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EP197: This Week in the World of Airbnb

It’s the top search question on Airbnb’s website and something every host has wondered: How do I improve my search rankings?

Airbnb released a blog post this week that sheds a little light on the factors the platform uses to determine your position in search results, offering three specific things you can do to work the search algorithm to your advantage and immediately boost your rankings.

Glenn Carter, Director of Marketing at Hostfully, is joining Jasper this week to discuss the data points that Airbnb uses to determine search results, as well as the reasons why you may have difficulty finding your listing online. They also cover another Airbnb press release that emerged this week involving access to their Application Program Interface (API), which will allow hosts to pull their data for third-party applications.

Also making headlines this week are some new Airbnb partnerships. The site is teaming up with a Florida developer to build an apartment complex specifically designed for home-sharing and offering extra support to hosts in the Airbnb Select program—in the form of home-improvement loans and advice around cosmetic improvements and photography for their listings. Listen in and learn how to help Airbnb help you make the most of your listing.

And starting Monday, don’t forget to check out Jasper’s new travel vlog on YouTube!

Topics Covered

Article #1: Airbnb Blog: Answers to Your Top Search Questions

  • Covers factors that influence position in search results
  • Over 100 data points considered
  • ‘Wishlisting’ does help
  • Repeatedly changing listing does not help/hurt
  • Make sure calendar updated daily
  • Superhost status doesn’t boost position (but factors required do help)
  • Rejected bookings result in lower ranking
  • Most critical factors are Instant Book, fabulous first photo and competitive price
  • Also addresses finding your listing online
  • Jasper recommends zooming in on map
  • Setting conditions on Instant Book may prevent you from seeing listing
  • Airbnb uses sophisticated algorithm to personalize search results

Article #2: Airbnb is Teaming up with a Local Developer to Create a Large Apartment Complex in Florida

  • 324-unit complex specifically designed for home-sharing
  • Tenants allowed to rent for up to 180 days, share profits with landlord
  • Located in Kissimmee, near Disney (market ripe for Airbnb)
  • Plans to build five more complexes in other cities
  • Risky if municipality sets anti-Airbnb regulations
  • Concept of aparthotels has existed in South America for many years
  • Airbnb can control physical guest experience through design of units
  • Experience still individual (tenant lives there at least half of year)
  • Additional services for hosts in building (i.e.: new sheets, laundry service, smart locks)
  • May start trend of developers catering to short-term rentals

Article #3: Airbnb to Offer Loans and Advice to Hosts Under New Scheme

  • Associated with Airbnb Select program (luxury brand pilot underway)
  • Provides loans for hosts to make home improvements
  • Offers advice around cosmetic improvements, photos
  • Loans repaid through revenue from bookings

Article #4: Connect to Our API, Connect to Millions of Travelers on Airbnb

  • Allows hosts to pull data into third-party applications (e.g.: pricing tools, Hostfully)
  • Only offered to select few in past
  • Underscores efforts to open platform, facilitate growth via partnerships
  • Still have to fill out form to gain access

 Resources Mentioned

Article #1: blog.atairbnb.com/search

Instant Book

Article #2: cnbc.com/2017/10/12/airbnb-is-teaming-up-to-build-a-home-sharing-complex-in-florida.html

Article #3: theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/14/airbnb-to-offer-loans-and-advice-to-hosts-under-new-scheme

Article #4: airbnb.com/partner


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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 197

Jasper: Welcome to Get Paid for Your Pad, a 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.

AD: Before learning about Aviva IQ, I used to spend so much time managing my guest communications manually. Now, with Aviva IQ’s easy to use automated service, my workload has reduced by 80 percent. Did I mention it’s free? Automate your messages now at www.avivaiq.com

Jasper: Welcome, another news episode of Get Paid for Your Pad. Today, I’m very excited to be hosting this podcast together with the one and only, Glenn Carter. Of course, he is the head of marketing for Hostfully. Glenn, what’s up man?

