Kate and I opened our first Airbnb about 4 years ago and we had so much success that we’ve been opening new listings ever since. Today I’m sharing what we’ve learned about increasing the booking rate for our Airbnb listings.
We believe that several factors are meaningful for keeping a healthy booking rate, but if I had to point to one thing specifically it would be your photos.
Airbnb is a highly visual platform and you need to make sure your listing visually appeals to potential guests. Photos are your best tool for that. But we’ll get to that later.
Views vs. Booking Rate
Airbnb provides hosts two metrics to analyze our own performance. The first is views.
Views is how many times someone clicked into your listing from a search results page. There are a lot of ways you can work to increase the number of views your listings gets, but that’s not what this article is about.
The second metric Airbnb gives us hosts is booking rate. Booking rate is reported as a percentage that represents the percentage of people that booked your property divided by the number of people that viewed it.
You use your cover photo (price and reviews help, too) to entice guests to click into your listing, but once they do that, you’ve got to use all your resources to convince a guest to actually book.
It doesn’t matter if you listed your property yesterday or 5 years ago, nobody gets any special advantage with their photos. We all play by the same rules.
Last I checked, everybody gets 100 photos max and everyone has access to the same image quality. You don’t get to upload clearer photos if you’re a superhost.
We’ll look at some other important parts of a listing, but in my opinion, your photos are always the most important. I wrote about taking the perfect Airbnb cover photo, and many of the same principles apply to your supplementary photos.
You don’t have to be an artist to understand that your photos say something about your listing. Take a look through some Airbnb listings. Find one or two that you’d really like to stay in, and find one or two that you would never stay in. What’s the difference between the two?
I can pretty much guarantee you that the listings you’d never stay in has terrible photos.
Here are my rules for your supplemental photos:
1. Have a picture of every amenity
A meaningful part of showing up in search results is your amenities. Potential guests can filter by number of bedrooms, whether you have a kitchen, wifi, a washer, dryer or even a hot tub.
If your listing has a hot tub listed as an amenity, you better have a picture of it. In fact it’s not a bad idea to have 2 or 3 pictures of it if it’s important.
If you have wifi, why not take a picture of the router?
Take a picture of your kitchen, your washer and dryer. Why?
First, you want to get credit for everything you have. If someone needs a pack n play for their toddler, then they’ll want verification it’s going to be there.
Second, you want your guests to believe that they’re getting what they pay for. Your guests should be confident that you’re giving them exactly what you say you’re giving them.
Take a picture of everything you claim as an amenity. It matters.
2. Take a picture of every room
Same idea here. Your guests will want to know what to expect when they walk into their new temporary home.
If your listings says it has three bedrooms and your pictures only show one of the three, then your potential guests may wonder why. Don’t give them any reasons to question the quality of your home.
3. Everything must be pristine
You’d think this would be common sense, but I’ve seen photos with unmade beds, smudgy tables, dirty laundry, and disorganized cooking utensils.
Not only should everything in all your photos be perfectly cleaned, but everything should be organized and orderly.
Blankets should be folded, kitchen appliances should be put away or organized, surfaces should be wiped down and all loose items should be hidden. You can put out some fresh food or magazines or some other homey looking things, but make sure it looks like how you would prepare something for the Queen of England. Everything should be perfect.
And don’t be afraid to hire a professional photographer, it will absolutely pay for itself if you’re not a great picture taker.
4. The “I want to stay there” factor
For me, those three items are it. If you well taken photographs of every amenity and every room in the house when the place if perfectly clean and orderly, then you’re already better than 75% of the listings out there.
But there’s something that separates the best from the rest.
I call it the “I want to stay there” factor. You need a few photos that draw your guests in. A few photos that can make someone reach for the button to book your place.
I can’t tell you what those photos are going to look like. You have to figure that out for yourself.
My recommendation: Look at your photos and brainstorm. Then let some friends and family look at the photos and offer their thoughts. Ask them questions.
Are there any photos that really made them want to stay at your place? Make sure those photos are some of the first in your photo list.
Before buying something, humans want social proof. Most people prefer to let someone else try something before they do.
Great reviews are important because most people are more comfortable booking a place where someone else already had a great experience. But they take time to cultivate.
There’s not a lot you can do about bad reviews in your past. And to be frank, you’re going to get some bad reviews in the future, too. It’s inevitable.
In my experience, the key to great reviews is meeting your guests needs before they ask you for something. This idea is so important I’ve written an entire article about it.
In addition to wanting a clean, well photographed and well reviewed place, your guests want to make sure their needs will be met while they stay with you. That’s why Airbnb has hosts list the amenities in their listings.
First and foremost, as a host you need to take credit for everything your place provides by adding them to your amenity list. Take credit for every bed, bedroom, appliance and bathroom. Take credit for wifi, kitchen, parking, entertainment, pack n play, and anything else a potential guest could possibly want.
And next, you need to look through the list of amenities and see if there’s anything you can easily add to your listing that your guests might want. Some things will be impractical and/or too expensive to add, but go ahead and add everything else if you can.
Why exactly does this improve your booking rate?
Well it does help you show up more in search, but it also helps you close the deal on a potential guest. After a guest looks at your photos and checks your reviews they may be thinking about booking. But before they do, many guests will have a look through your amenities.
If they are traveling with kids, they may look to ensure that your place is kid friendly and has essentials for their family. If they are staying for a while they may want a washer and dryer to keep their clothes washed. Guests have different needs, and if you don’t have an amenity this guest is looking for, they may not book with you.
They want to know what essentials are available, but they also care what luxuries they will have. Obviously a guest cares about beds and bathrooms. But they also want to feel like they’re treating themselves. Your place has everything they need AND it has a video game console? Or a pool? Or a tree house in the back yard?
That’s the kind of thing that keeps your booking rate high.
The Rest (the small things)
Photos, reviews and amenities are the most important elements in convincing guests to book with you. If you improve those things, you will improve your Airbnb booking rate.
However, there are plenty of other smaller things that can also help move the needle.
Your host profile
As a host you probably look at your guests’ profiles when they book with you. You look at their picture and you might even read a little about them.
Well guests are the same way. They want to know who is taking care of their temporary home. If your profile picture is poorly taken or looks unprofessional, or you look unhappy in the photo, then you’re just giving them a reason not to book with you.
Your listing description
You get a written description for your listing as well. I would guess that a lot of guests don’t read the descriptions (they just look at the photos, reviews, etc.), but some will. You can really talk up your space and the location of your property.
And don’t forget that there are plenty of Airbnb travelers with visual impairments, and they will want to get a feel for you property without the photos.
I keep pricing as a footnote here because obviously people are encouraged to book with you when your price is lower.If you’re really struggling to get bookings, then you may want to experiment with your nightly rate. If you lower your price you’ll probably increase your booking rate.
But ultimately your Airbnb is a business, and price isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. If you market your place as a luxury stay and you charge $40/night, then guests will get mixed messages and be hesitant to book.
And if you are getting plenty of bookings already, I would suggest raising your price, not lowering it.
My opinion is that your guests just want to feel like they’re getting a great deal. Sometimes $150/night feels like a great deal and sometimes $40/night feels like a rip off. Know what your place is worth and make sure your guests get their money’s worth.
Note: Our listing with the highest booking rate is also our most expensive.
When you want to improve your Airbnb booking rate, you need to take a hard look at your listing’s photos. Then you’ll want to dig into your reviews and make sure you’re doing what’s necessary to get great guest reviews. Finally, you want to max out your amenities.
Those are the three areas where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.