How Do Airbnb Reviews Work?

“How do I respond to reviews on Airbnb?” is a question often raised by Airbnb hosts who want to get the most out of their vacation rental listing and show their guests that their feedback has been heard. For many homeowners, understanding and learning how to respond to Airbnb reviews can be a source of frustration or confusion.

Having a solid grasp of how Airbnb reviews work and how they benefit property owners is vital for getting the most out of your vacation rental investment. Knowing how to solicit, respond to, and learn from reviews will help you and your vacation rental stand out on Airbnb.

Max Schleicher, head of content at ReviewTrackers, a software platform that collects and aggregates online reviews for companies, says Airbnb reviews are a “battleground” for property owners to gain a footing in an individual tourism market.

“If you’re a small player, like a property owner, you’re competing on a local scale with other people, like big management companies or hotels, but it comes down to just how your reputation and your (Airbnb) views are on a local level,” he says.

About 95% of properties listed on Airbnb have an average rating of 4.5 or 5 stars out of 5, so the competition is fierce. And, consumers rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions, with 80% saying they trust online reviews just as much as recommendations from family and friends.

We asked a couple of experts to weigh in on what vacation rental owners need to know about how Airbnb reviews work.

What is an Airbnb review?

The Airbnb review system consists of a star rating and a written review, and both are optional for guests (and hosts) to use.

Guests can give star ratings, up to 5 stars, for overall experience, cleanliness, accuracy, value, communication, arrival and location. Hosts need star ratings from at least 3 guests before their overall, aggregated score will show up for users to see. Guests can also leave written Airbnb reviews with details about their experience. Written reviews are limited to 1,000 words.

How will my Airbnb reviews affect my property’s search rankings?

“The quality of a review, how high the star rating is, the length of the review, how thorough someone is leaving the review are going to affect how highly you rank within Airbnb and how visible you are to consumers,” Schleicher explains.

Airbnb uses a proprietary algorithm to rank properties when users search, but only the platform truly knows how it works. Airbnb says it factors in about 100 different criteria for rankings, including reviews, ratings and the number of completed trips host has.

While positive reviews help a vacation rental perform well in a search, a small number of negative ratings or guests skipping reviews does not have a major impact on rankings, according to Airbnb.

Airbnb reviews and rankings can also help vacation rental owners achieve Superhost status, which requires a host be in good standing and maintain a 4.8 overall rating and a 50% review rate or higher. A high number of positive Airbnb reviews also makes homes eligible for Airbnb Plus, a new designation for the highest-quality homes on the platform.

Do I need to have all 5-star reviews on Airbnb?

Not necessarily. Ratings and reviews influence consumers as they search for products and businesses online, including Airbnb vacation rentals. Schleicher says 4-star ratings tend to be the most trusted across the board. According to ReviewTrackers research of online search behaviors, 35% of users rely on four-star filters, while 22% filter by 3-stars and 10% by 5-stars.

Guests want validation that they’re making good choices when searching for properties. High star rankings and positive text reviews encourage them to go through with a booking.

“They look to reviews just to kind of confirm that the house looks great, the listing description sounds amazing, the photos are great,’” says special projects manager for our listing creation team.

“Sometimes that can feel too good to be true, but, when you see reviews written by people who have stayed at the home, it can confirm all those things. They’re going to be more likely to go ahead and book without hesitation.”

How do I get more Airbnb reviews?

Travelers have 14 days to leave a review for a property on Airbnb after checkout. Airbnb emails guests reminding them to leave reviews, but Hartfield suggests property owners also contact guests to thank them for their stay and to encourage them to leave a review. However, she emphasizes that listing sites, like Airbnb, prohibit property owners from offering incentives in exchange for reviews.

“You want to know how the guest experience was, right?” she says. “If you did great on something, you want to know it, and if you have room to grow in other areas, you need a guest to let you know, as well. I would always recommend that owners are gracious when they ask for those reviews and always thank the guest for choosing their home, because they do have a lot of choice.”

The best time to contact guests about providing feedback and leaving reviews is just before checkout, Hartfield says.

“People like to tell other people about their experiences, so if you give them the encouragement, they’ll take the time to give you that feedback,” she says. “You don’t want to just rely on Airbnb (to send messages about reviews) because it’s just an automated email that a guest could potentially ignore. But if it’s a direct message thanking them for their stay, they’ll be more apt to respond.”

How do I remove a review from my Airbnb property?

This is one of the most-asked questions from property owners. And, the answer is that you actually can’t remove reviews.

Negative reviews cannot be removed, just because you, as the host, don’t agree with them. However, if a review is untrue, hosts can appeal to Airbnb, and there’s a chance it can be taken down—but, it’s rare, Hartfield says.

Maintaining trust and transparency with its community is Airbnb’s reasoning for not allowing reviews to be deleted. But, you can edit a review that you’ve written for up to 48 hours, unless a guest completes their review within that time frame.

