Optimizing Your Short-Term Rental Title/Headline

See all my articles on short-term-rental listing writing, including on titles/headlines, photo captions, opening paragraphs, the full listing description, and more.

Along with your cover photo, the first aspect of your listing likely to catch a prospective guest’s attention is your title, also known as a headline. On Airbnb, this title is limited to 50 precious characters (and Airbnb encourages even fewer, as we’ll see); VRBO allows a more generous 80 characters.

Thus, it’s incredibly important to snag a guest’s attention and convey as much information as possible that markets your listing – all in a very short space.

My strategy for my own listing and those I write for clients is to include as many selling points in the title as possible. Another part of my strategy is to provide clients with 10 options for titles/headlines so each one emphasizes a different set of selling points, and the host can rotate them to see which ones perform best.

I recently chose 50 random titles/headlines from listings in a random city (which happened to be Portland, OR) and analyzed them. Here’s what I learned both from that analysis and from my experience writing them for clients. Below these tips, you’ll find a chart with the 50 titles and a brief critique of each.

Use all your characters

If you’re not using all 50 characters (or as close to that number as possible), you’re probably not including as many selling points as you can (but see below about the new twist – 32-character titles). In looking at the chart below, you’ll see a number of headlines that don’t use the entire 50 (or even close to it); this is a missed opportunity. Get to know short words that have a big impact. One of my favorites is “gem.” Just 3 little letters, but it conveys something special about the property. Headlines intended to be shorter than 50 characters have their uses too, which we’ll talk about shortly.

Don’t waste characters

One of the headlines in the chart below has a period (.) at the end of it. That’s just 1 little character, but it has no marketing value whatsoever and could be used as part of a word that does have marketing value. Airbnb advises against using “NEW;” the Airbnb site says, “You can omit the word ‘new’ from a new listing title, because this info is already communicated to guests on a badge in search results.” Not everyone will agree, but I advise against using words like “renovated” or “remodeled” in a headline. Why? Because guests don’t know what the place looked like before the renovation, so it’s not a highly valuable selling point (though may be OK to mention elsewhere in the listing). Leave out information that is obvious elsewhere in the listing, including:

  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Location This applies to general location. Guests have most likely found your listing by searching for location. So, using our example city, you wouldn’t want to use Portland in the title, BUT you might want to use a popular district, suburb, or neighborhood of Portland that attracts people; many Portland listings seem to include neighborhood names. I noticed that several of the headlines in the chart feature the “Alberta Arts” portion of Portland, so I’m guessing that’s a desirable location. Using any type of location in the headline also depends on your target market. If your target market is tourists, a specific location may be worth including in your headline.
  • “Clean:” Clean is not a selling point; it’s the basic expectation. You’d have no business being a host if the place were not clean. I will, however, say that when I’m writing a client headline for a very plain, ordinary unit with few selling points, I might use a word like “pristine.” I also might use it if guest reviews rave about cleanliness.

Emphasize selling points and popular amenities

I ask my clients to identify their top 5 selling points and try to get as many as possible into the title/headline. As mentioned earlier, you can also have multiple headlines in rotation that emphasize different selling points. Example of a set of 50-ish character headlines I wrote for a client and the selling point(s) each emphasizes:

  • Escape to Comfort, Quiet, and Old Florida Charm [49 characters]: Appeals to those seeking quiet, relaxing spot
  • Gracious Old Florida Retreat w/Everything Modern [50 characters]: Assures guests they’ll have the conveniences they need in a charming setting
  • Romantic Getaway in Breathtaking Historic Gem [47 characters]: Appeals to couples seeking a getaway.
  • Pristine, Gorgeous Historic Getaway w/Fast Wi-Fi [50 characters]: Offers several selling points, but big one is Fast Wi-Fi
  • La Casa de Abuelos: Close to St Augustine’s Best [50 characters]: Highlights the listing’s name and location

If you have the most popular amenities – pool, hot tub, sauna, firepit, fast Wi-Fi – for example, do try to get them into your headline or set of headlines. Consider word length here, too. A grill is perhaps a second-tier amenity, but it’s also a short word that can fit nicely into your 50 characters. And while not exactly an amenity, pet-friendliness is a HUGE selling point, so use it if you can. A short way to say “pet-friendly” is “Dogs OK” or “Pets OK.”

