The best vacation rental listing title & description for 2021

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The best vacation rental listing title & description can be hard to come by… Conrad O’Connell of Guest Hook shares some secrets to help you optimize your listings for the upcoming summer boom.

It’s no secret that interest in vacation rentals is reaching a high as we head into the Summer of 2021. Vacationers who didn’t travel in 2020 are looking for whole-home rentals in 2021 more than ever. While many are seeing record bookings, this resurgence also increases competition in the marketplace and on listing sites like Airbnb, Vrbo and for hosts and professional managers. 

The importance of listing titles & descriptions

The truth is that no matter how much effort you put into your marketing, as potential guests browse through a listing site results page, some will make split-second decisions. The thumbnail/preview photo, your listing title and review rating form the basis of the guest being interested enough to click or tap into your listing. A bad photo? No chance. Lame headline? Skip!

A guest will quickly decide if they want to learn more and book the rental. It’s as critical as ever that your listing stands out from the rest if you want to keep 2021 booking up and perform well into 2022. The key selling points of your property like a hot tub, fast wifi, swimming pool and more are critical, but they won’t help if you don’t get a guest to find your listing.

The Lighthouse team was kind enough to share some insights on the overall performance of property listing copy and length that we can use. It can be difficult to quantitatively measure photography performance other than just looking at the number of photos per listing, but we are able to better measure performance based on the length and overall word count of the best property descriptions and headlines. 

High-performance based on “action words” in listings

The following are the most frequently used words in the top 10% of listings by performance:

  • Beach

  • Cozy

  • Private

  • Downtown

  • Modern

  • Beautiful

  • Luxury

  • Lake

  • View

  • Spacious

  • Pool

  • Park

  • Retreat

  • Ocean

  • Walk

Some trigger words stick out to me as very positive, we frequently employ “cozy”, “spacious” and “retreat” in our copywriting for listing site descriptions. However others did surprise a bit! 

Luxury is an overused term in headlines and descriptions: one person’s luxury is another person’s “ehh”, so we tend to not describe even premium properties as “luxury”. “Private” at times strikes a similar chord, with private and quiet often being interchangeable, but not always enough to win over a guest browsing many other listings with the same claims. 

Feature keywords like “pool” or even location specific terms like “downtown” or “park” are logical wins here as well, properties that emphasize these features help to show the excellent location or property specific amenities. Other amenities like “bbq grills”, “air conditioning” didn’t show often enough to be statistically relevant.  

We wouldn’t suggest that you take the above list and assume you’d use the same terms to become an instant success with any property on a listing site. However, it gives some inspiration as to the kind of buzzwords attracting looks and books.

It’s also worth noting that each listing and area is a bit different! If you’re working with mostly business travelers, you’ll likely find an amenity like free parking may actually help more than having an ocean view.

The best vacation rental listing title & description lengths

You can now search for those top performing vacation rentals in any market worldwide with Lighthouse products below. You can check out top listings by platform, type and amenity too!

The ideal length to focus on for your descriptions

Next up, we analyzed the length of the description across thousands of vacation rentals business profiles and Airbnb host listings.

The worst performing listings had an average of 360 words in their property descriptions, while the best performing listings had an average of 454 words in their property descriptions. This makes top-performing listings’ descriptions 26% longer: in those extra 95~ words, a lot can be said! 

Top-performing listings focus on both the space itself (or unique property features) and also the property manager or host (although they cover the main bases quickly). They give the vibe of the property itself, and most importantly set the correct expectations for the guest who’s interested in booking.

Many larger brands use word counts even higher than 454 words on average: sample listings from Vacasa turned in around 600 words of content. Creative solutions like using emojis, abbreviations and focusing on the property USPs (unique selling points) also helps to improve overall listing quality without making the text too long. 

Again, length should not be your primary concern when writing a fantastic listing site description, but if yours is too short, it might be missing key information a guest needs to decide to book your vacation rental. 

Omitting information that’s already in other parts of your listing (for example, pricing or rates along with bedroom/bathroom count) can also help to focus your description. If unique parts of your listing (like a very late check-in time) are not common, it may also be worth mentioning those in your listing too. 

Every time you collect feedback from a guest on what they’re looking for, you can add that section into the description. For example, if most of your guests ask about the nearest/best restaurant, a quick line on “Just 10 minutes away is Conrad’s Hot Dog Hut with the best hot dogs in the world!”.

Title length doesn’t impact performance

In contrast to the research provided around descriptions, we found no statistically significant differences between the length of titles in the best and worst performing listings. Overall length of around 40~ characters or 7-9 words was the same between all of the top listings. Using styled text like capital letters will help to make catchy Airbnb titles get clicked on more as well. 

Many managers and hosts find it easy to enter in any text/copy for the headline, but while each headline or property title can be 40 characters: what you do with those characters can make an impact. 

In our experience, using letter/numbering systems in your headlines can cause confusion or just not appeal to the guest: a client we’ve worked with has internal codes for properties (like 2402L: building 24, Unit 2, Lockout) converted those into more friendly copy (Bottom-Floor Pool View Villa) with success. 

On better performing headlines, focusing on unique property features or brand can win more traffic.

Do the best listing description titles & descriptions bring in brand? Maybe…

Hopefully you’re starting to understand the ingredients for success in writing great listing site descriptions and headlines so that you can earn more bookings. The final question to answer is those who aim to build a brand for their short-term rentals

Many clients we’ve worked with over the years have chosen to focus on their brand (both the property brand name, like Conrad’s Cool Beach Cottage) along with the name of their property management company as the “host” on Airbnb. This is a great way to build a “microbrand” that is your vacation rental while also allowing guests to find you easily on search engines. We’ve found savvy guests will seek you out knowing there’s a better deal by booking direct.

Earning a branded search on Google is low cost but high intent to book or inquire. 

However, not all brands are made equal. We’ve seen success if your brand is short, easy to remember and can fit without compromising on the headline itself, but we do caution those with generic names to skip branding listings too heavily.

Brand names like “London’s Best Flats” likely won’t cause a branded search to happen on Google, so if your vacation rental business brand name is not unique and recognizable, we’ve found you’ll have much less success with building brand search from listing sites.

Leveraging your vacation rental listings to maximize revenue 

In summary, the data is telling us that focusing on making a great, top-performing property/vacation rental listing starts with photography, headline and description. Improving there can yield fast gains in bookings and also build your brand (if you do it right)! 

About Guest Hook

Guest Hook is the original vacation rental copywriting and marketing service. Since 2015, Guests Hook has delivered thousands of high-performing vacation rental listing site descriptions for hosts and managers. Conrad O’Connell is the Director of Guest Hook.