Airbnb Associates Affiliate Program has closed – so what now?

picture of a villa at dusk with a beautiful pool

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After a year of big financial blows for travel bloggers, the Airbnb Associates Affiliate program (which was probably one of the few affiliate programs still generating an income for many travel bloggers) decided to shut its doors for good, resulting in outrage in the blogosphere.

For many travel bloggers, in a year where travel was no longer deemed safe, Airbnb was a lifeline. Providing a safer type of self-catered, rural, closer-to-home holiday experiences, Airbnb is probably one of the few travel companies that coped fairly well during the era of social distancing.

So many travel bloggers threw themselves into creating Airbnb affiliate content with the best Airbnb roundup style articles. These articles were time-consuming and required extensive research. But the effort was worth it as it was one of the few affiliate programs still generating an income for travel bloggers.

I know many of my students inside Affiliate Marketing Superstars had done exactly that and had been very successful in doing do.

So you can imagine how upset everyone was when the program was cut.

So I wanted to write this article addressing the issue at hand. What should travel bloggers do now that the Airbnb associates program has been closed down?

Picture of the airbnb logo that airbnb associates are familiar with

What you need to do first

Your priority is going to be removing affiliate links as they are likely to become broken links after March 31st. If you use widgets etc, they will no longer work.

You can either opt to remove links entirely, redirect to the regular Airbnb booking page or find alternatives to link to. Some Airbnb properties are also listed on Booking’s site.

If you use a tool like Thirsty Affiliates, you can change links quickly by changing links in your affiliate link library. They will then change across your whole site for every place you have linked to that specific page.

This is one of my favourite tools for this very reason – it saves a LOT of headaches down the road!

If you don’t have a tool like this, there are other search and replace plugins that can help. The downside is that they could slow your site so always do a site speed check before and after and do your research beforehand! This article outlines a few search and replace options.

When I was writing my Thirsty Affiliates Review, I ran before and after speed checks and did not have any issues, it seems to be a fairly lightweight plugin. Adding Thirsty Affiliates does not help with your current situation but could be a useful investment for future issues like this.

It’s also handy for adding affiliate links to keywords so when you add a new affiliate product, you can populate your whole site with links in a matter of seconds.

The other option is to do it manually. It’s going to take a while to find all the links but you can narrow down the search by searching Airbnb under all posts and work through your articles systematically. If you only have a few Airbnb articles, this should be an effective solution for you.

picture of 2 people exchanging keys outside an airbnb property

What to do with Airbnb Focussed Articles

If you have written articles such as ‘the best Airbnb’s in X location,’ chances are you are wondering what on earth to do with these articles.

You may be asking yourself if you even want to be directing business to a company that has treated you badly as an affiliate. The choice to delete Airbnb promotional content is entirely up to you. But taking emotion out of the equation, what are your options?

1. Turn Airbnb guides into self-catered accommodation guides and find alternatives to link to.

Many Airbnb properties are also hosted on Booking.com so you could potentially change your affiliate links over.

You can also find properties on sites like VRBO to add to your article.

The tricky issue is going to be finding good keywords to rank for but with some good keyword research, you may be able to find ways to repurpose this blog content whilst sending your readers to companies with active affiliate programs.

To repurpose these blog posts, you can change your article title, subheadings, and add new keywords to the text and metadata. However, you may want to consider leaving the URL as it is to avoid having too many site redirects which can slow your site down.

2. Find new ways to monetise your existing blog posts

If you have an Airbnb article that is ranking well and bringing you traffic then you might not want to start repurposing that content as you risk losing that traffic. So instead, you may want to consider finding new ways to monetise that content.

Increase ad density

Consider increasing your ad density. You may have previously turned the density down or turned ads off completely if it was an affiliate focussed article. So the first thing to do would be to reverse this. Many ad networks will allow you to make specific changes for certain pages if you reach out to them.

The ad network I use for my travel site is Mediavine and they are very helpful with requests like this.

Turn your readers into subscribers

Secondly, consider if there is a way to get these readers onto your email list? That way, you can monetise this traffic in other ways by promoting other affiliate products they may be interested in.

