Airbnb is a marketplace with user-generated listings that help people find a place to stay or rent out extra space to others.
It’s one of the largest accommodation providers that allows people to search for rental properties worldwide.
By understanding their business model, discovering how they disrupted the hospitality industry, and analyzing the programmatic SEO impact on their growth, we can gain valuable insights into why Airbnb has become a digital powerhouse.
This Airbnb case study will break down how this business became $84.66B worth using a programmatic SEO strategy and be one of the most valuable companies worldwide.
Let’s dive in.
Understanding Airbnb's Business Model
Before delving into their SEO strategy, it is essential to grasp Airbnb's unique business model.
Founded in 2008, Airbnb aimed to make travel accessible to everyone by providing an online platform where people could rent out their homes or spare rooms.
This peer-to-peer approach disrupted the traditional hotel industry and opened doors for independent hosts and travelers worldwide.
How do they make money?
Airbnb makes money by charging a commission on each booking. The company also offers additional services, such as insurance and 24/7 customer support, which are optional but come at an extra cost.
Just in 2022, they made 8.4 billion US dollars.
The Genesis of Airbnb
At its inception, Airbnb faced numerous challenges, from a lack of initial investment to building trust among users.
However, the founders' persistence and belief in their idea led them to execute a robust growth strategy.
They fostered a sense of community, ensuring that both hosts and guests felt safe and secure.
This approach became Airbnb's foundation for success.
One key factor contributing to Airbnb's success was its ability to tap into the growing sharing economy trend.
As people started to embrace the idea of sharing resources and experiences, Airbnb provided a platform that allowed homeowners to monetize their unused spaces and travelers to find unique and affordable accommodations.
Furthermore, Airbnb's founders recognized the power of storytelling in building a brand.
They encouraged hosts to create compelling listings that showcase not only the physical space but also the experiences and stories behind them.
This emphasis on storytelling helped create an emotional connection between hosts and guests, making the Airbnb experience more than just a place to stay.
How Airbnb Disrupted the Hospitality Industry?
Airbnb's disruptive nature lies in its ability to offer unique, personalized experiences.
By connecting travelers with local hosts, they created a platform that focuses on authentic experiences.
This shift from traditional hospitality not only allowed Airbnb to stand out but also reshaped how people view travel.
The company's ability to tap into this desire helped them gain a substantial market share over the years.
1. Offering unique experiences for travelers
One of the ways Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry was by challenging the notion that travel should be limited to hotels and resorts.
They recognized that travelers were seeking more than just a comfortable bed and amenities.
They wanted to immerse themselves in the local culture and explore hidden gems that only locals knew about.
To cater to this demand, Airbnb introduced features that allowed hosts to offer unique experiences alongside their accommodations.
From guided tours to cooking classes, guests could now book activities that provided a deeper connection to the destination they were visiting.
This not only enhanced the overall travel experience but also created new revenue streams for hosts.
2. Great user experience
Airbnb's disruption also extended to the way people book accommodations.
With their user-friendly website and mobile app, travelers could easily search for and book accommodations that fit their preferences and budget.
This convenience, coupled with the vast selection of listings available, made Airbnb a go-to platform for travelers worldwide.
3. Positive impact on small businesses and a chance for small players
Airbnb's impact on local economies cannot be overlooked.
By encouraging travelers to stay in residential neighborhoods rather than touristy areas, the company helped distribute tourism revenue more evenly.
This positively affected small businesses, as guests were more likely to explore local shops, restaurants, and attractions, thus supporting the local economy.
So Airbnb's disruptive business model and emphasis on authentic experiences have revolutionized the way people travel.
By connecting hosts and travelers, they have created a platform that offers unique accommodations and fosters a sense of community and exploration.
Now that we better understand Airbnb's business model, let's delve into how Airbnb's programmatic SEO strategy played a pivotal role in its growth.
Results of Airbnb's Programmatic SEO Strategy
At Airbnb, SEO was not just an afterthought.
It was ingrained in their overall digital marketing strategy.
By understanding the importance of search engine rankings, they made programmatic SEO a top priority.
But what is programmatic SEO?
Programmatic SEO is a technique to simultaneously create many SEO-optimized web pages, using existing data and pre-programmed rules for creating content.
So, how did Airbnb benefit from its programmatic SEO approach?
1. Increase in Organic Traffic
Airbnb recognized the need to optimize its website structure, provide relevant content, and build authoritative links, all contributing to its online visibility and success.
By implementing effective SEO techniques, they were able to capture a larger share of search queries related to travel and accommodations.
This shift from relying heavily on paid advertisements to attracting organic traffic helped Airbnb reduce costs while expanding its reach.
