EP113: How to Optimize Your Listing and Get More Bookings

EP113: How to Optimize Your Listing and Get More Bookings


Is your Airbnb listing as good as it could be? Even if you are a Superhost, chances are there are at least a few changes you could make to your listing to get more bookings.

On this episode,  Jasper talks with Daniel Rusteen, an Ex-Airbnb Employee and the man behind optimizemyairbnb.com. Daniel talks about a few things that almost everyone can do to improve their listing and even a couple of hosting tips that you won’t want to miss. Jasper recently took advantage of Daniel’s service and the changes he made produced ROI almost immediately. This episode is packed with actionable tips so listen in!

Some of the topics covered:

Personal update: Why Jasper is selling his apartment in Amsterdam

  • Watch for a new book!

How and why Daniel started optimizemyairbnb.com

  • Worked at Airbnb before moving on to short-term rental management
  • Optimize lagging listings with great success

Top 3, (or 4) improvements you should make to your listing

Title

  • Why you shouldn’t write “2 bed, 1 bath”
  • Don’t use descriptive words that everyone else is using
  • Put an amenity in your title e.g. Hot tub, rooftop balcony etc..

Photos

  • The mistakes most people make with photos
  • What photo should come first and why
  • Other tips for optimizing your photos

Description

  • It’s all about standing out
  • Use short bullet points for quick/easy reading

Other tips

  • Why you should consider accepting one-nightbookings
    • Jasper’s experiment
  • Why you should consider being pet-friendly

Daniel’s service

  • Website produces 8-10 page report on how you can optimize your listing
  • Cost- $99
  • Additional $50 for Daniel to make the changes for you
  • Average ROI from Daniels service
  • FULL refund if you are not satisfied
  • Mention Jasper to get $10 off (refund after purchase)

Resources mentioned:

The Ultimate Guide to Your Airbnb Photo Section

optimizemyairbnb.com – Mention “jasper” to get a $10 off! (refund after purchase)

 

Connect with Jasper

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

Instagram: @GetPaidForYourPad 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/getpaidforyourpad

This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com where you can create a custom digital guidebook for your guests!

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 113:

Voice-Over

Welcome to Get Paid For Your Pad, the definitive show on Airbnb hosting, featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing, as well as real life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome, we are your hosts Huzefa Kapadia and Jasper Ribbers.

Speaker 2:

This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guide books for your listing. Make your own at Hostfully.com/pad. There’s a special for Get Paid For Your Pad listeners, you get a free guide book consultation after your make your guide book.

Jasper:

Welcome everybody to episode 113 of Get Paid For Your Pad. I am in Florida right now, I just finished Date With Destiny, if you’ve heard about it. It’s a Tony Robbins event. It was a six day event. It was very intense and it’s all about how to make the most out of your life, how to always be in a good state. Also to follow good stuff and learning lessons. I’m totally inspired and ready to take on life by the fullest.

To start this episode I just want to share a personal decision that I’ve made. As you know in Amsterdam the government has imposed a rule that Airbnb hosts can only host for sixty days a year. The rule’s actually been in place for a while but now Airbnb is going to enforce it and basically prevent Airbnb hosts from renting out more than sixty days for full entire homes by blocking their [inaudible 00:02:06].

I had to make a decision on what to do with my apartment. I’ve decided to go ahead and sell it and I’m planning to reinvest the money elsewhere, somewhere around the world. I don’t where yet but I’m going to basically do research and figure out what are the places where you can do Airbnb, where it’s profitable, and preferably also a place where I would like to stay myself. That’s one of the reasons why I love doing Airbnb is that I can stay in my own places whenever I want to.

That’s what I’m going to be doing in the next few months. I’m going to document every single step that I take. I know that there’s a lot of people who have similar plans, people who want to invest in Airbnb. They want to do their second Airbnb and potentially also abroad so I’m going to document everything. My plan is to, once I’ve set up these new Airbnb businesses in new places around the world, I’m going to publish a book which basically tells the whole story and also has a how to guide where I’m basically going to implement all the different learning lessons and takeaways that I’ve had throughout this process. I’m also going to post regular updates on Instagram. If you’re on Instagram and you’re not following me and are interested then you can follow me at Get Paid For Your Pad. Also on my Facebook page which is also called Get Paid For Your Pad, I will post a weekly video with some updates on how things are going.

