“I don’t show up on page one of Airbnb search!”
I hear this daily. Unfortunately, it’s almost always a waste of time and energy.
Airbnb search is not static like Google. Any two people who search ‘women’s shoes’ in Google are going to get the same results. But, any two users who search or an Airbnb in ‘Williamsburg, New York City’ on Airbnb can and do see vastly different search results.
Don’t believe me? Search ‘Smartbnb review’ on Google and tell me who comes up second or third? It’s going to be my website. No matter where you are in the world, you are going to see me within the top few positions on Google.
This is true because on a traditional search engine like Google, you will target specific keywords to rank high for (ie ‘accommodations in Williamsburg, New York City’). On Airbnb, you are trying to target the FPG, not the keyword. (There are ways to target the FPG which are out of scope for this article. Should I write an article on this topic? Tell me in the comments).
Google creates its search results based by using a robot to ‘crawl’ all internet web pages to render some of those web pages which it doesn’t control as search results.
On the other hand, Airbnb controls almost all of the content on their website and can see directly into the end users account (viewed listings, reviews received and given, prices paid, searches, etc.).
Another big difference between Airbnb and Google is that Google does not face a limit of results. Any piece of information can be viewed an unlimited number of times while Airbnb can show a listing only until it’s booked.
In fact, a better search engine comparison would be to eBay circa the 1990s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, they’re no longer relevant in 2019.
While it’s true that some listings tend to consistently show up towards the top of Airbnb search and others consistently show up towards the bottom, knowing the exact search position doesn’t exist except on a search-by-search basis and depending on dates and filters selected.
A much better indicator of listing health is your calendar’s occupancy rate.
What Is Static Search?
Think of websites. Most websites are static, meaning all users see the same information (excluding language translations).
A static search means that all users see the same results as in the above example search of ‘smartbnb review’.
For the search of ‘women’s heels’, everyone is going to see the same results on Google. These are static search results.
This works well when the user (not the platform) knows best what they are searching for. The ‘women’s heels’ searcher may want black heels with white laces and red soles in size 7, but searching this specifically would actually exclude many relevant results. Instead, the user searches something generic and quickly identifies their preferred choice among the results.
The user knows exactly what they want.
However, static search results start to become less useful is when the user is not exactly sure what they want. We run into the paradox of choice.
Enter dynamic search.
What Is Dynamic Search?
Let’s say you want to go to Kiev, Ukraine (where I’m writing this blog post at the moment). However, unlike our search for ‘women’s heel’s, the user has never been to Kiev, Ukraine. They do now know where they want to stay, what the average prices are, etc.
In this case, the search engine (Airbnb) knows better than the user what they want. And this improves with more information the search engine has about the user.
This is dynamic search.
Airbnb uses a dynamic search based largely on artificial intelligence. Any two users will see different results. The results can be slightly different or vastly different. A single mid-week business traveler in Chicago is going to see different results than a family of six for a weekend vacation in Chicago.
The best listings will always appear towards the top of search results. However, as most markets have hundreds of tops listings (sometimes thousands), it’s Airbnbs job to deliver the user the most relevant listings so they can make a quick decision and are more likely to click that ‘Make a Reservation’ button.
Why Does Airbnb Use Dynamic Search?
It’s about delivering the user the best experience.
Unlike Google, Airbnb can track the user’s behavior with 100% accuracy from the initial search to post-reservation review.
Airbnb knows if you usually travel by yourself. They know what your typical price range is. They even know if you seem to prefer balconies or backyards.
It goes further. Based on photo recognition technology, Airbnb even knows if you prefer a bohemian or minimalist design.
Based on your prior behavior on the platform, Airbnb can start to deliver highly curated and relevant results for each user.
They do this for two reasons.
First, it earns the company more money. If the Airbnb user sees their dream home and they can book it for their upcoming vacation, do you think they’ll book it or the generic hotel?
Dynamic search earns the company more money by increasing the odds that you will make a reservation because they are only showing you listings on the first page that you probably will like.
Second, it increases the user experience. Remember the last time you went to purchase toothpaste? There are a million choices and it’s hard to understand which is best for you. You can think of this as static search (all shoppers are shown the same toothpaste options). On top of that, if you’ve ever been to a foreign country, buying these common amenities is even more difficult (think of our example trip to Kiev, Ukraine)! In fact, I once purchased what looked to be normal butter, but it was actually butter infused with chocolate. You end up purchasing randomly either by price or name-brand.
But what if your personal expert was there to hand you the best option(s)? This is dynamic.
Dynamic search increases the user experience by making the decision-making process quicker and helping identify a good fit for the guest better than the guest can do for themselves.
When I search for an Airbnb, I’m often presented over 300 possibilities even after I’ve selected dates, price, and a very specific neighborhood on the map.
If Airbnb can delivery me a listing that they know with a high degree of accuracy that I’ll give a 5-star review to upon check-out, I’ll be more likely to make a reservation in the future and I’ll be more likely to tell my friends about Airbnb when the topic undoubtedly comes up.
How To Track Your Airbnb Search Rank
In a truly dynamic search environment, it’s not reasonably possible to track your Airbnb search rank because of the number of possible search results based on filters.
If we look simply at the date search filter, you would have to see a result for each day, plus each two-day period, plus each three-day period, etc. based on your maximum limit. Even if you knew this for a particular date, your search rank will change based on any upcoming reservation, modifications, and cancellations to existing reservations. And that’s ignoring any future listings that will go live. Keep in mind, all new listings get a search rank boost.
In a static search environment like Google, your website’s search rank is virtually known in the short term. But on Airbnb, a new and professional listing can go in 30 minutes and rank on page #1.
However, there are tools that attempt to track your search rank. They provide valuable information, especially to property manager’s who need concrete numbers to present to their property owners.
It’s a piece of the puzzle. Knowing your rank or not really makes no difference. Regardless of knowing this information, you should still be trying to be the best host you can be, trying to offer the guest the best experience you can, and try to continually improve for those 5-star reviews. By doing this, your rank takes care of itself.
However, if any of the below tools gives you a bonus insight into your hosting which can further increase your success then I’m for it.
The three tools in no particular order, are…
Smartbnb is a message automation service that I highly recommend and provides a Market Report. This is a basic report emailed to you daily with your rankings over the next 60 days for differing number of nights. As I am a big fan of Smartbnb, I have used this report and it’s included with any paid subscription.
Your Porter is a property management system and provides an Airbnb Rankings Report. You can sign up for one report without being a paid user and receive a weekly email. If you’re a paid user, you can receive unlimited reports. The report is slightly more robust than Smartbnb showing more metrics. I have used this service.
RankBreeze is software that continually monitors your Airbnb search rank kind of like search engine optimization for a website. I have not used this service, however, I have talked with the founder who is an Airbnb host and has experience on ranking websites in search engines.