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Hack Your OTA Listing: A comprehensive plan to increase bookings on Airbnb,, HomeAway, VRBO and anywhere else you list your vacation rentals & corporate lets online.

Listing your vacation rental or corporate let online is numbers game — a game that you can win. In this article, I will detail a number of step-by-step techniques that you can use to materially affect the conversion rate of your listing – leading to more enquiries and more bookings.

I originally wrote about Hacking Airbnb to Increase the Conversion Rate of Your Listing in 2017, but most of the major OTAs have updated the way that their search algorithms work – so it’s time we revisit the core principles.

The Objective

While they have their differences, the listings of all major OTAs work in the same way. We’ll focus on two areas:

Increase the number of people that view your listing(s). The more people that view your listing, the more bookings you will receive. We’ll achieve this by optimising your listing for search engines.
Increase the number of bookings. We’ll deploy techniques that make your listing stand out above the others, keep people on the page for longer and bringing the best parts of your listing above the fold.

Whether you list on Airbnb,, HomeAway or even your own website; all of the tips below can be applied to your listings.

How To Find Your Conversion Rate

How do you find out your conversion rate? It’s simple:

Bookings / Listing Views = Conversion Rate (%)

If you list your property across multiple OTAs, this will help you to determine which of them is the most effective.

Measuring the conversion rate of your listing is simple and necessary step to take, before you take any steps to make a change – it’s important to know the baseline to understand which of your actions are making the biggest difference.

What Affects The Conversion Rate Of Your Listing?

Stop searching for your own property on Airbnb (etc) and ignore where you rank. Why? OTAs like Airbnb are using artificial intelligence to personalise search results based on the guest’s profile. Where your listing appears to you is not the same as where it will appear to potential guests.

The factors that determine when and where your listing will appear are numerous, so let’s focus on the ones that we can affect:

  • Listing effectiveness
  • Adding more people to the “top of the funnel” (increasing the number of visitors to your listing)


Listing Effectiveness

The first step for increasing your conversion rate is to prepare your listing to make it as effective as possible. We want maximise the potential conversion rate before we increase the number of page views.

For the purposes of this article, I have assumed that you have already completed the following steps:

  • Given your listing a good title
  • You’ve got professional-quality photography
  • You’ve invested time or money into good copywriting for all of the written sections

If you’re still getting the basics right, I recommend heading to the Optimise My Airbnb blog – Danny is a former Airbnb employee and a master of his trade.

Keep People On Your Listing For Longer

Simply put, the longer that someone stays on your listing, the higher the likelihood that they will go on to book. The techniques covered below are all designed to increase the amount of time that someone spends on your listing, by making it more engaging.

Optimise The Listing Title

The first step of this tip to Hack Your OTA Listing is to put aside your hosting responsibilities and start thinking like a guest. Head to the OTA or listing site that you’re seeking to optimise and pick a random area. Start scrolling through the listings to see which listings stand out.

After the cover photo, the title is the best way to hook someone into viewing your listing.

Rather than focusing on the number of beds in your property (something the potential booker has likely already filtered during their search), you should focus on the unique aspects of your space.

Not sure where to start? Try reading back through your reviews and see what guests have highlighted.

Hack Your OTA Listing: Use Your Best Reviews As Photo Captions

The anatomy of most OTA listing puts reviews below “the fold” (meaning you have to scroll down the page to view it). They also only show one or two reviews, making the user click to disclose the rest.

Reviews are a form of social proof – something that adds credibility to a listing, by proxy. What we want to do is increase the likelihood that a guest reads your reviews, without relying on the anatomy of the listing to do the work for us.

The area that users spend most time on? Your photos.

It’s a no-brainer. Find the best reviews, preferably those that mention specific things in your home, then add them to the captions of your photos. This works best when something in the review matches the photo; “comfiest night’s sleep ever” on a picture of a bed, “light and airy home” on an interior shot with natural light.

