With competition bigger than ever and with travelers changing their priorities and preferences due to the current world situation, how do you make your AirBnb listing stand out to get more bookings? We’re going to talk about this in today’s full fledged guide.
AirBnb is my favorite go-to place when it comes to booking a stay during my travels. I stayed in dozens of AirBnbs, from very cheap to luxury-priced, for a night or up to a month. How will you make me book your place and not the hundreds of others available on the website?
I didn’t think that as a traveler I am an expert when it comes to increasing booking rates on AirBnb. But I was able to help two friends increase their booked days by a ton.
They each have an apartment listed on AirBnb, in different cities and after putting some effort in beefing up their listings with my help, they saw great returns: one of the two places quickly climbed to having 27 days booked during an entire month, while the other saw a more modest increase to 18 booked days in a month.
Still much better than the average of 5-7 days a month they were seeing before this.
When one of them jokingly said “You should write a book on how to do this!” it made me realize that it’s indeed something worth writing about. I am not going to write a book or a course, but instead offer all this epic information for free. I always believe in the power of communities and helping others.
So… below you have my epic guide on how to get more bookings on AirBnb! Even better, I have updated it in September 2020 with extra advice to give you the upper hand when it comes to adjusting to the new health and safety requirements that this crazy year enforced.
How to make your listing stand out and get more bookings on AirBnb
1. Write the perfect title to rank higher in the search results
One of the most important thing you have to consider is ranking as high as possible in the search results: the higher you rank, the better chances you get at having your place noticed. If you’re position 80 in the search results, travelers will probably find their place well before reaching yours!
And one of the easiest ways to achieve this is by optimizing your listing’s title!
Writing a perfect title does not only help with rankings, though: it also helps attract people. “Come live in my flat!” is a poor title that says nothing. “Modern apartment in the heart of Barcelona” sounds a bit better. “Unique designer flat with balcony in Barcelona” also draws attention. “Reconditioned apartment in Barcelona with 2 King Size Beds” also draws attention.
So write the titles in such a manner that they are not just catchy, but also highlight one of the most important features of your apartment: it might be centrally located, it could have an awesome view, a balcony (if that is uncommon) or anything. Find the main strength of your place and make sure to mention it in the title.
Also make sure to mention the name of the city in the title. This seems to help a lot with the rankings.
One important thing though: DON’T lie! Be honest, because otherwise you will get poor ratings which will do damage that will be very difficult to reverse!
Spending a lot of time on the title is vital because it will not only help your listing rank in the AirBnb search (and the higher you rank, the more bookings you will have), but also helps your listing stand out and actually have the people click to find out more.
But remember: be honest, otherwise if they book and are disappointed, they will leave a bad review and that’s worse than not getting a booking at all!
2. Make the description attractive and informative
Probably you already know that, but let me say it again: your listing’s description is extremely important, too. This is where most people fail.
Offer a detailed description of your place, the surrounding areas and make sure that you highlight all the Pros of your place. The more complete and attractive the description is, the better your chances of seeing it booked.
The most important part of your description? The first paragraph! Most people might only read that before moving on or showing more interest. So make it catchy and as informative as possible. Here is an example:
“Located in one of the best areas you could stay in Barcelona for people who want a central location which is also quiet and safe. Restaurants, cafes, shops and a large park are just a few minutes of walking away. You will love its unique design!”
When booking, most people want the following things: a good apartment that’s large enough for the members of the group that’s traveling, being close to supermarkets as well as bars/restaurants, have some sort of public transportation option close by if everything’s not within walking distance and maybe a major landmark to be close by.
Again, you don’t have to lie at all and if your location is not that great, find other things to highlight. If you’re far from the center and there’s not much around, go for “situated in a very quiet area of the city” and find something else to promote: maybe it’s a luxury place, you have new furniture, you have a great view or a nice yard, there’s a park nearby… Find something.
You know your place better and you know what its strongest points are. Even more – ask all the people who stay there what they liked the most about your place. You might be surprised to find new stuff you haven’t thought about!
Next, you have to take your time and write the rest of the description. Give all the details you can give about the place, the goodies that you offer and amenities there, as well as everything else that you consider important.
