WARNING… Some of you won’t like what I’m about to tell you.
I was just Hoovering the lounge, my mind was wandering, and the following thoughts dawned on me.
If you are running one or more short-term rentals, there are many ways to describe the business that you’re in. You may say you’re in the vacation rental business if you are in North America. In Europe, you may say you’re running a holiday rental. In the UK, you may tell people that you’re operating a holiday let or a holiday cottage.
Others refer to STRs, hospitality businesses, or bed and breakfasts.
It doesn’t really matter what you call it; we’re all in the same bed. Or the business of heads on beds, at any rate,
Well, not anymore.
That’s right. Like it or not – We’re all in the Airbnb business now. Our rentals, no matter what you call them, are now perceived as Airbnbs.
Even if you were renting for 20 years before Airbnb started. Even if you’ve never hosted a single guest from Airbnb.
YOU ARE NOW RUNNING AN AIRBNB
Calm down; hear me out…
Certain brands become so synonymous with a thing or an activity that they define that thing or activity. When I said I was Hoovering the lounge in the opening paragraph, you all knew what I was doing, even though I don’t own a Hoover – I have a Dyson vacuum cleaner.
William Henry Hoover didn’t invent the vacuum cleaner. He redesigned and reinvented it, and his company’s marketing led to higher brand awareness than the competition’s.
The same goes for Velcro, Kleenex, Dumpsters, Jacuzzis, Tupperware, and Band-Aid. All of these brands became so synonymous with what they made that their brand name is used to describe the item – Even if it’s made by someone else.
That’s where we’re at with Airbnb.
Airbnb owns our space.
Not because they bought it but because the public bought into it.
Airbnb has become synonymous with vacation rentals, holiday rentals; call it what you will. So much so that these other terms have become redundant. They’re dead in the water, lying face down in your short-term rental swimming pool.
I discussed this with some hosts the other day, and here’s what one owner said to me.
Oh, you don’t believe me
Some of you are shaking your fist at the computer right now, your blood pressure’s rising, and maybe you’re swearing under your breath.
How dare I say that you’re in the Airbnb business. What do I know?
The harsh truth is that it doesn’t matter what I know or think. We’re all doing business via the Internet; all that matters is what the public thinks.
When Jane or Joe Public open their mobile or laptop and start their virtual journey to your front door – They use the word Airbnb. They’re not looking for vacation rentals. They’re not looking for holiday lets, short-term rentals, holiday properties, gites, villas, or anything else. They are looking for an Airbnb – Even if it’s not on Airbnb.
You can argue this point with me all you like, and I encourage you to do so in the comments below, but you can’t argue with the public – Because they make the rules.
You can’t argue with the data, either.
I was doing some keyword research the other day, and something I had been aware of for many years was hammered home – Waaay more than I expected.
Here’s the rub
The word Airbnb is searched for 9.1 million times a month in the US alone. By comparison, the term vacation rental is searched for ‘just’ 12,100 times.
Airbnb is searched for 750 times more often than ‘vacation rental’
Screenshot the above line. Reread it again and again. The public, your potential guests, aren’t searching for vacation rentals. That’s what this is all about.
It’s the same story across the globe.
In the UK, Airbnb is searched for 2.7 million times a month, with ‘holiday cottage’ only being searched for 14,800 times a month. ‘Holiday rental’ only gets 880 searches for the same period.
If you refer to your property as a holiday rental, it’s 3,000 times less likely that your business will be recognized for what it does or found via Google.
In France, Airbnb was searched for 5 million times last month, but Gite was only searched for 40,000 times. Airbnb is searched for 150 times more often.
In Spain, Airbnb is searched for 1.8 million times a month. Villa rental is only searched for 210 times a month. Even Alquiler de Villa only gets 320 searches a month. That’s 5,625 times as many searches.
Even the other big brands are affected
As you can see from the screenshots below, both Vrbo and Booking.com also only get a fraction of the organic traffic that Airbnb receives.
This screenshot is for US traffic
This screenshot is for traffic in France.
This is one of the reasons why VRBO (vacation Rental By Owner) has gone to such lengths to rebrand as Vrbo, pronounced “ver-boh”. They have actively distanced themselves from the term vacation rental.
They still refer to vacation rentals but they also refer to home rental and house rental. These terms are more in line with Airbnb verbiage. Obviously, they can’t refer to Airbnb.
Check out the numbers for yourself
I’m using SEMrush to get these numbers, but you can use Ubersuggest.com to look at search traffic in your area. Ubersuggest is free to use.
Take the emotion out of the equation
I’m fully aware that many hosts and property managers dislike Airbnb. The company has disrupted and transformed the rental space since its inception in 2008. I can understand that many would be reluctant to even mention Airbnb on their websites, but that reluctance could ultimately cost web traffic and bookings.
If I make and sell orange flavor ice lollies and my customers keep asking for lemon flavor, I would be silly not to make and sell lemon flavor lollies. Even if I don’t personally like lemon flavor.
Adapt to succeed
In order to be (or stay) successful in business, we need to adapt. We must align with our customer’s needs, wants, and expectations.
Potential guests are looking for an Airbnb to stay in. They aren’t looking specifically for a property listed on Airbnb, though. They are just using the word Airbnb as short-hand for a vacation rental, holiday rental, gite, holiday let, or short-term rental.
They’re using Airbnb as a generic term to describe what they are looking for, and if you want your property to be found as a result of those searches, you better rebrand your business, to some degree, as an Airbnb.
If you want to be found, you must make yourself visible to those looking for you.
What can you do?
For those hosts and managers using Airbnb.
If you list your property on Airbnb, then you are running an Airbnb. End of. No one (including Airbnb themselves) could complain if you have wording along the lines of ‘Book our Airbnb directly with us‘ or ‘The best Airbnb in the area‘ or ‘A stunning Airbnb in xxxx‘. There’s no need to link to your listing, in fact, I would discourage that altogether.
For those hosts and managers not using Airbnb.
This is a little trickier. Generically you’re running an Airbnb but technically you aren’t.
As Airbnb is free to list on, personally I would list my property and then block all dates. I would now have an Airbnb and I’d be comfortable using the wording in the paragraph above.
Proofread your website
Have a thorough read through your site, looking for mentions of vacation rental, holiday rental, etc. Think about swapping out those terms for Airbnb.
Pay particular attention to headings. If site visitors have arrived via a Google search that included the word Airbnb, it’s very helpful to include Airbnb in headings above the fold. This underlines that the user has arrived on a page that meets their needs.
If you are running a blog, add an Airbnb category or Airbnb tags. Then edit existing posts to include the new Airbnb category or Airbnb tags.
We all need to speak the language of our customers. The following quote is from the Collins dictionary via the WSJ…
The Wall Street Journal: “So I told my sister we’d Airbnb. Once a sharing-economy platform becomes a widely recognized verb, it has left the realm of trend and become a cultural game-changer.”
Everyone knows what an Airbnb is. People Airbnb or they are Airbnbing.
Play the culture game and receive more traffic, more inquiries, and more bookings. If you’re running a vacation rental, or a holiday let, or something by any other name – You are in the wrong game.
It’s that simple. The numbers don’t lie.
Alan has been working in the vacation rental sector since 2004, when he first created a listing site for his property management company. He has been helping short-term rental owners and managers to stand out in an over-saturated marketplace for over 12 years and has written thousands of articles in that time.
He has written books on vacation rental photography and was the first in the industry to create online marketing courses for hosts.
He has given keynote presentations across various subjects at The Vacation Rental World Summit, VRMA, VRMintel, Host, and The Book Direct Summit.