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Ep.23 Winning the Airbnb Algorithm Game



Short Summary


Looking to maximize the visibility, bookings, and profitability of your Airbnb listing? Are you ready to unlock the potential of your property and achieve the ultimate goal?

Well, look no further because we have the solution that will help you attain your desired outcome. By sharing the strategies and preparation techniques required to optimize your Airbnb listing, you will be able to attract more guests, secure more bookings, and ultimately enhance the profitability of your property.

Get ready to take your Airbnb listing to new heights and experience the rewards you've been dreaming of.



In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Maximize your property's visibility and bookings by understanding the importance of timing and preparation for listing on Airbnb.

  • Discover how to increase your property's ranking in Airbnb's algorithm to ensure it stands out from the competition.

  • Overcome the challenges of listing your property on Airbnb with expert tips and preparation strategies that will set you up for success.

  • Learn how to create a compelling listing by providing detailed and informative information about your property to attract potential guests.

  • Master the art of effective photo marketing to showcase your property's best features and entice guests to book your listing.

Timing and Preparation for Bookings In listing a property on Airbnb, timing and careful scheduling can significantly impact visibility and bookings. Listing too early, before a property is fully available, reduces engagement and misses opportunities to maximize bookings. The initial 30-day period on Airbnb is crucial for the algorithm to gather interaction data and determine a property's position in the search results, ultimately affecting potential bookings and revenue.


Airbnb Algorithm and Visibility The algorithm employed by Airbnb plays a pivotal role in a property's success. It utilizes data from the first 30 days of listing to gauge interaction and engagement, which influences the property's visibility and position in search results. Maintaining a high level of engagement and activity is crucial to ensure that the property is featured on the first few pages of search results, which most guests dwell on when browsing through listings.


Overcoming Listing Challenges Listing a property on Airbnb comes with a set of challenges that require meticulous detailing and comprehensive preparation. From organizing and cleaning the space to crafting auto-messages and a comprehensive house manual, every aspect matters. It is also important to provide detailed property information to set proper expectations for guests and lessen the likelihood of misconceptions.



Action steps mentioned in this episode are:

  • List your property only when it is available for booking in the next 30 days.

  • Take advantage of the algorithm wave by listing during the peak season for maximum exposure and higher rates.

  • Understand that the first 30 days of your listing are crucial for Airbnb's algorithm to determine your performance and position in the search results.

  • Ensure your listing is perfect from the start, with detailed descriptions, room-by-room highlights, and all necessary property information.

  • Caption your listing photos to enhance their appeal and improve your algorithm SEO.

  • Take your time to go through all the prompts during the listing setup process and fill out all necessary information, including cleaning fees and cancellation policies.

  • Craft professional house rules that clearly communicate expectations and consequences for non-compliance.

  • Emphasize in your house rules that failure to follow them may result in guests being asked to leave without


Link and Resources


Subscribe for free episode bonus materials: https://www.thestrinsiders.com


Join the conversation with Tracie on Facebook: https://www.fb.com/groups/strcentral


Follow Jacquie on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/5starbnb/



Transcription

00:04

Tracie Fowler

Welcome to The STR Insiders Podcast. We share tips for achieving your STR goals, AHA moments, funny stories, and all the latest gossip of this STR life. Listen in as we keep it real and maybe a little sassy. Celebrate successes and own all the mistakes we've made along the way. Whether you're new to real estate investing, new to short term rentals, or a seasoned pro, there's something here for you. Jacquie is an STR property manager who consults with individuals looking to grow their own property management firm. Tracie owns STR consulting and media firms that provide education to investors who want to learn all about STR investing. For more information, please visit www.thestrinsiders.com.


00:56

Tracie Fowler

Welcome to another episode of The STR Insiders podcast. Today we're talking about some of the listing mistakes we see with new Airbnb setups. Well, as far as another mistake that we see and you mentioned the algorithm already in the terms of interaction and engagement and how the algorithm uses that information, but just listing too early from the sense of the property not being available for a month. Obviously your market is going to matter here in terms of your booking lead time for how far out are people. Typically, booking your properties in your market will affect this to some degree. But if you list your property and it's not available for a month, that whole 1st 30-day algorithm analysis and you're not getting any interactions and no bookings and no views because your calendar is not available, you just wasted one of your biggest opportunities to launch your property. In my opinion. Honestly, a lot of times I will tell someone, just delete your listing and start over. Like, seriously, you're going to be uphill climbing for so long, just start over before it's too late.


