To ask for a review or not to ask? That is the question.

Reviews are the absolute lifeblood of this industry. A host with lots of good reviews has the potential to make a lot more money than a host with few reviews or bad reviews.

So how do you ensure you get plenty of positive reviews? Here are your 4 main options:

1. Ask for a good review in exchange for a discount.

Well…to be honest, this really isn’t even an option. It’s sleazy and dishonest and totally against Airbnb’s terms of service.

You can push your luck (and some people do), but if a guest reports you, you’re in big trouble.

I had a host make this offer to me when I traveled to New York: $15 off my stay in exchange for a 5-star review. Well frankly, I reported her. It made me uncomfortable and I didn’t like it at all. She ended up getting kicked off of Airbnb because she violated their terms of use.

So option #1 is just bad business practice. Please don’t do it. It is unethical and we have seen time and again that while playing loose with ethics might bring profits in the short run – your business will always suffer in the long run. Instead, focus your energy on creating a good experience for your guests so you don’t have to bribe them for a good review.

A clever way to get good reviews

2. Ask for a good review in exchange for nothing.

This is a legitimate option. Lots of hosts do this. They’ll say something along the lines of this: “Hi <<guest>>! You’ve been a great guest, thanks for staying, yada yada yada. We’re going to give you a 5-star review and I hope you do the same for us!”

The problem I have with this approach is that while it may not be outright bribery, it still feels like coercion, or at the very least manipulation. What guest is going to want to give an honest negative review if they know they’re going to get a positive review in exchange? The tit-for-tat mentality is very strong in the Airbnb world, as I’ve written about before.

It’s just not above board, and ethical hosts should not employ this tactic, either.

3. Say nothing.

Another option you have is to say nothing and hope that guests will leave you a good review.

The problem with this approach is that many guests don’t understand how Airbnb’s rating system is different from hotel rating systems. With a hotel, the stars indicate the level of luxury. A 3-star hotel is a perfectly adequate hotel, but nothing particularly fancy. Based on hotel ratings, most Airbnbs would probably fall in the 2- or 3-star range.

But Airbnb’s rating system is completely different. The stars on Airbnb indicate the level of service, not luxury. A tiny private room in a shared home could easily garner 5 stars if the host was attentive to the guests during their stay. In fact, if you consistently get reviews of 4 stars or less, you could be in danger of your entire host account being disabled because of inadequate service.

So if you say nothing at all, it’s likely that you’ll get guests who rave about the quality of the service and attentiveness they received during their stay…and then give you 3 stars. This is no good. Guests need to be educated on how the rating system is different than most hotels.

That’s why I advocate for the fourth option:

4. Remind guests that a bad review will hurt you as a host, but don’t specifically ask for a good review

This is the tactic I have employed in all of my listings for several years now, with astonishing results.

I say something like, “Hey, <<guest>>, I hope you’ve had a great stay! Many guests don’t know this, but on Airbnb anything less than a 5-star review – even 4 stars – will hurt hosts. If you’ve had any issues during your stay that would cause you to have anything less than a 5-star experience, please let me know before you write a review so that I can do my best to rectify them.”

It’s amazing what this simple little message has done! I’ve had guests who have told me they didn’t have a 5-star experience, so they just wouldn’t leave a review so it wouldn’t hurt me. I’ve had guests say they didn’t realize that, so they would adjust their review from the 4 stars that they were planning on giving up to 5. I’ve even had guests who had legitimately awful experiences with me give good reviews!

I continue to be amazed at how effective this strategy is.

I’ve had hundreds of guests leave reviews since I started using it. I can count on one hand the number of them that were less than 5 stars. It really does work! Who says you can’t be both ethical and successful? Give this tactic a try today! 

We’d love to hear from you – do you ask guests to leave a review? And if so, how?