Very simply, if you're serious about getting more bookings on Airbnb then you need to optimize your listings properly.
Because it not only helps you capture better rates during the busy seasons but also allows you to stay agile and gives your listing higher search visibility.
Optimizing your listing can be the ultimate solution to stop swimming blindly and give you the control you need of your listing.
If you're reading this, then hospitality is already a lever that I'm sure you're pressing hard against.
But after you've lost the "new listings" badge - it's time to start tinkering around with pricing, search visibility, and your overall listing page.
The following is meant to be a starting ground and although not every ranking factor is listed right now, I hope that one day they will be.
Let's dive right in!
1. Click Through Rates
If you've ever heard me talk about "driving the click", the excerpt above is the reason for its importance.
Driving the click does not mean getting more views, although there is some correlation with that. We're talking about fulfilling the booking flow that a guest has to make before swiping their credit card and finalizing their accommodations.
Remember to make sure your listing image is click-worthy.
Test things out and try your best to mimic the same principals that can be found via Youtube thumbnails. You know those ones you see on your sidebar and the person's mouth is open?
Think about the reasons why those work and implement the classier parts into your own listing's thumbnail.
If you'd like some best practices for split testing your Airbnb, head over here.
From our own tests, I can tell you that this does make a bigger impact during slow seasons. In the high seasons, it's ok to edge prices up with demand but in the slow seasons, you need to be in a similar range to where your competitors are. Some very unique listings can garner higher prices than others in their area but most of the time, their occupancy rates are not as high.
Next time you do anything to optimize your listing, make sure to record the changes.
This includes if you make any changes in price. Write it down to see how how well it correlates with bookings and more views. By the way, this can all be done in RankBreeze as well.
Small sidenote: If you're looking to expand your listings portfolio, find a place closer to a hospital. The guests aren't party animals and are usually longer term because they need to be near a loved one. Having parking options with your listing is always a bonus.
3. Your Availability
After creating a nice rise in the rankings, we received a month-long booking. This was great but we noticed there was a drop in our rankings search visibility.
We track every one of our guest counts in the search rankings. Once a guest booked for a longer stay, guest count 1 and 2 were wiped off the rankings...
Airbnb has a hard job of showing the right homes to the right guests. Unfortunately, if your listing is blocked off or you have enough bookings, then Airbnb will replace you with another listing of equal quality but one that is available to book. There's only 365 days in a year, right?
4. Booking Rate Velocity
The above video is supposed to start at 4 mins. If it doesn't, feel free to start there.
This whole talk is very interesting and at some point Will Moss, the presenter from Airbnb, talks about aiming their conversion time to 3 days. Meaning their goal was to have a guest start their search and confirm a booking within a 3 day period.
I want to be clear that I'm not sure if they still quantify this as their goal. However, it's still a goal that is measurable, although I think we can both agree that anything before 3 days is even better (for them and us).
Here's another excerpt from a blog post:
"Frequently" is the the key word there. More people coming to a listing to potentially book is a good sign. I do believe that Airbnb is constantly trying to correlate the "why" someone booked with the "what" someone booked.
If we check another data point, we can see that the average number of pages someone clicks around on Airbnb for is 12 pages. This isn't perfect data but it's still something to think about.
Regardless of whether it's guests or hosts that are counted in that average, people aren't spending as much time on Airbnb as we thought.
So how far are they going to dig to find our listings?
5. Instant Booking
Instant booking has been mentioned a crap ton as a ranking factor. In fact, it's been mentioned so many times that it's already received many haters.
If you haven't found your listing on Airbnb, it might be because your requirements are higher than your own profile can see.
This rarely happens but what I suggest is making sure you stay at an Airbnb yourself.
How do these correlate?
Well I've been to meet-ups where hosts have never been a guest at an Airbnb before so they have no idea what it's like to go through the booking flow.
If that's you, you should really try it because you'll have a better understanding of the system and find parts to nit-pick about your own listing.
Even staying at your listing once in a while is a good idea so you can experience what a guest will.
Turning on instant book also gives you that tiny lightning bolt that helps you stick out and drive more clicks.
6. Featured Image Quality
Airbnb has begun integrating artificial intelligence into their platform and I'm sure it seeps into all areas of their business.
Today, I spoke with an Airbnb representative that said they use facial recognition to verify IDs.
It's likely that facial recognition and its AI parent, computer vision, are very integrated into how Airbnb ranks your photo quality as well.
As a sidenote, we recently posted a study analyzing 510,000 Airbnb photos over a span of 16 months. The results clearly break down 12 attributes in images that lead to higher revenue per year. You can check out that post here.