Glenn Carter: Nothing much, man. How are you doing? Where are you now?

Jasper: Tai Pei. The other side of the world

Glenn: I read today that Hurricane Lan is turning away from you, that’s good for you and your host country.

Jasper: Well, actually, I was kind of looking forward to it because where I’m from in Holland, we don’t have any of those exciting things. We don’t have tsunamis, we don’t have Hurricanes, we don’t have typhoons. We just have cheese and cows and flat lands and grasslands, so, I was kind of excited to experience my first ever hurricane. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me.

Glenn:  I think your definition of exciting is very different from mine, then.

Jasper: What gets you excited

Glenn: Definitely not hurricanes and typhoons.

Jasper: What we did get was a couple of days where it just poured down with rain non-stop. It was, I had never seen so much rain come out of the skies. It was really crazy. Literally 24 hours a day. I’m talking about full-on pouring down with rain.

Glenn:  Is that normal for this time of year?

Jasper: It actually rains a lot in Taiwan, but it was supposed to be the start of the dry season. Hurricane passes by, it brings a lot of water. I guess this is kind of exceptional/

Glenn: I hope you stay dry.

Jasper: It’s funny, yesterday was the first sunny day I’ve seen and the one item people use most here is the umbrella. Everywhere you go they have holders for umbrellas. Or they give you plastic covers to put around it so it doesn’t get the inside wet. Even when it’s sunny people are wearing umbrellas, they don’t want to get a tan. Whether it rains or it’s sunny, people walk around with umbrellas.

Glenn:  I know this isn’t Airbnb related, but I remember reading that an umbrella sharing platform is quite popular in that area.

Jasper: It’s funny, I kind of imagine – sometimes it’s hard to find your umbrella. If you walk into a coffee place, they have an umbrella holder, and everyone buys these umbrellas at the 7-11 so they all look the same, you’re trying to find your umbrella, a lot of the time it’s like I don’t remember which is mine.

Glenn: It’s like your luggage at the airport, you have to tie a red bow to it.

Jasper: I feel like umbrellas are a sharing commodity here I don’t think they care which they have as long as they have one.

Glenn: I think if it rains as bad as you say it does, then absolutely.

Jasper: We have some pretty interesting topics to discuss today, let’s not get carried away. I’m sure we could talk for hours about different countries. There are some cool things to talk about. The most interesting thing that came out this week is from Airbnb, which is sort of unusual. They published a really cool blog post at blockdot.at. Airbnb.com/search. It talks about some of the factors that influence the position of the Airbnb listing in the search results and that’s obviously something a lot of hosts have questions about and everyone is trying to figure out. What can I do to have my listing show up higher in the search results? Airbnb has shed some light on these ranking factors. It’s a fairly long post. One thing that I found interesting is that wish-listing does help improve search placement. That’s something a lot of people have wondered about. Does it really help to have your friends and guests wish list? It does, in fact. It’s one of over 100 factors that help your search rank. I imagine it’s not one of the most important factors, it should help. Changing photos doesn’t improve search placement. There’s no need to change those. I think the one thing that does help is updating your calendar every day. They’ve acknowledged that instant booking does help your search placement. Airbnb has been pushing for instant book for a while. I think instant book is probably a decent factor. Being a super host does not improve search placement. The factors that make you a super host do help you get ranked higher. It’s about no cancellation, response times, higher acceptance rates. That makes sense, at the end of the day, Airbnb wants to show the listings that guests want to book. Those are the most interesting things I noticed, what about you, Glenn?

