How Airbnb Search Works

    We are often asked by both guests and homeowners: “How is the position of an ad determined in the search results?” Each month, about a million site visitors look for rooms, apartments, tree houses, sometimes even mattresses. Ultimately, the goal of our search engine is to connect thousands of people and create the conditions for trips that would not have happened otherwise.

    Search is the main interface of our product, the foundation on which our development is based. We are not afraid to redesign the search page or change the ranking algorithm when we have the goal of attracting users and making their stay on the site more comfortable.

    Maxim Charkov, the company's engineering manager, tells how the search on Airbnb works.

    The main principle when issuing search results: we encourage hosts who think and care about guests. The owner must ensure that the ad complies with our policies. A correctly prepared ad (we wrote about the criteria in a previous post ) and the host’s concern for the guests (we will discuss this below) will affect where your ad appears in the results search. Accordingly, a violation of these rules will affect the quality of the ad and lower its position on the search results page.

    Guest preferences also play an important role, so you should not expect the ad to be in the same place in the search results of different Airbnb visitors. Not everyone wants to live in a castle in the north of Ireland or in the fuselage of an airplane. Even an attractive-looking ad and good impressions of previous residents may not meet the criteria of new guests.

    And the last factor affecting the search results is the ease of booking - how simple and reliable the booking process is.

    Let's consider each category in more detail.

    Ad Quality

    A well-designed ad naturally attracts attention. Each click on an ad is taken into account and affects the position in the search results. The frequency of booking guests after reading the announcement has a positive effect on search results. There are some simple tips on how to make your ad look visually appealing:

    • The headline should be informative
    • Explain what makes your home unique, including amenities or rules.
    • The best photo of housing should go first and impress on the search page.
    • Price must be competitive with other ads.

    Your own efforts will be destroyed if they are not appreciated by users. Therefore, it is important to follow guest reviews. The number and quality of guest reviews can affect the position of an ad in a search. Where do you get feedback if you just registered in the system? Ask your friends to write how kind and responsible you are.

    Pictures of housing should be of good quality and give an accurate picture of the space. It is so important that in many countries we conduct free professional photography on our own.

    Account verification helps build the trust of potential guests. The more evidence, the better. At a minimum, you need to verify your phone number and email address.

    Ease of booking

    Guests write messages, ask questions - ignoring leads to a deterioration in the search position. Hosts must respond to reservation requests within 24 hours. According to our data, those landlords who respond faster than 12 hours later receive twice as many reservations per month. Through the Airbnb mobile app, you can respond to guests' requests instantly, even if you're on the go. Communication that goes beyond the "dry" answers to questions we are only welcome: ask guests about the plans and let them know if something has changed in your house.

    We take into account the response speed of the host(you can consider us corrosive and boring, but all with a good purpose). Travelers usually write to multiple hosts, so the sooner you respond, the more likely you are to get a reservation. Based on the speed of responses, a rating is compiled - a percentage that shows how often the owner responds to requests and requests for booking guests. The response rating takes into account all new message threads created in the past 30 days. To obtain the most accurate statistics, the rating is recalculated several times a day.

    To increase positions in the overall rating, it is important to keep the calendar up to date and reflect on it the availability of housing, monitor the number of bookings accepted (if it is not possible to accept the request, it is better to click “Reject” and officially reject the request, than simply reply to the guest in the message or ignore it at all), and also avoid canceling a confirmed guest reservation.

    And the last criterion of this category is instant booking, which allows guests not to wait for the owner’s response and worry about the negative result. For a novice host, enabling the Instant Book option increases the chances of getting your first guests.

    Guest Preferences

    Most often, guests do not seek housing throughout the city, but in a specific area. We use information from past searches to determine which locations are most relevant to this search. The search system is trying to understand the guest’s preferences and the parameters of his trip, so the results may vary depending on the person or the criteria of the trip.

    If the traveler has mutual friends or classmates with the owner, the announcement of this owner may be one of the first to appear in the search. To activate this mechanism, you need to link your Airbnb account with your Facebook account.


    All these practical tips are the result of the algorithms of our search engine. And in one of the next publications we will talk about the features of the implementation, our “search backend”.

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