January 11, 2015

10 Steps to improve your Vacation Rental's Ranking online

No matter with whom you are listing your vacation rental - holidayletting, homeaway, airbnb or other -  there is an algorithm for a ranking of listings in a town, region or country. The more competition you have in your area, the more important it is that your rental shows earlier than others.

Some websites offer you to pay for a better ranking with annual subscriptions (homeaway) or a temporary "hot deal" advertisement (Holidaylettings). However, you do not need to pay extra money for a better exposure, if you follow some simple steps.

You do not need to pay extra money for better exposure.


Think of Google's search engine. There is an algorithm that makes some webpages to be listed earlier than others. And you do not pay for being on top. (Unless you do and are marked as advertisement). But of course it requires good content and continuancy to become seen and clicked often before the system recognises the importance of your site and gives you a better ranking. It works similar for holiday rentals on holiday rental platforms. The more bookings and good reviews you have the more likely you are on top. But how to get there? Here are some recommendations, 10 steps, that all owners, host and vacation rental manger know:


1) Download the apps to your mobile phone to answer faster
Every vacation rental website has an app that you can download to your smart phone or tablet. An enquiry for your vacation rental will instantly appear on your screen, and you can answer directly. Although some websites allow 24h for your answer, I am sure, you get a better "score" when you are faster. And with your phone you are faster, even when you check your emails several times a day. Statistics claim, if you answer in less then 6 hours your chances to get the booking is higher. Most travelers ask more than one rental at the same time. Actually the websites encourage them to do so. Right after they sent you an enquiry the websites propose other properties. This is because they don't want to loose a potential customer in case one host reacts too slow. Answering faster improves your ranking, and of course if your fast answer has resulted into a booking, it's the best for your ranking.

2) Update your calendar regularly
Not only a potential guest can see that your calendar is up to date - but also the system recognises that you are active and therefore provides you with a better ranking (because you are more likely to attract a customer than someone who has not updated his/her calendar for months.) That means, click on the "update my calendar" button even when you do not have a new booking! It is easy and fast when you do it through the app mentioned above. And if your calendar is empty, block out some (not important or near) days and make it look like you have a booking. Who wants to rent a place where no one else goes? It builds up more confidence.

choose the best photos to advertise your vacation rental

3) Upload maximum amount of photos - and nice photos
Most websites allow 24 photos, so upload 24 photos. As photos help selling. Those who have them are better off in the algorithm than others. (Some websites indicate your are not 100% done with your listing if you have not uploaded all photos). You do not have to take 24 photos solely of your bedroom, bathroom or view. Take photos of the neighborhood, the restaurant you would recommend, your favorite dish, the public transport station, the grocery shop etc. People who have to self-cater like to know how easy it is to get the daily groceries or if restaurants are in walking distance. Reduce the quality of the photos in order they can load faster. Apply for the free professional airbnb photo service to get better pictures (although they are loading slowly). If you do your own photos, use a slightly wider angle lens, and switch all lights on. Do some staging. This all leads to potential booking, or at least people revisit your listing and read further, book mark you, or add you to their wish list (airbnb) and come back later... which all leads to a better internal statistic of your listing and for sure is rewarded by the system with a better ranking result.

4) Aim for a good enquiry-booking ratio
treat your potential guest friendly, ask questions about their travel plans, answer promptly and give good advise even before the booking in order to find out if they are a good match for your rental and then to get their booking.

5) Avoid declining requests and cancellation of bookings
If your acceptance rate is low, your ranking will not get better. And it gets worse, when you cancel an already booked deal. Although you can indicate the reason for a cancellation (guest request) it might have an impact on the ranking result. (When you cancel twice in 6 month you even get punished with 50 Euro deduction from your next booking with Holiday Lettings). And it's complicated to explain to Airbnb customer service why you cancelled to avoid a downgrading. So just avoid cancellation. Or let the guest cancel if they wish.

6) Have rates for all year round and for at least 15 months ahead
People often search for specific dates and your property does not show up for those dates if you have not entered your rates. Make sure you have a default standard rate for this year and the year to come.

7) Have an accurate address
Not only the full and correct street name and house number but also the pin set in the right place on the map and make it available (not hide) for potential customers (house number might be protected as private though). Especially when you have a city rental, guest feel comfortable knowing in which street you are located, and when they know the house number as well they might be able to check the area virtually with Google Street View. Again, this leads to potential booking, or at least better statistic results for your listing which is rewarded with a better ranking result. Also consider a pin with Google Map and a link back to your listing. Or even your own website.

8) Good reviews
Make sure all goes smoothly during a guest's stay. Communicate well, solve problems quickly and with charm, invite them for a coffee if you feel or feel it's necessary, follow up after they checked-out if they arrived safe etc. If you are listed on Airbnb, check out the Airbnb Groups for hosts. The New Host Group is especially helpful. Read older posts to get familiar with things that could happen. And if something happens search their advise if not sure how to handle. Even if a guest writes a bad review, you can turn around the effect with your answer to a not so nice guest review. Some hosts answer to all reviews to not have a bad review (with your answer) stick out. However, the system might rank you down (depending on the overall ranking). If your guest have not written a review, you can remind them friendly, especially when you are new and need a couple of reviews to start off. But some guest just are not into it. In the beginning as a new host, you might want to set the minimum stay down to 3 days in order to get more bookings and more reviews.

9) Join a host forum
Airbnb has Airbnb Groups and Homeaway has a host forum. Join in and read some subjects, you can learn a lot. Airbnb Groups like "New Hosts" and "Host stories" are even fun to read. Place a like or comment where you feel. I have the impression that it helped with my ranking (not that I did it intentionally, I found out later) as again, the system recognizes that you are an active host, or more online and therefor more likely to get deals faster.

10) Don't temporarily unlist
Some hosts think of unlisting their vacation rental for different reasons. When travelling themselves and not able to answer promptly online enquires, or because no one else can manage their rental. Others are renovating for an uncertain period of time. I would just block out a long period for your rental but stay listed online. You could upload a photo that includes a text saying "we are renovating for you from x to y and plan to reopen again in month z ". Or add the text in the description / summary of your holiday home. Unlisting is an act that interrupts the internal statistics for your vacation rental and will not have a good effect on the ranking for sure.

If you are a host and have your own experiences or thoughts, please share! Happy hosting.
And happy holidays to those who chose to book a holiday rental instead of the usual hotel room.


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