02:06

Jacquie Mosher

It's really hard to work your way back. It takes time and consistency to work your listing up the feed and those 1st 30 days can be essential to making sure that you catch the algorithm wave that will pay. So funny to me because I love posting a listing in the middle of the on-season because you're getting so many clicks.


02:42

Tracie Fowler

You’re getting lit up.


02:43

Jacquie Mosher

Those listings immediately shoot to the top and they're immediately maximizing their rates because that timing thing, listing in the off season, like, oh, I want to list right before the on-season.


02:51

Tracie Fowler

Don't rub salt in the wound.


02:53

Jacquie Mosher

Listing in the off season is hard and it feels like even when you finally hit the summer, your 30 days is up. You're climbing up the feet consistently, but you're still fighting uphill even through the summer. It takes me usually about ten months, I'd estimate, to get a listing in bad shape in a reasonable place when it comes to the feed on Airbnb with consistent algorithm work.


03:25

Tracie Fowler

Yeah, and for anyone listening, when Jacquie says feed, she means search results. So, you want to be on the first couple of pages and if you're in my opinion, past page three, you're really going to be struggling to get decent rates and decent occupancy.


03:34

Jacquie Mosher

Yeah. People don't want to go past the first five pages when they're booking. They're going to book one of the rentals in the first five pages. A lot of your listings aren't getting seen at all. I would rather your rental be sitting empty and ready to go for a couple of extra days than have you list too soon and have to block the first few days in your calendar and lose that interaction during your first 30 days.


04:00

Tracie Fowler

Seriously, guys, if you don't listen to anything else in this episode she's a pro at this. Take it seriously.


04:05

Jacquie Mosher

Literally, it'll affect your rates for the next six months.


04:08

Tracie Fowler

Jacquie knows this, but you guys listening? Don't. I listed my property in June for July, and it went really well. And then I had a software integration issue, and I had to start all over again and launch in mid-August, which is the death of my listing right now. I have had to work my butt off to get anywhere close to the activity. Now, I will tell you that my conversion and views and everything else are crushing my comps right now, so we're there. But it did not come easily or cheap. A massive difference for the same property, same product in just two months of difference. Like, your first 30 days is key. Airbnb uses that 30 day timeline to decide how you are performing and where they're going to position you for the long haul. And that's what Jacquie's saying. Like, if you don't do well, you're going to have to fight to get back.


05:09

Jacquie Mosher

And that means your listing needs to be perfect when you list, generating five star reviews, extremely marketable when it's listed, filled out. Everything needs to go smoothly. So don't list too early if you're not feeling fully prepared and ready.


05:20

Tracie Fowler

Yeah, I think this will be a great episode for some of our property manager listeners to send to their clients. Just listen, because I want you to hear this from somebody that I'm not involved with that tells you the same thing. I think it's pressure you get from clients a lot. I know other friends of ours that are property managers definitely get pressured by their investor clients to get it listed super fast. And I understand the reasoning, but it's more problematic than helpful in the long run.


05:55

Jacquie Mosher

And I'll be real. I don't take on a lot of new clients anymore, but whenever I have a new client, they just don't understand. They're like, the space was ready when I left.


06:04

Tracie Fowler

It never is, though.


06:05

Jacquie Mosher

I walk into a space and it's like, yeah, there's furniture there, and then there's a bunch of stuff piled in the corner. And then we have to go through that stuff. We have to go through and organize everything, make sure everything's clean, take inventory of everything, and make sure they have everything a guest is going to need, and then evaluate the space for guest use. Write up a 60 page house manual. Put signage where it needs to go. Draft up the auto messages. Draft up the listing ahead of time. Host the photo shoot. And I already walked you through how many days between the handyman, the cleaners, and photo prepping takes to have the photo shoot. I mean, it's a process. It's so hard when you've been killing yourself to furnish and decorate a space to think that when it's pretty much furnished and decorated that it's still going to take another ten days to get all your other ducks in a row. But it is. You are not done when the space is decorated and furnished.


06:57

Tracie Fowler

No, you just have everything in the space to then get it ready for guests.


07:02

Jacquie Mosher

Give yourself another ten days, two weeks to get all your materials together, to get all your ducks in a row before you start hosting the space and having guests in the space.


