What if Airbnb search worked like Google search?

This is hypothetical but maybe when they go public it might happen.

There are two types of searches on Google; paid or free. Paid searches are at the top. Normally, there are three which are differentiated from the free listings below with a little “AD” box to the right of the link. Businesses pay by bidding on those top three spots.

What if Airbnb winds up doing something similar? Would you be in favor of it or against it? If you’re a host and want to be at the top of the search in your area, you pay extra for that spot. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen someday. It would be a way for Airbnb to generate more revenue for their shareholders.


I’m against as I feel those folks that have tons of listings, i.e. corporate types would have the $$ to pay for their listing while the rest of us would not.


That’s true. But I think ABB will eventually separate more distinctly individuals renting rooms from those corporate types. They have hinted about doing this.

Where did they hint?

From the title, i was all excited “you mean a guest could search ‘private room no smoking no pets quiltbag friendly’ and get only search results that completely matched? YES please”

But yeah, sponsored ads/ content seems like a direction they will go and I’ll endure or not. But i don’t charge enough to make ads worthwhile. Sigh.

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It does seem like high priced listings would be able to afford it and the little guy original crash in my spare room would not, so not a fan. I like @Alia’s idea of having tailored results though.

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Sorry if I mislead you. i didn’t even get into the subject of google free search (non-ad). SEO on Google is a very complex subject. Their exact algorithm is a trade secret. Airbnb’s search could greatly improve, that’s for sure! Hopefully, it will. What if they did have something similar to Google? Say you search "private room no smoking no pets quiltbag friendly’ but your listing comes up 10th on the search. Why is that? Why was another listing ranked higher than you? It could be because they have better reviews, respond quicker, have IB on, etc. There are good reasons for some listings to rank higher, which is fine with me. Being new with no reviews shouldn’t be a main factor in my opinion. Price shouldn’t be either.


@Arlene_Larsson I can’t remember the exact place I heard that but I think it was in the Q & A session Brian did recently.

All that will happen if they do this, is that multiple listings and hosts with more money will pay to advertise and their listings will go at the top, rather than those more highly ranked, quality listings which will just form part of the organic searches.

Paid ads (AdWords) on Google can cost a fortune (depends on industry). If Airbnb does it, the competition will be insane and the cost to advertise will be insane. Can you imagine the Los Angeles market competing in Silver Lake for example when there’s only space to 1-4 “paid listings” listings?!

Needless to say, the conversion rate will also be a huge factor. I see it as something that will lower the profits down big time. Perhaps if they do some sort of flat rate fee you pay per day/week but these are problematic because they don’t allow Air to make decent money. It must be bid based.

What!!! Are you from Air? Why would you ask hosts such a question?

I used to work for Bain Consultants in Boston in 1993. One of the things we learned was you have to be clear about what you are offering: Value or Premium. But don’t try and do both, it just confuses customers. I am sure Air has similar people working for them and telling them to split the business in two. But the brand is currently “value” so if they want to move to “premium” they’ll have to create a new upmarket premium brand and leverage off their current value brand. It’s a tricky move. Having said that it can be done. Brand positioning is a much more complex thing these days. But the downside is you can completely destroy your brand if you get it wrong.

No, I am a host. I just got to thinking about search and how they could improve it. Let me be clear. I am against paid search. But from Airbnb’s perspective I can envision a day when that would happen. As a long time professional photographer, I saw many sites where photographers could list their business. They have paid sites at the top and free ones underneath. It’s very expensive and I hate it. I hope Airbnb never does anything like this. But they will be going public and shareholders will demand increasing returns. I do think they need to drastically improve their current search algorithm. But will they do it to benefit hosts like us or their shareholders?

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