When Airbnb first started, the founders said that professional listing photos made one of the biggest difference in their growth.
I'm sure that the importance of quality professional photos is still at the forefront of their revenue drivers today.
7. Enquiry Rate
There are 5 things a person will do once they reach your listing:
It's usually in that order too. You need to catch someone before they click the back button. Usually this is done with show-stopping photos or the first three sentences of your summary.
Attractive photos drive more clicks and increase your chances of your listing starting to work for you!
8. Wishlist Velocity
You may not have noticed but Airbnb recently removed their wishlist count from each listings' code base. You'd only realize this if you went deep under the hood to see what your listing is really composed of.
What's significant about this change is that Airbnb used to show your wishlist count but now it's no longer visible.
The verdict still stands but as far as I can tell, I don't see why they would completely remove it from their ranking algorithm on the backend. Even if it's not publicly available anymore, I still think it has an impact as a ranking factor.
9. Desktop & Mobile Personalization
Many search engines have different versions of their site based on Desktop and Mobile views. But what's important is how they differ.
One question to ask if if your listing performs better on desktop or mobile? A better question to answer would be what Airbnb guests like to use more.
Most people start their buying decision on mobile and then move to a desktop to complete the transaction.
Here's a user story for you: Jane wants to browse on her phone during her transit time to work. She Wishlist's as much as she can so when she's finally at her computer, she can do more investigation and make sure she's making the right decision.
In the video below, Mike Curtis, one of the heads of AI from Airbnb, mentioned that with each click a user makes the order of the listings below change...
10. Review Predictability
This picture is from a prolific case study found on Reddit that was done in Capetown by Nick Child.
In his study, Guest Satisfaction was the leading indicator of rankings. But at this point, we've learned more about the un-measureable factors such as the click-through-rate that might be an even bigger indicator on search engine dynamics.
If you're wondering what guest satisfaction is, it's a more granular view of your listings' star ratings. Besides seeing 5 stars, you can measure your persistent hosting rank using a hard set number.
In RankBreeze, it's something we keep an eye on as well.
Although, keep in mind, we've seen many listings with 100 guest satisfaction scores and do not have high visibility.
The reason why #10 is called 'Review Predictability' is because Airbnb has begun asking an important question:
"How likely is this guest going to leave a positive review with these sets of listings?"
I'm sure there are tons of predictability analysis and machine learning here but let's get back to basics...
It's easy to understand why as well. Reviews are free content that helps drive bookings.
I call these "conversion triggers"...
These are the tools and tactics that Airbnb utilizes to inspire people to book; whether it's the little number on your listing that tells people how many other guests viewed your listing recently, the little lightning bolt next to the instant booking listing, or tacking on the "rare find" banner to certain results.
It's all meant to drive the most important metric - bookings!
11. Acceptance Rate
Your acceptance rate is the percentage of acceptances vs. rejections and you're being compared to hosts that are "just like you."
How they're just like you, we aren't sure yet. Your "lookalikes" could be based on area or even sex.
Here's another snippet that I think will be very controversial.
I'd say most hosts, including myself, do their best to avoid declining a guest whatsoever.
Personally, I always ask guests to meet the minimum requirements and if they're willing to jump through those hoops then I'll accept them.
Of course, those hoops might not get done in the 24 hour limit so we tend to let it expire.
There are certain ranking factors and advice that hosts will not test because it doesn't make sense purely from common sense.
But fundamentally, rejecting guests right away doesn't make sense!
12. Response Rate for Messages & Bookings
In addition to the above, it's been noted that being an Airbnb SuperHost does not give you better search visibility. However, the qualities associated with being a Superhost do. A response rate of at least 90% in 24hrs is expected for SuperHosts.
If you're completely unresponsive to enquiries and you're off the platform, it's easy pickings for Airbnb to drop you immediately.
They've got plenty of hosts who are on the ball so you'd be crazy not to think this one isn't a blazing factor.
The only thing is we can't confirm how they measure this exactly.
Is it logarithmic? For example, people with 95% response rates in 24 hours are competing on a much harder level than those with only a 90% response rate. It's possible.
13. Review Quantity
Earlier we talked about review predictability (#10 - how Airbnb would like to match you with guests that will leave a positive review) and this goes hand-in-hand with the amount of positive reviews you need to gain Airbnb's trust.
I wouldn't be surprised if the length of the reviews has an affect as well, with more weight placed on to longer reviews.
It would make sense but there hasn't been conclusive evidence of that just yet.
