Industry Perspectives

The art of description: property listing content

Content, in the context of Booking.com, is what guests use to make their booking decision. Chris Dell, who leads Booking.com’s Content Agency, explains how to optimise your property listing content

Senior Director, Partner Services at Booking.com

When guests peruse search results or a property listing we can assume they’ve applied relevant filters and thus the property is generally the right sort of place they are after. Next, they consider how it looks and what the description says. Does the content - the ticked facilities, the photos, the description - reflect their needs?

Every guest has a perfect solution in mind, consciously or unconsciously, and they are looking to what extent the content meets that ideal. It’s a fundamental element of decision making. The important thing with content is that it is transparent and honest. I have seen instances - and had experiences - of overselling, where the photography looks really phenomenal but the reality is less so. That’s often reflected in the review content: if the expectation is not managed the review score will ultimately catch up with that. It also happens when partners undersell their property; the visual content is perhaps unattractive or descriptions fail to represent really interesting features well. Content should be as objective as possible, that’s foundational to guest trust.

Getting the basics right

One of the most important pieces of content is the property’s geo-location. People might think there’s an advantage to exaggerating their proximity to the beach, the city centre, a key landmark and so on, but this really mismanages the guest experience. Guest trust is built on providing the right location for your property.

Next, are your facilities correctly configured? Have you gone through the extranet and ticked the right boxes? That basic content is really important as it feeds into the description - whether it’s a Smart Description written robotically or whether it’s produced by a human.

Once the baseline is set then we can start marketing the property. Is there really fantastic visual content that reflects what the unique features of the property? Does the description detail what’s nearby, the key points of interest and additional amenities? We’ve run experiments in the past that show that strong visual content does drive conversion. As a property owner, know what your value proposition is and what your guests love, so make sure there are really good photos of all your most important facilities. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, consider what they want to get from your property.

Smart Descriptions

We’ve been experimenting with Smart Descriptions for some time and in the last couple of years, the software has become really sophisticated. We can robotically write a property description based on all the structured data - facilities, policies that you provide, as well as where it is, what’s nearby and so on - all things knowable to a machine, and effectively write a story based on how that data evolves.

There are two critical advantages to producing content in this way. First, we can get properties live on the platform and translated into many languages very, very quickly. In the past it could take weeks or months to get translated, but these days it can happen within hours when combined with machine translation. The second advantage I find more intriguing. We have an opportunity to start serving content tailored to individual guests. We can look at consumer preferences - whether it’s a family of four from France or a Japanese solo business traveller, consider at the filters being applied and decide what information would be most appropriate to highlight.

We can look at consumer preferences ... and decide what information would be most appropriate to highlight

My strong assumption would be that different guests considering the same property are most likely doing so for different reasons, be that your facilities or proximity to a particular point of interest. For this reason, we try not to introduce human edits to the text, since it then sacrifices that ability to serve tailored content that targets specific guest needs.

Using Smart Descriptions to serve up tailored content creates potential to attract new customers, specifically if we think about the platforms these customers use. Someone browsing on their desktop should potentially see something different to someone browsing on the app or mobile optimised site. There are different amounts of screen real estate to play with and so on. People booking on the same day as their stay are going to be less interested in long descriptions and more interested in specific amenities, whereas a traveller in research mode booking six months out might be after more detail - so depending on the search date you could serve different content. With Smart Descriptions we can more accurately react to this.

Through products like the Content Score and Smart Descriptions, we have the ability to work with our partners to build really solid, descriptive content that matches guest expectations and reality. We are here to collaborate and make sure that our mutual guests are as happy as possible, and that’s a really beautiful partnership.

 

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Content, in the context of Booking.com, is what guests use to make their booking decision. Chris Dell, who leads Booking.com’s Content Agency, explains how to optimise your property listing content

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Takeaway
  • Property page content is key to the guest decision-making process
  • Content should be transparent and accurate to manage expectations and set the foundations of guest trust
  • Smart Descriptions are robotically written descriptions which can evolve over time based on the structured data you provide
  • Using these Smart Descriptions, a property can go live far quicker than when manual methods are used and the listing can also be updated in different languages more efficiently using machine translation
  • There is an opportunity to serve up tailored content to individual guests, which creates potential to attract new customers