So often I hear the same complaint from new Airbnb hosts. It always goes something like this – ‘help! I started renting out a room on Airbnb a couple of months ago and everything was going great. Now I find that I have no bookings and am getting no inquiries. Why?’
There’s good news and bad news in this scenario. Let’s look at the bad news first – but I promise, there is good news too.
If you’ve only been hosting for a few months and now you’re seeing nothing, then you’ve just discovered one of the realities of hosting on Airbnb. The fact is that new listings are given a boost in the Airbnb search algorithm – so most hosts find that they get the first few months booked quickly but then the effect of this privilege wears off.
After all, at time of writing there are more than 2,000,000 rentals listed on the site.
And sadly, your listing has no more right to be at the top (or even on the first dozen pages) of search results. What we also have to remember is that new hosts are deciding to ‘try Airbnb’ all the time. You had your time in the spotlight as a new host – we all did at one time – but now it’s someone else’s turn.
Being a new host has another advantage too as far as some guests are concerned. The reason for this is that the wise Airbnb guest knows that new hosts are desperate for good reviews from their guests. For this reason, they often try harder than more experienced hosts. Some guests look for brand new hosts as they know that they’ll get great service.
So another reality is that your agreement with Airbnb is that you’ll be listed on their site – as long as you remain a good host and keep up your hospitality standards. But it’s simply not feasible for your listing to be prominent on search all the time, if at all.
Airbnb makes no guarantees regarding advertising or promoting your property. The site allows you to use their free facility to list your rental and you only pay them their service fee when you get a booking. This seems fair – in fact, it’s a great deal.
So now that we know that it would be foolish to rely on Airbnb to promote your business, we have to look at ways that you can promote your listing easily and cheaply – in fact, preferably free. After all, your Airbnb rental is a business and I can think of no other business enterprise that doesn’t rely on some form of advertising or promotion from the business itself.
You have no doubt spent time and money preparing your apartment for guests. You’re a new host so it’s likely that you haven’t even come close to recouping your initial outlay yet so paying for advertising is out of the question. But I think it’s fair to assume that you are prepared to devote a little time to increasing your bookings.
After all, there is your empty room or apartment sitting their empty just crying out for guests and you’re not ready to give up yet.
HOW CAN YOU ATTRACT VIEWERS TO YOUR LISTING?
- We know that advertisers from days gone by would be astounded to know that for several years now, we’ve had a completely free (and easy) advertising source at our fingertips. Yes, social media. Very, very rarely do I come across anyone who doesn’t use some sort of social media and it’s a great way to let the world know about your listing. Even if the extent of your social media presence is Facebook (yuk) then your friends would be glad to share your listing if you ask them. There are many ways to use social media to attract views to your rental
- Double check that you haven’t let your standards slip. It’s easy to be enthusiastic when you’re hosting your first dozen or so guests so make sure that the enthusiasm level is retained
- It’s sometimes easy to forget that there are other ways than the internet to promote your rental. Check for local events in your area – especially the ones that are low key but well attended. Contact the organisers to tell them about your rental
- Also non-internet, you can create cheap but good looking flyers using your own printer (or a local print shop). Distribute them to public places – pinning them to noticeboards if you can. Places can include your local library, bus station, etc. Local people often have friends and family coming to the area who need accommodation. Colleges and universities are well worth trying too
- Do not reduce your prices to ridiculous levels as this will lead guests to think that your place is not of a decent standard. Instead, check your listing carefully and improve it – there’s always room for improvement. Maybe it’s time to add new photographs?
- Check too that your profile page is appealing – read it carefully. Would you want to rent from that person? Make sure that you look friendly and approachable and that your description is accurate and sincere
- Consider using Instant Book if you don’t already. (This simply means that guests can book your place without awaiting your approval). You can always switch it back once the bookings and reviews come rolling in
- Chances are that you know someone who runs their own website or blog. Ask them to add your listing’s embed code into the sidebar or footer of their site. Go a step further and ask webmasters you don’t know too.