Remember your target market

I also always ask my clients to identify their primary target market. Most hosts also have secondary markets, but your primary, of course, is the one you should most emphasize. If your primary market is families, for example, you’ll want to consider “family,” ‘family-friendly,” kid-friendly” in your headline. If you mostly attract couples, “romantic” may be important for you. If you attract remote workers, digital nomads, and business travelers, “fast Wi-Fi” needs to be front and center.

Watch spelling

I noticed one of the headlines in chart below features “Dinning” venues.

Consider changing up headlines with 32-character versions

We’ve talked about rotating headlines, but also consider shorter heads. A new twist on the character limitation of titles is 32-character titles. When I first published this article in Nov. 2022, Airbnb was suggesting 32-character title. But when I uploaded a new listing in Dec. 2022, I found that Airbnb is now limiting new-listing titles to 32 characters, at least on the first pass of publishing your listing. Once it’s published, you can go back and edit, making your title up to 50 characters. Here are the 32-character versions of the headlines from above:

  • Escape to Old Florida Charm [29 characters]
  • Gracious Old Florida Retreat [30 characters]
  • Romantic Escape: Historic Gem [31 characters]
  • Pristine Comfy Historic Escape [32 characters]
  • Historic Gem Near Everything [30 characters]

Avoid overused, cliched words

If I had to guess, I’d say that the most overused word in short-term rental listings is “cozy.” You’ll see several in the chart that have “cozy” in them. “Cozy” is not a bad word, and it does evoke a certain feeling. Your headline, however, will likely stand out more if you use a word that’s not so common in listings. Keep in mind also that for some people, “cozy” is code for “small.”

Be careful with overly subjective words

Virtually every headline carries some degree of subjectivity, but be cautious. I noticed several on the chart that use “perfect” in the headline. That’s a word that tweaks my exaggeration radar. I also have to ask, “perfect for what?” It’s not an especially descriptive word.

Avoid head-scratchers

Consider whether prospective guests will know what your listing means. Some examples from the chart:

  • SKYLINE SKYLAB HOUSE | LIFE AT 7 DEGREES: Even after reading the whole listing, I didn’t know what 7 degrees referred to.
  • Magic Barn / Walk Score 93!: I wasn’t familiar with “Walk Score,” a walkability analysis, before working on the chart. Guests may also not be familiar. The headline is just 27 characters, so host could tell guests more.
  • 2-Bedroom apartment nestled in FoPo: Fo-Po stands for the Foster-Powell neighborhood; will most guests know that?

Ask yourself if you’re using terms well-known to locals that might not be known to out-of-town guests. One headline in the chart uses PDX, which is the abbreviation for the Portland airport. It’s used in this particular headline (Casa Chica PDX ) to mean Portland, not just the airport. Will most guests understand that? Maybe, maybe not. The headline I like the least on the chart is “2741 / 2bd/1bath, Parking & LV2 EV Charger.” I have no idea what 2741 means. “2bd/1bath” is unnecessary. Parking and an EV charger seem to be the only selling points; they don’t entice me.

Themed listings

By all means, try to get your theme into your headline if you have a themed listing.

The chart below brings up a few questions:

If your property has a name should it be part (or all) of your title/headline?

Maybe. It depends on how much a guest can learn from the name. The full headline for one listing on the chart is “Concordia Fir Cabin.” While I’d like to see more selling points in the headline, that one does give me some information. Another listing, whose entire headline is “The Haseman House,” tells me nothing about the place. An exception to the advice to avoid using the name of the rental is if you have a direct-booking site and are hoping guests will Google the name of your place and find your direct-booking site.

