How AirBnB makes great listings stand out a little more

Many major tourist destinations by now have thousands of AirBnB hosts competing for the attention of guests. But how, beside your budget, do you decide who is best for your holidays?

AirBnB introduces numeric rating averages. And about why it unfortunately does not pay off for an AirBnB host to be better than just very good.

AirBnB test runs the display of numeric rating values

It seems that in the recent weeks AirBnB is doing a test-run to display the actual calculated average rating score instead of the simplified rating-representation by stars . Whereas previously you could often not make out any difference in the rating on most of the listings on page 1 to 5 you can now get a better distinction.  See the number right next to the star.

Rating averages in search view

Rating averages in search view

To me that now actually makes a difference, see the alternative star representation in the listing here.

In the listing details you can now even dig deeper into the ratings.

Rating average in the listing header

Rating average in the listing header

Rating averages for each review catgory

Rating averages for each review category







Why to differentiate beyond the best

My broad point is that it does not make (economic) sense for an AirBnB host to be more than good enough. Why? No easy way to meet those who are looking for more.

Concerning how to make a decision for your stay – AirBnB suffers increasingly from complication overkill :). Too many individual listings where design features are the only thing that differs. A tough situation for those of us who love hard facts to support a decision.

The same on the other (host) side of the story:  Suppose you are an amazing host who really goes beyond to help with an unbeatable travel experience. How do you stand out?

Situation as is: The first pages of listings on AirBnB are widely occupied by hosts who are fully booked with great guest satisfaction and great reviews – all the same. Hosts can currently reach a full star satisfaction by simply sticking to the basic rules of business (like e.g. fast and good communication, well maintained and fitted properties and a flawless check-in).

I am sure that the level of service even beyond these top listings differs largely. That is because on top of these basics there are so many extras like guest service during the stay, city tours and extensive time on welcoming your guests which in this situation simply do not or hardly pay out.

The value of top level service

“Affordable outstanding experiences” could be an AirBnB tagline

Imagine that you are arriving to a city and you get those

  • top-level-basics (great communication, great place, great welcome)
  • pick up from the airport
  • a free personal city tour by your host
  • individual recommendations during your stay
  • a free lift back

Should that listing not stand out? Being easily found by those looking for such level of hospitality is the key to keeping it up.

Reality is that when I talk to hosts some of those things really happen. The specific strength of AirBnB hosts is that they are not hotels with 50+ rooms having to manage a high influx of guests day by day. Hence there are plenty of people who can provide a level of service with an authenticity that is unheard of or simply unaffordable in hotels.

The problem if looking at it with a clear head: there is no extra sugar in the game to reward for the extra service.

Any solutions?

It would already have been done if it was obvious and easy. The current move from displaying stars to a numeric display is both good as well as well tested on other platforms. It is 41 rating levels instead of 9.

Another step could be to create more spread by tweaking the feedback questions further. However this has it’s limit, there is a drawback for deviating the bulk of listings too far away from the top: competition of other portals. A satisfaction rating is known to us and we know that 5 of 5 stars is great and 3 of 5 isn’t. Would you prefer a 3 of 5 on AirBnB to a 9 of 10 on I wouldn’t which makes it a dead end for me.

@AirBnB: I would suggest to ask an extra question for the review, something like “Did your stay feel unbeatable?” and turn that into a ranking factor and an optical hint.

Available tweaks to stand out

The 2 available elements that hosts have to optically stand out in an AirBnB search are just the headline and the main image. Whilst I have seen images saying “free pickup” it is very hard to do that well without messing with the image itself and the headline only has 35 chars.

I’d be curious to see successful examples that market extras beyond the location.

How do you stand out?


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