Even though you already checked stuff like number of bedrooms, beds and bathrooms, make sure to give all the information in the description again. I really hate description that don’t tell you everything there is to know about a place.
I personally prefer descriptions that list everything by room (like living room: sofa, tv, bed, office; bedroom: king sized bed, large mirror, huge built-in closet and balcony; bathroom: nice shower and bath, toilet and washing machine, shampoo and hair gel included; kitchen: fully equipped with refrigerator, oven and microwave oven).
Make sure that you list everything that you have – the more, the better and again focus on highlighting the selling points (if you have nice art or decorations, make sure to mention that as well!)
Finally, complete all the other fields – the more information you offer here, the better. Go straight to the point, but try to cover everything. Everything that you offer must be listed in the description.
Add the rules as well as all the notable things about the neighborhood and location of your place. Write it, read it and have a friend or another family member read it as well to make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything.
3. It’s photos that really sell the place!
Even if you have the best title and greatest description possible, your chances of actually renting the place are way lower if your photos are crappy.
A listing with a poor title and description, but with good photos will rent better that one with great details but poor pictures, so make sure that you put a lot of effort to get the best possible photos. Here’s what to do – it’s pretty easy:
– if you don’t have a good camera and you don’t know much about photography, it’s better to bring a friend who does or even hire a professional. The photos have to be the best possible!
Alternately, sign up to have AirBnb send a photographer to your place for free. This not only ensures that you get high quality images, but they will also get the “verified” tag, which raises the faith potential guests have in your listing and increases bookings.
– if the rooms require it, make sure to have photos taken from multiple angles so that they show everything you have to offer
– you can never have too many photos: if you have a nice couch or a nicely decorated area, make sure to take a photo of it alone. It’s the details that make a listing unforgettable and “must have” so make sure that not only you have those things, but also show them to potential guests.
– if possible, edit the images to make the colors better, the images clearer and brighter. Bright images are better than darker ones, because everybody likes bright places!
– make sure that the first 5 photos are the ones showing the best that your place has to offer. These are the ones highlighted in the listing, so make them stand out the most!
Again, don’t try to lie. Don’t photoshop stuff in the photos, don’t use the best angles to show things that aren’t really there. One of the places I stayed at had the photos “smartly” made to make the place seem huge and beautiful.
In reality, it was very small with areas that even a hobbit would’ve considered too short and even though the photos were real, they were misleading. I made sure to point that in the review and so did others. This also cured me of being the first to stay in a place – but that’s not the point here – the point is that you should never lie because your guests will penalize you for that.
The point is to have beautiful photos, but keep them real. If expectations are too high, your guests will feel disappointed and even if your place is great, if the photos don’t paint an image that’s close to reality, your guests might feel disappointed and leave a poor review. So go for good, professional, but honest photos.
4. Check all the amenities carefully
Many people want specific things (like internet access, pool or whatever) so make sure that you check all the things that you offer: the list is not that huge and it will only take you a few minutes.
But again, make sure that if you say you have it, then your guests will get that, otherwise you’re doomed!
5. Connect with your guests
People love to see that you care about their opinion, so make sure that you have a notebook or anything alike where they can leave a few words about their stay. Make sure you let them know about it and politely ask them to share their thoughts.
As a guest, I love reading what others have said and write some words for the owner – and so do others. This also makes them feel that they connect with the owner and it leaves an overall better impression.
For the owner, this is also a good way of finding out what the guests like or dislike about their place.
Also, you should e-mail your guests after they leave (ideally after they write their review of your place) and ask them what they loved the most and what they didn’t like about your place. Most people will answer and some will have great suggestions for things you should improve or even highlight in your listing!
6. Small gifts result in great reviews
Make your guests feel that they’re really welcome at your place and that you’re ready to go the extra mile to make them feel great. Having city guides and useful information for them is a must – you can even print on A4 papers if you don’t want to spend much, but it’s important to have something for them to help make their stay more pleasant.
Also important is to have small gifts for them. If they’re staying just for one night, you can leave a single small chocolate candy on their pillow or just a card personalized, thanking them for choosing your place.
