There are many different opinions on the current bartered tee times situation in the golf industry. Some course operators love them. Some course operators hate them. We are not here to argue whether they are beneficial to a course or they hurt a course. We do however, know that one of the easiest ways to combat or supplement bartered tee times are through online reviews.

How Do Reviews Combat Bartered Tee Times?

If you have ever ran a Google Search in your local area for tee times, you have probably noticed the top selections on Google are almost always bartered tee time sites. This is because the OTTA (Online Tee Time Agents) are pushing Google Ads with a pretty hefty ad spend that most courses can't compete with.

As you can see in the image above, all three of the top search results are OTTA's and not one is a local course. If you search courses in different cities throughout the world, you will see similar results. So how to you compete when the odds are stacked against you? In a recent study by Bright Local, 14% of all clicks on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) went to the top PPC ads. Now, in the same search as above, we are going to scroll down a bit.

This section, which displays directly under ads on 80% of searches, is called the Local Map Pack. The map pack is made up of local Google My Business (GMB) pages. In the same study, 30% of clicks went to this section of the SERP. The Map Pack is a location that OTTA's can't advertise in and last we checked, 30% of clicks are more than 14% of clicks.

Lastly on the SERP, we want to look at the organic listing. The organic listing makes up approximately 40%-50% of all clicks. Organic listings are a mix of local courses and OTTA's.

Our best course of action to combat the bartered tee times are to rank highly on the Map Pack and Organically.

How do you rank higher on the Map Pack?

To rank higher, haveing a fully optimized GMB page is key. So double check that ALL of your business information is filled out in full and 100% accurate. After you have optimized your listing in the best possible way, the next best step to rank higher is to generate reviews.

Reviews continue to be one of the most important components for ranking in Google Maps, but the benefit of building more reviews is not purely for the purpose of SEO (not by a long shot).

Reviews offer a much better customer experience. They help to build up social proof, manage customer expectations, and they can sell your course before the potential player has even seen the course.

With 82% of consumers reading online reviews for local businesses, course owners and operators need to understand the importance and power of reviews.

Google understands the customer’s desire to read reviews before they visit a location or trust a course. They have heavily factored reviews into the local algorithm because of this (reviews from both Google and third parties).

Keep in mind that the “review factor” is not simply a measurement of who has the most reviews. That is certainly a piece of the puzzle, but Google also takes into consideration many other aspects like:

  • Whether a review has text along with the star rating or not.
  • The words chosen to write the review.
  • The overall star rating given to the business.
  • The consistency of reviews.
  • Overall review sentiment.

Course owners and operators must regularly train themselves (and their team) to ask players for reviews. It’s important to set up systems and processes to make review generation a regular occurrence.

I recommend setting up an automated process that helps generate reviews and manage reviews. For example, TeeReach offers the ability to automate the review generation process and generate a consistent flow of reviews without increasing the course operators workload.

How Do Reviews Supplement Bartered Tee Times?

As mentioned above, OTTA's have a large ad spend. If you are utilizing the OTTA's to bring in players to your course, then you are benefitting from their ad spend. However, what about the players that do not click on the ads? We don't want to miss out on that player because they did not choose to book through an OTTA. That is where ranking highly on the Google Map Pack and organically comes to your advantage. If you rank highly on the Map Pack and organically, then you have a chance for the golfer to see your course in every aspect of the SERP. This gives you more opportunities to attract those potential players to your course. Like we stated above, one of the most effective ways to rank highly in the Map Pack is through Reviews.

According to the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, review signals make up 16% of the search engine decision-making process when it comes to local pack rankings. When factoring reviews into algorithms, experts say that metrics such as the number of reviews a business has, the velocity of reviews, and the diversity of reviews received are all taken into account. And reviews are only growing in importance, having gone up from 13% to 16% since 2018.