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Hi, I'm Jonathan. Having worked at Houst — a management service that takes care of everything for hosts on Airbnb and other platforms — for a while now, I’ve learned a few things about what makes an amazing property listing.
I’ve selected 19 of my favourite tips for optimising your listing, and even thrown in a few extra ‘Pro Tips’ and links to more in-depth content if you want to dig deeper and get really technical.
Try these out on your listing, and let me know how you get on in the comments below!
And of course, if you’re looking for a host management service to tackle listing creation and everything else for you, check out Houst here.
As an introduction to this post, it’s a good idea to understand what Airbnb is looking for in a listing when it chooses what to show when a guest makes a specific search on the platform.
I’ve broken this down to two main areas:
Within these two areas, the Airbnb search algorithm takes into account hundreds of different factors to show the most suitable property for the individual searching in that location, at that time, of that age, of that gender etc… you get the idea.
Here’s Airbnb’s own documentation on how they determine search placement:
It’s also important to understand that there are two different types of optimisation that a listing needs to work toward:
Essentially, these cover the rational and irrational (emotional) factors we must consider — there’s no point in getting to the top of the search list if guests then discredit your listing on an emotional decision. This is, in theory, what reviews and ratings aim to tackle — turning qualitative and emotional features into rational numbers that can be ranked.
The purpose of your title is to get someone to click. If they don’t click you’ll never get to share all the details of your property. You need to give away just enough information to peak their interest, leaving them eager to learn more.
BUT… Avoid generic words that everyone uses… you need to stand out!
Pro Tip: You don’t just want anyone to click, you want a target audience who’ll be more likely to enjoy staying at your property. So imagine what they’re looking for. Perhaps you’re aiming for couples on a weekend getaway? Cozy… Romantic. Lads on a city break? ‘Ideal location for bars and nightlife.’
In the words of advertising legend, David Ogilvy, “The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”
Is your listing in a city with major international events? The most valued feature of an Airbnb listing for people attending events is the distance they have to travel between their accommodation and the venue.
So if you’re increasing your prices during nearby events, another title hack is to include the event and distance from it in your title, adding relevancy and standing out from the crowd.
Pro Tip: Add the distance in ‘time’ rather than miles or km. ‘Minutes’ is universally well understood while units of distance vary around the world.
‘Listings with professional photos tend to earn 40% more, get booked 24% more often, and can charge a 26% higher nightly price’ — that’s Airbnb themselves.
We can all agree that professional photos are better than lacklustre fuzzy shots taken on a phone. If you don’t want to pay a professional, here are some quick tips for taking photos yourself:
Here are two from the Houst archive to illustrate that last point — everything you need for an easy evening in bed and to get started for the day…
If you can transport a guest’s mind and imagination to your home, they’ll already be halfway to staying. Add a couple of photos that set the scene — the first moment they arrive, where they’ll enjoy dinner, and evening sunset position on the balcony…
Here’s a quick selection from the most booked properties on Airbnb ever. Can you imagine opening the gate to this iconic home? Lying on the bed looking out from your Bali bamboo haven? Walking down a secret route to your hidden oasis? (I can almost smell the jungle!)
And here’s an unbelievably romantic evening scene from that last property above… Irresistible!
Here’s one coming home to a welcoming entrance in South Salt Lake:
Pro Tip: Take a few unique photos to show the personality of your local area too — your favourite coffee shop, best view and a secret local restaurant.
You need to find a balance here. Clearly you may not want to be booking cleans and dealing with mountains of guest messages from people stay just 1 or 2 nights. However, the longer your minimum stay length is, the less potential guests your property will be relevant for.
I’d recommend choosing a 2 or 3 night minimum stay. The guest will be paying your cleaning fees anyway and if you’re using a host management service like Houst, you don’t need to worry about the hassles of changeovers and guest messages anyway!
Now I know this seems obvious, but the influence that 5-star reviews have on your ability to earn more on Airbnb is huge!
I’m going to quote straight from Airbnb’s website here:
“New listings that get booked and reviewed in the first month appear more often in search results and get an average of 3.6x more bookings in their first 3 months.”