Quick Tips to Hack Your OTA Listing 

  • Put quotation marks around the excerpt
  • Add the name of the reviewer
  • Add the number of stars using asterisks *****


Bring More People To Your Listing

Once your listing has been optimised (and the potential conversion rate has increased), it’s time to add more potential bookers to the “top of the funnel”. Simply put, we’re aiming to drive more people to your newly improved listing(s).

Get On The First Page Of Google

You may or may not know, but YouTube is owned by Google. Google likes to prioritise YouTube videos on the first page of results because people like to click on them. The goal of this technique is to drive more people to your listing by creating a video that appears on the front page of a google search, driving more people to your listing via a link.

Do Your Research

Determine what your niche is & Hack Your OTA Listing! — farmhouse for big groups in Wisconsin — then try using google to search for similar terms. Use tools to check the number of monthly searches & ask friends — get a sense of the specific terms they would type into google to find what you’re offering. You’re aiming for something niche.

When you have a search term (and some suitable variations) that you’re happy with, use Google to check whether there are any videos that already show up — we’re hoping not, but not a complete failure if there are some already.

Create Your Video

Create a 60–90 second video of you talking to the camera about your place. Doesn’t have to be fancy (can be shot on your phone), but must include the following:

  • Specific search term must be mentioned in the first few seconds, as an answer to the thing they are searching for. “Are you looking for a farmhouse, suitable for big groups, in Wisconsin?”
  • A SHORT description of the house and features — idea is to tease people to click the link to your listing, not reveal everything up-front. Try to explain how guests will feel when they stay at your place — cosy, relaxed — words and phrases designed to help them picture staying with you. “Imagine warming yourself by the fire pit, watching the stars while snuggled under a blanket.”
    Ask them to book with you — “If you’d like to see more, click the link in the description of this video and take a look at our wonderful home”
  • Make the title of the video as close to the search term as possible: “Reviewed: Wisconsin Farmhouse for Big Groups” (using title case helps title stand out in results)
  • Choose or upload a good thumbnail.

Hack Your OTA Listing Can take a few days / weeks for the video to appear on page 1 (really helps if you can get people to watch the YouTube video — share with me, I will definitely share it elsewhere)

Increase Bookings Via Direct Messages On Instagram

Instagram is the most-popular app for sharing photos – but the

Setting Up A Profile

Having a presence is essential and it doesn’t take a lot of work – you’ve already got professional photography ready, so creating a profile is simple.

  • Avatar: If you’re a company, I’d suggest using your logo – if you’re a smaller operator or individual, then use a photo of yourself.
  • Website: This should be your highest-converting listing, your profile on the highest-converting OTA or a link to your website.
  • Bio: A one-line summary of your value proposition – e.g. “Beautiful homes by the sea”
  • Posts: If you manage multiple properties, you can take advantage of the “album” post type, which allows you to upload multiple photos in one go. This is really useful when highlighting different features of a property. If you’re managing one or two properties, I’d stick to single photos on each post – unless you have an abundance of additional photos that you can use.


If you’re unfamiliar with social media, hashtags (for example, “#airbnblife) are words preceded by hash symbol. These are used to identify what the post relates to and can be used to add your post to collections of similar posts from other people. If you search for #airbnb on Instagram, you’ll find thousands of posts from hosts and guests – all of whom have added the tag to ensure their post shows up when you search.

The objective here is to get your post to show up in as many relevant conversations as possible. Not all of the #tags need to relate to accommodation – you could also search for the name of your town or region to see what shows up.

My advice is to search for #tags that relate to you and add them all to a note in your phone. Every time you’re ready to add a new post to Instagram, you can copy and paste all of the tags in one go to the end of the comment on your post.

Use Direct Messages To Contact Potential Guests
Once you’ve got a profile set up and you’ve added a few rows of photos, you’re ready to start engaging with others.

In my opinion, the biggest opportunity here is the fact that you can direct-message almost anyone on Instagram. This means you can send & exchange private messages, without needing them to “follow” you first. This is a very powerful tool, as you’re able to get in touch with almost anyone – including “influencers”, accounts followed by thousands of people.


Get In Touch

I really hope that you have got some value from this article. Do get in touch if you’re planning to implement anything suggested, or have any questions.