The Billboard Effect, and What It Means for Your Senior Living Brand

The Billboard Effect and Your Senior Living Brand

We all know that online reviews are increasingly essential for converting prospects into customers, but do you ever worry that you might be losing potential customers to your competition by virtue of being listed on online directory and review sites? Fortunately, it turns out that concern couldn’t be more unfounded, and now there’s the science to prove it! Cornell University released a report on what they term “the billboard effect” and how it affects businesses who receive customers both directly as well as through other channels such as online review and referral websites.

What Is The Billboard Effect?

Companies buy billboards to increase brand awareness. Through billboard placement on buildings and roadsides, businesses benefit from increased visibility, which leads to increased brand awareness, ultimately culminating in more revenue. In the Cornell study, the billboard effect is the marketing and advertising benefits experienced by hotels when they’re listed on online travel agent websites like Expedia or In the senior living industry, the billboard effect is the marketing and advertising benefits senior living and care providers receive when they’re listed on online review websites like

How Does The Billboard Effect Work?

To measure the true impact of the billboard effect, the Cornell researchers looked at four hotels over a three-month period, cycling their listings on Expedia on or off for 7-11 days at a time. Three of the hotels were part of a larger, branded chain, and one was an independent hotel. During the on cycle, the hotels were included at the top of the search results. In the off cycle, the hotels could not be found anywhere on Expedia. At the end of the study, they looked at the number of reservations made directly on the hotels’ websites during the study.

What were the results? During the on cycles, when the hotels were listed at the top of the Expedia search results, all four hotels saw an increase in reservations, ranging from 7.5% to 26%! Breaking that down by individual hotel, the three branded hotels saw increases in reservations, at 7.5%, 9.1% and 14.1%, respectively. The independent hotel saw the greatest benefit from the billboard effect, receiving a 26% increase in reservations booked directly on its website during the on periods.

What Does This Mean For Senior Living Brands?

Being listed on online review sites can significantly improve your tour rates.

  • Just by being listed on online travel agent sites, the hotels all received a boost in reservations. Similarly, senior living and care providers receive increased brand awareness simply by being listed on online review sites. This increased brand awareness results in more tours and more moves for your business.

  • Having a featured listing on an online review site will boost your tour and move rates even more.

  • During the on cycles in the Cornell study, the hotels were listed at the top of the Expedia search results. This undoubtedly helped contribute to their increased reservation rates. How can you get yourself a featured listing on review sites so your business experiences a similar level of the billboard effect? Many sites offer featured listings for a fee, but fortunately, you can get one absolutely for free on! Our default search results highlight communities with a combination of higher ratings, higher reviews, and a higher level of engagement with the site. If you have great ratings, a lot of reviews, and take the time to respond to your reviews and add photos to your profile on, you will likely find your community listed at the top of the search results for your city. Learn more here.

  • Individual providers, as opposed to those that are part of a larger chain, can benefit from the billboard effect at a much higher level.

  • In the Cornell study, the independent hotel saw a 26% increase in reservations. Compare that to the next highest increase in reservations, which was 14.1% for one of the chain hotels. Chain hotels have increased brand awareness by virtue of being part of a larger chain, so people may have seen their properties elsewhere in the area. Independent hotels don’t experience this same benefit. Fortunately, this means the billboard effect they receive from being listed on Expedia was signficiantly higher. This means that individual senior living providers, or providers who only have one property or one business location in a region, have much more benefits to reap by being listed on online review sites.

  • Ready to make the billboard effect work for you? Claim your free profile on!

    What are your thoughts about this study? Let us know in the comments!

    Based in Austin, TX, Amelia is the former Content Marketing Manager for When she’s not writing about online reputation management, online reviews, and social media in the senior living space, she enjoys yoga and running with her dog Rockefeller. She graduated from Wellesley College cum laude with a dual degree in English and Medieval/Renaissance Studies.


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