When you first list on Airbnb, getting at least five 5-star reviews as quickly as possible should be your top priority. Once you’ve earned some review-based credibility, you’ll be able to increase your pricing.
In order to do this though, you’ve first got to lower your daily price. It’s also good to have a lower minimum length stay too. I’d argue that even 1 night stays are worth it here — just get your first reviews as quickly as possible, then you can start commanding higher prices.
Pricing rightly deserves its own article (or book!) but here are a few quick points to keep in mind:
Pro Tip: There are several companies that provide automated pricing. Houst is one of them — with a pricing algorithm that takes in a multitude of data points to price your nightly rates appropriately, balancing pricing and occupancy for maximum earnings. Factors include seasonality, major local events, how far in advance the available dates are, listings views and booking conversion rate… to name just a few.
Yes, I know you’d love to personally vet, interrogate and Google every guest that stays but the fact is, Instant Booking really improves occupancy and search rank.
It’s even a top-level option for users to filter results — so if you don’t have this enabled, your listing won’t appear for anyone who selects that option (and that’s a lot of people).
A recent study into the Airbnb search algorithm, using data from Cape Town properties, found that 62.4% of Page 1 results had Instant Booking enabled. Page 2, just 39.6%.
So — I’d recommend that you enable Instant Booking and trust Airbnb’s vetting process. View their FAQ here to learn how they do this. In the US, Airbnb’s vetting even includes them performing background checks against various public databases.
In marketing and content we strive for good ‘scannability’ — how easy is it for a reader to quickly scan through content and find what they’re looking for.
Use headings to divide your description into sections and signpost what each is about — this will help potential guests find the info that’s relevant to them, and help surface your best property features.
Again, these help break up text about different features in the property. They’ll make your description easier to read and quick to digest — especially for the >50% of visitors to Airbnb’s website that come from mobile.
Guests often look through dozens of listings before they make a booking, so being able to quickly communicate key features will greatly improve your chances of a booking.
Simply stating the sleeping arrangements (e.g. 2 double beds, 1 sofa bed) will never do the rooms in your property justice. Add a short description of each room, highlighting their best features — it’ll really help potential guests start to visualise staying there.
Larger groups of guests often worry about who will have which room when they stay, so it’s important to showcase each room individually, giving the booker peace of mind that every guest in their party will be happy.
Okay, this is a neat little trick, if slightly cheeky. Airbnb withholds specific property locations until a booking is confirmed (otherwise anyone could find out exactly where your place is, and when it’s likely to be unoccupied — not good!).
When you’re setting up your property’s approximate location, you can slightly adjust the positioning of its general location area on the map. So a bit of tactical positioning here can help your property appear in search results for desirable attractions or areas nearby.
Below is a list of amenities that are known to rank highly with appearing on the first page of Airbnb’s search results. They’re also the ones you need to have in order to list as ‘Business Ready’ — which means more…well, business:
The sharing economy is a personal business based on trust and human interaction.
To help build that trust and emotional connection, it’s well worth completing your profile. Here’s a checklist:
This is another topic that deserves its own section and it’s not something you can immediately adjust on your listing to improve.
However, guest reviews are make or break for the performance of your listing and can propel you to the higher echelons of Airbnb as a Superhost, Airbnb Plus listing and more… but only if they’re all (or at least very nearly all) super positive.
The key to getting good reviews is 1) making sure you set realistic expectations with a listing that’s amazing, but not dishonest 2) delivering on those expectations 3) going beyond the expectations to seal the deal.
The third part of this doesn’t need to be an all out charm offensive, complete with an in-house butler and champagne on ice . But a little bit of surprise and delight when your guest first arrives makes all the difference.
Pro Tip: Leave a postcard on your kitchen table thanking your guests for staying, and politely prompting them for a good review if they enjoy their stay.
With a little skill (and a little luck) you should receive some fantastic reviews after your first few bookings. While reviews contribute to your ratings, which are very visible, the actual content of reviews is at the bottom of your Airbnb page.
There isn’t a better way to deliver a strong emotional hook and social proof than a perfect review. But if it’s out of sight at the bottom of your listing, how many potential guests will actually see it?