07:13

Tracie Fowler

So one of the things that in the listing that I think is really important is having all those details. And you do a great write up, room by room, of everything that's valuable to the guest. I mean, we're not itemizing every single thing, but all the highlights are there. And some of that stuff you can't write until it's furnished and decorated because you don't fully know exactly what's going to be where and how. So there's this dependency process. Having all of your property information in the listing makes such a big difference, because I'm telling them what they can expect. They don't have to ask me any questions they're already answered for them. And you can't really do that level of detail until the stuff is in there and ready.


08:02

Jacquie Mosher

Agreed?


08:03

Tracie Fowler

I know you agree because you're the one that goes in there and does all that stuff. And then something else is put captions on your listings. Captioning your photos is one of the easiest things you can do to sell your property.


08:17

Jacquie Mosher

It's also great for your algorithm.


08:19

Tracie Fowler

SEO, getting those keywords in there everywhere.


08:23

Jacquie Mosher

You can use as many characters as you can and write your photo captions. I'll spend a full day listing a rental because there's just so much work that needs to be done. And that's like a huge mistake, too, is just going through the Airbnb prompts and then thinking that you've listed your rental. It'll take me 20 minutes to go through the prompts. It'll take me a full day to go out and detail everything into that listing in a way that it's going to sell that rental. But also protect yourself. If a guest ever claims you didn't communicate something or mis marketed something, it will all be in there for them to see that you communicated it ahead of time. At the end of the day, the last thing I always hate to do is the caption photos because they are so time consuming and it's like the last step. I always find myself, like, watching TV late at night, just chipping through some caption photos I didn't get to.


09:24

Tracie Fowler

That's how I watch TV. Is there a different way to watch TV than having your laptop in front of your face working on Airbnb stuff while whatever show you're half paying attention to is running in the background? I'll marathon the entire seasons and be buried in my laptop at the same I mean, that's how we get things done around here. Okay, so going through the Airbnb listing setup, one of the biggest gotchas that I see a new host on Airbnb, like, mistake is going through the prompts because as soon as you publish, your listing is live. You haven't put in your cleaning fee yet, and I cannot count. Seriously cannot tell you the number of times I have seen someone post and go, I got a booking. I didn't charge a cleaning fee. What do I do? My standard advice is you eat it as a painful mistake that you won't make again, but if you're listening to us, then you don't have to make it.


10:28

Jacquie Mosher

Yeah, and that's because the prompts don't ask you to enter that information. And it's so important. There's actually a lot of information that the Airbnb platform does not ask you during the prompts that when you go through all the information later and really just click and open on every single item you're going to find. There's a lot of items that you should have filled out that were not part of the prompts that could be a huge issue. Like, for example, it automatically defaults your cancellation policy to flexible.


10:59

Tracie Fowler

Oh, terrible. At least moderate, please.


11:04

Jacquie Mosher

That's one of the first things I go I literally barely go through the prompts. I just try my best to get through them quickly so I can actually do the real work afterwards. Immediately I go in there, I update the cleaning fee, and I change the cancellation policy, the title, because during the prompts, they only give you 32 characters for the title, whereas I think you really have like 50, 55 characters.


11:27

Tracie Fowler

Yeah, like, were talking about this earlier. I don't even know the why behind it. Maybe one of our upcoming guests who used to work at Airbnb will have some insights onto that.


11:36

Jacquie Mosher

Oh, my gosh.


11:40

Tracie Fowler

Yeah, it's just the weirdest thing. It's like it cuts you off in the setup prompt, but as soon as you publish, you can go in there and additional characters. One of those spaces you want to use every single character that you can. So 18 characters or whatever is huge difference.


11:56

Jacquie Mosher

And then I think, too, house rules are so important. Airbnb really views your house rules like it is your contract, like your rental agreement. If you're doing direct booking, like, you know how important that rental agreement is for the protection of your property and safety and all sorts of other things. So, like, when you're an Airbnb, make sure you have professional written out house rules. I've seen this go both ways, right? Like, I've seen some owners go crazy with the house rules and write the most ridiculous one-off things.


