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Higher search placement if no InstantBook?

In another post, @smartbnb.io mentioned:

Your reviews, your response time (in particular if you have not activated Instant Book), your rate (up to a point), and the guest’s own experience have an effect on your rankings.

My response rate is 100% and I always reply to new inquiries within a few minutes. I activated InstantBook and I think after I did that, I started getting fewer requests. Could the reason be that now that I have InstantBook, my fast response rate does not give me as much of an advantage? @smartbnb.io, why do you think response rate plays a more important role for search rankings of non-InstantBook properties? And if my response rate is high, can turning on InstantBook hurt my search rankings if I’m placed higher without InstantBook?

This is contrary to Airbnb’s claim that InstantBook helps generate more bookings. But it would make (some) sense for the system to not factor in response time if a listing is InstantBook… What’s your experience, knowledge or take on this?

I don’t have IB on, but I have 100 percent response. I seem to come up first in searches but I think it may have to do with my price. Not sure.

Hi @skylar,

That is probably a case of me not proofreading myself :slight_smile:

The response time is a lot more important if you have not activated Instant Book, because once you activate Instant Book, your response time will get lower and lower automatically, for every new “insta-booked” reservations.

To be clear, Instant Book doesn’t offer any competitive disadvantage. On the contrary, Instant Book offers a supra-competitive advantage, twice.

  1. Airbnb’s algorithms will favour more and more Instant Book until it is the new normal. Airbnb wants Instant Book, in particular because it helps to solve the discrimination problem.

  2. Every time you have a new instant booked reservation, Airbnb will count that you accepted the reservation the second your guest requested to book. Every new reservation contributes to lowering your response time, without any action.

So: if you want to promote your listing, use Instant Book. If you don’t, reply fast (very fast: most hosts with Instant Book display an actual response time inferior to 60 seconds) to be competitive.

Of course , you can check your actual metrics, in particular your rankings for your next availabilities and your response time on https://smartbnb.io :slight_smile:

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I see… but @smartbnb.io, now there is something else that does not seem to make full sense to me. Are you saying that Airbnb records a 0-second response time for InstantBook reservations? Well, what about the cases when a host may get an InstantBook reservation and never even write to the guest leaving them hanging and possibly without any instructions on how to check in/out etc? Accepting an InstantBook reservation automatically does not mean the host is always ready and capable of responding fast. Additionally, auto-accepting an InstantBook reservation is not the same occurrence as when a host truly responds back to a guest and takes the time to engage in a conversation and address an inquiry or request. The level of engagement is different and so is the financial impact. With InstantBook, the reservation is booked and funds are collected from the guest whereas as typing a fast response to a guest gives the host a good chance of closing the deal but does not guarantee a booked reservation. In other words, there are 2 different metrics that I think are equally important - time-to-engage/respond and time-to-book(instantly or not)… and I don’t think these two metrics should be mixed… if Airbnb puts them in the same “bucket” and measure them interchangeably, that’d be bad and flat out inaccurate.

I appreciate this, and I am reporting how Airbnb works. Response time is only measured in response to events initiated by a guest, when receiving a new booking inquiry or a new request to book. The response time is not measured at any other time in the process.

“Responding” does not only mean responding with a message. It can be pre-approving a guest after receiving a new inquiry (without sending any message beforehand). It can also be declining a request to book. Any action initiated by the host on the inquiry is, in fact, a response.

On Instant book, the guest initiates a request to book that is immediately accepted by the host. The response time is 0 seconds. Any subsequent message (after the reservation has been accepted) will not be accounted by Airbnb.

It works the same way if you pre-approve a guest: the request is automatically approved per the pre-approval.

Response time is to be understood like a time taken by the host to convert inquiries to reservations, or not. The strength of Airbnb is not tech, it’s marketing :slight_smile:

Here is an example of a host whose response time is currently at 9 seconds:
https://smartbnb.io/report/p2bzksKfUc?currency=EUR

There is obviously no way any host could reply on average within 9 seconds to any message from a guest, let alone a meaningful reply outside of, say, “:+1:”.

This response time only makes sense if a good part of the “events” are instant booked reservations. The host is actually still responsive whenever there is a booking inquiry, which is the only time his response time may increase.

@smartbnb.io thank you for the detail… I appreciate you sharing your understanding of how Airbnb works.

One other distinction that just hit me is that there’s a difference between “response rate” and “response time”. All hosts have access to their response rate, but how can I find out what is my response time? Can I ask Airbnb? You mentioned your solution discloses it?

Also if I hear you correctly, you believe the time it takes me to pre-approve a guest is also factored in my response time. So pre-approving fast helps my search rankings. Declining hurts them (as I understand). Does neither pre-approving nor declining an inquiry I’ve responded to hurt me as well…?

Your official response time is something like “within a few days”, “within a few hours”, or “within an hour”. You can find it at the bottom of your listing’s page, where there should be a little space to introduce yourself as a host.

The number I give is that actual response time (in the example above: 9.0 seconds). You can give it a run with your listing number, it’s free.

Just go at the bottom of the page, for the form “Get your free listing report”. No need to create an account with Smartbnb, no need to connect an Airbnb account, that number is public.

Yay, probability tree!

Pre-approving, declining, or saying hi very quickly should reduce your response time and contribute to a better placement in search results.

Declining A LOT will reduce your position in search results, but that would be evidenced in a different metrics that Airbnb does not disclose at all, that should be part of your “conversion rate” (moving inquiries to reservations). In any case, it is not about your response time. If you decline quickly, your response time may actually improve.

