What The Airbnb Associates Program Closing Means For Your Blog
As travel bloggers, by now, you’ve heard the Airbnb Associates Program is closing effective March 31, 2021. The reasons for this within Airbnb aren’t known, but here at My Colorful Wanderings – we have a pretty good feeling of why it might be happening. Click-bait-y articles about ‘the best treehouses across the US‘ ring a bell? We had them too. While those articles in of themselves are not a bad thing – the massive influx of those articles on Pinterest tells us one thing: Airbnb no longer needs us.
The end of the cult favorite Airbnb Associates Program impacts revenue streams for many bloggers. Ranking for those well-researched key-word rich articles has the power to make us feel totally bummed out. The thing is – the entire travel industry was impacted due to the pandemic, and this is just the newest thing we all have to deal with. Our industry needs to keep fighting!
It’s happening – and we all need to soldier on. So here’s a practical breakdown of what you should consider as a travel blogger.
Why Is Airbnb Associates Closing?
There was no email – no warning. It just happened. The only reason we even knew about it was that someone posted a screenshot in a Facebook group for bloggers. We were shocked – went to look for ourselves and discovered – yes, this is indeed happening.
This is the announcement under the ‘Common Questions’ Section of the Airbnb Associates homepage:
Obviously, we’re only speculating because we got the same information that most of you all did if you’re here reading this article! However, as we tend to live on the more realistic side of life – we felt like sharing our thoughts, hoping to provide some positivity.
A) Cities are fighting Back
Do you remember a few years ago in 2018 when San Francisco-based Airbnb’s basically had five thousand listings kicked out overnight? (See San Francisco’s new Airbnb/short-term rental policies here.) The reason that happened is that people can’t afford to live in San Francisco realistically anymore. Prices are soaring, and short-term rentals have the power to drive inflation rates even higher.
To keep the economy from crumbling and a mass exodus of everyone who wasn’t a millionaire – San Francisco had to do something. Even in our own home city of Louisville, where the cost of living is more moderate – there are strict Airbnb laws. If you were thinking about listing your home for income – make sure that you’re complying with all of Airbnb’s rules and those of your state!
We only mention how cities are fighting back because cities are balanced on a tight budget, and many people are hurting after the pandemic. Push back from cities and small towns to rising inflation means that Airbnb may be adjusting their business model – thus the close of the Airbnb Associates program.
B) Airbnb Doesn’t need Travel Bloggers Anymore
If you’ve watched any medical TV show – you know that preserving the brain and the heart are the two main goals for any major trauma victim. Tourniquets are applied to keep blood flowing to the most necessary parts to preserve life – and that’s exactly what Airbnb is doing.
Everyone knows what Airbnb is now, and they know how to use it. The average user can even filter and look for treehouse without your blog posts guiding them. So while yes, your articles were beneficial – the Airbnb Associates program closing is a by-product of travel bloggers’ hard work. You showed people exactly how to use Airbnb for themselves, and Airbnb realized they could cut out the middlemen to save money.
The prevalence of Airbnb’s triangle paperclip logo is just like Doritos now – they no longer really need to try that hard.
C) Streamlining a Business
You may not be at a stage yet in your blogging journey where you’re working with monetization strategies – but remember that the companies you work with are private companies, and they have the right to change the terms of the agreement.
Remember that long service agreement that you signed and 1000% did not read? Yeah. It’s in there! In times of crisis – many companies look at the bottom dollar and ‘trim the fat’. It’s survival of the fittest and we have to accept that. We’ve seen many people online stating that they would be ‘writing an angry letter’ because they made money from Airbnb Associates. But trying to get everyone to rally so the Airbnb Associates Program won’t close just isn’t going to work.
Tough Love Moment: It’s time for you to diversify and switch up your own blog/business’s monetization strategy.
D) Airbnb isn’t losing money
( Unlike like everyone else during the pandemic… except hand sanitizer and medical supply companies of course…)
Let’s consider the enormous operational costs of a company like Airbnb. Designed for customer satisfaction of the end-user, the customer support teams alone are probably swamped. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic? Do you remember when all the listings currently on the site were now having hundreds of thousands of canceled reservations? We got the announcements almost overnight that no one was going anywhere.
Not only was Airbnb dealing with canceling reservations, but people who relied on their own personal Airbnb’s for income were also losing money. So then came the tricky business behind compensating all those who lost income as well? It is all – as we say in the South – ‘a hot mess’.
CEO Brian Chesky talked about the 30% loss in their company revenue at the end of 2020 – but then a massive rise in Q4 of December 2020 and the companies’ continual uphill drive. Why is that? Airbnb is expecting people to take to their cars with the outpouring of vaccines and loosening travel restrictions. They miss their families, and hiking /outdoor activities are considered safe while people navigate returning to normal life.
