The Definitive Guide to Boosting Vacation Rental Visibility on OTAs
Listing your short-term rentals on Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) can amplify your visibility and attract potential guests, a phenomenon known as the Billboard Effect. But the success of your listings depends on how well you navigate the search and ranking features on those platforms. With millions of properties available on Airbnb and Vrbo, it’s crucial to employ effective strategies to stand out from the competition. Below are our best practices to optimize both your search and your ranking, with particular emphasis on leading platforms.
Maximize Your Search Potential
“Search” is how customers find you so understanding how to effectively describe and define your property is essential to attract your best matches. As customers come to OTAs with specific desires, it’s crucial for hosts to meet and even exceed the expectations of prospective guests. Here’s how to optimize your property description and enhance the search experience for them.
Detail Your Amenities: Beyond basic furniture, amenities can often make or break a booking. Walk through your property and make a comprehensive list of essentials like air-conditioning, TV, bedding, and WiFi, as well as extras like swimming pools, hot tubs, terraces, and grills. Longer-staying guests or families value full kitchen and laundry services. Vrbo reports that post-pandemic there’s been a rise in pet-friendly searches. If the search function doesn’t list something you offer, make sure you include it in your written description.
Provide Room and Bed Count: Guests want to know not only the number of bedrooms, but also available beds, such as cots, rollaways and pull-out sofas. Specify the number of bathrooms and any additional areas like a cozy living room, spacious dining room, or charming gardens. By providing this level of clarity, you help guests visualize their stay and make informed decisions that align with their requirements.
Captivate with dazzling photos: Photos profoundly impact guest bookings. According to Vrbo, listings with 25+ photos receive 40% more views and 30% more bookings on average. Vanessa Moore, distribution director at Track, says aim for at least 30+ high-quality photos that showcase clean spaces, unique features, room flow, and beautiful views. (Photos of big American bathrooms tend to impress Europeans!) Consider investing in a professional photographer or utilize Airbnb’s photography service in select markets. Remember, choosing a captivating “hero” shot for the thumbnail is crucial in capturing potential guests’ attention.
Establish Your Property’s Brand. Stand out from the competition by giving your property a unique identity that resonates with guests. Stay away from generic titles like “3 bedrooms, 2 baths”; instead, creatively incorporate your name or company’s name, like “3 bedrooms, 2 baths by Shelly’s Chalets.” Unique names provide SEO value, making it easier for guests to find your properties on Google. Plus, a well-branded property can drive guests back to your website for direct booking.
Tag Your location: Guests often filter listings based on their location preferences. Although Vrbo doesn’t disclose the exact address until booking, using labels like “beachfront,” “beach view, “mountains,” or “downtown,” can significantly enhance your property’s appeal. Additionally, take advantage of Vrbo’s new filters for shopping, spas and wellness centers, theme parks, zoos, and other attractions. If your property lacks certain amenities, let guests know how far away are the nearest laundry, parking, car rentals, etc. For secluded locations, highlight the tranquility and serenity of your property.
Promote Cleanliness: Vrbo reveals that 82% of guests care about cleaning standards, but only 14% of property managers reveal them. To satisfy post-pandemic guests, adopt rigorous cleaning practices and highlight them in your listing. For instance, tell potential guests about your use of disinfectants, waiting periods between stays, and temperatures for washing bedding.
Elevate safety. Families, especially on Vrbo, may filter results based on safety. Highlight amenities like smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, child-safety rails, disability ramps, and emergency escape routes to provide reassurance.
Boost Your Rankings Like a Pro
When it comes to making it to the top of the list, “Search” is only one factor. Both Airbnb and Vrbo use ranking algorithms, but their criteria differ. Airbnb’s algorithms aim to personalize search results based on a variety of factors with an emphasis on host-guest interaction. In contrast, Vrbo’s are based on the number of accepted bookings, host cancellations, conversion rate, and review score. But neither company is totally upfront about criteria. While some of these computations are beyond your control, there’s still a lot you can do to leverage your placement.
Competitive pricing. Because both Vrbo and Airbnb include pricing in their algorithms, knowing the market rates for similar properties in your area and offering competitive rates will impact how often you appear in searches. Learn about embedding fees and do your best to be transparent. Check out this article for more pricing tips.
Response time. Guests highly value prompt communication: it’s recommended to respond to reservation requests within 24 hours. Increase your listing’s visibility by offering a wide range of available dates on your calendar. On Airbnb, use the Instant Book feature that lets guests book instantly (without the host needing to accept). Also, consider easing restrictions on the maximum or minimum stay length.
Cancellations—yours and theirs. Airbnb penalizes hosts who cancel bookings, so avoid canceling whenever possible. Post-pandemic, many travelers value flexibility; more than 75% of Vrbo respondents stated they’re more likely to choose accommodations with flexible cancellation policies. Vanessa Moore, at Track, recommends adopting a 14/7 option. Note: Vrbo highlights listings with the most relaxed cancellation policies.
Reviews. Four and five-star reviews are like gold in your pocket so always encourage satisfied guests to post a review online. On Airbnb, reviews are ranked chronologically and by relevance; on Vrbo, guests can search for properties based on customer ratings and by reviews. Communication counts: always stay on top of replying by thanking positive reviews and responding to the negative ones with courtesy. You can always use the negatives to announce you’re making improvements.
Super Badges. Instead of ranking by reviews, Airbnb relies upon the “Super Host” badge, an honored status decided quarterly, based on customer-centric criteria. Similarly, Vrbo awards the “Premier Host” badge (based on different criteria), which shows across every listing in your account; you can earn “power-ups” by accepting bookings and completing stays. Either badge is worth it because they can engender 90 percent higher bookings. Just seeing that Superhost or Premier Host status puts a gleam in guests’ hearts and signals you are a trusted and reliable host.
Letting Track Work For You
As you can see, optimizing your search and ranking on OTAs is crucial for the success of your short-term rentals. From search to ranking, there are many ways to get your listing to the top of the heap. But listing on multiple sites can be overwhelming and time-consuming. That’s where Track comes in.
With the new launch of Track’s Distribution Engine, managing and promoting your listings across multiple OTAs has never been easier, simpler and more efficient. Through a single dashboard, you can effortlessly update content, offer discounts, and ensure consistent branding across Track’s 15 partners, including popular platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, Homes & Villas—more than other software. Why has Track been named the preferred partner of both Vrbo and Airbnb? Its seamless integration eliminates the need for manual updates, freeing up your time to focus on the aspects of your business that you love.
What’s more, Track’s team of experts is available to assist you directly in managing your profiles, inputting data, and strategizing your branding to enhance visibility and increase exposure. With our full-team expertise and the power of Track’s Distribution Engine, you’ll be able to march confidently into OTAs and start letting your listings speak for themselves.
Bonus Content: Search and Rank Cheat Sheet
Maximizing your listings’ search potential is a critical step toward finding more guests and earning more money. However, consistency is key. After filling out listing after listing, it’s easy to get a bit lazy. That’s why we’ve put together a handy checklist to help remind you of the many must-haves for an effective listing. Feel free to hang it in your office or cubicle or include it in your training materials. Click the thumbnail or get it here.