An Insider’s Guide To Optimising Your Airbnb Listing

Jonathan Sadler
May 2 · 14 min read

An Airbnb listing is your chance to showcase your rental property to the world. Get it wrong and you’ll limit your income potential. Nail it and you’ll maximise your occupancy and earnings.

Having worked at Airsorted — a management service that takes care of everything for hosts on Airbnb and other platforms — for a while now, I’ve learned a lot about what makes an amazing property listing.

I’ve selected 19 of my favourite tips for optimising your listing, and even thrown in a few extra ‘Pro Tips’ and links to more in-depth content if you want to dig deeper and get really technical.

Try these out on your listing, and let me know how you get on in the comments below!

And of course, if you’re looking for a host management service to tackle listing creation and everything else for you, check out Airsorted here.

Before you start: Understanding ranking factors

As an introduction to this post, it’s a good idea to understand what Airbnb is looking for in a listing when it chooses what to show when a guest makes a specific search on the platform.

I’ve broken this down to two main areas:

  • Trusted hosts — good, trusted and active hosts that look after their guests.
  • Relevant properties — the best property for that guest’s search, (i.e. the one they’re most likely to actually book).

Within these two areas, the Airbnb search algorithm takes into account hundreds of different factors to show the most suitable property for the individual searching in that location, at that time, of that age, of that gender etc… you get the idea.

Here’s Airbnb’s own documentation on how they determine search placement:

It’s also important to understand that there are two different types of optimisation that a listing needs to work toward:

  • Algorithms — the technical aspect of optimising to reach the best listing rank against a predetermined set of factors and logic;
  • and humans — because searchers don’t always click or book the very top search result.

Essentially, these cover the rational and irrational (emotional) factors we must consider — there’s no point in getting to the top of the search list if guests then discredit your listing on an emotional decision. This is, in theory, what reviews and ratings aim to tackle — turning qualitative and emotional features into rational numbers that can be ranked.

Listing Setup

1. Intriguing titles

The purpose of your title is to get someone to click. If they don’t click you’ll never get to share all the details of your property. You need to give away just enough information to peak their interest, leaving them eager to learn more.

BUT… Avoid generic words that everyone uses… you need to stand out!

  • Cozy
  • Comfy
  • Convenient
  • Central
  • Charming
  • Renovated
  • Luxury
  • Studio, Condo, Townhouse, apartment, home, house, etc.

Also:

  • Get as close to 50 characters as possible with 5–6 words.
  • Avoid all caps.
  • Abbreviations and symbols can save space, but use moderately.

Pro Tip: You don’t just want anyone to click, you want a target audience who’ll be more likely to enjoy staying at your property. So imagine what they’re looking for. Perhaps you’re aiming for couples on a weekend getaway? Cozy… Romantic. Lads on a city break? ‘Ideal location for bars and nightlife.’

In the words of advertising legend, David Ogilvy, “The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”

2. Timely titles

Is your listing in a city with major international events? The most valued feature of an Airbnb listing for people attending events is the distance they have to travel between their accommodation and the venue.

So if you’re increasing your prices during nearby events, another title hack is to include the event and distance from it in your title, adding relevancy and standing out from the crowd.

Pro Tip: Add the distance in ‘time’ rather than miles or km. ‘Minutes’ is universally well understood while units of distance vary around the world.

3. Get professional property photos

‘Listings with professional photos tend to earn 40% more, get booked 24% more often, and can charge a 26% higher nightly price’ — that’s Airbnb themselves.

We can all agree that professional photos are better than lacklustre fuzzy shots taken on a phone. If you don’t want to pay a professional, here are some quick tips for taking photos yourself:

  • Use the best camera you’ve got, a DSLR if possible to capture light and depth well
  • Take photos in the daylight, for natural light
  • Shoot landscape not portrait/vertical as these will appear best in Airbnb’s search results (especially on mobile)
  • Capture wide shots of every room — place your camera in the corner or doorway
  • Think about what will make a guest’s stay really enjoyable and capture more lifestyle and cropped shots. For example — a side table featuring a Sonos speaker next to a bed with luxury linen.

