Learning how to market your vacation rental on Airbnb will help you maximize your return on investment. Airbnb enables property owners to highlight their home’s best features so homeowners can offer the unique, memorable experiences that travelers are seeking out and keep their vacation rental fully booked.
When you market your vacation rental on Airbnb, you have the potential to reach the site’s 150 million (and counting) registered users worldwide. The platform saw a 13% increase in U.S.-based users from 2017 to 2018, according to eMarketer. There were 8.4 million users in the U.S. in 2018, and Airbnb is projected to add 6.1 million more by 2021.
The popularity of Airbnb among vacationers is tied to the platform’s branding and name recognition, says Ali Jamal, CEO of Stablegold Hospitality, a real estate investment firm with a portfolio of hotels, vacation rentals, residential housing, and event spaces in Atlanta.
“Airbnb is almost like a Google kind of term now,” Jamal says. “When someone is talking about where they’re going, a lot of times, they’re going to say, ‘I’m going to Airbnb it in Atlanta or San Francisco.’ Their competitors are probably not going to have that level of brand recognition.”
Shaba Jamal, Stablegold’s chief design manager, who oversees the company’s 4 vacation rental properties, says about 70% of bookings come from Airbnb, and the properties, all located in the Atlanta area, maintain about a 60% occupancy rate.
The Jamals, a husband-wife team, say leveraging sites like Airbnb can help boost a vacation rental’s return on investment. And, Ali says, “The demand is growing steadily as people are becoming more acclimated with platforms, like Airbnb, VRBO, and others.”
Learning how to make money on Airbnb starts with standing out among the more than 5 million property listings on the site and understanding how to market a vacation rental on Airbnb. Here are a few Airbnb tips for hosts, according to experts.
Invest in design and amenities
A well-designed, modernized home full of amenities is what most potential guests look for in a vacation rental, says Amanda Hartfield, special projects manager for the listing creation team at TurnKey Vacation Rentals.
“Guests book the home rental because they want to be in a home environment, so make sure the décor is well-thought-out and is welcoming and inviting,” she says. “We see an increase in bookings on what I typically call trending homes, meaning the decor is modern and unique enough to give the guest a good local vibe.”
The key to attracting guests, Shaba Jamal says, is designing homes with them in mind. She says she incorporates modern features and bright concepts to promote a “vacation feel” and give people a unique experience during their stay.
Along with design, good cleaning ratings, information about nearby attractions, and a well-stocked home help properties get noticed on Airbnb. Hartfield says some of these criteria are what make homes eligible for the invitation-only Airbnb Plus designation for high-quality homes.
“It’s making sure that the guest is invited into the home and has everything that they need,” Hartfield says. “You never want a guest to have to ask for things. Those kinds of things stick out, and we see them reflected in reviews on Airbnb.”
Optimize your listing and understand you won’t understand the algorithm
Airbnb relies on algorithms to rank homes and display the properties that best meet a guest’s needs—and, property owners don’t have control over many of the elements that determine the ranking. How exactly the algorithms work and what they tracks are kept under wraps, but Airbnb says it looks at about 100 different factors.
Some basic categories that impact how a vacation rental ranks in search results are guest needs, such as where they’re searching from, previous trips, and the listings they’ve clicked on; listing details, such as 5-star reviews, price, location, and owner response time; and trip details, like the number of guests, length of the trip, how far in advance the trip is, and minimum and maximum price.
“We try to get as much information as possible and do deductive reasoning to figure it out,” Hartfield says. “But, only the listing sites know those algorithms, and they are not willing to share.”
Airbnb’s algorithms are also always changing, she explains.
“It just depends on what they’re prioritizing in their algorithm at that time, so a lot of it is out of the owner’s control,” she says. “But, there are things that you can do to make sure your listing is the best it can be, so when that time comes around for the algorithm to prioritize what your home has, it will do better in search rankings.”
Some of the aspects that owners have control over include keeping the calendar open and up-to-date, incorporating the home’s amenities and good reviews, Hartfield says.
Price your Airbnb rental based on location and demand
Airbnb also lists price, whether someone has a Superhost designation for top-rated hosts, and new listings as other areas that vacation rental owners can control. Airbnb prioritizes new listings to help hosts get established and give them more marketing exposure for their vacation rental.
Adjusting the price of a vacation rental on Airbnb, depending on the time of year or events going on in the city, is sometimes necessary to attract bookings, Shaba Jamal says.
“If there isn’t a lot of traction, I will lower the price for a week or something to put it back on the top of their website again,” she explains. “Or, I’ll deactivate the listing for a little bit, and then turn it back on to put it back at the top of their website.”
