Ten Tips to Hack the Algorithm & Optimize Your Vacation Rental Property Listings
November 9, 2023
We have entered a world where large tech companies have more control than ever. If you’re looking for a property management company to manage your home, make sure you hire one who understands how to make the algorithm work for them and, in turn, you.
First off, What is an Algorithm?
In simple terms, an algorithm is a computer program that takes thousands of data points to make a decision, then uses that information to determine your placement in search results on websites like Google or Airbnb.
While placement in Google’s search results is also important, this post will dive solely into Airbnb’s algorithm and search results. Proper listing optimization will encourage higher algorithm placement, resulting in more views and bookings.
What to Know About Airbnb’s Algorithm
When we listed our first home on Airbnb ten years ago, a quality home and a few good reviews were the only things necessary to succeed. Our homes consistently achieved 80-95% occupancy. This is mainly because the early years were marked by very little supply and a lot of demand.
While demand has kept pace with supply in the short-term rental industry over the past decade, we are seeing a slowdown in demand for the first time, affecting hosts everywhere.
Tailoring Listings to Your Ideal Renter
Before we list the ten things to consider when launching your Airbnb listing, we want to highlight something that most people need to remember. Before showing potential homes, these sites factor in visitors’ historical bookings and budget preferences.
For example, an upper-class millionaire who always books the best of the best will see the highest-priced homes in their Airbnb search results. A budget traveler who usually books homes in the $100/night range will see Airbnbs around their typical price range.
What does this mean? It means that not everyone sees the same search results. Your job as a host is to create your listing to appeal to the suitable travelers for your home. Hosts who attempt to appeal to everyone often end up appealing to no one.
Airbnb looks at countless factors when deciding where your home belongs in a potential customer’s search results. We will cover a few of the most important ones below.
Ten Foolproof Ways to Rank Higher in Airbnb’s Search Algorithm
1. Start Strong with Positive Reviews
Reviews are arguably the most critical factor regarding algorithm placement on Airbnb. You never see low-ranked homes appear on the first (or second, third, or fourth) pages of Airbnb search results.
We suggest giving your first 3-5 guests a fantastic deal to set you up for long-term success. Lowering rates may be challenging, as charging less is likely the last thing you want to do after investing in a vacation rental property. However, it’s a loss that may be worth taking in the long run.
Being upfront with your first few renters that you’re operating a brand-new property is also a good idea. They can consider this if they run into any minor issues (they may remind you that you forgot a wine opener, or that the smart lock is tricky and may need more thorough instructions). Once you’ve established a solid listing with reviews, focus on quality, cleanliness, communication, a smooth check in-process, and listing accuracy to help generate more positive reviews.
2. Shoot for Superhost Status
Airbnb Superhost status is a distinction that gives hosts credibility and sets them apart from the approximately 4 million other homes on the platform. But the badge offers more than just bragging rights–it provides visibility that’s hard to beat. Airbnbs hosted by Superhosts tend to rake in 60% more revenue per day than other hosts on average (source). The average occupancy rate for Superhosts is 47%, nearly double the 27% rate for standard hosts.
Superhosts cannot cancel bookings except under very severe circumstances, so guests can rest assured that they’ve booked a reliable home from a dedicated host. Superhost status is challenging to maintain, but the results pay dividends. Finding property management that already has Superhost status on their Airbnb account is one of the easiest ways to hack the algorithm. Open Air Homes is a proud member of Airbnb’s Superhost program. Learn more about our property management here.
Related: Does Airbnb Superhost Status Matter?
3. Resist Declining Bookings & Keep a High Acceptance Rate
Do you or your property manager decline a lot of potential bookings? This will harm your placement on Airbnb.
Keeping your calendar accurate and going through the same vetting process with every guest is an excellent start to ensuring you’re attracting savory booking requests and are less likely to deny any that come through.
It is your property, though, and while it is vital never to discriminate, it is okay to decline some bookings. If you are uncomfortable with a potential guest’s reviews or spot too many red flags indicating a desire to throw a party or break serious rules, declining a booking may be a good idea.
At Open Air Homes, we disable instant booking for this very reason. We only accept bookings from respectful people who have had a dialogue with us before booking. Instant bookings are inherently bad for communities, even if they may provide higher algorithm placement. For the long-term viability of this industry, we need to protect neighborhoods above all else.
