The Proven Formula for a Higher Listing Site Ranking: Part 2 – Existing Listings

Astrid LindstromLeave a Comment

How to Fix Your Vacation Rental’s Low Ranking

In a previous post, we discussed how to nab a high ranking on a brand-new listing for one of the major listing sites: Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, or TripAdvisor.

If your listing’s early days are long gone, however, that knowledge isn’t especially useful.

No need to start from scratch if your existing listing has fallen in the rankings, though.

You can bring your property back onto the front page without sacrificing your listing or your reviews. Here’s how. 

Why Is Your Listing Ranked So Low?

The vast majority of owners whose properties appear lower in the rankings don’t understand why their property isn’t being shown on the front page. It’s a great property! It has great reviews! Why wouldn’t the listing site show it first?

In all likelihood, it’s your conversion rate.

Your conversion rate is the number of times your property was booked divided by the number of times it was viewed. If your property was viewed 1,000 times and booked 5 times, it has a conversion rate of 0.5%.

Your conversion rate is a pretty good indicator of whether or not travelers find your property’s listing appealing. If they like it, they’re more likely to book it when they see it. If they see it and aren’t convinced that it’s the right property for them, they’ll click away without booking.

The listing site wants to give the traveler what they’re looking for, so it’s going to present the traveler with properties it thinks they’re likely to book.

Obviously a listing that has already booked at a high rate is likely to continue to book, so the listing site presents available properties with the highest conversion rate first.

If your ranking is already low, it’s becomes part of a vicious cycle: your listing’s low ranking means fewer views, which means fewer chances to convert. That low conversion rate ensures that your listing keeps its low position on the ranking list, and round and round it goes.

Unless you interrupt the cycle by giving the listing site – and your potential guests – some new data to work with.

Present a Professional Front

Making your property more appealing to potential guests is your first step in damage control.

If we could snap our fingers and put your listing at the top of the rankings tomorrow, it wouldn’t help much if your listing didn’t meet travelers’ expectations for professional presentation. They’d skip right over your listing to a more appealing one, and your conversion rate would remain low.

How do you make your listing more appealing? Start with these essential factors:

Get professional photos taken.

If your photos are of low quality, your property won’t compare well to listings that have superior photos – even if your property is much nicer than theirs in person. Invest in professional photos and you’ll see an increase in interest right away.

Listing sites give your property a slight boost in the rankings when they see high-quality photos.

They know travelers are more likely to book a property with great photos, and as we’ve covered, their #1 priority is putting the property likeliest to be booked in front each visitor to the site.

Better photos will bring you an instant boost in the rankings and increase your likelihood of getting a booking with the views you’re currently getting, so it should be your #1 priority.

Improve your response rate and response time.

Potential guests look at your response rate and response time to see if you’re an attentive owner. The vast majority of travelers want to get their travel arrangements made as quickly as possible, so they’re less likely to book a property when the owner only responds to 80% of inquiries.

They’re even less likely to book a property if it’s going to take a long time to get a response. Owners who respond “within a few days” are a fraction as likely to get a booking than those who respond within a few hours.

Owners who respond within an hour get the best conversion rates of all.

Once again, listing sites know this about travelers, and if they see your response rate and response time improve, you will get a slight boost in the rankings before you improve your conversion rate.

Write a better headline and description.

Besides your photo, your headline is the first thing most travelers will see when they put in a search for properties in your area. Which means you should give them a good reason to click on it!

Include major amenities, proximity to area attractions, and the number of bedrooms in your headline. You can summarize: “3BD Aspen Condo w/Fireplace 2 Steps from Ski Lift!” is an excellent headline that will fit within any listing site’s character limits.

Travelers looking for that specific amenity are more likely to click on your listing instead of your competition’s.

Once they’ve clicked through to your listing, make sure they have a clear and accurate description of each room’s major features and amenities. They’ll be able to imagine exactly what your property is like inside, and to visualize using those amenities on their vacation.

With professional photos, fast response rate, and a great headline and description, we’ve made sure travelers will love your listing when they see it.

Now let’s make sure you have more chances to be seen.

Update Your Amenities

When new visitors to a listing site search for a property, they usually put in a few more requirements than the dates they’d like to travel and the number of beds they need.

They’ll also search for properties that have WiFi, air conditioning, satellite cable, and a wide host of other amenities that are essential for their vacation.

That’s great news for you! Your property won’t appear in the results for guests who are looking for amenities you don’t have.

Which means that unsecured booking won’t count against your conversion rate.

If a traveler was looking for a property with WiFi and they had to click through to your listing to discover it wasn’t available, that would count as a view that did not result in a booking. If your amenities are accurate, you shouldn’t get any views from travelers looking for amenities you don’t provide.

If your amenities aren’t accurate, you might not appear in searches that specifically ask for certain amenities.

You want to appear in as many of those searches as possible, because you have a high chance of being exactly the property this particular guest is looking for.

Let’s say there are 100 properties in your area, and 20 listings on a page of results. Your listing currently appears on the last page: page 5. But once the guest puts in all the amenities they want, there are only 6 properties that have everything they’re looking for.

Your amenities put your property on page 1, and your new and improved professional-looking listing gives you a pretty great shot of getting the booking – boosting your conversion rate.

Make sure all your vacation rental’s amenities are accurately listed, and you’ll improve your conversion rate.

Drop Your Rates

We know, we know: no one likes to drop their rates, even for a brief period of time.

But when you’re stuck at the bottom of the rankings, you’re really picking between two options:

The first option makes you no money and does nothing to improve your conversion rate, since you’re not getting bookings.

The second option makes you some money and improves your conversion rate overall, bringing you up in the rankings and giving your business renewed life.

Your property will get a boost in the rankings for those lower-priced bookings. You’ll soon find you’re appearing higher and higher in the results.

Once you’ve secured a place at the top of the ranking, you can bring your rates back up without jeopardizing your position.

Most travelers only view a few properties before making a decision, which means the higher you’re ranked, the more likely your property is to secure a booking. Higher rates, as long as they’re competitive with the other properties on page 1, won’t interfere with your conversion.

Low prices can improve a low ranking, but high prices won’t jeopardize a high ranking. Once you achieve your desired place, you can keep it easily – but you won’t get there without a small sacrifice upfront.

There’s a further bonus to temporarily lowering your prices to improve your ranking: you’ll secure great reviews for your property while you’re advertising lower rates.

Your guests will feel like they got amazing value for money – because they did! – and they’ll review you accordingly.

Those 5-star reviews will go a long way toward convincing future travelers that your property is well worth the higher rates you’re now charging at the top of the list, helping keep your conversion rate high in the future.

What Are Your Ranking Goals?

Want to get a better-performing listing? We’re giving out free advice.

If you’ve been listed on HomeAway, VRBO, Airbnb, FlipKey, or TripAdvisor and would like to improve your ranking, get a free listing assessment from one of our Homeowner Consultants.

The free listing assessment looks at 11 different factors to help your property perform better, and includes one-on-one time with an expert to answer all your questions.

The strategies we recommend are tried and tested: we list on all of the above vacation rental sites, and both our conversion and our booking rates are exceptional. We’re happy to share our knowledge with you, so sign up for your Listing Assessment here.

How do we know what makes a property rank well? We’ve tried our strategies on over 3,500 properties, and our owners enjoy high rankings, great conversion, and excellent income returns. If you’d like to get our vacation rental skills to work for your listing, check out what Evolve offers owners here.