If they stay longer, leave some water/wine in the fridge, maybe some fruits, a box of chocolates or maybe have a small gift they can take home to remind them of the city and your place. Surprise them with small items and they will be much, much happier!
You don’t have to spend a lot on this either – it’s the small gestures that matter and are highly appreciated. And a happy guest results in a good review, which helps tremendously.
7. Communication is key
Always try to answer as fast as possible to all questions you receive – no matter if they come from people who have already booked your place or those wanting to find out more details. Be extremely polite, even if they have stupid questions.
Communication is key and some people say that quick response times also help with the rankings. But even if they don’t they matter for customer satisfaction, so make sure that you always answer quickly and give all the details that are required.
8. Start with a lower price & adjust afterwards
If you’re just listing your place, many people will completely ignore it simply because there won’t be any reviews. If you have other properties with reviews might help a bit, but you need at least a couple of reviews on your listing ASAP. And good reviews!
In order to get that, set a lower price for your place for the next couple of months. Check out the averages or just use AirBnb’s pricing tool and set a rate not only under the average, but also close to the minimum.
For example, if you rent a one bedroom place and in the same city the average price is $100 per night, but there are a ton of low-entry offers for $50 per night, set your price to $50. Don’t look at it as losing money – look at it as a way to get some great reviews and boost the price up afterwards.
Once you have at least a few reviews, you can use the real price. My advice is to always ask about 10% less than what the pricing tool is recommending in order to be fully booked. Do the math: it’s better to have 30 booked days in a month at $90 than 20 at $100 (and trust me, $10 make a huge difference!). Don’t forget to take the time of the year into account: high season is more expensive, while off-season is cheaper!
Finally, make sure to offer discounts for long stays: weekly and monthly deals. Again, this has to be done smartly to make sure that you maximize earnings.
If you usually have your place booked for 20 days in a month and you make $2,000 (at $100 per day), you can easily offer a deal for a monthly stay at $2,300 instead of $3,000. You’re still earning more money anyway and your guests will have a good deal and great discount as well so it’s a win-win situation.
Also, don’t hesitate to negotiate. Many will ask for lower prices – if you know how much you’re making per month, you can easily calculate if it’s worth setting the price lower or not.
9. Check in / Your Place / Check out
Now that people are coming, your job is not over. You must make sure that the place they’re visiting is as clean as possible and that all the equipment is working.
It’s better to remove appliances that are broken: people will accept a place without a microwave (as long as it’s not explicitly mentioned in the listing/photos), but everybody will complain if there is one that’s not working!
The check in and check out processes are also extremely important: make sure that you always give your guests complete directions on how to get to your place and, if possible, meet them at the train station, airport or at least the public transportation station that they’re using to get to you (unless they come by taxi).
The least you can do is make sure that you are at the place when they arrive, no matter what time it is. Be prepared for delays, because they will often happen and always greet them with a smile and be polite.
The check out is also extremely important: you should have a check out time set, but you should offer them a late check out option if possible. Try to find solutions and prepare to have guests leaving literally at all times of the day (and night).
Make the check out process as simple as possible (such as them dropping the keys in a mailbox) or if you want to personally collect they keys, make sure to get there BEFORE the agreed time, by about 10 minutes.
When people are planning to leave, they will always have the feeling that there’s not enough time left, so don’t put extra pressure on them by being late as well. Get there early and your guests will be happy!
10. How to communicate with guests once they’re there
Most of the guests will need some basic information and details about the place and the surroundings, as well as possible attractions in the city.
It’s always a good idea to have for them a map of the city and some printed instructions regarding things nearby, how to get to different places, shops and restaurant recommendations. Also, you should be there and politely answer all the questions they might have.
Don’t try to make friends – most of the visitors, once they arrive, want to be left alone, but some love to meet new people and hang out with you. Try to see what type of travelers they are and respond accordingly.
If they want to be left alone, do so, but if they want to spend more time with you and have you show them around, it would be best if you could help.
If not, make sure that you offer all the details about everything they should know and that you’re always available to answer their questions (and do it quickly) either by phone or e-mail.
