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How Airbnb Used Their Brand To Sustain Organic Traffic During A Pandemic

Premium Content

When Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb went on record and said:

“What the pandemic showed us is that we can take marketing down to zero and still have 95% of the same traffic as the year before.”

Every single SEO from coast to coast screamed off the rooftops:

Look! Look! Look! Look what we can do!

Truth is… I was one of them.

I was quick to point out that last year I wrote a piece talking about the unshakeable SEO moat that Airbnb has created over the years. The SEO moat that Airbnb built is quite impressive. They have millions of backlinks. Generate millions of visits. And didn’t see traffic drop by more than 5% while putting their paid efforts on pause. In fact, since February 2020 (even amidst a global pandemic) Airbnb generated more than 713.5M visits.

For comparison…

  • VRBO had an estimated 387M.
  • Homeaway had an estimated 34M.
  • Hotels dot com had an estimated 346M.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

According to SimilarWeb only 24% of all Airbnb traffic is organic (ie. SEO).

So while SEO clearly played a massive role. It’s not the end of the story. In fact, in a Twitter thread started by my friend Brendan Hufford, the former head of design at Airbnb, called out a traffic chart that he shared saying:

Your chart correlates with the org structure and there being a team specifically focused on growing organic traffic. For example, we began working on SEO Jan 2017. The team was then disbanded in Jan 2018 only to restart in June 2019.

You read that right…The conviction that so many SEOs had about the SEO prowess at Airbnb is only somewhat true.

 

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