What Should You Do Now?
The Airbnb Associates program closes in the end of March 2021.
So what do we do now?
First things first, remember the purpose of Airbnb and incorporating it into your writing in the first place. Airbnb provides travelers with a relatively easy way to travel comfortably. The history of Airbnb 100% surrounds a cheap way to travel if they can’t stomach a hostel, or for finding private rooftop condos, etc. It was designed with travelers’ romantic notions from all over finding a home to stay in and create a connection. You can absolutely still recommend Airbnbs if you want to – just as you would recommend a museum.
When we traveled to Aruba – we met Sharon, our wonderful Airbnb host. We saw parts of the island that we probably wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t stayed at her Airbnb! It was an absolutely worthwhile experience that we’ll never forget. We want that for others! Those are the kinds of recommendations you can still give and provide value and gain your readers’ trust.
Build Trust With Your Readers
When you’re recommending anything – remember that your goal should be to create trust with your reader. People are so inundated with ads and sales pitches these days that they’re skeptical of anything. Business Insider wrote an article not long ago about how many times a person has to be contacted at minimum before they’re willing to buy something:
Lant states that to penetrate the buyer’s consciousness and make significant penetration in a given market, you have to contact the prospect a minimum of seven times within an 18-month period.City Room – Business Insider Contributer
So what does that mean for you? If you’re willing to recommend fantastic experiences and other travelers have a good time – you’re more than likely to gain your reader’s trust. This will translate to sales/ traffic in other ways!!! Your blog could be the best source of information for a particular topic – and people will keep coming back.
We love to recommend music on our blog, and one of our most popular posts is ‘The Best Songs For Instagram Reels.’ It went viral, and now people come back for music recommendations all the time. Are they specifically buying anything when we recommend a song? NO. But they are bringing traffic and most likely exploring other parts of our blog. (**Hint – diversification in the types of articles you write will help you!)
Remove Broken Links
If you have any widgets on your site that look like the below widget on our Bishop Castle Road Trip post – you’ll need to remove them and work towards recreating that section of your post. You also were able to create pages that had recommendations within Airbnb. All of those will be broken links! You’ll need to remove them and make sure that your 404-redirects are set up.
Make Sure Your 404 – Error Redirects Are Set Up
What is a 404-redirect? It’s the page that shows up when a user types in the wrong URL or tries to visit a page that no longer exists. If you haven’t done this yet – here are some helpful articles for setting up 404-redirects on your site.
You may already have this set up if you purchased a higher end WordPress/Squarespace theme. If you haven’t though – the set up is relatively easy!
Other Affiliate Programs Like Airbnb Associates
We highly recommend that everyone monetize their site in some way. If you’re not taking the time to do that – you’re hurting yourself in some way! Did you know that most millionaires have 7 streams of income? If you’re only using one way to monetize your blog – you’re bound to struggle with keeping up a consistent income.
Booking.com provides you with the opportunity to link specific hotels like this link to the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Or by creating widgets for a city like the one below:
We highly recommend getting approved for this program and replacing your Airbnb widgets with these widgets! To apply for the Booking.com associates program, click here.
If you haven’t heard of VRBO yet – it’s a smaller competitor for Airbnb and almost exactly copies their business model. To sign up for their affiliates program – see here.
** You’ll need to create a Commission Junction affiliates account before you can apply to work with VRBO!
The Silver Lining of Airbnb Associates Closing
You saw the mass exodus to Tulum during the pandemic as travel bloggers everywhere took pictures in cenotes – and on some level, that probably did affect everyone! We definitely thought about hopping on a plane and sinking our toes in Mexico’s warm silky sand? No judgment here whatever you decided to do. But in the long run – we as travel bloggers cannot control what happens in the travel industry.
The silver lining of Airbnb Associates closing for us though is that we’re having to take a hard look at ourselves as writers. Because at the end of the day – that’s what we are. Are we talking about experiences and writing ethnographical tales for people to live through? Do we explore the history and culture of a region? Is Instagram the focus of our city guides? Did our hearts come alive as walked the streets in Rome in the evening? Have we taken a moment to get to know the locals we shared a beer with at a rough and tumble pizza joint?
Are we relying on writing articles that have no depth – or are we writing from the adventurous parts of our soul? When we look back at some of our articles – we realize we have work to do. If you identify with any of those things like we did, it’s ok. This may have just been a little wake-up call. Blogging about travel especially should showcase more than Instagram-worthy shots.
Make sure to snag all of your road trip basics (below) and have fun jamming to a new playlist!
Until next time friends,