11. How to deal with unsatisfied guests
No matter how hard you try, you will still get guests that won’t be satisfied with everything. If you did everything by the book, they will probably only be unhappy about either the presence of some things in the apartment (maybe a painting they consider too much or something like that) or the lack of something (“What? You don’t have any extra virgin olive oil???”).
In such cases, you should do your best to right the wrongs: remove the items and apologize, or bring them what they need and apologize. Be polite and keep them happy, even though their demands or reasons to be unhappy seem dumb to you.
The problem is that, as dumb as they are, they are upsetting for that particular person, who is very likely to give you a bad review because of it. So it’s better to spend a bit on that bottle of extra virgin olive oil and keep your review scores high.
Communication is key here and see what they want in order to solve this problem: if it’s a refund they want and they’re not completely crazy with their requirements (as in just starting a fight to profit – which will rarely happen), it’s better to consider them a loss but keep your profile intact.
The truth is that one bad review can really bring your business down, especially if you don’t have other upcoming bookings from people who will leave good reviews.
So try to talk to people, see what they want, see what they need and fix the problems they have before they leave. It is difficult, but it has to be done.
The good part, though, is that most people won’t be a pain in the behind – and if they are, make sure to leave a clear opinion about that on their profile so future hosts know it.
12. Update your calendar regularly
This is something that happens behind the scenes, but apparently has a major impact on AirBnb’s own algorithms. If you constantly update your calendar, you will rank higher. And it will be a lot easier to manage your property this way.
13. Don’t cancel reservations!
This is something that looks really bad on a host’s listing page and I will never ever book a place where the host canceled a stay. I don’t want it to be one day before my arrival and have the unpleasant surprise of seeing that the host cancelled on me.
Also, AirBnb themselves don’t seem to like hosts who cancel reservations, resulting in poorer rankings if you do.
14. Respond to your guest reviews!
While we don’t know for sure if this has any effect on your actual ranking, it does help to get more bookings. It shows other guests that you are active and you care about them.
And don’t write one of those pre-formatted answers that says nothing. Take the time to read your guest reviews and personalize your answer. You don’t have to write novels, even two-three short sentences are enough!
15. Activate Insta-Book
Not only that AirBnb actually has a search option that allows people to only show this type of bookings, but it apparently helps listings rank higher.
While I am not a fan of this, personally, and I always prefer to contact the host before and see how they are as a person, many people want to insta-book in order to get everything done faster.
So unless you really want to get all your guests under the microscope, activating this option will give you a major advantage over other listings.
16. Become a superhost and consider AirBnb Plus
These two badges offer huge value to your listing. While the Superhost status is something that AirBnb had going for quite some time now, the AirBnb Plus program is something more recent.
Either way, you would benefit a lot from getting both these badges – or at least Superhost.
It’s not really impossible to do this – to become a superhost, you need to meet a few requirements (high response rates, a 4.8 average review score, low cancellation rates and have either 10 trips in the past year or at least 3 reservations totalling 100 days).
AirBnb plus is an even greater proof of quality. Not only that your place must be amazing for getting this badge, but AirBnb themselves will personally inspect all listings to make sure that they meet all the requirements. You can learn about AirBnb Plus here.
17. Grab the enhanced cleaning badge
2020 changed the way people travel and made guests more demanding when it comes to cleanliness and germ-free places. As a result, AirBnb introduced the “Enhanced Cleaning” badge which requires you to go the extra step to guarantee safety to your guests.
According to them, this is “a rigorous set of cleaning standards developed by Airbnb with leading health and hospitality experts for the times of COVID-19 and beyond”.
Getting this badge will open up your place to more potential visitors and remember: many people (myself included) would no longer book a place that doesn’t have this! You can find out more about all the requirements to get this badge here.
Yes, you did have a lot to read and there are many things that you need to take into consideration when it comes to beefing up your AirBnb listing in order to get more bookings – but it is definitely worth going through all the trouble.
The best part is that doing all the things that I recommended above will come with palpable results and you will be happy that you took the time to read this and put all that you learned into practice.
If you have additional suggestions for fellow hosts, don’t hesitate to let us all know by sharing your comments below.