Not giving any sign of life (no pre-approval, no decline, no message) means you are inactive, and it will affect your response rate (with disaster-like effect), your response time (with great effect) and conversion rate (with major effect, probably more important than response time).

Not pre-approving or declining an inquiry (but communicating with the guest) may have an effect on your conversion rate, but not response time or response rate. If you have activated Instant book, it probably won’t affect your conversion rate, since a guest doesn’t need your pre-approval to book.

So, in your hypothesis, you should feel ok. Your first response should be fast, but then you can ask questions to your guests and wait before giving the go :slight_smile: This is still what Airbnb should be about!

@smartbnb.io all makes sense… but I still have a gut feel that declining an inquiry, not a request can hurt search placement.

I believe the conversion rate you’re talking about is what they call an approval rate and factors in only declined and accepted requests.

I’m not sure what metric they consider for declined or pre-approved inquiries but it has to make a difference too… even if a host declines only one or a few inquiries.

I’ll give smartbnb.io a go as you suggested… good to know there’s no sign up or credit card commitment required. I’ll probably create another topic if I have any questions and further clarifications I may have about it.

It’s another thing. The approval rate is the percentage of success of a “request to book” being accepted within 24 hours.

With Instant Book, that metric is meaningless, any request will be immediately accepted. Without Instant Book, it matters because you have to review every request.

I believe there is another secret metric, or combination of metrics used by Airbnb, that basically translates into a conversion rate, which is the chance for any booking inquiry to be transformed into an actual reservation.

It does hurt your conversion rate. The loss might be limited (in some cases, you may actually improve your position!) if your decline the inquiry fast.

@smartbnb.io… makes sense. So between all these various metrics (response rate, response time, acceptance rate, conversion rate, etc)… do you think response time carries the most weight? Or are they equally weighted? If the latter, maybe when declining fast, the fast response would/could almost compensate for the decline. My gut feel is acceptance or conversion rate carry more weight than response rate but it’s hard to say what should really be most important.

Conversion rate is the most important metrics of all. It’s your ability to transform leads into money for Airbnb.
Airbnb’s (imaginary) CFO doesn’t care how long you take to respond.

All other metrics are fundamentally irrelevant for Airbnb’s CFO, but they each have their raison d’être in the more authentic, humane, relations-based hospitality business Airbnb wants to promote.

So I should be able to calculate my conversion rate as follows?

count/sum of [ inquiries + requests ]
divided by
count/sum of [ # of booked stays ]

And the assumption is - if my conversion rate goes up, my search placement will improve?

@smartbnb.io what do you think is a good cut off to keep your conversion rate over?

My own conversion rate is 68% (year to year).

On my users, the ones who do not have a problem in their search rankings placement are above 60%. The ones above 70% are generally superhosts (and often have a small scale).

The ones that have a problem are below 50%.

@smartbnb.io… I have a few more clarifications and questions… mostly about the conversion rate metric but also a few other nuances of search placement:

My own conversion rate is 68% (year to year).

  1. How did you calculate that? This is how I do it, but I’m not sure if you apply the same process. Assuming I’ve replied to each request, I have at least 1 message thread for each inquiry or request. So I go to the dropdown menu in the top right in my hosting inbox. Then I take the count shown in parenthesis under the dropdown filter [reservations] and divide that by the sum of dropdown filters [all hosting messages] + [archived].

  2. You think Airbnb uses data only from the past 12 months or what do you mean by “year to year”?

And then… you mentioned: > On my users, the ones who do not have a problem in their search rankings placement are above 60%. The ones above 70% are generally superhosts (and often have a small scale).

  1. You assume it’s harder to maintain a high conversion rate if a host is operating on a larger scale, how so?

  2. By the nature of qualifications, most superhosts do have more bookings than many (but not all) non-super-hosts. But do you think their search rankings are better because of this higher conversion rate OR do you think Airbnb gives at least some sort of a search ranking boost just for a listing being hosted by a superhost, regardless of that superhost’s conversion rate? In other words, if you have a superhost and a nonsuperhost with the same conversion rate (be it high or low), will the superhost listing be ranked higher than the nonsuperhost listing?

I like those, you keep me challenged :wink:

In my case it is a bit more convenient because I have coded it, but this is the same:

  1. counting the number of conversations (in the host inbox: All Hosting Messages + Archived: 280)
  2. counting the number of reservations (in the host inbox: Reservations 184)

Which gives 65% for me (for my account lifetime). The coded version, with time restrictions for the year-to-date 69,8%.

The coded version gives the conversion rate from October 1st, 2015 to October 1st, 2016 (more like “year to date”). If Airbnb used that metrics, I believe it would more likely be over a 3 months period (but absolutely no way to back it up, that is just an intuition to take with a decent amount of salt).

Sorry, my bad:I believe it is easier to be a Superhost on a small scale. I don’t see how scale could have an effect on the conversion rate (if anything, there is less friction when the host is an agency managing 50+ listings: just send the money).

Being a Superhost has per itself zero effect on search rankings. BUT superhosts are super-competitive, so are looking at their metrics closely and want to reply fast, never decline, never cancel, always update, etc. In addition, being a Superhost should have a positive effect on the conversion rate.

All things being equal (conversion rate, response time, acceptance rate and every possible metrics that there is) and the user searching has absolutely no experience with Airbnb whatsoever (so Airbnb won’t try to match the user to a type of listing they have liked before), I have absolutely no idea who might come first. I would love to get the answer, but that requires a lot of data and access to a lot of similar Airbnb accounts to “play” with.

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