Why You Should Only List On One Vacation Rental Platform

Reddit - Airbnb's Search Rank Algorithm

Updated: October 6, 2017

 

I am about to blow your mind. You may disagree and I would love to know why in the comments. But, I hope at the end you will understand my points to be valid related to vacation rental platforms.

 

“We publish your listing on the top 50 platforms!”

 

“Vacation rental management…across hundreds of sites.”

 

“Maximize your revenue! We create your listing on the leading 6+ platforms.”

 

Have you seen these before? You are at least familiar with the marketing jargon. It has turned into a commonplace that to be a successful vacation rental host, you need to be listed on as many platforms as possible. The more the merrier! I have an alternate perspective for you.

 

You do NOT need to be on multiple platforms to be a successful Airbnb host. Click To Tweet

 

Here’s why, if at all possible, you do NOT want to list on multiple vacation rental platforms:

  1. You distribute all your reviews to many platforms instead of focusing them on one.
  2. You create mediocre listings on many platforms instead of one optimized listing.

 

Obviously, reviews are tremendously important to your search rank. I will assume if you are reading this blog post, you are also getting mostly 5-star reviews. The more reviews you have, the higher you rank. Plain and simple (see below for direct evidence). When you list on multiple platforms, you are distributing your hard earns reviews instead of focusing them onto one. While this may be a good short-term strategy (explained below), it is a bad long-term strategy (also explained below).

 

Listing on multiple vacation rental platforms only distributes your reviews. Not good. Click To Tweet

 

Scenario A – You list on the top 10 platforms and have 60 reviews after the first year. Let’s say 15 reviews are on Airbnb, 10 reviews are on the next leading platform, 5 on the next few, all the way down to 1 or 2 reviews on websites like FlipKey and Roomorama.

 

Scenario B – You list on Airbnb.com and have 55 reviews after your first year.

 

But, I got more reservations in Scenario A!?! Yes. That is true for the first year. Listing on multiple vacation rental platforms is a good short-term strategy where you will surely fill in otherwise unbooked gaps. But this advantage quickly disappears as time goes on when having more reviews associated to your listing disproportionality affects your search rank. In other words, after the first year Scenario A may be ranked on the 2nd page (on average) while Scenario B may be ranked on the 1st page (on average). This difference more than makes up for the 5 reservations passed on in the first year.

 

Here’s a graphic from EverBook’s Pro service showing the number of reviews for Airbnb listings in New York City, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. You can see there is less compeition at the top. If you create your Airbnb listing today, you will be playing catch up.

Airbnb reviews, Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Airbnb reviews, Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Airbnb reviews, New York

New York

 

Listing your vacation rental on multiple platforms is ONLY a good short-term strategy. Click To Tweet

 

In early 2017 some research was done on Airbnb search and posted to Reddit. It shows that both guest satisfaction (#1) and number of reviews (#9) are highly correlated with search ranking. Read the full report on hacking Airbnb’s search rank algorithm.

Reddit - Airbnb's Search Rank Algorithm

 

Pro Tip: If you use multiple vacation rental platforms, only allow secondary platforms to make reservations in the next 30 days.

 

If you use multiple booking channels, only allow secondary platforms to book within 30 days. Click To Tweet

 

The above pro tip is the only reason I can argue for in favor of listing on multiple vacation rental platforms. That is, to use additional platforms to fill in available days within the next 2 weeks to one month. The average Airbnb guest books 30 days in advance making the likelihood of getting a reservation within 30 days less and less likely as the unbooked days approach. As we all know, these last minute bookings also pose the greatest risk. Scammers and thieves are not planning ahead 30 days in advance. Learn how to identify problem Airbnb guests based on their profile.

 

Additionally, you may have started with an optimized listing on those 10 websites, but after a year they are all now poorly optimized because you have not kept up with the constant changes and updates these platforms make on a monthly basis. Get you Airbnb search engine optimized!

 

One final thought…

 

Have you heard of the Pareto principle? Or the 80/20 rule? It says that 20% of your efforts result in 80% of your outcomes. For Airbnb property managers, 20% of your Airbnb listings result in 80% of your income.

 

Do 20% of your Airbnb listings account for 80% of your revenues? Click To Tweet

 

This is true in society: 80% of land is owned by 20% of the population.

 

Also true in nature: 20% of a crop creates 80% of the yield.