Should you use symbols and emojis to get attention?

I’m not a fan. To me, symbols and emojis just make the headline look cluttered, and they don’t particularly attract my attention.

Favorite headline/title words. Here are just a few words, some of them short, some of them selling points, that I like to use in headlines:

  • Cheerful, cheery
  • Charming, charmer
  • Gem
  • Oasis
  • Retreat
  • Escape
  • Haven
  • Pet-Friendly
  • Fast Wi-Fi (Note that Airbnb is fussy about the way you express Wi-Fi; it can’t be wifi or WiFi).
  • Hot Tub
  • Firepit
  • Grill
  • Pool

It’s OK to get help

Before we get to the chart, know that there’s no shame in getting help with your headline(s) and every part of your written listing description. Many hosts find writing daunting. It’s OK to hand that chore off to a professional like me. In most cases, the cost of a listing-description makeover or one from scratch aligns with what you’ll make from ONE NIGHT’s booking of your listing. Contact me if you need help.

And now the chart… I highlighted my favorites in BLUE; these would entice me to further consider the listing; you’ll notice only 3 out of 50 grabbed me that way:

50 Titles/Headlines with Brief Critiques

Cozy lofted guesthouse near it all – kid friendlyNot bad, but there’s the overused “cozy.”
Cozy Private Alberta Arts Studio – Fast WiFi 100mbThe WiFi is a great selling point, and privacy can be, too.
Luxe-Glam Garden Cottage in Central PDXAn example of highlighting a part of the city; suggests guests are in the center of the action. “Luxe-Glam Garden Cottage” is descriptive.
Open garden studio in the heart of the SE PortlandAppealing if SE Portland is where you want to be. Not sure what “open” means.
Casa Chica PDXDoesn’t tell a guest much.
Concordia Fir CabinEvokes an image, but I want to know more.
Spacious Forest Retreat near Multnomah Village“Forest Retreat” is compelling. Another example of highlighting a neighborhood.
Williams Studio Retreat: No Cleaning FeeFor some guests (not me) “no cleaning fee” would be a great selling point.
Modern Studio: Style EditionUses only 28 characters. I’m not sure what “Style Edition” means.
Sullivan’s Gulch Charmer, close to EVERYTHING!!!Another example of highlighting a neighborhood. Not a bad headline; probably doesn’t need 3 exclamation points.
Cabin + Cobb House – Hot Tub and Private BackyardHot Tub and Private Backyard are solid selling points. I believe Cobb house is meant to be Cob house.
#StayInMyDistrict Woodlawn Eclectic -Walk to DekumThe hashtag corresponds with a Portland-area booking site; seems like a ploy to have guests book outside the Airbnb platform, a risky move that could get this host delisted from Airbnb.
Modern studio with traditional feel in HawthorneGives guests a bit of a sense of what the space is like; emphasizes neighborhood
Bright & Airy Portland Tiny House (Alberta Arts)Reasonably descriptive, and Alberta Arts seems like a district that attracts guests
Modern Boise Hideaway | Walk to Bars & RestaurantsBoise is yet another Portland neighborhood. “Hideaway” is appealing, and proximity to bars and restaurants will attract some travelers.
Heart of SE Portland Studio | A Quiet Haven“Quiet Haven” is the most appealing part of this one.
Northeast Portland Home with Private Outdoor Space“Home” and “Portland” are unnecessary. Without them, headline could include more selling points.
2741 / 2bd/1bath, Parking & LV2 EV ChargerAs noted, my least favorite. Feels cold and uninviting.
Sweet private bungalow w/ yard + gas fireplaceThis one would get my attention. “Sweet private bungalow” evokes an image, and the other selling points are decent.
Beautiful, Contemporary FarmhouseNot bad, but only 33 characters, so could include more selling points.
SE Portland private studio near DivisionToo much focus on location, and “private studio” doesn’t tell me much