What you need to do here is take the best one-liner you’ve got from a genuine review, and paste it right at the top of your description, in quotation marks.
“We had the most wonderful stay ever at this perfect apartment — our dream honeymoon was made a reality!” — Gemma
Responding to guests promptly is really important — in this age of impatience, everybody wants answers as soon as possible.
In the context of Airbnb, the longer you leave a booking enquiry unanswered, the more likely they are searching for another option.
As professional Airbnb host managers, Houst aim to respond to all guest messages within 30 minutes. We’ve built some neat tech to handle this, too.
…and I mean regularly! Every week, at least. That same Cape Town study I mentioned earlier also found strong correlation between properties that updated their calendar on average 5 days ago and those that are more likely to appear on the first page of search results.
My final Airbnb optimisation tip is to test. You should continuously test changing different parts of your listing and see the difference. Get geeky. Set yourself an optimisation goal, define the metrics you’re measuring against and track your changes and results over time.
You can view your listing stats by Search Date by visiting airbnb.com/stats, or by pulling the data via the API if you’ve got access.
From here, you’ll be able to track your listing’s views and number of booking enquiries, and you can use these to measure the impact of any changes you make to your listing.
At Houst, as we manage a large number of properties we’re actually able to aggregate this data for the benefit of all of our hosts. For example, we can use it to create alerts for high demand dates, and to test listing optimisations against multiple properties.
I couldn’t share this guide without also including three major factors that will almost certainly improve your Airbnb performance — but they aren’t quick wins, and require a little investment on your part.
This is one of Airbnb’s own tips and something I’ve seen done well across many hosts at Houst.
The goal is to build your number of 5-star reviews as quickly as possible. Doing this accelerates your journey to the first page of guests’ search results — as in, it’s not just the amount of 5-star reviews, but the rate of incoming 5-star reviews that Airbnb gets excited about.
In order to achieve this you’ll need to take into account all the above tips, but it’s especially worthwhile to use the lower pricing tip (Tip 7) to attract bookings quickly, get reviews and build your listing reputation.
Becoming a Superhost on its own won’t improve your search ranking, but it is sure to improve your click and enquiry rates — so, the percentage of people that view your listing preview and then click, or make an enquiry.
There are over 5 million Airbnb listing worldwide — and yours needs to stand out. Guests may be looking for a unique experience, something different to (or better than) their own home or, often, better or different to anything a hotel can offer.
Craft your Airbnb home with love — imagine what guests who have travelled a long way would want, and will enjoy. Curate your property based on who you’d like staying. Romantic getaways? Have cosy lighting and warm furnishings. City breaks? Lots of light and functionable amenities. But always have easy-to-access power plugs — they’re loved by all…
Winning at Airbnb doesn’t stop at creating an awesome listing. You’ve got to deliver as a host, too. And that means making everything on your listing and more a reality.
Next month, I’ll be sharing our best hacks for how to secure 5-star reviews every time. If you’ve enjoyed this piece, subscribe below to receive the next one straight to your inbox, before anyone else.
Questions? Ideas? Tips? Write them in the comments!
What is Houst? — a hassle-free host management service for property owners in 28 cities around the world. Listing on multiple platforms including Airbnb, Booking.com and HomeAway, the team aim to optimise your pricing and occupancy to earn you more without any of the hard work!
Get an estimate of what you could earn while you’re away at houst.com
Houst was launched in London in 2015. Since then, our team has been helping homeowners and landlords across the capital increase their earnings while managing everything for them. We're now the world's largest Airbnb host management service.
Our highest earning host has a 3-Bed Apartment in Old Street with 94% occupancy!
To make the most of your property, we list on multiple booking platforms, maximising your income from a unique mix of short, medium and long-lettings all year round.
We have teams of professional cleaners, housekeepers and partners to turnaround laundry on-demand, and our London-based team writes your listings, takes photographs and offers expert advice on how to improve your property for business and holiday short-lets. Meanwhile, our pricing specialists are continuously working hard to optimise your occupancy and overall revenue.