At busy times, like the upcoming Super Bowl, which will be held in Atlanta on Feb. 3, the Jamals decided to triple the price of their vacation rentals to keep up with demand and stay competitive in the market.
“By making your house a vacation rental, you’re essentially making it a micro hotel,” Ali Jamal says. “You can leverage a daily rate a lot more, so getting the revenue out of the house is going to be a lot more by turning it into a vacation rental and putting it on Airbnb.”
Keep your Airbnb listing updated and accurate
When marketing vacation rentals on Airbnb, accuracy is everything. Anytime something is added or removed from the home, the listing should be updated, so that guests know what to expect when they walk through the door.
For example, if an Airbnb listing says a bike is available at the home, a guest will expect to find a bike. If the owner takes the bike away, a guest will likely be disappointed and leave a negative review, Hartfield explains.
“Making sure everything is accurate is the most important thing an owner can do to have a successful listing,” she suggests. “Accuracy is the No. 1 thing, because guests will let you know if there is something wrong or something incorrect on your listing.”
However, she cautions that making too many changes too frequently can interfere with a listing’s analytics, making it difficult to get a grasp on which aspects of a listing are working and which aren’t.
Be a good host and reap the 5-star Airbnb reviews
Making guests feel welcome is the hallmark of being a good host, and fun, memorable experiences will encourage guests to leave positive reviews for your vacation rental. Reviews, especially the star-rating system, can impact where a home appears on Airbnb search results and are an important marketing asset for your rental.
Hartfield recommends responding to all reviews, both negative and positive, to foster engagement with guests and show that you care about what guests say. However, responding to reviews likely doesn’t impact search-result rankings.
Responding to negative and positive reviews shows that property owners are proactive and taking care of their guests, Shaba Jamal agrees.
“I always respond to everything, regardless of what star it is,” she says. But, it’s important not to “counter back” to a negative review. “We just say, ‘OK, we’ll take care of it.’ It shows that we, as property owners, are doing what we need to to take care of people.”
Owners should follow up with guests after their stay to thank them and encourage them to leave a review. Negative reviews often can’t be removed from Airbnb, unless they are i accurate, Hartfield explains.
“It goes back to how do you prevent negative reviews from happening so that you have a glowing report on your listing,” she says. “The biggest thing is an accurate listing, making sure everything is up-to-date, and that guests know what to expect when they arrive.”
Invest in high-quality vacation rental photos
Professional photography is an important investment for marketing vacation rentals on Airbnb. Shaba Jamal says Stablegold hired a professional real estate photographer for their listings.
“If people spent the time to get professional pictures and stage the house properly, it could attract more guests,” she says. “The first thing they’re going to look at are the pictures, so that’s your main selling point.”
High-quality photos show off a vacation rental’s best features and grab the attention of potential guests. Photos should provide an overview of the home and give guests a sense of the size and layout.
People browsing through property listings tend to flip through photos quickly. Attention spans getting shorter and shorter, and people often lose concentration after eight seconds, according to a 2015 Microsoft study, so listings only have a small window to catch someone’s eye.
That’s why Hartfield suggests that listings should include around 25 photos placed in the right order to ensure that the visuals are “telling the right story for the home.” The first three photos are generally the most important, and guests generally need an overview of each room and care less about close-ups of design details.
“For example, let’s say your house is on the beach, and you have an amazing view from the living room, that’s going to be your lead photo,” she says.
Paint a picture of your vacation rental in your Airbnb listing
Titles of vacation rentals on Airbnb can be tricky to write, since they are limited to about 50 characters. But, titles, along with an enticing main photo, make a first impression with guests and are crucial to successfully market your rental on Airbnb.
Titles should highlight the size of the home, key amenities or features, and location, and avoid emojis or special characters, Hartfield suggests. For Airbnb Plus listings, titles should be more descriptive—for example, “a tranquil home on a hilltop,” she explains.
All copy in an Airbnb listing, both title and descriptions, is affected by SEO keywords, which help the listing get noticed in the platform’s algorithm, Hartfield says.
Shaba Jamal says she often incorporates terms, like “luxurious,” “clean” or “newly built” in the titles of her listings to attract attention.
“People want to click on a newly built house, or a luxurious, modern home,” she says. One of Stablegold’s popular rentals features a unique, modern design that’s rare in the Atlanta area.
“It’s really different and people love this house. It stays booked like 60 percent of the month.”
All property owners have the potential to keep their homes booked up once they understand how to market vacation rentals on Airbnb. Following these Airbnb tips for hosts will ensure that you’re making money on your property.
“Getting in on Airbnb is great for reaching the diversity of people that are on the site,” Hartfield says. “You’re going to be reaching a lot more people, and, depending on the property type, you could be listed in a premium way that you wouldn’t get on another listing site.”
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