14. Response Time
We already defined the response rate for SuperHosts to be 90% in 24 hours. So, the response time to aim for in general is 24 hours. Most hosts (at least the good ones) respond much faster than that.
If you've hosted long enough then you would have felt the burn of an enquiry that never closed because they booked with someone else.
Airbnb would rather have a guest make a booking decision quickly so it's in their best interest to help facilitate quick responses from hosts.
15. Amenities Count
Many guests apply filters to their search and most of these filters fall into the amenities category.
If a guest keeps getting rejected or they can't find the space they want, then they're going to drill down even further or change platforms (VRBO, Booking, etc.)
The more amenities checked off in your settings, the more visibility you'll gain.
Also, the better you rank for unfiltered searches, then the higher you'll rank in filtered searches.
One mistake I see when people track their search rankings manually vs using RankBreeze is the fact that they're searching too narrowly.
You want to see your visibility on a broader scope.
This means that when things get narrow and you're still in the running because of your amenities list, then you've got a much better chance to rank higher.
It's also believed that Airbnb will incorporate keyword searches in the future.
In this case, people might be looking for something like "his and hers sinks" so if this is in your top description then you'll be ahead of the game.
16. Complete Host Verifications
Having more verifications for guests and hosts is driven by the fact that Airbnb really presses for community. I doubt that this factor is very highly weighted and if their algorithm is sophisticated enough, this factor should decrease over time as a host gains more equity on the platform with good reviews and higher guest satisfaction.
17. Keyword Relevance
Airbnb really is in the big data league. They've got millions of words, listings, people, and pictures to match correctly. As they continue to grow to become an even more dominant player in vacation rentals, their job of organizing all that data gets more complicated.
Keyword search is inherent in most search engines like Google, Pinterest, Amazon, etc. but Airbnb is slightly different in the way they organize data for users. From what we see, it's worked well for them so far.
However, I've seen plenty of people ask Airbnb about keyword searches on Twitter and I'm sure it's definitely on their radar. If they're anything like Facebook, they'll be rolling this out bit by bit so small market groups can test out its functionality. This means the rankings game will really evolve!
People will want to rank for certain keywords in their city like "downtown apartment" or "bachelorette party". These listings will have the location and amenities necessary to help these guests find a suitable place to stay.
With that in mind, text is how they'll be organizing keyword searches so I suggest getting ahead of the ball and start implementing this strategy on optimizing your Airbnb listing description:
18. Logged In Profile vs. Not Logged In (Personalization)
Airbnb search is personalized but not as much as you might think. Personalization is likely comprised of what you've clicked on and what you've booked.
This means that if you're at the highest category level of homes (https://www.airbnb.com/s/homes) with no location set, then everyone should essentially see similar results. But as you dive deeper into a location, add filters and start clicking around to "start your search" then everything will start shifting towards the data Airbnb believes you most likely need to see to make a booking decision quickly.
This sort of drill-down personalization was first brought to my attention via Vincent Carson's post here:
19. New Listing Badge
Airbnb wants their new hosts to get a quick win right off the bat, so they provide better organic rankings for them.
I've seen the new listing ranking score explained like this: everyone starts at some baseline number, then after your new listing badge is removed your listing is free to be deducted of points.
Put another way, your ranking score could be 100 and then it is deducted afterward once you're new listing badge is removed.
20. Past Guest Acceptances
It appears that the wider range of guests you accept (new profiles, large groups, foreign, etc.) then you will appear higher ranked in more search results as you're more likely to accept all sorts of guests.
In addition to that, the example they provide of accepting advanced bookings is quite interesting to me.
I personally prefer those types of bookings, however, the hardest nut to crack is the fact that they are generally at a lower rate than my listing deserves. Just remember it's your own risk preferences at play here.
21. Guests' Historical Bookings
We mentioned it above in the personalization section (#18), but here's an expansion on how past bookings affect your rankings.
If several people end up taking different booking paths and all end up booking your place, then you'll rank higher on the dates you have available.
For example, Person A is looking to find a place in your neighbourhood and wants to be close to public transit and ends up booking with you.
That's one booking flow based on that specific search for your neighbourhood.
Next, Person B searches your neighbourhood but wants to be closer to a shopping district and still ends up booking with you.
This is a second booking flow. Either way, your search visibility will go up because you are more relevant to different types of searches.
Relevancy is important in all search engines.
22. Commitment Rate
This is another factor that is correlated with your SuperHost status.
Although I don't believe it holds a significant impact in increasing your search visibility - I do believe that it can significantly drop your rankings if your commitment rate lowers.