Now we are going to talk to Daniel. Daniel is our guest for today. Daniel has worked for Airbnb and he’s an Airbnb host and he has a really cool service that’s called Optimize My Airbnb. He’s recently looked at my listing and sent me a report with improvements. I was really curious to get his insights because he’s a bit of an insider. He came up with some pretty awesome suggestions for my listing. I was very excited about it. I figured I have to share this with you guys. Daniel, welcome to the show.

Daniel:

Hey guys, thanks for having me Jasper. I think regarding your message at the beginning, you should solicit advice from some of your listeners at where might be a good place to buy. I’m sure some of them have some good intel.

Jasper:  Oh, absolutely. Yeah, that’s a very good idea. Anyone who has some good recommendations I would definitely appreciate any advice. You can email me at [email protected] What do you think?

Daniel:  Me?

Jasper:  Yeah.

Daniel:

When I was working at Airbnb I know a guy in finance who, there’s a lot of data available to employees and a guy in finance who I would consider smart took all this data. He was thinking of buying a house as well. He landed on Seattle. I would say look at Seattle.

Jasper:

Interesting, okay. I will definitely look at that. What other reconciliations there? One of the first things I’ll look at are what are the reconciliations right now, what’s the enforcement, and how likely is that going to change? I don’t want to buy an apartment and then having to sell it again in a few years when Airbnb blocks [inaudible 00:05:24].

Daniel:

Yeah, I hear you. I don’t know. This was a year and a half ago, two years ago. The regulations haven’t changed whatever they were back then. I do read a lot of news on Airbnb on a daily basis and I can’t think I’ve heard anything about Seattle. I’m guessing maybe the regulations aren’t as stringent as London and Barcelona, Amsterdam, San Francisco, the list goes on.

Jasper:

Right, okay. I’ll definitely look into that. Let’s start with an introduction about what you’ve been up to and what are you up to right now?

Daniel:

Sure. I’ll start with January 2013, that’s when I heard about Airbnb. My roommate told me about it and I was looking for a job at the time. I applied for a position there. Didn’t get it, got a job at a different place but stayed in touch and started to work in Airbnb a few months later and was in finance. Did work for a couple years. Then left to join a local Airbnb property management company here in San Francisco and then the greater Bay Area. I did that for about a year.

Then I decided to leave and start my own Airbnb property management company up. I did that in July, which I still have a small operation out here but I quickly realized that I might not want to be in Airbnb property management for just a few reasons, personal reasons. It wouldn’t let me travel as much as I wanted to. I started thinking about what I could do that was more online. I remembered when I was at the Airbnb property management company after I was at Airbnb. To clarify, when I say Airbnb property management it’s not affiliated with Airbnb. It’s a separate property management company that we only list our listings on Airbnb, short term property management.

I went back to that year, when I was at this company and when we had lagging listings I would go into the listings and fiddle around, change some things around that I felt would built in more bookings. Undoubtedly for the vast majority of these, after I made these changes, there was a booking day of or the next day. It was very quick. That was incentive enough to me. I, at the time, had a bonus and it was based on revenue. I started doing this a bit more to the listings that weren’t doing as well and I started noticing trends. That’s where the idea came from, then I refined it a little bit more and created this website which produces a 8 to 10, 8 to 12 page report depending on how much help your listing needs. That’s the flagship service that I offer right now.

Jasper:

Very cool. Let’s talk about some of the best recommendations that you have for Airbnb hosts. Let’s say the top three.

Daniel:  Yeah. Let’s get right into it. I think the first one that I would do because I probably see this the most is the title. A lot of people for some reason put two bed, one bath luxurious spacious house. There’s two things wrong with that title. Two bedroom, one bathroom typically the guest has already searched for this at a very minimum, likely they’ve searched for two bedrooms. One bathroom is just kind of assumed. Luxurious, spacious is descriptive but if you were to search your neighborhood there’s probably a lot of houses that have very similar descriptive words. Bright beautiful, whatever, these kind of generic descriptive words.

What I always do on a 100% of my listings, I’ve never not done this, is I’ll change the title. My recommendation is to put an amenity in the title, like if you have a rooftop balcony or a hot tub or, in some cities, parking available. Highlight this to the guests so that when they’re on the search results you’re giving them a few more bits of information that your competitors aren’t and they’re more likely to click on your listing.

