Chat with the Experts: Secrets to Your Search Ranking, Revealed

Apr 5, 2018 | Expert Advice

When a traveler searches for a rental, what determines which listings they see first? It’s an important question and one that TripAdvisor Rentals puts a lot of time and thought into. In fact, we have a whole team of data scientists working on how to provide travelers with the best selection of properties that meet their requirements.

We sat down with TripAdvisor search guru DJ Gaker, to get some insights about search ranking. In this post, we’ll share the most significant factors that go into recommending properties to our travelers. And, most importantly, what you can do to move up those search results and attract more travelers eager to book their trip!

 

Thanks for your time today, DJ. As you know, we’d like to give our owners some insight into how we recommend properties to travelers who use our site. Specifically, about search ranking. As that’s your area of expertise, we’d like to pick your brain.

Sure. Well, we’ve been tackling this question for a long time now and when we recommend properties to travelers, it’s about providing two things:

One – Properties travelers will like

Two – A positive experience using the site

For number one, we’re not only trying to satisfy the traveler’s basic requirements such as location, number of bedrooms, and the amenities they’re looking for. We also want to recommend listings that will get travelers feeling excited and confident about booking, so reviews are really important, too.

For number two, we’re looking for all the attributes that add up to a smooth booking experience. That includes factors like an owner’s acceptance rate, response rate and response time.

How do you decide which properties best do both those things?

We develop and use sophisticated data science models to help us predict which listings will provide the traveler with the best experience.

Broadly speaking, we use two different models to help us sort properties. The first tries to predict how likely a listing is to generate an inquiry or booking request and looks at information like rates, reviews, longer descriptions and photos.

The second predicts how likely a listing is to convert a traveler’s interest into a confirmed booking. The most important element of this model is the owner’s acceptance rate (the percentage of booking requests they accept). If an owner declines a booking request or lets it expire, that translates into a really poor experience for the traveler. As a result, the listing would drop in the rankings.

The models look at all sorts of information, from your acceptance rate to how competitive your rates are (and a lot of other factors in between).

Why don’t you just allow properties to show up in a random order?

If we did that, we wouldn’t be offering the traveler the best user experience. After all, we’re aiming to present them with results that are most relevant to their needs. With thousands of inquiries and/or booking requests sent on TripAdvisor Rentals sites every day, we can identify trends in traveler behavior, learn from them and optimize the experience for both owners and guests as a result.

At the end of the day, we want travelers to come back to the platform, recommend it to their friends and make more bookings. It wouldn’t be very smart to ignore lots of information that could help us do that.

What about when you don’t have much information – for example, with brand new listings?

Of course it would be unfair to penalize brand new owners and listings when they haven’t had time to get established and develop their acceptance rate, for example.

When we don’t have much information, the statistical models we use start looking at similar properties in similar locations alongside the historic booking data we’ve collected. Generally, our data tells us that new listings deliver a good experience, so they tend to rank quite well.

How important is response rate and time?

Responding to inquiries is important in giving the traveler a positive experience, and even better if you do so quickly. But we have to be careful how we use this to recommend properties – automatic email responses, for example, can give a false impression of how good an owner is at responding and we don’t want to reward listings unfairly.

Do you think you’ve found the perfect recipe for recommending properties?

I don’t think it’s ever perfect. But we’re always trying to improve to better satisfy our travelers’ needs and improve the experience they have on the site.

What advice would you give owners who are looking to improve their search ranking?

Wow, OK… There’s lots to say here. Can I do a top five?!

  • Accept booking requests

When a traveler gets as far as entering their payment details but their booking is declined, they’re going to be disappointed. Because this is such a poor experience, it will have a very negative impact your position in the search results.

  • Convert inquiries

If you’re receiving lots of interest from travelers but not converting them into actual bookings, you’ll likely drop down the rankings.

  • Keep your availability and rates accurate

If your calendar and/or rates aren’t accurate, you might find yourself having to decline a booking. This does real damage to your position in the search results.

Tip: If you use multiple calendars to keep track of bookings, set up Calendar Sync to automatically update your availability

  • Make your rates competitive

We know that travelers look for the lowest price when booking a rental. Because price is such an important factor in a traveler’s decision, it makes a big difference to your ranking.

Tip: Check the rates of similar properties in your location to make sure yours are competitive

Tip: Try lowering your rates to jump up the search results. Once you start accepting more booking requests, you’ll naturally move up because of a better acceptance rate (assuming your performance is consistent in other areas like reviews, for example). Then you can increase your prices to grow your margin.

  • Keep the traveler happy!

I think the main thing to remember is to keep the traveler happy, whether this is keeping your rates really competitive or accepting all the booking requests you receive. The happier travelers are, the more they’ll return to and recommend the site, and the more bookings owners will receive as a result.

We hope our expert’s advice has given you some insight into how the search ranking works. Here are some more tips to help you appear in as many traveler searches as possible

1. Check off your amenities

Many travelers filter their search by a particular amenity they’re looking for, so make sure you check every single feature your rental has. If you don’t, your property won’t appear in the traveler’s search results at all even if your rental is perfect fit for them.

2. Set up seasonal rates

This is a great way to ensure travelers always see accurate prices for the dates they’re searching for.

3. Request reviews

Reviews are important in terms of how highly your listing ranks. But travelers can also filter their search results to view only properties with reviews. So having at least one is essential for these travelers to see your listing. Remember, any previous guest can leave a review – no matter where or how they booked. All you need is their email address.

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