Maximizing revenue from your short-term rental property listing requires a combination of capacity utilization (i.e. getting as close as possible to 100% of your available days booked) and getting the highest price possible for each night booked. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get 100% of your nights booked because of seasonality and differing lengths of stay. Besides, you’ll be thankful for the breaks if you’re self-managing! If you find yourself close to 100%, you might be charging too little. If that’s not the case, and you’re charging at the high end for your area, then you’re an Airbnb rock star and you should think about expanding your business.
Cracking the Code on Airbnb’s Ranking algorithmTo get inquiries and bookings on Airbnb, you have to appear in search results when guests are looking for accommodation in your area. Airbnb has never published the variables that determine which listings finish top of their search results. Airbnb is a sophisticated company. They employ smart people to create algorithms that power their search results. Their goals are obvious: create the best match between a listing (or property) and the guest’s inquiry in order to ensure the best customer experience, and maximize revenues for Airbnb. The Airbnb search algorithm is trying to predict which listing results the user would most likely book. No one outside of Airbnb knows exactly how the algorithm works but if you think in terms of what makes sense to Airbnb, you can do well by aligning your listing with their goals.
Airbnb Search Ranking FactorsLet’s think about the factors that are likely to result in better results for Airbnb – i.e. what is most likely to result in a guest booking. Airbnb gives us many clues as to what they consider the most important factors for improving visibility and increasing bookings on their platform. During the listing setup phase and within the account dashboard, they offer many tips on how to improve your results. Pay attention to what Airbnb tells you to do (e.g. take great photos) then make a decision as to whether this is mutually beneficial or just a recommendation that seems to benefits Airbnb more than it does you (e.g. smart pricing). We’ve gathered a list of what we think are the most important factors determining your listing’s visibility in Airbnb’s search results. These are not listed in order of importance.
Airbnb Property Listing Quality FactorsThere are many features of your listing that have an effect on how, when and where it will appear in Airbnb’s search results. The first 8 factors in our list address specific features of your listing.
- Availability This one should be quite obvious but sometimes the obvious is overlooked. If you have no open dates on your calendar, your listing is not going to appear in search results. Keep your calendar up to date and allow for bookings up to 12 months in advance (or longer).
- Price Airbnb keeps pushing their Smart Pricing methodology which dynamically changes prices based on guest demand. If you select this option, you’ll almost certainly get more bookings but they’ll be at lower average rates and your overall income could be less. Airbnb tends to promote cheaper listings in their search results because they’re more likely to get booked. You should not, however, feel the need to lower your prices or use Smart Pricing. Price competitively and you’ll get plenty of reservations. Set too high of a price and you won’t get many. Test and learn until you find the right pricing strategy for your property at all times during the year.
- Photos If you took your photos with a smartphone in poor lighting, they almost certainly suck. Guests don’t click on sucky photos so you’re unlikely to get many of them to click through to your listing if your photos aren’t appealing. All of your photos should be high quality but you should have one photo, your primary listing photo, that really catches the eye. This is the photo users will see first, and if you’ve done a great job, the user will click through to your listing. Airbnb keeps track of your click-through-rate, the percentage of clicks to views. If your listing click-through-rate is poor because your photos aren’t appealing, your listing will soon be demoted in the search results.
- Listing title Your listing title is the only piece of descriptive text a guest sees in Airbnb’s search results. You have 50 characters or less (including spaces) to create appeal and engagement. This is no easy task but there are a few tricks that will help you gain a competitive advantage. Think of the reasons why someone would be looking for accommodation in your area. Is there one particular attraction that draws visitors? Create a list of the top 5 good reasons why people would want to visit your area. Now create a list of the top 5 reasons why someone should book your place over other places in the area. What features of your property make it unique or desirable? Now start working on different versions of your title that combine 1 local attraction + 1 unique feature of your property. Test your sample titles with people you know and go with the one that’s most popular.
- Listing details Complete as many sections of the narrative portion of your listing as possible. Using a similar methodology to the one above, focus heavily on your key selling points. Clearly explain what makes your space unique, and why someone should stay there and not at one of the many other listings in your area. You are limited to 500 characters in the Summary section but in the sections that follow (start with The Space), you can include as many details as you desire. Airbnb encourages you to include as much detail as possible.