Here are two from the Airsorted archive to illustrate that last point — everything you need for an easy evening in bed and to get started for the day…

4. Put your property in the context of its location

If you can transport a guest’s mind and imagination to your home, they’ll already be halfway to staying. Add a couple of photos that set the scene — the first moment they arrive, where they’ll enjoy dinner, and evening sunset position on the balcony…

Here’s a quick selection from the most booked properties on Airbnb ever. Can you imagine opening the gate to this iconic home? Lying on the bed looking out from your Bali bamboo haven? Walking down a secret route to your hidden oasis? (I can almost smell the jungle!)

And here’s an unbelievably romantic evening scene from that last property above… Irresistible!

Here’s one coming home to a welcoming entrance in South Salt Lake:

Pro Tip: Take a few unique photos to show the personality of your local area too — your favourite coffee shop, best view and a secret local restaurant.

5. Low minimum length stay

You need to find a balance here. Clearly you may not want to be booking cleans and dealing with mountains of guest messages from people stay just 1 or 2 nights. However, the longer your minimum stay length is, the less potential guests your property will be relevant for.

I’d recommend choosing a 2 or 3 night minimum stay. The guest will be paying your cleaning fees anyway and if you’re using a host management service like Airsorted, you don’t need to worry about the hassles of changeovers and guest messages anyway!

6. Start with a low price — tick the 20% discount

Now I know this seems obvious, but the influence that 5-star reviews have on your ability to earn more on Airbnb is huge!

I’m going to quote straight from Airbnb’s website here:

“New listings that get booked and reviewed in the first month appear more often in search results and get an average of 3.6x more bookings in their first 3 months.”

When you first list on Airbnb, getting at least five 5-star reviews as quickly as possible should be your top priority. Once you’ve earned some review-based credibility, you’ll be able to increase your pricing.

In order to do this though, you’ve first got to lower your daily price. It’s also good to have a lower minimum length stay too. I’d argue that even 1 night stays are worth it here — just get your first reviews as quickly as possible, then you can start commanding higher prices.

7. On pricing…

Pricing rightly deserves its own article (or book!) but here are a few quick points to keep in mind:

  • Airbnb wants to offer the best value to its users, so has naturally been recommending lower and lower prices over time.
  • Be sensible, not greedy. Don’t price your property as high as the newly refurbished one next door if yours simply hasn’t got the same level of polish — be honest with yourself, and your guests.
  • Balance your occupancy — if you’re achieving 100% occupancy then increase your pricing. If your occupancy is low, especially during high season, then lower your price.
  • Weekend pricing should be 20–50% higher than week days, depending on your location and seasonality.

Pro Tip: There are several companies that provide automated pricing. Airsorted is one of them — with a pricing algorithm that takes in a multitude of data points to price your nightly rates appropriately, balancing pricing and occupancy for maximum earnings. Factors include seasonality, major local events, how far in advance the available dates are, listings views and booking conversion rate… to name just a few.

8. Enable instant booking

Yes, I know you’d love to personally vet, interrogate and Google every guest that stays but the fact is, Instant Booking really improves occupancy and search rank.

It’s even a top-level option for users to filter results — so if you don’t have this enabled, your listing won’t appear for anyone who selects that option (and that’s a lot of people).

A recent study into the Airbnb search algorithm, using data from Cape Town properties, found that 62.4% of Page 1 results had Instant Booking enabled. Page 2, just 39.6%.

So — I’d recommend that you enable Instant Booking and trust Airbnb’s vetting process. View their FAQ here to learn how they do this. In the US, Airbnb’s vetting even includes them performing background checks against various public databases.

9. Use headings to break up your description

In marketing and content we strive for good ‘scannability’ — how easy is it for a reader to quickly scan through content and find what they’re looking for.

