Airbnb Search Ranking: The Impact of Airbnb Personalization

Airbnb Search Ranking: The Impact of Airbnb Personalization

airbnb search ranking

In order to improve your Airbnb search ranking, you have to understand Airbnb’s search algorithm. Because a higher Airbnb search ranking translates into more visibility and more bookings.

Today, we’re going to discuss Airbnb personalization, where Airbnb customizes the search results based on guests’ profiles.

This means that if you and your friend search for properties in San Francisco for the same dates, you’re going to see different search results.

Read my ultimate Airbnb host starter guide

Why Does Airbnb Personalize Search Results?

As a business, Airbnb’s main goal is to generate revenue. This is mainly done through booking fees, so it’s no wonder that Airbnb wants more bookings.

In order to help guests make bookings faster, Airbnb shows users the listings they’re most likely going to like. They identify these properties by looking at a person’s search history and the places they’ve previously booked.

How Does Airbnb Personalization Work?

While Airbnb would love to personalize based on search impressions, Airbnb doesn’t have much data on that because properties stop showing up in the search results when it’s booked. That’s why Airbnb has to rely on factors such as past bookings, clicks, and dwell time.

If a guest has a history of searching for and booking at penthouses, he’s going to be shown similar properties in the search results. And if a guest’s indicated a preference for two-bedroom apartments, Airbnb is going to show her more two-bedroom apartments in the search results.

But what if a guest is brand new to Airbnb or hasn’t booked anywhere yet?

Encourage higher dwell times

Without any data on a guest’s preferences, Airbnb will look at dwell time in order to personalize his search results. Dwell time is defined as the amount of time a guest spends on a listing. The longer a guest spends viewing a listing, the more relevant Airbnb ranks that property for that guest.

We can test this out for ourselves.

Let’s open an Incognito window and not log in. This way Airbnb has no idea who we are. 

When I search for Stays in Philadelphia, PA from 9/26 to 9/30 for one guest, all of the search results on the first page are for a Private Room.

This makes sense because Airbnb knows that I’m not going to book a 4-bedroom apartment if I’m only one person.

But what about dwell time? Does it really matter?

airbnb search ranking

If I click on the listing highlighted below and spend a few minutes browsing the listing, I should expect to see it rank higher when I search for it again.

After reading through the listing a few times, I exit out of the tab and open a new one. I go to Airbnb and search for the same requirements as before.

Notice how the property I viewed before is now the top search result? It jumped from #9 to #1. And if you look at the listing carefully, you’ll notice that it’s not even a particularly good one. It has 2.88 stars and a guest satisfaction score of 57.

airbnb search ranking

This indicates that Airbnb does take into account dwell time when determining what properties to show to users. However, this is really only valid for guests with no prior bookings because Airbnb has no data on that user’s profile.

For guests who have prior bookings, it’s a lot harder to manipulate the search results this way. That’s because past bookings are a much higher indicator of property preference than dwell time.

Airbnb Search Ranking: How to Increase Listing Dwell Time?

While dwell time has little to no impact on Airbnb search ranking for experienced guests, you shouldn’t discount the benefits of increasing dwell time. By increasing dwell time, you can increase your search ranking and visibility for new users and users who haven’t logged in.

Even if guests spend a lot of time on your listing and don’t book, it still helps because Airbnb assesses search results in real-time. When a guest searches for a property, Airbnb tracks his browsing. If she scrolls through several listings or pages and clicks on your listing and spends time viewing it, your property gets a +1 and all the other listings get a 0.

The longer they read, the better for your listing

In essence, the guest is telling Airbnb that your listing is a good search result and that it should get bumped up. This may explain why you might get waves of bookings at a time.

If you have a large occupancy property or a high price tag, you’re already going to have a higher dwell time. People will take more time to think over larger purchases and will discuss it with others, especially if the guest is booking a 20-occupancy property for 20 people.

But for most people, listing a mansion on Airbnb isn’t a feasible option.

So, I’m going to share a few tips on how you can get guests to spend more time viewing your listing.

Listing Description

A longer listing description will increase dwell time because people will spend more time reading it. While Airbnb limits the listing summary to only 500 characters, you have almost unlimited space for the other sections. However, you want to make it as easy as possible for guests to read because many guests can get turned off by a long block of text that has no white space.

You should separate the listing description into segments and use bullet points.

A longer listing description also pushes down the “More Places to Stay” section, so it’s harder for guests to click away from your property.

It’s important to note that a longer listing description is only useful if people are spending the time to read it. This means you want to add information that is relevant and helpful to guests. You don’t want to spam the listing description with words just to increase its length.

Download a list of 154 Power Words to rock your Airbnb description

Listing Photos

While it goes without saying that you should have great photos, it’s especially important that your first five photos are amazing. These pictures show up in the collage and can play a huge role in increasing dwell time.