That would be the one that I think is most common. The most important one though I think is photos. A lot of people have too many photos, a lot of people have blurry photos, a lot of people have numerous angles of the same room, a lot of people don’t highlight their best photos first. A lot of people don’t put captions on their photos. Photos are the most important of the listing. On 100& of listings I’ll change a lot with the photos because people are visual nowadays. People have, with Snap Chat and Tinder and Instagram, people have short attention spans. They’re as short as, or as quick as they can swipe their finger, that’s people’s attention spans.

You really want to highlight your best photos first and specifically obviously, but I guess it’s not so obvious, your very best photo first. Then to add on to that you want to be careful with your first photo because, this is the third recommendation. The second recommendation was photos in general. The third recommendation is your cover photo, your first photo because most people when they choose their cover photo they’re looking at the full size image on their laptop. Keep in mind when a guest is searching they see a smaller thumbnail version of that photo. This photo could look great when it’s blown up but if there’s too much detail, when that’s all shoved together it doesn’t look as good. The cover photo usually I do a photo that’s a little more zoomed in that someone can really figure out what they’re looking at and it’s obviously got to look good and be clear.

Jasper:  Yeah, I think you’re making some really good points. It’s interesting that one of the things you recommend that I totally agree with is when it comes to photos, I remember writing a very long article about how to optimize your photo portfolio and it’s on GetPaidForYourPad.com. One of the insights that I had was that I was thinking on the one hand you want to group the photos but at the same time you also want your best pictures to be first. I struggle with that a little bit because I was thinking makes sense to have, if you have three pictures of the bedroom to put them together, if you have four pictures of the living room you put them together.

Then it’s very important, as you mentioned the attention span is very short, so it’s very important to get as much interest with the first pictures. Those are the pictures that people will look at first. What you recommendation, what I think is very important is you pick the best photo of each of your sections so to speak. You put those first and then the rest of your pictures, those can be grouped together.

Daniel:

Yeah, that’s exactly what I recommend. You gave away my secret, Jasper.

Jasper:

That’s what I’m here for.

Daniel:

No, I’m kidding. There are no secrets. You can go to my blog as well and I give up. If you have time to read you can go and learn all the [inaudible 00:12:42], you can learn all the secrets that I have.

Jasper:  Right. The other things that you mentioned I think are also really good. You actually recommend that a different title for my listing, which is really awesome. I’ve implemented it as well. I really like how you came up with those stars, like the first word in my title now has two big stars on either side which makes it stand out, right?

Daniel:

Yeah, exactly. It’s all about standing out. There’s so much competition, especially whenever I go to a new city I’ll look at the competition. Especially in Amsterdam, there’s a ton of competition. You just want to stand out. Yeah, sometimes I’ll add in stars to a listing, which I think if a guest is scrolling down they don’t see that they … They’ll perk up and be more likely to click on the listing.

Jasper:

Yeah. That’s really good advice. Let’s do one more recommendation.

Daniel:

One more recommendation, okay. I will say there’s so many. Which one is …

Jasper:  Let me give you what I thought was one of your other really good insights that I’ve used to improve my listing. That is the about the listing section and the description. I always felt like I should provide people as much information as possible. To make it readable I use short paragraphs with very descriptive words that help people imagine the experience versus just listing the facts.

One of the things that you mentioned that really stuck with me was most people just don’t take the time to read everything. A better way to do it is to use short bullet points that capture the reader’s interest, that they can consume very quickly. Instead of having to read a whole paragraph, they’ll be able to just look at quick bullet points like, “Oh, it has a hot tub, it has a balcony. It has really awesome bed sheets,” or whatever it may be.

Daniel:

Yeah. I totally agree, that ‘s definitely a big one. Especially at the very top, just that first summary part. Yeah, I almost always do bullet points. It’s just to get the person excited, “Oh, they have a hot tub, they have a washer and dryer. They have a 80 inch HD TV. They have memory foam mattresses.” Just a bunch of bullet points.

One exception is the neighborhood part. I think it does make sense to be, I call it flowery language. I think in the neighborhood part it does make sense to have a bit more flowery language describe your neighborhood a bit more, what’s the guest going to see when they walk outside? With that as the exception, yeah. I always prefer bullet points suggestions. What I was going to say is I was thinking the three tips before I give you, and this one as well, is a listing tip. I was thinking of more of a hosting tip.

Jasper:  Okay.