- Log in to Airbnb regularly and make charges – even minor ones. This indicates that you’re an active host who cares about your bookings. I know of hosts who never go to the site unless it’s to answer a booking enquiry. Go there regularly and not only will this show your commitment, it will also give you the opportunity to perfect your listing, profile, photographs and pricing
- Check your house rules. I have read many house rules and wondered whether the host was a prison warden in a previous life! Or a primary school teacher – some house rules treat guests as though they were five years old. If you’re not getting bookings, be sure to check that your rules aren’t putting people off staying with you. You can always add stricter house rules when the bookings are rolling in but what more do you really need to say than ‘ no smoking, quiet hours 10pm to 8am and please be respectful of our home and neighbours’ at this stage of the game?
- Mention any special events in the top section – or even in the title – of your listing.
- Reviews are important and as a new host you might only have a handful. Remember that you can also ask people you know to recommend you. Your friend or colleague will need to have an Airbnb account (complete with photograph of themselves) in order to write you a reference. This can greatly enhance your profile and increase trust
- Contact travel bloggers and websites and tell them about your listing. Tell them that you’d love an article and are happy to send information and photographs. To make their lives particularly easy, write a short article yourself and send this along. (Yes, this site accepts articles)
- Be prepared to be a little more daring with your listing. There are ‘words of wisdom’ out there that state that hosts should not accept local people, older people, teenagers, people who have no reviews, under 30s, people who ask too many questions prior to booking, people who ask for discounts …. and many more absurd criteria. They are largely nonsense. I have hosted many people in those categories and everything has been wonderful. If you’ve been refusing people for nonsensical reasons, it might be time to relax. People behave in the way that they are treated. Be pleasant, helpful and friendly with your guests and the chances are that they’ll be the same with you
- I have just this minute read the following phrase from a host – ‘I automatically decline anyone who asks for a discount’. Why? Let’s say I have no one booked into my rental for next weekend. Someone requests to stay there. Now let’s say that my normal price is $125 a night and the guest is asking for a rate of $100 per night. I remember that a bird in the hand is better than a bird in a bush and accept. Have I gained $200 or lost a potential $250? If I accept I am getting a guaranteed income for those two nights, more than likely a great review, potential repeat guests and the possibility of referrals. Those are worth the $50 I might have ‘lost’ especially if I was a new host or not getting bookings
- The same applies to the length of stay you offer to your guests. I see many hosts who have a three day minimum. That’s fine when you’re established and fully booked. But if the bookings aren’t coming in, reduce your minimum to a two or even one day stay. (And be sure that you have a cleaning fee that makes it worthwhile). In many years of hosting (yes, before Airbnb started) I’ve found that short term guests often return for longer stays and recommend you to their friends – as long as you’ve ensured that they’ve had a great time. Also, seven one nighters in a week might be a lot of work but it could mean seven new glowing reviews. You can change your minimum stay period at any time
- Remember that the most important word is ‘you’. When you’re tweaking your copy write phrases such as ‘you will enjoy sitting on the patio’ or ‘you’ll find that your apartment is equipped with a full kitchen’. Your listing can always be improved to make the guests imagine themselves right their in your property. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘imagine yourself admiring the view’ or similar
- If your area hosts conferences and business meetings, contact the organisers. Many people who are travelling on business are pretty fed up of hotel chains and prefer somewhere where they can really relax after a hard day’s work
- Consider creating your own simple website to promote your listing – this need not cost money, just your time. There are plenty of do-it-yourself website systems out there and your own site (on your own URL) helps to make you look more professional and trustworthy. You can make a good start on your website yourself, then hand it over to a professional to tweak once finances will allow
These are just a few ways to promote your listing. Every place and every host is different so you’ll be able to develop your own methods of promotion that suit your style.
JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.