SKYLINE SKYLAB HOUSE | LIFE AT 7 DEGREES“Skyline Skylab” is intriguing, but even after reading the full listing, I couldn’t figure out what the “7 degrees” refers to.
Newly Built Guesthouse with Private CourtyardFor me, “newly built” is not a selling point; “private courtyard” is a small one.
The Perfect Retro Portland Retreat ~ Vintage Shops“The” is unnecessary. “Perfect” is very subjective and does not help me envision the space.
Cozy Private Apartment by the Park-Hawthorne AreaThere’s that ubiquitous “cozy.” “Apartment” could be abbreviated to allow for more selling points.
TOMAHAWK ISLAND COZY HOUSEBOATAnother cozy one. The “houseboat” aspect would intrigue me.
Comfortable, convenient, 1 bed. upstairs apartment“1 bed. upstairs apartment” are all aspects obvious elsewhere in the listing; could use these characters for more selling points.
Ash Street Loft- Urban chic, walk to downtownEmphasizes location. “Loft” and “urban chic” are somewhat appealing.
Contemporary Apartment in Alberta Arts District“Contemporary” isn’t very descriptive; “apartment” could be abbreviated.  “District” probably not necessary.
The Haseman HouseTells guests nothing.
✔︎✔︎ Tiny Garden Home ✔︎✔︎Just 22 characters, so selling points could be added that would catch my attention more than the check marks.
Magic Barn / Walk Score 93!I wasn’t familiar with “Walk Score,” a walkability analysis, before working on this chart. Guests may also not be familiar. “Magic barn” doesn’t reveal a lot but may be intriguing. Just 27 characters so could tell guests more.
Woodstock Tiny HouseNot much information and only 20 characters.
The Green Door PDX: A European Inspired Cottage.This one is intriguing. “The” may be unnecessary and period at the end is definitely unnecessary.
Private Oasis! Bright & cozy, close to everything!Not bad, despite “cozy.” “Oasis” is an enticing word.
Tiny House in Alameda/Alberta Arts ~ Dog FriendlyThe fact that this is the only headline out of 50 to feature any kind of pet-friendliness means a huge selling point (though tiny house won’t work for all guests)
Perfect Hawthorne Micro By Top Shopping & DinningThe typo in “dining” ruins this one for me.
SW Portland Oasis Minutes from OHSU, Downtown, PSUWill appeal to parents visiting students at these 2 universities.
Renovated 1920s gem, walk to food, drinks, transit“Gem” appeals to me; “renovated” is not meaningful. Local features are decent selling points.
Decompress at a Soothing Suite in Shades of Elegant GrayThis one lets me envision myself in the space.
Walk to Live music, Restaurants & Hip Bars!Tells me nothing about the space.
The Perfect Flat ~ Vintage Shops & Reed CollegeWhat is it “perfect” for?
BBB Studio: Modern comfort near Alberta Arts“Modern comfort near Alberta Arts” is somewhat enticing
Accessible, Award-Winning Guest House with GardenThis will appeal to those seeking accessibility. I’m torn on “award-winning.” Not a reason I would book the place, but might get me to read the listing.
*KING SIZE BED* Luxurious 1-Bedroom DowntownIMO, the only good selling word here is “luxurious.” King beds are not unusual in short-term rentals, and “1-bedroom” is unnecessary.
The Westmoreland Lighthouse – Private studio in SE“Lighthouse” is rather deceptive; the name comes from the way light streams into the house. But it did get me to look further at the listing.
Charming Portland Home in Hollywood DistrictSubstitute a better selling point for “Portland Home,” and I might be interested.
2-Bedroom apartment nestled in FoPo“2-Bedroom apartment” is unnecessary. Fo-Po stands for the Foster-Powell neighborhood. Leaves me wanting to know more about the space.
New, Modern Chef’s Dream in Historic Turret HouseExcept for the unnecessary “New,” this one is very appealing. “Chef’s Dream” is a winner.

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