Daniel:

One and I think this was the first blog post that I ever wrote. A lot of hosts complain to me that they’re guests don’t read. Which is true, they don’t. A suggestion that I make for a lot of them is at the very end of your listing, in the getting around section or maybe even the additional rules, you could put a short blurb saying, “Hey, if you read all of this just put this code word.” The example I give is banana pancakes. Put this code word in your message so I know you’ve read all the way down here because I find that guests who’ve read listings completely are always a good match.

If a guest inquires without that code word, you know that they haven’t read your whole listing. Some hosts do have some really important rules that guests need to know prior to booking. If you get a message without the code word you can just simply say, “Hey, I noticed that the guests who have the best experiences are those that read my whole listing, please make sure you read the whole listing and then send me another message,” something like that.

Jasper:

Right. That’s a good point. What do you think about the instant [book 00:16:51] feature?

Daniel:  I was never a huge fan of it. Me as a host it never worked for me. Then they started giving them a boost. It makes sense but it’s really not in the Airbnb style. I think it should be there but I think they push it a lot. When I search a box pops up that says put this instabook on, it’s better for you. When I created a listing recently or when I was optimizing a listing recently I actually turned it off on accident and I had to go through a six or seven step tutorial about why I shouldn’t turn it off. It took me five minutes. Then I eventually just turned it right back on because that’s what this host wanted. I think it’s needed but it shouldn’t be a huge focus that it is.

Jasper:

Right. I just remembered that there was one other thing that you recommend that I change. I’ve always been using two nights as a minimum stay. You recommend to setting it to one night and the reason why I put it at two nights in the first place was because I was thinking how it’s a lot of hassle to turnover the house for just one night. I just figured it would put a lot of stress on my property manager to do these one day turnovers.

After you recommended it to me I kind of revisited the idea of allowing one night stays. I had a chat with the lady that manages my house and she actually was okay with it. I guess in her mind she’s just thinking more bookings means also that I’m going to make more money as well. I decided to accept one night stays and I immediately got two one night bookings which is great. I also think that the more bookings that you get, the more people that you host, the more reviews that you get. It all helps. Other than the financial gain of having that one night, it’s also the activity, the extra conversion. I’m sure Airbnb looks at how many people look at your listing and how many people actually book it. Every booking I think helps to get more bookings in the future.

Daniel:

That’s true. Obviously assuming you’re a good host and getting good reviews. I think that’s true. The problem with two night stays and out of all the listings I’ve taken a look at, I would say 95% of them have at a minimum two night stays. No one ever has really one night stay. Another blog post I’m going to write is why you should be dog friendly. There’s probably five percent of listings on Airbnb that are dog friendly. Most people just defer to no pets but if you’re dog friendly now you’re opening up yourself to all these other guests.

The problem with the two night stay on Airbnb is that I wish they had a feature that would allow you to do two night minimum stays but if you have an orphan night, one night open that the guest could book that night. I’d like it to go even a step further that if you have an orphan night or just one night it would be ten or fifteen percent higher, the cost, than two nights or longer.

Jasper:

Yeah, that’d be a nice option to have. Nice functionality. You probably still know people with Airbnb so maybe you can suggest it to them.

Daniel:

Yeah. I should, I will.

Jasper:

I’ve tried a couple digital guide book too these passed months and I’ve decided to use Hostfully. I’ve used Hostfully to create an online and printable guide book to show my guests my favorite coffee places in town and my listing information. My guest feedback has been great. They use my recommendations and I’m getting few questions from my guests as a result. I’ve included screenshots of my guide book in Airbnb as a way to differentiate my listing from others. Make your own guide book at hostfully.com/pad.

All right. I definitely think you did a great job. I’ve thought a lot about my listing and obviously I’ve talked about Airbnb quite a lot on this podcast but also writing a book and a blog post and everything. I was very curious to see your report. I have to say I was quite impressed.

Daniel:

Good.

Jasper:

I definitely got some new insights from it so I think it was totally worth it. It’s obviously the reason why I invited you to be a guest on the show. I definitely recommend your service to everybody. Let’s go through the details and let’s talk about how it works. What does it cost? How can people sign up, et cetera?

Daniel:

Yeah. It’s obviously go to OptimizeMyAirbnb.com. There is a get optimized yellow button at the top right of every page. The cost is 99 dollars. I advertise on my home page earn 627% more within a week after my optimization. To clarify that I get a few questions on that. I, for an additional 50 dollars I’ll go in and make all these changes for you, plus I’m able to do additional analysis over photos and text.

