on reviews although apparently that's about to change very soon. You just get a straight percentage rating. In the early days after joining, many refugees from the review sites find that lack of feedback to be intensely frustrating but after a while it actually becomes quite refreshing to not have to leave or receive feedback.
Thirdly, you can only review specific hotels and attractions - you can't for example write a review about your weekend in Madrid. Instead you'd need to write separate reviews for your hotel, the museum you went to and the restaurant that you really enjoyed although you can then write a 'travel guide' that integrates all the other items.
Fourthly, you'll never get rich by writing reviews (no change from the review sites there) and you'll never get beyond level 3 if all you do is post reviews. And that's where the big difference comes in - with trivago, there are always lots of different tasks to take part in.
But the good news is, you can make a lot more money on trivago by doing other tasks.
~ So if it's not just adding reviews, what else can I do? ~
Photos - for each of the hotels or attractions that are on the site, a member can add up to five of their own personal photos and earn up to 100 shares for each. Until recently we all added photos and they just disappeared into a 'black hole' and were rarely ever viewed by other members. Earlier in the summer photo rating was introduced and the quality and visibility of photos shot up on the back of a two month competition in which the best photos were selected each week on the basis of peer voting. Everyone can earn shares for rating other people's photos.
Weblinks - for each attraction or hotel on trivago, you can add links to websites that might be interesting to other members. Weblinks are easy to find and quite fun to do but are worth a maximum of just 50 shares. I think this is a shame and I believe that the effort that goes into finding good weblinks is undervalued by the site.
External Reviews - trivago members can't visit all the hotels, restaurants, museums and attractions themselves so we gather the opinions of others and add their ratings to the site. "External Review" - these are the two words that strike fear into the hearts of many new members. ER's as they are known are bizarre and frustrating - an exercise in gathering quotations from other people's reviews (in guidebooks, travel websites, magazines and newspapers) and transposing the key points of those reviews in your own words around the quotations.
Database maintenance - if you spot a mistake on the site, tell the database administrators. Not only will they put it right, but you'll get shares for telling them.
Adding hotels and attractions - you can add content to existing items that are in the database, but life gets more interesting when you start adding your own items. It's not like the review sites where you just ask someone to add a hotel so you can write about it - you have to add all the information yourself. Adding hotels - or completing the details for hotels already added - carries one of the highest share values because the hotels generate the site income.
Competitions - there are always competitions and challenges running to encourage certain activities. For example when I first joined it was the season for people to think about booking their winter holidays so bonus shares were on offer for activities related to winter-sports resorts
Newsletter - I've just edited the October newsletter. I've been contributing for the last few months but this time I had to learn the website formatting for the layout, bully members to write articles, edit those articles and build a structure for them to sit in. It was hard but fun.
~ I've joined - what happens next?~ Firstly you'll be assigned a mentor to ease your way into the site. Your mentor can help you immeasurably. They will answer all your daftest questions, show you where to put your photos and reviews, teach you how to add new items and explain some of the weird norms of trivago behaviour.
If you've just signed up, you can expect to find a message from your mentor and a few of the other members in your public guestbook. You'll also find that you have a private guestbook as well. Use your common sense about what's private and what's public. It's not a very political site and whilst people do occasionally fall out, the potential for some of the cyber-bullying that happens on other sites is greatly reduced by the approval systems. Thankfully it's exceptionally difficult to give revenge ratings because you can't rate ANYTHING (other than photos) until you've built your way up to the 4th level. And by the time you get to L4 you'll have done a broad range of different tasks and built up an understanding of how the site works. If you then try to have a go at another user, you'll severely jeopardise your chances of progressing any further.
It's a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest - if you don't play nice with the other kids, you'll never progress. Sometimes I wish this same system applied on some of the other sites!
~ Tell me more about the levels ~ Unlike Ciao where you progress through different levels and are rewarded with different coloured dots (big deal), progress through trivago brings more responsibilities and better earning potential. I think there are 9 or 10 levels in total. At levels 1 to 3 you can add content, at levels 4 to 6 (the 'editor' levels) you can approve content and from level 7 on you become an all-powerful super-being known as an 'administrator'.
You join at L1 and after posting a couple of reviews or some photos you'll soon have the 250 points needed to get promoted to L2. All it takes is for 5 members of a higher level to give their votes for your promotion. Promotion to L3 is also based just on achieving a certain number of shares. When you start thinking about L4 things get more tricky - you have to get not only the qualifying number of shares, but also to have done the prescribed set of activities - in this case a certain number of weblinks, external reviews, attractions and hotels. Even if you get all of those things, promotion isn't automatic - you won't get promoted if (for example) your English is really poor or you haven't been able to show that you actually understand how the site work.
L4 gives the right to rate other people's reviews, L5 to approve weblinks and external reviews and L6 gives the right to approve hotels and attractions. Approval work earns shares just like adding content does.
~What are these shares and how do they work?~ Every action has a maximum share value and the shares determine - in part - how much you earn. Unlike some sites where there's a fixed payment for each thing that you do, there are two elements to trivago payouts. Firstly how active you are as a user and hence how many shares you earn, and secondly how successful the site is in generating income.