Glenn: Yeah, I mean, you covered most of them. From a marketing perspective, I find these kinds of things fascinating. We’re so focused on Google rankings and then a platform like Airbnb comes out with this and its’ a breath of fresh air. We’re seeing this now with amazon as well. We’re likely see a similar thing on Airbnb, the most interesting thing for this is that Airbnb continues to aggressively push for hosts to switch to instant book. It’s one of hundreds of data points, but it’s pretty clear to me it’s one of the most critical aspects of your search ranking. You can liken this to your key words you’re trying to place in your article for google to rank you. This is the secret sauce of sorts. Another thing that was always interesting to me that I hadn’t heard confirmation of before but suspected, was that if you reject bookings. Airbnb sees rejected booking as one of the worst experiences for guests on their platform and they’re going to punish you for it. As hosts, we have to be careful that we’re not doing this on a regular basis and if we’re doing it here should be a good reason.

Jasper: They don’t directly punish hosts. They don’t penalize you for not accepting a booking. Obviously from Airbnb perspective, it creates a negative customer experience and they want to minimize it. By the way, I think you’re right about instant book. I don’t know if that’s the reason why they published this blog post? I just realized there’s a question, “how can I improve my ranking in the search results?” and the answer is “the best way to immediately improve performance in search is to enable instant book.” That’s another sign that maybe this blogpost was placed just to get people to enable instant book. They also mention two other things you can do to quickly boost your ranking. The first is interesting “make a fabulous first impression. Make sure your first photo is an attractive, bright, high quality, horizontal image of your listing. The more clicks you get from curious travelers the higher you’ll rank in search listings over time. An enticing, realistic photo is the ultimate way to show off your space in an instant.” That makes a lot of sense. It’s really important. Then also, “price your listing competitively. Travelers are looking for a great value for their trip and by using tools like smart pricing or setting your own competitive price, you can get the benefit of well-informed pricing recommendations.” So, this is another thing that Airbnb has been pushing for like to try to get people to make their places affordable. They want to be the more affordable option alternatives to hotels. That’s why their smart-pricing algorithm tends to underprice. Those are a few more interesting points in the article.

Glenn:  Worth keeping in mind – it’s all about user experience. That’s why they’re pushing instant book, that’s why they’re mentioning about rejected bookings. It is the exact same thing, I’m going to keep going back to Google. Google knows that if you search something on google, you click a page, and then go back to google. They know you didn’t get what you wanted from that website, so they’re going to dock that website points in their algorithm. And Airbnb is moving toward this. As an Airbnb host, you need to constantly be aware of user experience. Is my action going to enhance or hinder that experience?

Jasper: The second part of the blog post is about finding your listing online. I think it’s good they provide some insight on this topic because it’s good for the Get Paid for Your Pad community. Almost every week I get emails from people saying, hey I just published my listing, it’s been two days and I can’t find it. I take a look and I can always find it. The main reason is they don’t zoom in on the map. If you were to publish a listing in New York and you searched New York, there’s just too many listings. Not all the 10-15-20,000 are going to show up. You want to find your listing, you zoom in on the map and your neighborhood and usually you can find it. The article mentions another reason. That has to do with instant book. If you enable instant book and you set the condition that only guests with a positive review can book your place, and then you’re not logged into your Airbnb account or you don’t have a positive review. That’s another reason some people get confused trying to find the listing. The last point, the listing that Airbnb shows is personalized. IT depends on the behavior of the user in the past, the type of listing you’ve booked in the past. Just because the listing doesn’t show up when you do a search doesn’t mean that it won’t show up when other people search.

Glenn: Yeah, this is a sophisticated algorithm that other people are using. Just because your listing didn’t show up doesn’t mean it’s not on the platform. 99 out of 100 times, when people email me, they’re in panic, like “help, help, my listing didn’t show up.” I can usually find it within a minute or two, so,

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Jasper: Anyway, let’s move on to the next topic. This is really interesting. Airbnb is teaming up with a local developer to create a large apartment complex in Florida. It’s going to be a 324-unit apartment complex specifically designed for home-sharing. Tenants that rent the apartment in the building will be allowed to rent out their rooms for up to 180 days. They will share some of the revenue with their landlord. It’s really designed as a sort of win-win situation for the landlord and the tenant. I think it’s a great initiative. It’s hard to rent out a condo in an apartment building because there’s the HOA that will prevent it. Pretty much every single lease agreement has some sort of clause where short-term renting is prohibited. This opens up possibility for people who travel a lot or digital nomads like myself. Right now, in Tai Pei my friend is renting this apartment, but he has a deal with the landlord and he rents it out on Airbnb when he’s not here, and that covers rent when he is out of town. I think this is a really cool solution. What are your thoughts Glenn?

