Airbnb’s search ranking algorithm is the process by which potential guests are shown listings that best match the search criteria they have input.
How to Rank Higher on Airbnb Search?
1. Don’t be late responding to guests 2. Maintain good reviews and ratings 3. Don’t cancel bookings 4. Price competitively 5. Use accurate and attractive content for your listing 6. Provide amenities guests are looking for 7. Opt into Instant Book 8. Make sure your booking calendar is updated in real time 9. Get booked as much as possible 10. Opt for a flexible cancellation policy
SEO is search engine optimization. Airbnb SEO is the process of increasing the visibility or search ranking of your listing on the results that come up for guests’ searches.
It is a rare user who will search through pages and pages of search results. Just like with Google search results, most guests will scroll through the first and maybe the next few pages of results before making their decision. With more guests prone to using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets for trip planning and even booking, ranking higher up the results matters even more.
By optimizing your listing to rank higher in search, you increase the visibility of your listing to more guests and thus the opportunities for booking.
Airbnb’s algorithm searches through the millions of listings available, filtering through the guests’ input criteria to return the results. According to Airbnb, quality, popularity, and price heavily influence how a listing appears in its search results.
Airbnb uses multiple characteristics to determine quality, including but not limited to the listing description, guest reviews, and listing characteristics. The higher the quality as determined by the algorithm, the higher the search ranking.
The algorithm assesses popularity using a wide range of data points, from guest engagement with the listing including how often it is saved to wish lists and booking frequency. The more popular a listing is evaluated to be the higher it ranks in search.
Airbnb’s algorithm uses a range of information to gauge the price factor. These include price competitiveness amongst listings in the area. The more competitive the price, the higher the listing ranks in search.
The algorithm is also designed to provide variety in results so that guests are not bored with just a series of listings that are nearly identical. This expands the selection of listings by allowing a variety of hosts, prices, amenities, and property types to be shown.
According to Airbnb, nearly 100 different factors affect search ranking. Only some of these factors have been made public by Airbnb while some others have been deduced by experienced hosts and/or external analysts. A few factors however are out of a host’s control such as destination, number of guests, dates, and user’s trip history. Many others are not. By qualifying and/or doing better on many factors, you can increase the visibility of your listing on Airbnb search.
Airbnb defines response rate as the percentage of new inquiries and reservation requests that a host of one listing responds to within 24 hours. The response rate is calculated for the past 30 days.
Responses include accepting or declining reservation requests, pre-approving or declining trip requests, and replying to new inquiries from guests. Responses after 24 hours from first receiving (and not reading) are considered to be late responses.
Hosts however are advised to respond as soon as possible to requests in order to provide guests with as seamless an experience as possible. For most hosts however, it does not make sense to hire staff just to manage inquiries and scheduled messages are considered to be the best way to handle the bulk of responses received in a timely fashion as well as proactively engage with guests.
Guest reviews are an important factor in Airbnb search. Providing an amazing guest experience every time is crucial to ensuring you receive good reviews. Reviewing guests and then asking them to review your property once they’ve checked out is the easiest way to ensure they do.
Prevent negative reviews by checking in with guests mid-stay so you can fix any issues or concerns they may have so they leave with a positive outcome rather than an entirely negative one.
Airbnb obviously favors a flexible cancellation policy. Thus, listings with more flexible policies are favored in search. It even rolled out a search filter for guests for listings with cancellation flexibility. Hosts however should also consider their needs and make appropriate decisions by taking into account the bigger picture and the period in question. For example, enacting a stricter cancellation policy during peak season or a popular weekend.
The algorithm considers a range of price data when ranking for price competitiveness in search. Make sure you offer good value for the location, property type, and amenities that you provide. Also, ensure price competitiveness amongst other Airbnb listings in the area. A dynamic pricing tool can go a long way in ensuring your listing continues to stay competitive while also making a profit.
Other pricing options open to AIrbnb hosts are:
Listing properties at two different price points. A standard rate with your regular cancellation policy and a 10% lower rate that is non-refundable. Airbnb even shows the lowest price point on searches
A discount for early bird bookings (at least 1 month ahead)
Last-minute deals for dates within 0-7 days
Offering discounts for those booking longer stays (weekly/monthly discounts). Longer stays are growing ever more popular on Airbnb. In Q3 2021, 45% of gross nights booked were for stays of at least seven nights while those 28 days or longer accounted for 20% of gross nights booked.
Listing title, description, and photographs go a long way towards showcasing the personality and style of your listing. It also counts towards search results. Not only is the listing title and cover image the first thing that guests will notice in search results but photos are where guests spend most of their time exploring. According to Airbnb, listings with 20 or more high-quality photos generally have higher conversion and occupancy. Also, the first five photos are the most important and should highlight the best features of the house. (Try hiring a professional photographer or learn how to manage with mobile phone photography.)
Use keywords favored by guests in your listing description. Don’t forget to mention all the great features that make your listing unique and valuable. Keep updating your photos and tweaking the copy to make sure your property is up to date with what guests are looking for.