4. Make Your Home Wishlist-Worthy
How often does a potential guest “like” your home, adding it to their wishlist for a future booking?
This matters and your wishlist count can go up in a number of ways.
Increase the wishlists your home is added to by:
- Pricing your property very competitively if you’re marketing your home to budget travelers
- Adding one-of-a-kind features to your property. Whether it’s a chicken coop, Instagrammable mural, shuffleboard table, or media room, unique amenities are essential! People will save homes that have something memorable and distinct about them.
5. Be Mindful of Conversion Rates
Conversions are the bottom line of any online transaction.
Your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who view your listing and then request to book. Conversion is how websites measure tangible results and profits. So guests whose clicks convert to bookings and revenue are crucial in algorithm placement.
Your conversion rate matters to Airbnb because they want to push homes that convert to more sales. You convert to more bookings when you have a desirable, appropriately-priced property.
6. Increase Dwell Time
Dwell time or “time on page” is the time people spend viewing your listing online. Why is that important to Airbnb? They aim to build incredible memories for people, so they book repeatedly. If potential guests spend a lot of time on your listing–reading about the home, perusing ample reviews, and learning about nearby attractions–Airbnb tracks this and places you higher in their algorithm.
Pro tip: Having several engaging and high-quality photos are an excellent way to increase dwell time on your Airbnb listing. Invest in twilight photos with your photographer, shot just before sundown. Powerful photos invite visitors to look for longer, imagining themselves in your home before they arrive.
7. Get Those Page Shares!
How often is your property sent around to friends and family before booking?
When friends are booking a group vacation, they often exchange lots of links to potential homes. Page shares are the best way to measure and track old-fashioned word of mouth. Airbnb closely follows this and knows whether your home is shared often or not.
Shares increase with desirability and appropriate pricing, which we will discuss in point #10.
8. Avoid a High Cancellation Rate at All Costs
If you or your property management company is canceling bookings, your algorithm placement will take a huge hit. Not only will you lose the coveted Superhost status, but you’ll also be seen as an unreliable partner. People save money, coordinate flights, and plan for months to go on a getaway with loved ones. Negatively affecting people’s hard-earned vacations is no joke.
Avoid canceling bookings unless there is a clear extenuating circumstance like a flood, fire, or natural disaster. Stress relief is the name of the game in hospitality. Our job is to alleviate travelers’ tension, not add to it. Our biggest recommendation is never to cancel confirmed bookings.
9. Stay Mindful of Your Average Nightly Rate Compared to the Market
How does your nightly rate compare to market prices?
If your vacation rental property is priced too high, it’ll likely tank within the algorithm. When something is wildly overpriced, we often walk away as quickly as possible, and online isn’t much different. Dwell time, page shares, and wishlist saves will likely stay low if visitors don’t think your home matches the asking price. This all translates to a low-converting Airbnb property. And as mentioned above, with low conversions, Airbnb will deprioritize your listing.
Finding the correct pricing is a big part of our jobs at Open Air Homes. We use thorough market research and dynamic pricing to perfectly price our homes to beat the algorithm. It’s essential for hosts to adjust for demand and seasonality for a successful, high-converting vacation rental property.
10. Draw Renters in With the First Photo
Your Airbnb listing’s first photo is the most important image for your entire listing. The first photo determines whether a potential guest will click on your listing or keep scrolling by it.
Make sure you choose a photo that is compelling and stands out online. When booking on these sites, we are visual. Guests are much more likely to click on your listing if your first photo makes a great impression.
When walking through a new home with our photographer, we discuss the best vantage point for the cover shot long before they start shooting. This way, we can ensure this photo gets the most attention.
We are Living by the Algorithm
The above steps ought to help you hack Airbnb’s algorithm! Following them will achieve more views on listings by appearing on pages 1 or 2 of Airbnb’s search results.
We are in a more competitive market than ever before, and unfortunately, iPhone snapshots, a quickly-written blurb, and the best guess at pricing no longer suffice.
Looking to outsource? Leave the market research and algorithm hacking to us.
Open Air Homes is a boutique property management company in Southern California. We’ve managed vacation rentals since 2012 and have set up countless luxury homes for success.
From photographers to vendors to our interior design team, we go to great lengths to ensure every one of our homes is a top-notch vacation rental property.