Glenn: Yeah. This building is going to be finished in 2018 in Kissimmee, Florida, which is right near Disney. You’re going to have a lot of travelers. It’s the right market for Airbnb hosting. It was built with hosts in mind, like keyless entry and larger storage units when they’re not there. They can sublet their apartments for half the year. According to the CNBC article, they’re working to build five other complexes like this in the next few years. Airbnb is trying to push this model. I think you said it well. This solves a major pain point for Airbnb, which is condo by-laws. So, it doesn’t really matter what municipalities say about short-term rentals. The condo board can ban short-term rentals which leaves condo owners unable to rent their place. Building these buildings will solve this particular issue. If a municipality comes around and bans short-term rentals. I’m not sure where that leaves these particular units, I’m not familiar with Florida laws. If this type of building was built in a different city with very anti- Airbnb laws, then it wouldn’t necessarily bode well. Who knows what future politicians are going to put in terms of regulations with short-term rentals. It is risky in that respect. I think it’s noble. I think it will go over well with investors. I think this is a very good move by Airbnb.

Jasper: I imagine they have done some research and spoken to local politicians and what they think about it. If they put down one of these towers in Miami I don’t think it would work, because Miami has very strict regulation on Airbnb hosting. The location, because the expectations are that they aren’t going to run into regulations in the future. I guess being close to Disney make sense. The municipality where Disney is bringing in a lot of money, that could be the reason they are located there.

Glenn: They just have to be careful with other expanding markets. I had an Airbnb rental in that area.  The entire economy is based on tourism so it’s unlikely they’re going to band short-term rentals at all. So, I think you’re right. Airbnb is being very careful with where they chose to have these complexes. You never where the political winds are going to blow, you have to be very careful with 10-20 years, you may have a mayor in there that’s very anti-short-term rental after high-profile incidents. You have to be careful.

Jasper: Absolutely. There’s some risk. It’s funny because I spent a bit of time in South American and this concept has been around for a long time. They’re called apart-hotels. They’re pretty much this, big apartment buildings, there’s a person down stairs who checks in guests. All the apartments are owned by individual owners, but the owners can rent out the units. It’s convenient. It’s a similar thing. What I like about this is that Airbnb can help with the design of the building to suit the needs of travelers. I think this building will give some edge over some other buildings.

Glenn: Yeah, we spoke about user experience with the search algorithm with what Airbnb employs. They get to design the building and design guest experience associated with that particular property. The risk is that travelers tend to book with Airbnb because they’re not hotels. The more they become like hotels, they’re going to alienate those travelers. Clearly there’s a market for all kinds of travelers. I guess they have different market segments in mind.

Jasper: Yeah, exactly. The article addresses this point. The spokesperson mentions this is not a hotel format. The host creates a personalized experience for each guest. Even though you’re staying at a place designed for short-term rentals. The tenant is still staying in that property at least 180 days a year. It’s not an apartment that’s like only being used by travelers. There’s someone living there. I think it’s different from a hotel. One last thing I want to mention, there’s going to be some services for Airbnb hosts in the building. You want to get some new sheets, you need to get your laundry done and stuff, there’s going to be all sorts of services that help you manage your unit. It’s optimized for Airbnb hosting, which makes it really convenient.

