Thanks so much to those that attended our recent webinar on driving performance in the HomeAway marketplace and for those that could not, we have included a recording for you. There were many questions that came up from the webinar related to how search, sort, and location work. Best match was a common theme so we wanted to answer many of the broad questions that apply to all of you.
I don’t understand how best match works. Can you explain it?
Best match is what we call our method for determining the order of listings within the search results. It displays listings based on several factors that are most likely to result in a successful booking. The list below isn’t exhaustive as the factors in best match are constantly evolving as we learn more about our customers. We’ll do our best to keep you informed as new things are factored in to ensure that you have the tools to be successful in the Best Match World. The goal of best match will always remain the same - delivering more bookings. We are constantly evolving Best Match and making it more dynamic and personalized. While the factors that go into Best Match evolve, the things that matter will fall into the two main categories below. Many of them are within your control:
Traveler preferences, which may include things like location, reviews, pricing, availability, location of the traveler and more.
The booking experience the owner provides to travelers, including how quickly and reliably your listing can be booked by travelers, the accuracy of your calendar, your response rate and timing, and acceptance of online booking.
The subscription levels were working great for my property, why did you have to change?
There were a lot of reasons we needed to move away from the subscription levels. Let's start from the beginning. Just a few years back, it used to be much easier to improve HomeAway’s ranking in a google search through manipulating technical elements of our site. That meant that we could change certain things in the set up of our site (words, etc) that would help us to fall higher in a google search when a traveler was searching for a vacation. This resulted in free traffic to our site and a lot of free bookings for you and your property. However, in the last few years, that changed. Now we have to pay for visitors to our site through google. This means we need to prioritize our advertising spend on travelers that are most likely to book. How do we do that? We have to understand what properties a specific traveler is most likely to book. Then we have to surface that property to that specific traveler. The subscription level system prevented us from being able to do that because the properties surfaced in level order, rather than in order of what was most likely to result in a booking.
This is also why online booking and processing bookings through HomeAway is so important. It allows us to see which travelers are booking what property types so that we can continue to surface the right properties to travelers in the future. For example, if Candice is a millennial traveler, who lives in Texas, just needs one room in march, and is searching for beach vacations in San Diego California. We can surface the properties that other travelers just like her have successfully booked because we know what people with similar characteristics to Candice have previously booked.
Additionally, the way that people want to find vacation rentals has changed drastically over the last few years. With other vacation rental sites surfacing around the world in the last 5 years or so, traveler expectations have also evolved as these new options for booking their vacation rentals have become available. Travelers want to book through an online marketplace because that’s what is available to them elsewhere. That is what they expect. If the HomeAway sites aren’t meeting traveler expectations, then travelers stop coming to the site to book. We want to meet (and exceed) traveler expectations in order to ensure they have a great experience and keep coming back to book your property. In short, we had to evolve because the traveler market demanded it and the data tells us that it is the right approach.
I understand that the traveler market called for a change from the subscription level method, but why is best match the right approach?
Best match makes it easier for travelers to find the property that best suits them, not only making them more likely to book but ideally also making them more likely to be satisfied with the property after they stay with you because the property met their expectations. Let me give you an example from another industry, you know how when you shop online, a website will surface “recommendations for you”? How do they do that? - They are looking at all of the people that have shopped with them before and they are reviewing what those people have purchased. They are then surfacing recommendations for you based on the people in their historical data that are like you. The recommendations are the products those people also bought. That’s the essence of personalization.
We’re doing something similar for the vacation rental industry, we’re surfacing listings to travelers based on what has been successful for someone like them previously. That way it’s personalized! Like an online shop. But for vacation rentals.
In the old subscription level method, travelers would see properties in the highest levels first which might not have necessarily surfaced the properties most likely to meet their expectations. This new model will surface properties that meet the specific traveler needs and in so doing, create a great experience for them. The better experiences they have, the more likely they are to come back or to leave a positive review It’s a cycle! We want traveler expectations to be met by the properties they stay in, so they continue to come back and book in our marketplace.
How do I improve my position in search results?
Best match and your place in it is dependent not only on the quality of your listing and the preferences of the traveler but also the overall experience you provide to your guests. The number one way to be successful in Best Match is:
Enroll in Online Booking AND Use it - If you are not processing bookings through HomeAway check out, then its like they never happened at all. We can’t tell what type of travelers are interested in your property and thus, Best match won’t know what traffic to send your way. Not only is enrolling Online Booking important but using it is imperative to your success in best match.
If you’re already enrolled in Online Booking, the best thing you can do to be successful is to beat your competition in the following metrics.
Book as many nights as possible (and do it onsite!) - The more travelers you book, the more we know about the travelers who want to book your property and the more we send your way.
Accept as many bookings as you can & try not to cancel - Remember, it’s a cycle. Guests that consistently have their bookings denied or have their plans cancelled by the owner last minute, don’t come back to the marketplace. That means lost bookings for everyone. We try to incentivize those properties that accept bookings and shy away from cancelling unless necessary with higher positioning in sort. These aren’t the only factors, but they help
Have a great looking listing to ensure that your views to contacts rate is high - We look at how many times travelers look at your listing and subsequently contact you about booking your property. This is one of the signals to us that your listing is appealing to a certain set of travelers and helps us surface your listing to more travelers like them in the future. Two huge factors in your “views to contacts” rate are your price and your images. Make sure your pricing is competitive for your market and your images are a high quality.
Respond as much as possible and as quickly as possible - Ideally within 24 hours. Better traveler experience means more bookings for everyone.
Get great reviews - We look at your average rating and your review count. Make sure you get a review from your guests! Here is how you can request reviews from previous travelers.
HomeAway is dedicated to making you successful and to helping you increase your performance. We are continuing to innovate to give you access to more information and the necessary tools to take action on this information.
But what if I cancel a booking or deny a booking?
We understand that it’s your property and we don’t expect you to accept every single booking that comes your way! To make sure you minimize the risk of having to decline/cancel we recommend you keep your listing accurate at all times and your Terms & Conditions up to date. If a traveler does not meet the terms and conditions of your rental agreement, then you do not have to accept that booking. If a traveler misrepresents themselves to you or post booking violates your terms, then you may cancel that booking. Its all about how you are performing on these metrics relative to your peers. You just don’t want to be canceling or denying more than your peers in your market.
But what about traveler behavior?
We hear you. You might be doing a lot of these things but you want to know if you are punished for when they don’t respond within 24 hours or if the traveler cancels the booking… The short answer is, you’re not punished at all. We’re looking at your behavior and your behavior only when it comes to best match.
But we also know that you want to make sure we’re holding the traveler accountable. There are some things in the works, but in the meantime, make sure you leave a review for the traveler.
Best match and our search algorithms are constantly evolving. We’re always looking for the best ways to get more travelers to you that will love your property. We will do our best to keep you updated as things change and give you all the tools you need to be successful!
Thanks for continuing to be a great partner, and as always, please submit any feedback on anything you would like to learn more about from our team at HomeAway. Your success is our success!