2. Improved Search Engine Rankings
Airbnb's strategic approach to SEO resulted in improved search engine rankings across relevant keywords.
This higher visibility in search results led to increased brand exposure, credibility, and, ultimately, more bookings for hosts.
By consistently refining and optimizing their SEO strategy, Airbnb maintained a competitive edge and continued to grow.
3. Organic User Acquisition Through SEO
The goal of Airbnb was to target location-based keywords and rank for as many as possible queries their target customers search for, and that could generate sales.
So, how did they do that at scale?
By creating template pages that can turn their programmatic SEO strategy into action.
This resulted in monthly organic traffic becoming their number 1 marketing channel besides direct traffic(which is also mostly built with SEO through time).
With over 18M monthly organic visitors.
So let’s take a look more in detail how they achieved this.
4 Ingredients of Airbnb's Programmatic SEO Strategy Growth
Airbnb's programmatic SEO strategy growth comprised 4 key elements.
1. User Experience and Site Architecture in Airbnb's SEO
Airbnb's commitment to providing an exceptional user experience was crucial to their SEO strategy.
Their website's architecture and navigation were designed to be intuitive and seamless, ensuring a positive user experience.
By prioritizing user satisfaction through their platform's design and functionality, Airbnb kept users engaged, encouraged longer sessions, and increased the likelihood of conversions.
2. Focus on thorough keyword optimization in their property listings
Airbnb's success can be partially attributed to its meticulous keyword optimization.
They conducted extensive research to identify popular search terms for accommodations in various destinations.
Understanding what potential guests were searching for helped Airbnb optimize its content to align with popular search queries.
By incorporating these keywords strategically in their property listings, Airbnb ensured their listings appeared prominently in relevant search results.
This approach attracted more organic traffic and improved their chances of turning visitors into bookings.
3. Creating thousands of template pages
1. Location template pages
After identifying all the keywords Airbnb wanted to rank for, they created a website URL structure supporting programmatic SEO logic.
Making the URLs of each page logical and having the same structure.
This way, Airbnb included all the locations they wanted to create pages for.
To better understand how they did that, let’s navigate to Ahrefs to check their pages' structure within the “Subfolders” section.
Here, you can see those template pages targeting specific locations.
These pages are only differentiated by the URL structure, H1 element, and other small elements.
But the structure of those pages is completely the same everywhere.
Here’s an example of it:
So, with one template, Airbnb created thousands of pages targeting the keywords that bring them millions of visitors.
To be more precise, over 18M of monthly visitors, according to Ahrefs:
Here’s an example of another page.
You see the difference comparing it with the previous one?
Or this one:
All these pages look almost the same except for the few parameters we mentioned and location-personalized backgrounds and accommodations related to each one.
But you get the point.
What’s amazing is that all of these pages that are created using programmatic SEO are created within almost a click.
On the other hand, almost every page is personalized for a specific country.
It’s not some generic content created for every page.
But specified for a specific location that also includes the guide for many cities listed there.
Here’s an example:
It helps those pages have more data about specific locations, providing more value to visitors and those thinking about visiting specific places.
2. Unique places/accommodation types template pages
There are thousands of pages focused on location, which already generated Airbnb a lot of pages and content for attracting the proper keywords.
But that’s not the end.
Airbnb has gone even one step further to increase that number and its SEO efficacy.
This company created template pages focused on unique places to stay in terms of accommodation type.
Whether users search for a mansion, beachfront house, or apartment rentals, Airbnb covers it all and even more.
So here’s how the structure of the URL for specific stays looks like:
It’s the same thing as they did with the location-based pages:
- Templated pages - that allowed them to create pages at scale
- Great user experience - pages that cover everything users needs
- Conversion rate optimization caused by personalization and the offer they provide users with
Here’s an example of what it looks like:
And what they did is they connected all of these pages with other pages that are most logical for user experience.
Which brings us to the next step of the programmatic SEO that helped them thrive - internal linking.
4. Powerful internal linking
The next big thing Airbnb is doing is internal linking, which is so important for programmatic SEO.
On the other hand, it’s super important from the user experience angle.
So how do they do that?
You can see that they mostly focused on those internal links for the user experience.
So, those internal links need to make sense instead of linking to some random page just to boost the link juice.
Airbnb made the link juice be of huge importance for their growth.
That’s why they first linked the nearby destinations.
But that’s not all.
They also linked other types of stays within a specific city besides nearby locations and unique places to stay.
And they linked it to another type of template page - unique places to stay.
Which is a completely different category that allows them to leverage their pages.
So, what’s the power of this technique?
If they have, for example, 8 city locations and 4 types of unique places, considering all are filled with content, it automatically brings us to a number of 32 pages.
