I believe your Airbnb cover photo is the single most important part of your listing. It’s the first impression a potential guest gets of your place and it communicates so many things they care about.
It says whether you keep your place clean. It shows what it will feel like to lounge in and/or sleep in your place. And it definitely says whether it’s worth spending a few minutes looking to see what else your listing has to offer.
There are lots of items that affect whether a guest will book.
Great reviews help you get bookings. They show that you care about your guests and you take care of your guests. And those thoughtful touches that help you WOW your guests can earn you those great reviews.
Showing up at the top of search results helps get more eyes on your listing. And at that point its a numbers game. More eyes means more bookings.
But I still believe that the cover photo trumps all. So make sure you do it right.
My Five Cover Photo Rules
Your Airbnb cover photo needs to show potential guests immediately that your place has everything they need. And you don’t want anything in the photo to distract from what your place has to offer.
If you follow these five rules, your cover photo will do exactly what it’s supposed to do: get potential guests to click into your listing.
1. Must include the home
One blunder I’ve seen too often with cover photos of our competition is one that doesn’t actually show the place you would stay in. It might be a picture of the pond in the backyard, or a nearby attraction.
And the one I see most often is a picture of the front of the house. Don’t do that!
When guests are searching for accommodations online, they want to know how they’ll feel when they walk in. Will they feel right at home? Will they be in awe of how incredible the home is?
A view or a nearby attraction will never be as important as the look and feel of the interior of the home, because that’s where they will be spending their time!
If the exterior of the home is gorgeous and the interior is shabby, then maybe it makes sense to take a photo of the outside. But honestly it’s just better to improve the interior and take a new photo.
You’ll have plenty of opportunity to show your potential guests the other great features of the home, or the prime location, with your supplementary photos. Reserve your cover photo for showing off the interior.
2. Looks professional
This should be common sense, but your cover photo needs to look professional. You need good lighting and you need to focus on the most important things in the photograph.
After looking through some listings, here are some mistakes I found:
- Reflections off framed photos and glass tables
- Very dark lighting
- Photo pointing downward towards the floor (can make the space seem cramped)
- Front of the house, but the house was covered in a shadow
If, like me, you’re not an expert photographer, then it’s almost certainly worth your money to pay for one. You probably have at least one friend or acquaintance who has a photography hobby. If you can’t take a professional photograph, find someone who can.
Just put yourself in the mind of your guests. If you’re going to part with your hard earned money, you want the place your paying for to be nice.
A guest doesn’t know whether or not your place is nice or not. They will make a judgement based on your photos (and also from your reviews).
Your photos are really the only way to convince potential guests that your place is great. You want to put your best face forward, so make sure your Airbnb cover photograph is fantastic.
3. Show off the home’s best feature
When guests are looking for a place to stay they will browse through the Airbnb search results, but they won’t click on every listing. They’ll only click on the listings that are interesting enough to investigate further.
Here are some of the most boring things I found in cover photos while looking through some search results:
- A couch. That was literally the only thing in the cover photo.
- A bed. Sometimes it works, but often it just looks boring.
- Front door
Your cover photo is your one shot to get a potential guest to investigate further. If they don’t click through, they won’t book.
That means your cover photo needs to highlight the best, most interesting, most unique, most shocking or just the most eye-catching feature of your home.
If you have a super high end kitchen with all the bells and whistles, that’s your cover photo. Do you serve breakfast or other meals? That could make for an excellent cover photo.
If your place has a very open floor plan, you may be able to capture a huge percentage of the home in one photo.
And if you provide amazing entertainment like a poker table or video games or an awesome TV, those could also fit into a cover photo.
But what if the best feature is outside the home, like a pool or an amazing view? Rule 1 says we’re supposed to capture the inside of the home. In this case I recommend taking the photo from inside the house, but point the camera to the outdoor feature.
This photo is great because it highlights the pool and the view of the city, but it still feels like you’re inside the house. Is a potential guest going to click through to learn more about this place? You bet. And of course that’s the whole point of a cover photo.
4. Everything must be clean and orderly
Think again about what would go through your mind if you saw a cover photo of a place and it looked dirty, dusty or messy.
It seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised at some of the cover photos I’ve seen. I spent about 10 minutes looking through listings and here are some things I spotted in cover photos
- Dirty laundry
- Fall leaves on the floor
- A poorly made bed
- Hand prints on a glass table
- A poorly kept lawn
Potential guests are making snap judgements about your ability to host, the value of your home and how much they’ll enjoy their stay based on your cover photo.
What will they think if they see a poorly made bed?
“Do they even wash their sheets? Did someone sleep in that bed?”
What will they think if they see dirty laundry?
What assumptions are guests making about your place based on your cover photo? Clean your space before you take pictures.
5. The “I want to stay there!” factor
Ok, so you’ve taken a professional photo that includes your clean home and highlights its best feature. Maybe you’ve taken 10 or 15 good photos and you need to decide which one to use for the cover.
It’s time to use your intuition, or ask others for some help.
It all boils down to whether or not your photo will entice potential guests to click from the search results and learn more about your property. And if you can convince them that they want to stay at your place just from the cover photo, then you’re 90% of the way towards getting them booked.
When guests see your cover photo, they need to say “I think I want to stay there!”
It may seem oversimplified, or like I’m putting too much weight on the cover photo, but the reality is that you can convince a guest to book your place with one photo.
Don’t underestimate the value of one great photo.
Give Guests EXACTLY What They Want
Not everyone can have an Airbnb that looks like the inside of the Millennium Falcon. You may think that the perfect cover photo is about standing out in some amazing and extraordinary way.
And I do think that can work, but that’s not what most guests are looking for.
If you decide to travel to Paris or New York or Tokyo, you’re not going there to stay in the Millennium Falcon. You’re going to see the Eiffel Tower or Broadway or The Imperial Palace.
When you travel, you want your accommodations to:
- Be clean
- Be affordable
- Make guests feel like they’re traveling in style
- Feel comfortable
- Feel luxurious
- Be close to stuff
- Keep you safe
- Have some entertainment
If you can convey through your cover photo that your place is exactly what most guests want (clean, comfortable, luxurious, entertaining), then you’ll get bookings.
You don’t have to be unique or fantastic. You have to be exactly what your guests are looking for. And often, that just means you have a nice, clean place that has all the amenities.
That’s what you need to communicate with your cover photo. And you can do that by following my five rules.