To do this, you will want to create a simple sequence of emails including

  1. A welcome email – designed to welcome new subscribers, tell them your back story, let them know what to expect from your newsletter and deliver any freebie you promised.
  2. Warm up emails – tip based emails designed to deliver a lot of value and ‘quick wins’ for your audience.
  3. Affiliate emails designed to promote specific products.

Say you have a guide for the best Airbnb’s in Paris with views of the Eiffel Tower. You know your reader is interested in beautiful viewpoints and that they are clearly considering visiting Paris is the near future.

So the freebie to tempt them onto your email list could be something like a PDF guide to the best viewpoints in Paris. You could quickly create something like this in Canva. Include some images and directions and then download as a PDF and upload to a Google drive folder. You can then give a shareable link in your welcome email.

picture of a girl looking at a view from a balcony

Next you want to keep them interested and build trust so I would send them some emails with money-saving hacks for their Paris trip or mistakes to avoid when visiting Paris.

Next, you will want to start adding some affiliate links. So you could write a sequence of emails promoting all the products that are helpful to someone planning a trip to Paris. So you could create emails about:

  • Day trips to book (e.g, via GetYourGuide.)
  • Travel insurance
  • Recommended luggage or photography gear etc
  • Flight hacks with links to your recommended airlines
  • Other accommodation options
  • Car hire for day trips out of Paris etc

Please remember that a few affiliate programmes have annoying rules about not including links in emails (I’m looking at you Amazon.) Most are fine with it but it’s always worth checking the program T&C’s. Where they do not allow it, link to a blog post with the affiliate links instead.

Monetise with tripwires

You could even take this strategy one step further by offering a tripwire offer when someone joins your email list. A tripwire is a limited time special offer on a digital product.

So say for example you sell photography Lightroom presets on your site, could you create some specifically for Paris? Chances are someone who is interested in finding the best viewpoints, might also be interested in photographing them!

To do this you will need

  • A payment processor. Sendowl is a very affordable beginner-friendly option or if you use Convertkit for your email platform, you can sell products directly from there – even with the free Convertkit plan for under 1000 subscribers.
  • A tripwire sales page. You can create this for free with the page builder Elementor. Start with ‘Thank you, you have unlocked a special offer’ and then follow up with the problem your product solves and the benefits someone will get if they purchase it. Keep the price low – it should be a no-brainer purchase. I usually aim for 50-70% off full-price.
  • A countdown timer plugin. I recommend Evergreen Countdown Timer which is free. I usually set it to 15-20 minutes and redirect traffic to a simple page that says ‘sorry this offer has expired’ after the countdown hits zero. You can then grab the timer shortcode and add it to your tripwire thank you page under the buy now button. (Just search for the shortcode block and copy and paste your shortcode in.)

You can then redirect your readers to this page once they confirm they want to join your email list.

woman sitting at a laptop

Moving forward – what next?

Moving forward, I would recommend focussing on more on longtail keywords that are not Airbnb focussed such as:

  • Where to stay in X with a view of Y
  • Best places to stay in X for families
  • Where to stay in X with a rooftop pool

These types of articles will be easier to pivot with if anything like this happens to other accommodation affiliate programs in the future.

Another option is writing reviews of specific hotels as even if a program closes, many hotels are found on different platforms. Not all hotel reviews convert well. Try focussing on more luxury hotels where someone is more likely to search independent reviews before parting with their money.

Also, hotels in the middle of nowhere have very little competition so there is less demand for reviews – it’s not like the reader has a choice anyway! So focus on popular hotels in urban areas with a higher price tag.

You will want to focus on different accommodation providers. Popular sites with affiliate programmes include

  • Booking.com
  • Agoda
  • Hotels.com
  • Hostelworld

In general, conversions tend to be a little higher with Booking as they are the most well known and people tend to book with sites they are familiar with using. However, Agoda offers image widgets. Hostelworld is great for budget and backpacker travel niches.

Read next | How to make money with the Booking Affiliate Program

picture of a typ[ical airbnb rental - living area and kitchen with grey and red decor

Airbnb Associates Competitors

The following are companies with similar business models to Airbnb that have their own affiliate programmes you can join.