The site generates money through referrals to hotel booking sites and a whopping 50% of this income goes to the members and is divided according to the number of shares each has earned that period. Most of your shares will come from the work you do on the site but you can also earn shares for inviting new members (you get an extra allocation based on a percentage of what the members you invite have earned - don't worry, the invited members don't lose any of their shares in order to pay you). At L5 and above, you also get shares for being a mentor and that's based on the shares earned by your mentees.
~How do I get paid?~ Payment is a bit long-winded. At the end of each 2-month period, all the shares are converted into 'money' and added to your 'account'. If you have a balance of more than 25 on your account you can claim a payment. Transfer of the money takes approximately 2 months. Yes, that's a long time but bear in mind that sites like Ciao can take 6 weeks or more to make transfers depending on when you put your claim in. The payments take time because trivago has to first get paid by its booking partners before they can pay the members.
Most UK members get paid by paypal - just sign up for an account. Members in countries where paypal isn't available are paid by other similar money transfer systems. Sods law says that the exchange rates never work in your favour and I tend to lose between 2 and 5% on exchange.
~So how much can you earn?~ If your written English is good, you understand how the site works and you don't do anything stupid, nasty or aggressive to piss-off the higher level members who control promotions, you can earn substantial amounts of money. My mentor actually gave up his job to concentrate on trivago as his main source of income but that's certainly not normal (and he lives in a country with a much lower cost of living). I have made as much as £160 in a period but I worked hard for that. I've been too busy to do much the past few weeks but despite that I'll probably clear £90-100 for the current period - and a large part of that is commission on the activity of one of my invited friends and a couple of my mentees. I was lucky that one of my mentees became the platform manager for the Swedish trivago and she generates a lot of extra shares. I also edited the newsletter and won a review writing competion and both those activities really boosted my shares. In my first year I will have cleared £500-600 which compares very well with what can be earned writing reviews.
~I don't travel much so what's the point in joining?~ Lots of people ask this - but honestly you don't need to travel AT ALL to make good money on trivago. You can add hotels and attractions that you've never been to - just do your research and submit the information. The only activities that need you to actually visit places are review writing and taking photos - and most people can do very well at that just wandering round their local city, adding their favourite restaurants, museums and so on. You honestly could sit at home and never leave the house and still progress very well.~The good, the bad and the ugly ~ My favourite things about trivago are:
The relative lack of politics compared to the review sites
The international nature of the site - you join one national 'platform' but can interact with people from all the different countries. I hadn't used my schoolgirl French in decades but the site encouraged me to dust it off, find an autotranslator and get stuck in
The money - it's far and away the best site I've found for earnings
It's a great way to stay in touch with friends in other countries
The variety of things to do - you can always find something to do. There's no possibility of 'drying up' or having to wait until everyone's had a chance to read your latest review before you post the next one.
The challenges and competitions - these really liven the site up
The sense of building an important travel database.
The excuse to explore the world from my desk chair.
The things that sometimes drive me crazy:
The amount of work that I sometimes have to do - As I've progressed up the levels from 4 upwards, I've been the only member active at that level so sometimes just too many tasks come my way.
The trivago.co.uk forum - it ought to be a dynamic centre for debating but it's not and debate too often is interpreted as criticism and can get squashed.
The dozens of people who join and then do absolutely nothing
Inconsistent application of 'standards' and 'rules' across the different language platforms.
Getting your reviews rated by Spaniards who barely speak English yet invariably rate lower than everyone else but can't explain why
It can get a bit cliquey
The speed at which new platforms are introduced without the infrastructure being in place to support their growth.
~ I recommend you join if . ~
You crave variety
You have a strong interest in the world around you
You love a good 'google' and enjoy researching places and attractions
You like to have contact with people from all over the world
You'd like to earn a bit of extra money
You want to share your holiday photos and experiences
~ Stay away if ..~
You can't take criticism - you won't be perfect when you start and you'll have to take a lot of feedback in order to learn the site
You can't stand rules - the database will only work if everyone follows the rules. (Remember, trivago was started by Germans! - it's not ideal for free-spirited anti-conformists)
You think you know everything already - trivago's a place to learn and grow and you need to be open minded to get the best out of it.
You aren't willing to contribute to the whole range of activities - you can still earn but you can't go up the levels unless you can master all the tasks.
~OK, you've convinced me, what next?~ Please come and have a look and sign up - it takes just a couple of minutes. If you'd like a 'personalised invite' just let me know and I'll let you have the link - you can also feel free to send me any questions you have about joining.Gosh, sorry, I've just realised this really is a ridiculously long review - but that's trivago, there's just so much to do. Thanks for reading. Summary: If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to choose just one site, it would have to be this one
Still trying to learn and making so many mistakes! jo x
bodsquidge 11.03.2008 18:29
"The invitation should have come with a 'this site can change your life' warning"... that is sooooo true!!! LOL! Shame on me to read this only now... brilliantly explained, very lucid.
helencbradshaw 20.01.2008 18:23
It's fun and I enjoy the different tasks...but it IS frustrating too, especially crazy rules but then I have expressed that frustration elsewhere so I won't go over old ground..! I am not sure I fully understand it's strategic objectives either....seems a lot of work for little gain in the commercial world.