Don’t neglect your host profile. You want to provide a welcoming and professional picture of yourself as a host. Take the step of getting verified by providing all the information and documentation required by Airbnb to do so. This provides a trustworthy persona.
Also, make sure you categorize your listing by property type accurately. Is it a house, an apartment, a B&B, or a tent cabin? This makes sure your listing shows up in the right searches.
Stay up-to-date with what guests are looking for in terms of amenities in your location, the season, and the current trends. For example, if you are renting in the summer or you're located in an area known for its warm climes like Florida, you want to make sure you provide air conditioning. If you are looking to attract corporate travelers or college students you should ensure to provide wi-fi and a space to work from. In 2021, pet-friendly spaces were one of the most searched amenities on Airbnb. If you are looking to capitalize on the growing trend in longer term rentals make sure your property provides amenities that cater to digital nomads and other long term renters.
Enhance your listing further by offering amenities that your competition does not, for example self-check-in.
Keep your calendar updated to ensure you don’t accidentally double book or miss out on bookings because a canceled reservation has not been unblocked on your calendar. If you use a multichannel strategy it is important to sync your booking calendar across all platforms to do the same. By not having to cancel bookings and ensuring wider availability, you ensure higher search rankings for your listing. Use vacation rental software that will automatically update your calendar in real-time.
Airbnb’s Instant Book feature allows guests to make a booking without waiting for host approval. Hosts are only allowed 3 penalty-free cancellations each year. While not a favorite among hosts due to the risk of letting in bad guests, listings which have Instant Book turned on are guaranteed a boost in search rankings on the algorithm.
One way to get around the risk of bad guests opting for Instant Book is to add a rule that you only allow guests recommended by other hosts who use Instant Booking.
Even though you can refuse as many booking requests as you like within the 24 hour limit (unless you have Instant Book on), Airbnb will penalize you in search for frequent cancellations.
There are always exceptional circumstances that can lead to your having to cancel a booking. Even Surperhosts are allowed. But frequent cancellations will not only see you drop down the rankings in search but may even get you kicked off the platform.
The Airbnb search algorithm favors listings that are booked more frequently. By increasing your booking frequency you ensure higher search rankings and ultimately more revenue.
The destination that a guest searches will eliminate listings that are not located in the area and are out of a host’s control. However, the location of a listing within a destination can impact search results. For example, a vacation rental near a popular landmark is likely to rank higher than one further away.
As part of its 2022 Summer Release, Airbnb unveiled 56 dynamic categories that guests can filter search through with or without a destination. These include unique property types like treehouses and historical homes, destination-specific accommodations like national parks and beaches, experience-related properties like those offering surfing, golfing, and other sports related events to countryside, and vacation rentals with quirky amenities like grand pianos. If your property falls under any of the classifications, make sure to prove its bona fides in the listing content.
While you can’t influence a guest searching on Airbnb to look for dates that match your property’s availability, your availability and minimum stay policy together with the new Split Stays feature can improve your chances of showing up in the search results of a guest looking for your type of property in your location.
Making your listing available on more dates is an easy way to improve visibility. Lowering your minimum stay and extending your maximum stay limits will also show up your listing to more users. In this case however you should try to strike a balance between SEO based on this factor vs what makes sense to you as an operator of a short term vacation rental.
Airbnb users can add listings they love to their own wishlist by clicking on the heart icon. Getting wishlisted is another means of improving search ranking. You can always ask your friends and family to add your property to their wishlists.
Airbnb loves traffic being directed to its platform. If your listing is receiving traffic from outside sources such as your Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest profiles, it considers your property to be popular and boosts your search rankings. If you connect your Airbnb account to your Facebook profile and Airbnb finds a user searching for a place that has a connection to you, your listing will be shown to the user.
According to Airbnb, Superhost status does not impact search rankings. However, guests can filter their search to only display listings offered by Superhosts. Furthermore, all the criteria that lead to achieving Superhosts status such as host responsiveness, cancellations, reviews and ratings definitely impact search rankings.
It takes approximately 24 hours for a newly activated listing to show up on search. To help hosts of new listings get started, the algorithm is designed to give it an immediate boost in search. This helps new hosts establish themselves and improve their chances of getting booked even though they have no reviews or ratings.
Because Airbnb considers a large number of factors in determining search ranking, it is important to provide and/or improve upon as many factors as possible in order to improve visibility. (Without visibility the chances of getting booked drop.) However, because it utilizes so many factors, it also allows hosts to ignore certain factors that they don’t wish to change/compromise on. For example, switching on Instant Book or switching to a fully flexible cancellation policy.
The sheer number of factors – that you now know of – to maintain visibility on search can seem overwhelming at first. Tackling and building on each slowly and steadily however will ensure higher search rankings and ultimately optimize revenue over time.
Just as important as visibility on search is being able to convert users who click on your listing to guests who make a booking. However, many of the factors that improve Airbnb SEO also help increase bookings, from listing content and good reviews to pricing.
Finally, remember that SEO is something that takes careful consideration and time to achieve. And because the Airbnb search algorithm, like the platform itself, will evolve over time, it is important to be aware of updates and trends in the OTA travel segment.