Use headings to divide your description into sections and signpost what each is about — this will help potential guests find the info that’s relevant to them, and help surface your best property features.

10. Add lists to your descriptions

Again, these help break up text about different features in the property. They’ll make your description easier to read and quick to digest — especially for the >50% of visitors to Airbnb’s website that come from mobile.

Guests often look through dozens of listings before they make a booking, so being able to quickly communicate key features will greatly improve your chances of a booking.

11. Room summaries

Simply stating the sleeping arrangements (e.g. 2 double beds, 1 sofa bed) will never do the rooms in your property justice. Add a short description of each room, highlighting their best features — it’ll really help potential guests start to visualise staying there.

Larger groups of guests often worry about who will have which room when they stay, so it’s important to showcase each room individually, giving the booker peace of mind that every guest in their party will be happy.

12. Map location

Okay, this is a neat little trick, if slightly cheeky. Airbnb withholds specific property locations until a booking is confirmed (otherwise anyone could find out exactly where your place is, and when it’s likely to be unoccupied — not good!).

When you’re setting up your property’s approximate location, you can slightly adjust the positioning of its general location area on the map. So a bit of tactical positioning here can help your property appear in search results for desirable attractions or areas nearby.

13. Provide these amenities

Below is a list of amenities that are known to rank highly with appearing on the first page of Airbnb’s search results. They’re also the ones you need to have in order to list as ‘Business Ready’ — which means more…well, business:

  • Iron
  • Laptop-friendly workspace
  • Hangers
  • Hair dryer
  • ‘Essentials’ (toilet paper, soap, towels, bed linens, and pillows)
  • Internet + Wifi (I know this sounds weird… But see the pro tip below)
  • Shampoo
  • 24-hour self check-in (a key lockbox, keypad, smartlock, or by getting the key or access from a doorperson or front desk attendant)
  • Smoke detector
  • Carbon monoxide detector — £12 and our data shows a 7.5% uplift in occupancy! Buy this one.
  • TV

Pro Tips:

  • List your internet as ‘Internet’ as well as ‘Wifi’ (you can’t have wifi without internet, and it ranks higher!).
  • TV doesn’t seem to help rankings too much, but it is a Business Ready requirement.
  • Make sure to add your ‘Self check-in’ details under Guest Resource > Directions in your listing settings.

14. Fill out your host profile

The sharing economy is a personal business based on trust and human interaction.

To help build that trust and emotional connection, it’s well worth completing your profile. Here’s a checklist:

  • Upload a friendly profile photo of yourself, or yourself and partner
  • Write lots of lovely things about yourself under ‘about me’ — why you love having guests stay, your hobbies, career and a few interesting facts about you (Airbnb suggests adding your ‘life motto’, but that may be taking things a little far…).
  • Add any languages you can speak, even if you only speak a little of some.
  • Provide several forms of Government ID if you can, plus your phone number, personal email and work email — just do everything you can to confirm that you’re a real person.

Ongoing Actions

15. Build up your reviews

This is another topic that deserves its own section and it’s not something you can immediately adjust on your listing to improve.

However, guest reviews are make or break for the performance of your listing and can propel you to the higher echelons of Airbnb as a Superhost, Airbnb Plus listing and more… but only if they’re all (or at least very nearly all) super positive.

The key to getting good reviews is 1) making sure you set realistic expectations with a listing that’s amazing, but not dishonest 2) delivering on those expectations 3) going beyond the expectations to seal the deal.

The third part of this doesn’t need to be an all out charm offensive, complete with an in-house butler and champagne on ice . But a little bit of surprise and delight when your guest first arrives makes all the difference.

Pro Tip: Leave a postcard on your kitchen table thanking your guests for staying, and politely prompting them for a good review if they enjoy their stay.

16. Include a review in your description

With a little skill (and a little luck) you should receive some fantastic reviews after your first few bookings. While reviews contribute to your ratings, which are very visible, the actual content of reviews is at the bottom of your Airbnb page.

