Note – We wrote this during the Fall of 2017. We’ll update it as the algorithm evolves.
Want to get your search ranking up on Airbnb. Of course, you do! Everyone does. They say that the best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google search results. Airbnb isn’t much different. If your listing is on page 3, 4 or 5, it almost might as well not be there.
The Airbnb search algorithm is a complex beast that is constantly evolving. But, there are three major features that will drastically improve your search rankings on Airbnb, and it has nothing to do with your photos or pricing.
For those of you that like answers quickly, the top-3 drivers of search ranking are:
- Your “minimum night” stay setting
- Whether you have instant book turned on or not
- Whether your listing has an iron & ironing board
There you have it. But, since the details of those drivers matter, you should probably keep reading…
1. Minimum Nights to Book
When people search on Airbnb, they tend to enter 3 key search parameters: Location, Number of Guests, and Search Dates.
There is really only one of these search terms that you can control. Unless your house is on wheels, you can’t control your listing location; it’s fixed. You also don’t have a great deal of control over the number of people that can stay in your home. If you have a 2-bedroom, you probably can’t host a family of ten. Or, maybe you can… but should you really?
The date ranges, however, are very much within your circle of influence. Most searches on Airbnb are for between two and four nights. If you have a “minimum nights” setting that is higher than four, you are drastically reducing the number of searches you are showing up in.
We suggest an ideal minimum night stay of 3-nights.
With a minimum night stay of 3-nights, your listing will appear in 3 times as many search results as someone with a 7-nights minimum stay.
Now, you can adjust that number based on economics limitations (i.e you can’t afford to host for only 3-nights) or for major events or holidays where you feel that you can snatch up a longer booking. But in general, 3-nights minimum is the sweet spot for appearing in the bulk of Airbnb searches.
2. Turning on Instant Book
We have a dedicated post on Instant Book here. Next to minimum night stay, it is the most important factor affecting search rankings. Why? Because Airbnb wants to make money and Instant Book is the fastest way Airbnb can make it! The guest can book a listing instantly without any back-and-forth conversation.
We’re about to do some math here. Math is fun… you can skip it if you hate it, but you shouldn’t (skip it that is – it’s OK if you hate math).
Airbnb uses a few measures to determine the success of their algorithm. Two of them are Search-to-Contact and Contact-to-Book.
Search-to-Contact measures the number of searches that have to happen on the site for one user to contact a host about booking their place. Contact-to-Book measures the number of host contacts that need to happen for one host to accept a booking.
This is what the math equations look like.
If both of those values where exactly 1.0, it would mean that every time someone searches on Airbnb, they would also contact a host AND that host would accept the booking. That is definitely not the case. But, Airbnb would love it if it was the case. They want to convert as many searches to bookings as possible because they only make money when someone books a place (it’s free to list on Airbnb, remember?).
Instant Book is one of the biggest drivers of a listing utopia where the maximum number of searches result in a booking as physically possible. Why? Because Instant Book gets rid of the Contact!
In the old days of Airbnb, you couldn’t book a place without actually talking to the host. You’d have to write this whole essay about how you weren’t a serial killer and how you promised not to spend the week walking around their house in a pink furry robe. Not anymore. Now, you can walk around in that robe with no further explanation necessary. With Instant Book, the host can’t screen for your funky robe fetish and will, therefore, accept you no-matter-what. Airbnb also makes more money, since host rejections upset users and make them want to book hotels instead.
It is a big reason that Instant Book is now available on over 70% of listings. They get booked faster, so Airbnb makes money faster. If you don’t have Instant Book turned on, the Airbnb algorithm has an incentive to show another listing over yours. They are doing it right now!
Case-in-point, check out this search I did for Long Beach, CA. It’s an undated search, so it will return the best listings without worrying about if they are available or not. 18 of the top 20 results are Instant Book Listings.
P.S. There are way more Airbnb users than owners of furry pink robes, so you’ll be pretty safe turning Instant Book “on.”
3. Having a Blow Dryer
While the first two above might seem intuitive, this one is not. It’s particularly confusing if you are a male (like we are). I know that you’re proud that your listing has a sweet Jacuzzi and Netflix availability. But those things are a “nice to have.” A hair dryer is a necessity for most female travelers. They drill down on their searches for it.
Another fun fact: You can actually charge more per night if you have a hair dryer. Yep, that’s right. It’s such a sought-after feature that you travelers are willing to pay $5 to $10 more per night for the listings that have them. This shocked even the most tenured Airbnb team members.
Curious what the average price of a hair dryer is on Amazon? About $30. It will pay for itself the first booking.
This one is popular. Seriously, stop thinking about it and just buy it. It will probably improve your reviews as well.
Cool, so now your listing will appear higher in the searches. That still might not matter much if your photos suck or your price is too high. You should probably read up on that too.