12:34

Tracie Fowler

I've seen on Airbnb house rules that were like, if you printed it out, it probably would have been a three-page contract. Every single bad experience this host had ever had got put into a house rule. And I just don't think it's useful if you're having that many problems with your guests, I would reevaluate your marketing, your amenities. There would be a much larger problem than not communicating normal expectations. I think that communicating reasonable expectations and a few things. Like, the first line of mind says, if you don't follow the house rules, you may be asked to leave without refund. It's very clear if you want to make a bunch of noise or smoke in my house, that I'm not going to hesitate to kick you out and I'm not giving your money back. I think that alone does a fair amount of house cleaning for us. And the new house has a pool, so I have in there, like, if you have young children to message before booking, just because I'm trying to make sure there's a decent adult to child ratio for supervision purposes with the pool and it's working, people are messaging me saying, hey, we've got a couple of kids. Great. You've got four adults and two children. That's totally fine. If I have and this has happened, two parents and four to six children. That's a lot to keep your eyes on. I can barely keep my eyes on Jacquie's kid when I'm left alone with him for a half hour while she goes to get drinks for us. When were at the playground and I was like, on Milo duty for a minute, I was like, where did he go? He's so fast. Well, he's training to be a ninja.


14:24

Jacquie Mosher

He is training to be a ninja. By the way, listeners, my child wants to be a ninja when he grows up. We call it Project Ninja. So, like, he's in track. He's in karate, he talks about being a ninja all the time. So Tracie had to watch him for a minute. And I can understand her stress because I experienced that stress, too.


14:47

Tracie Fowler

Well, you're used to it. When a nuclear family is on vacation, mom and dad are trying to relax, enjoy themselves. In my mind at least, there is an inclination to not be all over your kids all the time, go have fun, whatever. And then, like, five minutes passes and you go, it's awfully quiet. I should be concerned. And that can be a really tragic five-minute silence in certain scenarios. So every property is different. One of mine has heights. My new one has a pool that you cannot fence. The doors from the bedrooms literally open up onto the pool deck. And the pool deck is a couple of feet wide. It wasn't built with that intention. And so I'm just overly cautious. And so I put that into my house rules and people message me and they ask and I go, okay, this is going to be fine for you. So it just opens up that dialogue. And I think that's really what house rules are about, is giving people realistic expectations of what you're offering, what you're not offering. And if there's something that needs to have a little more conversation.


15:55

Jacquie Mosher

When you're reading over house rules and there's all these unnecessary, ridiculous rules that maybe happened one time, now the host feels like they need to add it to the house rules, but then they're also adding in little items like turn the fan on when you're cooking. I want you to know that the person reading your house rules is going to miss the important ones.


16:17

Tracie Fowler

Right, or they're going to stop reading it entirely. They're just like, this is too much. It's a bunch of nonsense. I'm not going to waste my time.


16:23

Jacquie Mosher

Condense your house rules to what's important so that those important things do not get missed. When I think about our house rules across the board, they're all surrounding like making sure there aren't big expenses incurred for the host or for the guest to prevent these situations that could be uncomfortable where we have to open a claim. It's the major things that need rules. You really don't need to write this long book about every little thing. I think if you have those small things that you want to communicate through the space, finding a way to communicate it in a warm, kind way through maybe signage or like a small little label. Like if it's really important to you that they put the fan on when they're cooking, put a cute little label that says…


17:10

Tracie Fowler

“Hey baby, turn me on when you're cooking.”


17:12

Jacquie Mosher

I love that. You know, I don't know if I ever told you this, but on the mirror in the back of the door in my in law Airbnb, I put a little label that says, hey, you look fine today, or something like, oh, I just know my guests smile when they read that. But I'm also like, that's so ridiculous. I would only do that in my Airbnb.


17:36

Tracie Fowler

I love it.


17:38

Jacquie Mosher

Those little reminders or like if you can find a warm way and an effective way to communicate it, that it doesn't feel like they're being mommed while they're in your place. I feel like you can get away with putting a few of those in there if something's super important to you.


17:53

Tracie Fowler

Totally. There are a couple of other things that you want to set up right away or it's really going to be problematic. One is your pricing. Don't use smart pricing for one. Okay. No, don't do it. Ideally, you're going to set up some dynamic pricing, but that may take a minute to integrate. At least set up some basic pricing that is based on some comp analysis. I would say you probably want to be a little bit less expensive than what you think is comparable to get that edge off the start because you don't have any reviews. However, your first three bookings, you have the opportunity to offer a new listing discount, which is 20% off. You may not want to be 20% cheaper than the competition, depending on time of year. You may need to push your initial prices up so that the 20% shows, but that your bottom line is not going to make you cry.