By having top-notch photos, you can spark interest and influence guests to click through your other photos. If I see a listing with quality photos, I’m much more likely to look at all the other photos, even if there’s 20 or 30 of them. You should also include photo captions to make your listing photos more impactful.

Because people tend to look at photos first, you need competitive photos. You want them to stand out and draw attention. I’ve seen some hosts include cats in their photos and others featuring people living in the space. Including people in your photos can help guests visualize the experience.

Case Study: Jessie's outdoor area

While I haven’t tried using photos with people in them, I know others who have and many of them have seen noticeable upticks in clicks and bookings. My friend Jessie has a big backyard and pool. When he takes a photo of it, it can look pretty empty. So, for his first listing photo, he put a picture of a wedding party that happened in his backyard.

It shows a lot of people having fun and enjoying themselves. When guests see that, it makes the property seem so much more attractive, despite knowing that the party won’t be there when they get there. Painting an image in your FPG's head is an amazing way to get more bookings while improving your Airbnb search ranking.

More places to stay

If you look at the listings in the “More Places to Stay” section, you’ll notice that Airbnb is showing guests properties that have similar photos and guest occupancies. This indicates that Airbnb’s algorithm considers photos when ranking and suggesting properties.

airbnb search ranking

So imagine you're searching for a property in a place with a lake. You'll see that many of the top search results have a picture of that lake.

When it comes to what the best listing photos are, I recommend you experiment a bit. If it’s winter, you could update your listing to include a photo of your fireplace or your snow-covered backyard. You can also get inspiration from other hosts. If you see a listing with a great photo, take a screenshot of it for future reference.

And if you decide to add text to your pictures, make sure you’re good at design. For instance, if you have a picture of your backyard that features a light blue sky, don’t add white text. That will make it hard to read. And if you want to show off your amenities (e.g. Netflix), you can turn on your TV, open Netflix, and take a photo of that. That's an easy way to improve Airbnb search ranking.

You don’t want to overdo it and overwhelm your guests. That's what poorly taken photos that are crammed with text. I’ve noticed that Airbnb refuses to boost listings with poor photos, even if they get a lot of clicks. That means it’s vital to have high-quality listing photos.

Listing Title

While the listing title doesn’t play too much of a role in regards to dwell time, it’s key in driving clicks to your listing. Because if you don’t get any clicks, it won’t matter how well your listing is optimized for dwell time.

I used to recommend using emojis in your listing title, but I recently found out that it’s against Airbnb’s Terms of Service. However, one of my listings still uses emojis, so I’m not sure how strictly Airbnb is enforcing this.

In my opinion, Airbnb has a lot of things in their Terms of Service. They can easily find something you’re violating if Airbnb has any reason to kick you off the platform. But again, that’s just my opinion, so play it safe and don’t risk getting your account banned for life.

Download a list of 154 power words to rock your Airbnb title

Less is more

I’ve noticed that flamboyant titles don’t work as much anymore. I recommend using simpler listing titles such as “Amsterdam Condo with a View – 2 Bedrooms”. Airbnb started implementing keyword search in their platform, where users can search for properties based on a certain term.

For instance, if you type in “Downtown View”, you’ll see a bunch of listings with those words in their titles. However, the results can vary since Airbnb is always testing landing pages. A lot of these resutls can be Experiences, though a few Stays can pop up as well.

Of course, what you include in your listing title, description, and photos depends on the type of person you’re trying to attract to your listing. If you use the right imagery, they’re much more likely to spend more time on your listing.

Tools to Optimize and Improve Ranking

You can use tools like Rankbreeze to help you optimize and improve your listing. Within the tool, you can quickly view how your listing is performing in comparison to the other listings in your city. It also allows you to view by guest count and enabling you to view the numbers that are most relevant to you.

Rankbreeze has an interesting model behind it. Not only do they provide this software, but for those looking to utilize their expertise, they also provide add-on services. I can’t really think of anyone more suited for this stuff either.

Currently, they’re offering a package that comes with an optimized listing description (applying their own methodology) plus promotions campaign. Which goes beyond what I’ve seen others try and props to them for measuring their work as well.

Read my detailed review & tutorial of Rankbreeze

Final Words on Airbnb Personalization

I’ve noticed that only a small set of listings on the first page are personalized. Once you get to the second or third pages, there's a lower correlation with a guest’s past bookings or dwell time.

That’s why you have to be on the first page of Airbnb’s search results. Airbnb favors listings that are ranked highly. It shows them on the first page more often than listings on other pages, regardless of a guest’s search history.

When you’re starting off on Airbnb, don’t focus so much on making money. Focus on getting bookings. Focus on boosting your Airbnb search ranking. When you get more bookings, you’ll get more reviews and rank higher. This results in more clicks and bookings. This is called the Circle of Success and can help you reach the first page of Airbnb’s search results. Once you get there, then you can charge a much higher price.

Personalization is not too big of a deal right now. However, I predict that it'll gain importance as Airbnb collects more data from users.

Read my ultimate Airbnb host starter guide

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