Any one of my hosts who pays an additional 50 dollars, I monitor the listing for the next seven days. I compare how much reservation income they got in that next seven days and I compare that to their nightly rate. That’s where the 627% comes from. If you’re nightly rate’s 100 dollars you can expect on average 627 dollars in the next seven nights. That’s where that number comes from. If you have questions about that you can ask me.

The service is 99 dollars. If you’re not sure if you need it I always recommend hosts send me their listing. Just send me an email with their listing and I’ll let you know very honestly how much you could benefit from my service. There’s some people who I just give them a few tips and say you’re already doing great, it probably won’t be worth your money. The reason I do that is because I offer a full refund. If someone pays and they’re not happy then I’ll give them a full refund, no questions asked if you’re not satisfied.

The whole reason I’m doing this is so that hosts are successful. I offer follow up email support as well after you purchase it. I know there’s a lot of hosts, and I’m a host too. I know that pain of, “Why haven’t I got an inquiry in three weeks?” It’s really confusing. When you call Airbnb they’re not really forth coming, which makes sense because I’m sure they get millions of those calls a day. That’s how it works. You can make the purchase. I say delivery within 24 hours, sometimes there’s a lag depending on how many I actually have to do. That’s it. Super simple.

Jasper:

Awesome and of course for Get Paid For Your Pad listeners there always has to be a discount. What are you offering?

Daniel:

Yeah, I’m offering ten dollars off. When you go into the buy now page, there’s a section where it says, “how did you find my website?” If you want to put Jasper there, you’ll get ten dollars off. This’ll come as a credit to you after you purchase. You’re going to purchase the 99 dollars and then I’ll issue a ten dollar credit to you via credit card or PayPal however you choose to pay.

Jasper:

Awesome, that’s really cool. Thank you for your generous offer. I recommend everybody to go ahead and to send Daniel an email. Even if you think that he won’t be able to improve anything, he’ll actually take a look at your listing and let you know if he thinks he can make a lot of improvements. Based on my experience I definitely think that the answer is going to be yes for most people. Let’s say, you’ve looked at a lot of listings, what percentage of listings do you think you can make significant changes?

Daniel:

Okay, let’s put them into two categories, someone who just needs minor changes and someone who needs significant changes. I would say that because the report that I provide, as you know, it does have specific listing recommendations but I also provide general suggestions and hosting tips. One of the general suggestions I provide is respond to reviews. That’s for a few reasons, I also have a blog post on that. I would say that 60 to 70%, they’re report is 12 pages long, sometimes they’re even 13 pages long. That would be significant. Then I’d say 20 to 30% the report comes out to only 8 pages or so.

Jasper:

Right. It’s the majority of the listings that you look at, you send them a 12, 13 page report with quite a lot of recommendations.

Daniel:

Yeah. I have a lot of super hosts actually. I’m surprised at how many, probably about 30 to 40% who pay for my service are already super hosts. None of them have ever asked for a refund. They do find it valuable and I look at their listing, there are things that they can do to improve. That was something that was interesting to me when I first started this.

Jasper:

Interesting. Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. A lot of people in my community are actually already doing a pretty good job. It just makes me think that there’s two categories, there’s the people who do Airbnb on the side and they do it for fun. They create their listing, I’m not saying they’re doing a bad job but they’re not necessarily not trying to optimize everything or make the full hundred percent out of it, what they can get out of it. Then there’s a group of people who see it more as they have an asset and they want to monetize it and they want to just make the most out of it.

Daniel:

Yeah, people have a lot going on. If you wanted to focus on this you can really think about how ways you can improve. You can find blogs and read about ways to do it. People have a lot going on. I think there’s a lot of value in just saving them time by looking at their listing and making the changes right there for them.

Jasper:

Absolute. Awesome. Daniel, thanks a lot for coming on the show. I hope that a lot of people will go ahead and use your service. I’m sure they’ll probably make their money back really quickly. I made my money back really quickly because I immediately got two one night bookings. Thanks a lot and good luck with everything.

Daniel:

Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m a fan of the podcast so it’s an honor to be on.

Jasper:

Awesome. I’ll just really quickly repeat the offer. If you go to OptimizeMyAirbnb.com and in the “How did you find us” box you can mention my name and you get ten dollars off. The service will be 89 dollars instead of 99 and those ten dollars will be credited to you after you’ve purchased the service. Of course you can also go to GetPaidForYourPad.com where you will find the show notes of this episode and all the links as well as all sorts of other articles about Airbnb. Next week there will be another epsidoe so we’ll see you then.

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