There isn’t a better way to deliver a strong emotional hook and social proof than a perfect review. But if it’s out of sight at the bottom of your listing, how many potential guests will actually see it?

What you need to do here is take the best one-liner you’ve got from a genuine review, and paste it right at the top of your description, in quotation marks.

“We had the most wonderful stay ever at this perfect apartment — our dream honeymoon was made a reality!” — Gemma

17. Respond quickly to guests

Responding to guests promptly is really important — in this age of impatience, everybody wants answers as soon as possible.

In the context of Airbnb, the longer you leave a booking enquiry unanswered, the more likely they are searching for another option.

As professional Airbnb host managers, Airsorted aim to respond to all guest messages within 30 minutes. We’ve built some neat tech to handle this, too.

18. Update your Airbnb calendar regularly.

…and I mean regularly! Every week, at least. That same Cape Town study I mentioned earlier also found strong correlation between properties that updated their calendar on average 5 days ago and those that are more likely to appear on the first page of search results.

19. Test, test, test.

My final Airbnb optimisation tip is to test. You should continuously test changing different parts of your listing and see the difference. Get geeky. Set yourself an optimisation goal, define the metrics you’re measuring against and track your changes and results over time.

You can view your listing stats by Search Date by visiting airbnb.com/stats, or by pulling the data via the API if you’ve got access.

From here, you’ll be able to track your listing’s views and number of booking enquiries, and you can use these to measure the impact of any changes you make to your listing.

At Airsorted, as we manage a large number of properties we’re actually able to aggregate this data for the benefit of all of our hosts. For example, we can use it to create alerts for high demand dates, and to test listing optimisations against multiple properties.

Bonus

I couldn’t share this guide without also including three major factors that will almost certainly improve your Airbnb performance — but they aren’t quick wins, and require a little investment on your part.

1. Build reviews fast

This is one of Airbnb’s own tips and something I’ve seen done well across many hosts at Airsorted.

The goal is to build your number of 5-star reviews as quickly as possible. Doing this accelerates your journey to the first page of guests’ search results — as in, it’s not just the amount of 5-star reviews, but the rate of incoming 5-star reviews that Airbnb gets excited about.

In order to achieve this you’ll need to take into account all the above tips, but it’s especially worthwhile to use the lower pricing tip (Tip 7) to attract bookings quickly, get reviews and build your listing reputation.

2. Unlock Superhost status

Becoming a Superhost on its own won’t improve your search ranking, but it is sure to improve your click and enquiry rates — so, the percentage of people that view your listing preview and then click, or make an enquiry.

Read how to become an Airbnb Superhost here.

3. Interior design

There are over 5 million Airbnb listing worldwide — and yours needs to stand out. Guests may be looking for a unique experience, something different to (or better than) their own home or, often, better or different to anything a hotel can offer.

Craft your Airbnb home with love — imagine what guests who have travelled a long way would want, and will enjoy. Curate your property based on who you’d like staying. Romantic getaways? Have cosy lighting and warm furnishings. City breaks? Lots of light and functionable amenities. But always have easy-to-access power plugs — they’re loved by all…

Read our post on ‘ Why every Airbnb host should use an interior design company ‘.

And finally…

Winning at Airbnb doesn’t stop at creating an awesome listing. You’ve got to deliver as a host, too. And that means making everything on your listing and more a reality.

Next month, I’ll be sharing our best hacks for how to secure 5-star reviews every time. If you’ve enjoyed this piece, subscribe below to receive the next one straight to your inbox, before anyone else.


Questions? Ideas? Tips? Write them in the comments!


Jonathan Sadler is the Growth Marketing Manager at Airsorted — a hassle-free host management service for property owners in 28 cities around the world. Listing on multiple platforms including Airbnb, Booking.com and HomeAway, the team aim to optimise your pricing and occupancy to earn you more without any of the hard work!

Get an estimate of what you could earn while you’re away at airsorted.com

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Jonathan Sadler

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Company successes, learnings, news and inspiring host stories.

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