What HomeAway's new Ranking Metrics tell you about how to optimize your listing position
Now that the new HomeAway Ranking Metrics have been in place for over 6 months, we’re seeing some very happy and not so happy short-term rental owners. The fact is it doesn’t really matter where you are in the new system. It’s there and your best bet for making money in 2018 is to learn it and figure out how to leverage it.
What is the Purpose of These Metrics?
Let’s take a step back for a moment and try to understand the point of view of HomeAway and other listing platforms such as Airbnb. What is their ultimate goal?
Their goal is to make sure that travelers who visit their site have a positive, seamless experience on the platform, so they will return over and over again to use the site for all their booking needs. Naturally if a traveler has a negative early experience, it can de-motivate the traveler from ever revisiting the site again.
What then is the best way for the sites to achieve happy travelers? It is natural that they would want to develop a way of measuring “positive experience” and implement a rating system for each property listing. Not just post-stay guest ratings, but the entire experience, from property searches to pre-booking interactions to the check-in process, and on and on.
This way, when a traveler searches for properties in a specific location and with certain characteristics, the listings with the highest “positive experience” scores can appear at the top and the worst ones at the bottom. This ensures that travelers are most likely to book and inquire about properties that give them the highest probability of having a positive experience.
HomeAway, through its relatively new Ranking Metrics, has shed some light on which factors they consider most heavily when determining “positive experience” scores. You should take these into account in terms of how you position your property against the competition.
The Ranking Metrics
Rent Potential: Estimated amount of rental money you could earn over the course of a year. Reviews: The number of 4 and 5 star reviews you have received in the past two rolling years. Total Page Views: Total of all views your listing has had over the last 30 days and market rank for total page views. Cancellations: The number of owner/manager-initiated cancellations over the last 24 months and the rank within your listing’s market. Decline Rate: The number of declines you have made or have expired from the last 10 reservations requests. Bookings: Total number of completed bookings over the last 3 months. This doesn’t include bookings that have been cancelled. Response Rate: The percentage of the last 10 enquiries and booking requests that you’ve responded to within 24 hours. Min Stay Searches: The percent of traffic from dated searches that qualified for your minimum stay requirement. Search Impressions: The number of times your property has appeared in search results when a traveler has searched within your area.
While this may seem complicated, if you look at each one individually, not only will it help you improve your overall bookings over time, you’ll learn how to use this information across all booking channels.
Improving your Search Position This is your approximate search position without any filters or dates applied. This is a difficult metric to focus on because it’s a blanket search without any specifics. Still, your overall metrics affect where you rank in this overall search. By focusing on the other criteria, your overall search position will increase.
Working with Rent Potential
The most important thing to remember is that this metric is based on the data HomeAway has about your competition in the area. It assumes this amount at a high level of performance from your property. It’s a great way to get some actual insight into how you’re tracking toward your overall revenue potential. Page Views Remember that every time someone views your listing it counts toward your total page views. Start by looking at simple best practices to boost this metric. New, professional up-to-date photos can make the difference in the first click into your listing. Consider using a professional photographer rather than your smart phone.
Work on your title. Make sure it’s clear, concise, and accurately reflects your listing and the main index picture. Both will increase your search results bringing you one step closer to a booking.
While sometimes things just happen, and you will find it necessary to decline reservations when a guest may not meet your booking criteria, there are ways to limit your declines.
This starts with clearly spelling out House Rules and providing a clear description with key details every potential guest should know before submitting a booking request.
Also, make sure your calendars are up to date, so you don’t get people inquiring about dates that are not actually available. If you use other booking sites, make sure you are syncing your calendars both ways with each platform.
Two reasons why this metric is so important to HomeAway and should be to the host as well:
1. Cancellations can devastate a guest’s plans: They may have been looking for weeks before booking and chose your property. In most cases they have put down a deposit and/or made travel arrangements. Regardless of the issue on the host side it can completely screw up a guest’s vacation plans.
2. How this reflects on HomeAway: While the decision might be yours, always consider how it affects the reputation of the platform. The guest may decide HomeAway sucks and switch to another platform instead. While this might not matter to a host booking across platforms, HomeAway might lose a customer for life and will punish you for this in terms of your search position.
While sometimes cancellations are impossible to avoid, such as damage due to a pipe leak or storm damage, there are many things to avoid miscommunication that can result in a host cancellation. Make sure your calendar and minimum stay rules are accurate. Travelers will be automatically unable to book your property if they do not meet your minimum stay requirements.
Bookings: Bookings are much like search results in that the other metrics are ultimately going to affect your bookings. Reviews, impressions, search results, cancellations, etc. Of all the metrics, the minimum stay metric can have a significant effect on your total overall bookings.
The more stays you have the better this ranking will improve. Remember, it’s nearly impossible to please everyone but most guests are extremely reasonable. At the end of each guest’s stay, be sure to request a 5-star review. This is one of the most important things you can do, as it gives HomeAway the social proof that your listing leads to positive experiences. For more on reviews, check out Why is my property not booking up like it should? Part II.
While it’s important to consider how many times you turn up in overall searches, out of all the metrics, this isn’t as important as your search rankings and page views. To improve this metric, consider reducing your minimum stay requirements, as it will enable you to show up in more searches.
Minimum stay: This can be one of the best metrics in the rankings. This helps the owner align their minimum stay to capture more traveler views in a search. An example is you could see that travelers in your market for the dates searched are looking for a minimum stay for 2 nights or less. You can adjust your listing to meet the criteria for more bookings. This of course will increase your booking metric as well.
It’s a lot to think about, but these Ranking Metrics are important to help you understand what HomeAway considers in terms of your listing placement. Minding these metrics will help you become a more successful host. In summary, you want to make sure you have an attractive and accurate listing that is as unrestrictive as you can stomach (lowest minimum night requirements), and you want to avoid rejecting or cancelling guests to the greatest extent possible. Once you get the booking, make sure you take good care of your guest, and be sure to request a review at the end of the guest’s stay.