Glenn: Absolutely. Especially remote hosts, if you’re there for half the year. There’s a lot of Canadians that go down to Florida, they call them snowbird. You rent this out on Airbnb and you take advantage of those services. I think it’s fantastic. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot more of these popped up. Not necessarily Airbnb sponsored, but I think you’ll see a lot of developers in the future catering toward short-term rentals

Jasper: All right, let’s move on to the next topic, which is, let me see – okay, so there’s another article that came out that talks about Airbnb select, the luxury brand that they’re looking to launch. Some hosts have been selected to participate in a pilot program where Airbnb is going to help make improvements to your home to make it more luxury. There’s talk about Airbnb providing loans for Airbnb to invest in their select brand.

Glenn:  This was an interesting development. It’s been a pretty busy week for announcements. It’s going to range from advice on cosmetic improvements as well as loans, which then can be repaid through the bookings. I’m sure there will be a pre-established percentage. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of Airbnb hosts to make their property more desirable. Maybe it’s just a pilot project. They then may offer it to other hosts as well.

Jasper: I almost forgot, there’s one big news article that came out. Airbnb has finally opened up to API. Third-parties can get access to Airbnb data that’s out there. I’m not very technical. I just about know what an API is, I think Glenn, you’re a bit smarter than me, I’ll let you take the lead.

Glenn: I’m not IT, I’m head of marketing. We are the two worst guys. From what I understand, this will allow third-party applications to pull data from Airbnb in any management software you use. Hostfully guidebooks. A lot of developers have been getting their data by scraping the site, which means they have bots that have crawl the website, this is a lot more formal and official. Airbnb companies can now plug directly into Airbnb data. I think this is an interesting development. It underscores how Airbnb can open up their platform as they aim for greater growth. This announcement comes amid other news, this is the biggest, last week we had the WeWork partnership, and what we just talked about, Airbnb partnering with this building, the API is the strategic umbrella, the final push.

Jasper: in the Airbnb news Facebook group, someone is actually asking what an API is, I don’t actually don’t know what it stands for. Anyway, a few people are mentioning that the news isn’t as good as it sounds because you still have to fill out a form to get access to all the data. It’s still restricted to some people, they still seem to be cautious of the data they’re providing. The only way to find out is to fill out the application form and see who gets access to it. I think this story will be continued.

Glenn: Yes, I’m just looking on Google, API stands for application program interface.

Jasper: I was thinking to get someone in the next couple weeks to get someone who knows what he’s talking about. I have a couple of shout outs before we let everybody go. I got an email from Mary, she lives in North Carolina and she is looking for someone to do a small seminar. As a new Airbnb host, she is looking for someone to do a 90-minute presentation on how to get started with Airbnb and she offers the speaker a few nights in her rental house. So, if you are in North Carolina, please reach out to me and I will connect you to Mary and we can make this happen. Also, I wanted to announce that starting on Monday, I am going to start a video log, so, I’m going to do daily video of me talking about Airbnb stuff and showing people what I’m doing with my traveling. Showing people funny things about the place where I am, I think it will be really fun. My plan is to commit to doing one every single day. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up with it. What do you think, Glenn?

Glenn: I don’t want to see any typhoons or hurricanes.

Jasper: Do you follow any video logs?

Glenn: No, I don’t. I’m old-school.

Jasper:  My nephew who is 12 years old told me to do YouTube for video logs, I finally have realized he’s smarter than me and I should follow his advice

Glenn: kids these days …

Jasper: I know, he knows more than I do. In any case, I’m going to publish these videos on my YouTube channel Get Paid for Your Pad. You’ll be getting a nice, daily email from me. If you do want to follow me, you can sign up for the newsletter at GetPaidForYourPad.com

Glenn:  I will be signing up.

Jasper: Okay, I’ll see how long you can keep up with me. Do you have any final thoughts?

Glenn: Nope. That’s it. Jasper, stay dry in Taiwan. We’ll be talking to you next week.

Jasper: Thanks Glenn for joining, and thanks to all the listeners. I hope you enjoyed the episode and we’ll see you all on Monday with another episode and hope to see you on my YouTube channel as well with my daily vlogs. Take care and goodbye.

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