Of course, no guest wants to have their booking canceled and then go back to search for another listing.
Travellers want to figure out their accommodations once and be done with it. As a host, you want to stay committed to your bookings.
23. "Unavailable Date" Booking Rejection
When you receive a booking request, you can either accept or decline. If you decide to decline, Airbnb always asks for a reason.
One of those options is "Unavailable date", which I would never, ever choose.
Airbnb places a lot of emphasis on not wasting guests' time and having your calendar updated as a host.
When a guest selects dates with a specific listing (and not in the general search filters) they are able to see when the last Calendar update was:
This might be a conversion trigger, but I'm also pessimistic to call it that.
I don't really see it being a big part of their revenue factors but they should be keeping tabs on this for user experience.
24. Social Connections
It's very interesting (and unsurprising) that your visibility increases based on your social connections.
I've spoken to many people about this and interestingly enough, this isn't something many people want to do - myself included.
Many hosts don't really want guests that are in their social circles.
This is understandable as there should always be a line between a host and a guest.
Personally, I think this might be their failed attempt to personalize searches.
With that, I'd give it less weight in terms of importance.
25. Turnover Preferences (Preparation Time)
This goes hand-in-hand with availability. Your turnover preferences are a signal to Airbnb that they should show your listing more often, if you're able to, because it grows their confidence that you can handle back-to-back bookings with quality.
Having more preparation time in between guests isn't necessarily a bad sign for Airbnb, but it will reduce your visibility because there are only 365 days per year someone can book any listing.
26. Long Term Pricing
When guests are staying for an extended period of time, they're setting dates longer than the average 1-7 night stay.
At this point, Airbnb is not going to show listings that do not have any discount for longer stays. Especially in competitive cities.
Although long term pricing gives you a bump in visibility for a short period of time, if people are constantly taking you up on your offer for long term bookings - then you'll have less available dates for Airbnb and your visibility will decrease.
However, you'll have a nice long term tenant for the time being.
Hosting is different for everyone, many fall into the bucket of more turnover because it leads to higher revenue.
While others wouldn't mind a long term tenant with lower turnover.
There's no better or worse.
Regardless of whether you use our products or not, the point of any optimization is that you're taking the steps to increase visibility and revenue based on your own hosting preferences.
27. In-Demand Location
Location, location, location. That's real estate economics 101 right?
Well with Airbnb, it's a bit more sophisticated than that. Similar to airlines, when a large number of guests are searching for specific dates and locations, this gives Airbnb a signal to adjust a few things: Smart Pricing, visibility, and conversion triggers.
Here's a the conversion trigger for specific locations:
4% isn't a lot and if you're one of the very few listings available, you can actually play with your price a bit more because there is less supply.
When a listing is in a high demand area, they can benefit from late stage visibility. This means that your place may appear in results simply because the rest of the listings are already taken.
If you've got a good location and your risk preferences are a bit higher, then this ranking factor might be something you should consider beneficial to you.
You just have to make sure your optimized correctly when that time comes.
28. Guests' Booking Decision Speed
The image above is of an internal tool that Airbnb uses (used?) to measure split tests on their platform.
Although the picture is from 2014, it's perfect to show the "experiment" falls under how they're arranging search results.
In this test, they were experimenting with the number of results on each page.
Moving from their standard 18 (which they still have most of the time) to a higher number of 24 results per page and a lower number of 12.
The 10 metrics are the most important part for us though.
When we look at them individually, we see indications that the ranking factors we listed above are correct.
Especially #7 Enquiry Rate.
However, as a whole, all 10 metrics have an ongoing theme of answering "Do these variations help people make a booking decision quicker?"
Which gives us an idea that not only is it important to increase your Booking Rate Velocity (#4), but it's also important how quickly someone decides to book your place soon after they started searching.
If your listing gets booked consistently by people who just started their search, then you have a better chance of being ranked higher.
On the opposite end, if people arrive at your listing and constantly question it before bookings, that's not great either.
So, what can we do to make guests say "Yes" quicker?
It might go beyond this conversation, but we've found that adding Call-To-Actions and Search Suggestions (aka how far away are you from the landmarks suggested by Airbnb's search bar) have been very helpful in this department.
If you'd like some help creating a more commanding Airbnb listing - head over to Rankbreeze and check out the optimized listing description service over there.
That's all we've got for now!
It's been thrilling to put this together and we're sorry it wasn't published faster.
Obviously, this list isn't complete and can be fluid so we'll be adding major updates as we discover more optimization factors from Airbnb.
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