- Instant book Airbnb strongly encourages you to use their Instant Book feature that allows guests to reserve your property without you first reviewing them. Airbnb does this because it improves the efficiency of their platform. For most searches conducted by users on a laptop or desktop*, Airbnb only shows listings that can be booked instantly. The user must turn off the Instant Book feature to see listings that require host approval to book. Therefore, should you choose not to use Instant Book, your listing won’t appear anywhere near as often in the search results. * On the mobile app, the default setting for Instant Book is off.
- Amenities, facilities and other search options Airbnb has recently added a few new features to its search functionality. Users can now select from a number of amenity options and Airbnb will only show listings that match the selected criteria. Check off more items on the list of amenities, facilities, house rules and even host languages, and you’ll appear in more searches.
- Location Don’t oversell your location unless you really deserve to. If your “close to downtown” listing is actually a 10-minute drive away, you’re going to get dinged on location in the guest reviews. If that happens a few times, Airbnb may decide your place isn’t as relevant for searches on that particular location and your listing won’t appear as prominently.
Hosting Key Performance Indicators (Hosting KPIs) Our next 8 factors are performance related; some measure how well your listing performs and others measure how well you perform as a host. Your hosting KPIs can be found in the Stats section of Hosting Dashboard. If Airbnb is providing you with a performance statistic, and tips on how to improve it, you better believe they use these stats in their search results algorithm.
- Response rate This one is taken directly from Airbnb’s hosting standards. It doesn’t take a genius to understand Airbnb’s motivation for promoting their most responsive hosts. Those who answer quickly (within 24 hours) to all inquiries and reservation requests will get preferential treatment in Airbnb’s search results.
- Number of reviews Unfortunately for new hosts, experience does count. Listings that have proven to be successful on the Airbnb platform will get a boost in the search results. The benchmark that Airbnb sets is at least 10 bookings in the previous 12 months. Hosts that are committed to Airbnb will likely gain some favorability. As Airbnb states: “Both the quantity and quality of reviews from past guests can impact your search performance.”
- Overall rating This one should be fairly obvious. Rating systems were designed to provide an indicator to future customers on the quality of a product or service. The higher the rating, the stronger the indicator of good quality and the more likely a viewer will purchase. This holds true for Airbnb and 5 star-rated properties will always get preference in search rankings.
- Review rate Airbnb sets a benchmark of at least 50% for this statistic. That’s a minimum of 1 review from every 2 bookings. This requirement suggests that Airbnb prefers hosts whose guests are so thrilled by their experience that they feel compelled to leave a review. The flip-side to this story is that if your percentage is low, then it’s an indication that guests were not that thrilled by the experience and there’s room for improvement.
- Five star reviews If you’re already focused on achieving a high overall rating then this one should not require any additional effort or strategy. Airbnb adds this KPI into their Superhost Standards for good measure. It wants at least 4 out of 5 of your guests to have a 5-star experience. The Airbnb Superhost program may help improve booking conversion rates and for hosts who attain Superhost status, it may help boost their listings in search results.
- Commitment rate – aka cancellations Airbnb doesn’t take too kindly to hosts who cancel reservations. Airbnb likes hosts to commit to reservations and only cancel in extraordinary circumstances. Occasionally, situations arise that necessitate a cancellation. But do it often and you’ll find your listing quickly disappears from the search results.
- Listing Views This KPI measures the number of users who have seen your listing in search results and clicked on it for more information. Airbnb doesn’t currently tell you how many times your listing has appeared in search results. Without this information, you cannot determine the percentage of users that clicked through to your listing after seeing it appear in the search results. However, if you ever make changes to your primary photo and/or listing title, you can check this site to see those changes had a positive impact on your listing views.
- Booking conversion rate Booking Rate is the percentage of Airbnb users who made a reservation after viewing your listing. This is a measure of how compelling people find your listing. While your goal for your search listing (primary photo + title) is to get users to click through to your listing, your goal now is to get those users to click that red “book” button. Airbnb provides no benchmark here but it’s safe to say that a booking rate of 3% and above is very good. Keep track of your booking rate as you make changes to your listing. The higher your booking rate the better for you and Airbnb.