 

In my experience, Airbnb generates ~70-80% of booking revenue in most markets. A good host with an optimized listing can get this number up to 90%+.

 

If you are saying to yourself you want that extra 10-20%, I would ask: Is the extra 20% worth the extra 80% of your time? Time is your only asset you will never get back. Money comes and goes. For me, I would rather focus my attention on the most popular website, Airbnb.com, and use the rest of my time with family or friends or on hobbies or (ready for it!) to create an additional stream of revenue than chasing the last bit of income from the 14th most popular vacation rental platform.

 

It may make sense to list on multiple platforms if for some reason Airbnb is not the market leader in your area. Areas of China immediately come to mind or areas with a very specific clientele who already have a process for booking their vacation rentals. If you think you live in an area like this, please let me know in the comments and I will do some research on your behalf.

 

I hope you have a different opinion than me. Share it in the comments so we both can learn and grow.


Also published on Medium.

  • Hello from beautiful Montana,
    It is fun to connect with like-minded people. Thanks so much for caring and sharing your knowledge and skills in Airbnb.

    Judy Helm Wright–Author/blogger/Intuitive Wise Woman

  • Ok, how about Todos Santos, Mexico? I’ve been doing this for about 2.5 years and my bookings seem to be about half and half (airbnb, vrbo). I’m going to double-check, but what do you think?

  • Ok, so in the past 2.5 years, I’ve made just slightly more in airbnb, but I’ve had more than double the number of guests. vrbo people tend to stay longer (at a cheap rate) and their payout is about double what the airbnb people pay. I should look into the nightly payout for each platform.

    • DVR

      Interesting. You can run an experiment where you deactivate VRBO for a couple months or only allow VRBO bookings within 1 month of check-in date. Keep in mind, this is a long term strategy so in the beginning you will earn less money than being on numerous platforms. Also, if you’re only on two platforms and you know these are the best, I’d say it’s ok. I’m moreso talking to hosts which think being on 3, 4, 5+ platforms (the more the merrier) is better. Let us know how it goes!

  • Richard @ Rentivo

    Really interesting discussion this and would be good to hear from channel manager’s experiences in the quarter. Lots of interesting facts and theorising, but there are a few elements that needs addressing.

    1. FOMO. Not everybody is going to to this and hence all businesses look at their competitors actions.
    2. The recent changes to the industry have created massive distrust of future OTA intention. Hotels paid 5% on a booking in the early days and now its close to all out war as the game is played out. All eggs in one basket is never a good idea and rentals are late to the game and have less margin.
    3. Companies popularity waxes and wains and hence 2 applies.
    4. Channels are played out based on seasons, variable pricing based on deals and best ROI. Add in geo-location marketing strength and social attitudes and a “marketing mix” is really needed including direct booking, which realistically is the only one that an owner or manager can control throughout the process.

    Technology is likely to offer inventory controllers more options, this could be more cost effective affiliate schemes, membership programs, licensed loyalty programs, decentralised data and more.

  • OttToyBoy

    All of the reasons for a “single vendor solution” are invalidated by the simple but insightful “do not put all your eggs in one basket” maxim. For those owners severely burned by HomeAway / VRBO / Expedia, this is a no-brainer.

    If the argument for posting on a single platform is that you can optimize that platform and concentrate reviews in one place then you must also point out that this maximizes your risk by being tied to that single platform.

    Additionally, it is pointed out in the article that in the short-term multiple listing sites will perform better but that, eventually, having a single-vendor will make that single-vendor perform better. By this same argument, I would say that concentrating on *multiple* high-performing platforms (and a few up-and-comers) is a better long-term strategy. in a few years each of them will get to 80% (remember your 80/20 rule!) of the quality of those who chose to get a single-platform to 90% quality. I will have six platforms operating at 80% while you will have one operating at 90%.

    Finally, these days having your own web site is getting more-and-more important. You can then use side-channels (such as FaceBook, Twitter, Kijiji, etc..) to drive business directly to your site – cut out the middle-man and increase your profits.

    Owners, please — never, ever, ever follow the advice in this article. You will eventually regret it.

  • Not something that I recommend. I’ve seen too many people de-listed by Airbnb with no explanation, and no recourse for rebuttal to suggest that all should use Airbnb only. Competition is good for any business. Instead, invest your energy in making sure you initiate all the best host practices that are available to you and offer a quality product. Choose at least one startup to list on other than the big ones. (That’s how I started with Airbnb in 2008!)