“This is something that frustrates owners, understandably,” she says. “That’s one thing that I think owners don’t really understand. It’s less about the review for the listing site than it is about the trust with their clients. If word were to get out that Airbnb was removing reviews for owners, that’s a bad look for Airbnb.”

However, Airbnb will delete reviews if they violate the platform’s content policy, and include illegal or obscene content, for example.

If a guest leaves a review that a host feels is unfair, you have the opportunity to leave a public response to the review or send private feedback to the guest. Hartfield just recommends that property owners maintain a professional attitude and keep emotions out of any response to an unsavory review.   

How should I respond to a negative Airbnb review?

No matter how hard Airbnb hosts work to create perfect, memorable experiences for guests, they may still encounter a negative review.

A negative review is one of the pitfalls of what Schleicher calls “unstructured data,” where someone is able to give feedback openly. Sometimes owners are faulted for issues that are beyond their control—but, these instances can still impact customer experience.

“The challenge of working with that kind of unstructured data that reviews offer is really listening and figuring out what pain points there are that you didn’t anticipate,” he says. “Then, coming up with a plan to fix it and a systematic way to always be listening to what your customers are saying.”

Both Hartfield and Schleicher recommend that vacation rental owners respond to negative Airbnb reviews in a professional manner, and never argue, get defensive, or berate the guest over a negative review.

“Always, when you’re interacting with guests that have had a negative experience, you want to thank them for letting you know and apologize,” Hartfield explains.

Responding to acknowledge that a situation occurred and offering solutions to fix the problem and prevent the issue from recurring can go along with securing future bookings.

“It shows that you want to do right by the guests who are coming in after,” Hartfield says. “You never want to ignore it because potential guests will look at that and say, ‘Well, why didn’t they respond to this guest who said something that wasn’t as nice as all these other ones that they’re responding to?’ It will put a question of doubt into potential a guest’s mind.”

In general, 53% of consumers expect businesses to respond to a negative review within a week, and 94% say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business, according to ReviewTrackers. But, Schleicher says responding to a negative review positively and proactively leaves a positive impression, as 44.6% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if a business owner responds to a negative review.

Do I have to respond to positive Airbnb reviews too?

Much attention is given to responding to negative reviews, usually 1- or 2-star, but Schleicher says it’s just as important to respond to 3-, 4-, and 5-star Airbnb reviews.

Validating the positive response from an Airbnb guest gives property owners the opportunity to double down and use the responses to thank guests and highlight any details that are mentioned. These interactions have value, Schleicher says.

“You have the opportunity to reinforce the really great things about the experience in the way you respond to it, and so you can really take advantage of that to hit the points that you want to make sure other people who are looking at your listings see are great about your listing,” he says. “It hits the idea of social proof, which is the backbone of all reviews. So, if I’m a evaluating a listing, I’m looking to see what other people are saying about it. I’m looking for social proof that this is a genuinely good experience.”

Should I leave reviews for Airbnb guests?

Airbnb reviews work as a two-way feedback loop. Just as hosts want hear from guests about their experiences staying in a vacation rental, guests also need feedback, which will help them book future rentals.

“You are asking the guest to take time out of their day to give you feedback, so it’s always good to reciprocate and be active and engaged with your guest,” Hartfield explains. “They will appreciate having a good review, so when they go and book other homes, other owners will know that they were a good guest.”

If a host has a bad experience with a guest, Hartfield recommends leaving a lower star rating for the guest and then sending them private feedback, rather than publicly expressing any problems.

“It goes back to, even in these situations, you still want to be as professional as possible, so leaving a ranting, emotional review for a guest is not a good look,” she says.

Schleicher adds that airing grievances publically can make hosts look bad and be off-putting to future guests.

“Even if there’s a legitimate issue, people don’t want to stay in a place where they feel like there’s been trouble,” he says. “So, it’s best to keep serious, substantial issues private as much as possible and to take conversations offline.”

Should I offer my guest private feedback on Airbnb?

Airbnb allows guests and hosts to offer private feedback for each other, allowing both parties to communicate about an issue without it appearing on a public Airbnb profile.

“Sometimes a guest will leave private feedback and say, ‘I didn’t want to leave this publicly because I’m sure it’s a one-off thing, but maybe you should do X, Y, and Z for your next guest,’” Hartfield says.

The private feedback feature is also a way for Airbnb hosts to ask for more information from guests about their experiences, especially if the guest only leaves a star rating, Schleicher says.

“We see that with 3-star reviews, where a lot of our customers will actually ask for more feedback and information, and they may ask for guests to send that information privately so it’s not public,” he says. “Take the conversation offline, but still get information about why something was a 3-star experience rather than a 4- or 5-star experience.”

A lot goes into the Airbnb review process. Understanding how Airbnb reviews work provide validation for a vacation rental host’s hard work in providing high-class customer service and quality, memorable experiences. Reviews can also help you stand out on the platform and attract future travelers.

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