Fair Rankings For All Advertisers

Listing Websites

When listing sites moved over to a commission based model where they earn a percentage of every booking they also by default became incentivised to get as many bookings as possible on their property listings.

On the face of it this may sound like a net benefit to advertisers however the methods they started using to do this left some home owners frustrated.

One of the biggest issues people had was with the new ranking algorithms.

What Is A Ranking Algorithm?

An algorithm is basically a set of rules that a computer uses to solve a particular problem.

The listing sites discovered that some properties seemed to get more bookings than others, they looked at these listings in more detail to determine what things these properties had in common.

Once they had identified these commonalities they designed rules that moved properties with similar traits to the top of the search results that a guest sees when using their websites.

These rules that sort the search results order on the listing websites are called ranking algorithms.

As a very basic example they may have found that properties which had more than 20 photos on their listings tended to get more bookings.

They then added this to their ranking algorithm so that when a website visitor is searching for a property in a particular location, the listings with more than 20 pictures were the first ones displayed.

If listing websites share their findings with home owners, which they tend to do, then this is useful as it allows advertisers to make changes to their listings which can help them secure more bookings.

The issue begins when you realise that the listing sites don't care about whether your specific property gets booked, their priority is getting paid from any booking, so they optimise for this, not for fairness.

When Algorithms Become Unfair

Let's imagine that you have a lovely holiday villa on Crete, you look after both your villa and your guests and are priced competitively for the island.

VRBO might discover that villas closer to the beach tend to get booked more than ones further inland, so they prioritise listings that are near beaches.

You might have a fantastic villa that is a great match for someone looking to stay on Crete but due to the fact that you might be a 20 minute walk from the beach other properties which might not be as nice are given priority in the search results over yours.

Given that they probably list over 500 properties on Crete you may end up on page 3 or 4 of their search results, with other properties getting bookings which may otherwise have come to you.

You can make as many changes to your advert as you want but you're never going to be able to move your villa closer to the beach.

Does the other property deserve to get more views than yours based off a few criteria that you are unable to change?

Optimised For Their Benefit Not Yours

That's just one way a ranking algorithm might not be fair, let's now see what happened when VRBO introduced instant online booking.

When they first rolled out instant online booking you could opt in or out of it as a home owner. Many opted out as they wanted some control over who stayed in their properties and also didn't fancy paying the commission and transaction fees that came with instant bookings.

VRBO made more money when a property was booked instantly so guess what they did?

Yes you guessed it, they listed properties that opted into it (properties they made more money from) higher in the search results.

This forced a lot of home owners into accepting these instant booking policies to stop falling down to the bottom of the search results pages and losing out on bookings.

Other Annoying Ranking Criteria

VRBO, Airbnb and Booking.com all publish guidelines featuring some of the criteria that their sorting or ranking algorithms use. These include:

  • Allowing instant booking
  • The speed in which you respond to enquiries
  • The price of your property compared with similar options in your area
  • Your flexibility on bookings
  • Your cancellation policy
  • How many booking requests you turn down or cancel
  • The number of your reviews and their average rating
  • The number of complaints made about your property by guests

There will be many others too, some that they will not tell you about, but they all work to maximise bookings for them, they basically want you to make it as easy for them to confirm a booking (and get paid) whether that is in your best interests or not.

You don't have to comply with everything they ‘suggest' but you will be penalised with lower visibility and therefore lower bookings if you don't follow their ‘suggestions'.

Our Search Results Are Fair

You'll be pleased to know that we don't operate our listing sites in this way.

We do not need to optimise our results pages like this as we do not get paid per booking.

This allows us to operate fairly and treat all of our advertisers the same.

Our search results allow all advertisers a fair chance at top of page placements, what we do is very simple, we rotate through each property in turn on a regular basis.

This means every advertiser will move to the top position on our listing website regularly, you then move down through the listings gradually until you get to the bottom of the pile and then end up back on top again.

This ensures everyone gets the same visibility.

If a guest is looking at a specific location such as Crete and filters for properties with 3 bedrooms and a pool, then out of all the properties that match that criteria the one with the current highest sort order will be listed first.

Other Factors That Help With Visibility

Our fair ranking policy has been devised to make things as fair as possible for everyone however when thinking about visibility on our listing websites we have a few other advantages to ensure you get seen regularly.

Our Regional Property Limits work to ensure no particular town or resort gets overloaded with similar properties. VRBO may currently have 500+ properties on Crete however we are currently showing 45, so you already have a big advantage in being seen amongst a smaller set of results.

(Note that this number of 45 properties for Crete will go up but it will never reach 500+).

We also use some 3rd party affiliate properties which allow us to fill out areas on our listing sites where we don't have as many of our own advertisers yet.

We have a page discussing this however they key thing here is to understand that our own advertisers (home owners who pay us for an annual listing advert) are always prioritised above the 3rd party affiliate properties.

You will never be ranked below these properties if they show up alongside your property advert when a guest searches our website.

Hopefully you can see that our choice of a commission free business model not only saves you a lot of money but also allows us to run a fairer business for all of our advertisers.

Learn More

Discover more advantages of advertising your property with us here.