  • VRBO – join via CJ or Skimlinks
  • Flipkey – join via Awin
  • 9Flats – join via Flex Offers
  • Outdoorsy (Airbnb of the motorhome world) – join via CJ or Avantlink
  • Homestay – own affiliate program – access it here.

Another Option is joining Stay22.

You can earn money on a variety of booking sites by installing maps with accommodation recommendations. I’m told the maps are lightweight but it is worth doing a before and after speed check when you first install the maps.

Stay 22 have also added an option to create deep links as a response to all the bloggers that flooded to their program after the closure of the Airbnb Associates program.

However, sadly a few weeks after the Airbnb affiliate program closed, Airbnb also withdrew its relationship with Stay22.

Stay22 are looking to add alternatives like VRBO so perhaps still a viable option worth looking into?

I can see Stay 22 being great for ‘Where to stay in X’ type articles where you can include a map for each district.

picture of a pool with a luxury villa in the background

FAQs about the Airbnb Associates Program

Can I just use their referral program?

Nope, unfortunately, that was cut a few months ago. You may still get a trickle of commissions from people who signed up with your link before the Airbnb referral program was cut who are only just now taking their first trips.

When does the Airbnb associates program close down?

It ends 31st March 2021. So you need to make sure all links are removed by then otherwise you will have lots of broken links on your site.

Is Airbnb on Skimlinks?

It used to be and this was a viable alternative for those who didn’t have the prerequisites required for the official Airbnb affiliate program. The Airbnb experiences are still listed on Skimlinks so you could use this as an alternative for experiences only but proceed with caution as there is no way to know if this will remain.

Is there any way to make money by promoting Airbnb properties going forward?

You can check if Airbnb properties are listed elsewhere. They are often listed on Booking as well so you can link to them there.

Final Words

I know many of you will be feeling frustrated with the recent closure of the Airbnb Associates program. But remember, there are many more ways to make money with affiliate links for travel site owners. Here are just a few ideas

  • Travel insurance
  • Car hire
  • Motorhome hire
  • Adventure tours
  • Day trips
  • Luggage and travel essentials
  • Photography equipment
  • Other accommodation types
  • Travel themed subscription boxes
  • Travel themed lifestyle products eg home decor/ books etc
  • Online courses – eg travel photography courses or something like TEFL for longterm travellers or a self-defence course for solo female travellers.

I hope this article has been helpful for you!

6 thoughts on “Airbnb Associates Affiliate Program has closed – so what now?

  1. Dimitrios says:

    Thanks for this post! Very informative and concise. I just signed up but couldn’t find a way to directly deep-link on specific properties. Only maps. Am I missing something?

    • Leanne says:

      They have added a way to do this which should be on your side panel but sadly airbnb have been pulled so its just other accommodation sites now

  2. Ben says:

    Hi,

    This is an awesome article!
    Sorry I’m a bit new to terms such as deep links but does this mean with Stay22 we can create affiliate links to specific airbnb listings? I can only see the create a map widget but ideally I just want a URL straight to the listing rather than adding a map widget to my blog post

    • Leanne says:

      Unfortunately Airbnb has just removed itself from stay22’s program too! But yes deeplinks link direct to an affiliate product via a text link

  3. Keith says:

    Just a question, the Airbnb program gave a commission percentage on their “service fee” Do you know what Stay22 shares? Is it a percentage of the total booking fee or the service fee, and if so what percentage?

    Quite fully in their earnings call they were highlighting how this year had been their best ever for articles about AirBnb… clearly clueless as to the min driver of that increase… their affiliate program. This is not the first time they have closed the program and I was really wary about investing time again after their last abrupt turnaround. I know what I will be doing with their quite good press releases in the future … using them as inspiration for my booking.com link selections.

    • Leanne says:

      I think its 30% of what they earn (booking fee) it does unfortunately work out a lot less than airbnb was paying. Also since I wrote this article, Airbnb has pulled their relationship with Stay22. You can still use them for other accommodations though. I agree, it was a bad move on airbnb’s part but hopefully other platforms like VRBO can step forward and fill as pace to work more closely with bloggers

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