So they also optimized their website for unique places-focused keywords.
Take a look at their search volume:
And this is only for the unique places-focused keywords.
Excluding the long-term keywords for specific locations, such as “virginia beach house rentals” or “florida beach house rentals.”
Just take a look at these search volumes.
There are thousands of those pages created for specific locations.
And for each of those, there are specific rental pages created by users.
But that’s not all. They didn’t stop there.
Airbnb also created a completely different experience for the luxury market, allowing them to leverage luxury-based keywords.
Not only did they create a separate category for luxury-based rentals, but they also changed the UI of the website and made it more luxurious.
Besides that, they did completely specific internal linking focused only on luxury rentals for specific countries and parts of countries.
Just imagine the number of pages when it all sums up.
Crazy right? 😀
For Airbnb, it’s the number of over 1.1M of pages.
Can you imagine creating all those pages manually, one by one? 😀
How much time would you need for it?
Years and years. Actually, it would be a lifetime if you would do it alone.
I was actually intrigued while writing this so I did some math.
For 1M of pages and 15min of work for each of those, it’s about 28 years without eating, sleeping, or doing anything, just creating pages.
Here’s the math:
1M pages x 15mins = 15 million minutes = 250,000 hours = 10,416.6 days = 28.53 years of working time 😀
With these over 1.1M pages, it took Airbnb much less time to build traffic and authority in the rental niche.
Which over time brought Airbnb a high-domain authority(92) and over 18M of monthly organic search visitors.
But also made their road to $84.66 billion much easier, and their brand being one of the most popular and biggest ones in this niche.
Interestingly, their organic search traffic is only 14.92% of total website visitors, according to SimilarWeb.
As we already mentioned, its direct traffic is in the first place, and the organic search comes second.
But most of the direct traffic that is now purposely coming directly to their website initially came through organic search.
How to implement Programmatic SEO in your business?
We’ve explained the process and structure Airbnb used to create all those pages.
But how to adapt it for your business?
Here’s the process you should follow by focusing on things we explained within the article:
- Optimize the technical side of the website and ensure everything works properly before publishing any page.
- Create a high-quality template and test it out before you publish any page so you don’t have many edits after it gets published
- Create clean and simple URLs with logical structure - it will help search engines and users understand it, so make sure you plan it in detail
- Include internal links to relevant pages - not all and not as much as possible, but the logical ones.
- Include breadcrumb to help search engines understand your website structure better and your users for a better user experience.
The process is pretty straightforward.
One template - thousands of pages - each personalized and targeting the specific keywords - connected internally with user experience in mind.
Airbnb's success story epitomizes the power of a programmatic SEO strategy.
By understanding its business model, leveraging disruptive innovation, and implementing effective SEO techniques, Airbnb was able to drive organic traffic, improve search rankings, and revolutionize the hospitality industry.
And you can unlock your growth potential by adopting similar strategies, enhancing brand visibility, and ultimately achieving success in the digital landscape.
But know this - not every business is designed for implementing programmatic SEO techniques like it is the case with Airbnb.
But you can surely implement at least a part of your pages using this strategy.
Not only will it help you publish pages at scale, but it will also dominate the search engines, increase traffic, build authority in specific niches, and grow faster.
And Omnius can help you here.
Schedule a 30-minute free consultation to investigate whether you can implement programmatic SEO for your business and how to do it easily.
What is the business use case of Airbnb?
Airbnb's primary business use case is to provide a platform for individuals to rent out their homes or properties to travelers, offering a wide range of accommodations from private rooms to entire homes.
This sharing economy model allows hosts to earn income by leveraging unused or underutilized spaces while travelers access unique, cost-effective lodging options worldwide.
What is the business strategy of Airbnb 2023?
Airbnb's business strategy key elements for 2023 are focusing on local and domestic travel, expanding their experiences and service offerings, and enhancing user safety and trust.
Airbnb also aimed to continue global expansion while adapting to changing travel trends and customer needs.
What is Airbnb's biggest problem?
One of Airbnb's significant challenges was navigating the regulatory landscape in various cities and regions.
Many local governments imposed restrictions and regulations on short-term rentals, impacting Airbnb's business model.
Additionally, maintaining trust and safety in the face of occasional incidents and fraudulent listings posed an ongoing challenge.
What made Airbnb successful?
Several factors contributed to Airbnb's success.
Their innovative business model tapped into the growing sharing economy trend.
They offered unique and authentic travel experiences, fostering a sense of belonging for travelers.
Airbnb also prioritized user reviews and ratings to build trust. Effective digital marketing, user-friendly platforms, and global expansion further fueled their growth.