18:58

Jacquie Mosher

Agreed. The reason why that 20% off is so important is because Airbnb is going to highlight your listing as a discount, and it's going to get you so much interaction, and it's going to get you those first few bookings, is what it's going to do. And you want that boost when you are a new listing and when people are afraid to book you because you don't have those reviews yet. So take that boost. And if you have to adjust your pricing to be higher than you planned to be at first, do that. And if you're not getting booked in the first, I don't know, I'd say three or four days lower, that respond quickly. Yeah, keep nudging down until you get those bookings, and then you'll notice you don't get any bookings after you get those first three on your calendar. And that's because Airbnb wants to see if you're going to get a good review. So you make sure that first guest writes you a stellar review, and then you'll almost notice immediately after you get that review that your calendar starts filling up.


20:03

Tracie Fowler

So the other thing that Jacquie is hinting at without saying is that you want those bookings and those reviews to be really fast. And what I mean is, when you open up your calendar, when you publish, there's a lot of us that will have our calendar open for a year in advance normally. But you do not want someone booking your 20% discount for eight months from now because it's not going to help you at all. I limit my calendar.


20:39

Jacquie Mosher

Generally, you are really hoping to fill up your first two weeks, and I think you should be very willing to accept some low bookings in the first two weeks and get some really great reviews.


20:50

Tracie Fowler

The last section of the Airbnb listing setup, like mistakes that we see is not using auto messages. You want to talk about something changing your life? Yeah, this is it.


21:09

Jacquie Mosher

When I have a new client, there's this concern that it's not going to seem genuine or warm or it's going to feel out of place. And there are definitely times where that happens. But I think people generally understand that auto messaging is a thing. And I think they also understand that when you book a hotel, you're going to get an email confirmation with some information as well. And that's pretty much what those auto messages are. They are communication around your stay with information that you are going to need. If there's something super important. Like for example, if I have a remote cabin up in the mountains, maybe in the initial booking messages, I'm reminding them that they're going to need four wheel drive. Make sure you don't miss this. You're going to need four wheel drive. I also really love auto messages to go out for check information on their day of check in. I'm not relying on myself when I get caught up with something to make sure that they're getting their check information, it's automatically going out. And if I can push it out early when a cleaner is done, I absolutely do that.


22:10

Tracie Fowler

It's easy too. So, I mean, this is an easy win.


22:14

Jacquie Mosher

Initial message. I usually like to use that one for some screening questions and just some really if you were to pick one or two items that are absolutely important to their stay that you need them to know, that's a great place for it. Two day before Message I also have some five day before messages just depending on the rental and what information you're providing, things that they're going to want to know right before their stay, what to expect. Sometimes that means what they're going to find in the kitchen or what they need to pick up on their way to the airbnb. Like if we have a fire pit in a remote Airbnb and we don't provide firewood, maybe we're recommending they pick up some firewood on the way if they want to enjoy the fire pit or something like that. And then check information. Send out an auto message a day after they check in and absolutely provide some local recommendations. Ask them how their stay is going. Check in with them before they check out. Absolutely someone before they check out. Just walking them through whatever checkout process you set up or you have and then after they check out. Thank you for staying with me. Here's how you can connect with us. I hope you come again.


23:22

Tracie Fowler

It really blows people away. This is an easy win. You write it once. I mean, you're going to write it to the first guest that books. If you're thinking through the guest experience from start to finish, right? You're going to have to write all these things. So just go ahead and write it in a way that can be used over and over again. Plug it in. I mean, Airbnb has their own automated messaging. Now we use secondary software that has a bit more options. But even Airbnb has a decent setup for this. Now inside of its system. Like Jacquie mentioned doing recommendations. I really like to do something experiential, whether it be an activity or dining are the two that I typically go with. So, like, there's an amazing Cuban restaurant two blocks from my house. It's literally between my house and the beach. So go there, get some delicious Cuban coffee and a smoothie or a rice bowl or a pastry, guava, pastries, I mean, all the things, and then go to the beach. And it's one of those things where they literally would have walked right by it, but they may not have noticed it. And every single person that goes is like, there was the best coffee I've had in ages, or, the food was amazing, and they're going to associate that amazing experience with you even though you didn't do anything. I mean, it's like free bonus points with your guest after they've hit your property. And half the time I'll see a guest respond and they're like, we're literally here right now. It's so great. It's so easy to connect with your guest in what feels like a very personal way. Even if it's repetitive for you, it's not for them. Don't underestimate the impact that a standardized message can have if it's well written. Thank you for tuning in to our mini-series on the mistakes to avoid with your new listing on Airbnb.


25:33

Jacquie Mosher

If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so grateful if you rated and reviewed it. Also subscribe for more insider knowledge. We can help you get the edge in the STR world. You can find additional resources for your STR journey as well our social media handles at thestrinsiders.com.


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