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Hiding Properties: ID numbers your worst enemy

Published on May 6, 2016 by admin@unitedvr

Hiding Properties


There has been a lot of talk in the industry about how one of the major listing sites recently experienced a dramatic drop in traffic (and inquiries for owners) because they actually told Google and other search engines to stop indexing huge portions of their web site.

What hasn’t been discussed is why they did this.

There has been a lot of talk suggesting that it was just a big technical error, but we think it was actually done on purpose, and the reason we think so is because of our own experiences and the difficulties we encountered in searching their site for particular properties. (It may have been decided by those sites that this was a mistake, and since changed by the time you are reading this, but who knows?)

(Please don’t think we are trying to pick on anyone, or knock anybody else down to boost ourselves up.  This is a very important issue that is affecting the majority of vacation rental owners.  You can read about these issues at the following links:

We have long maintained that individual properties are not important to the major listing sites, that they don’t care if they bring YOU bookings, only that there are bookings for properties on their site. They don’t care who gets them, because as long as they are processed on their site, they make some money and they can charge the Guest fees for booking through them.

It used to be that if we searched for a particular vacation rental property by name, in a general search through any of the major search engines, that those particular properties we were looking for would show up as a result showing on those major listing sites, on the first pages of Google. So if we were searching for “Sunshine Villa in Miami”, we would see a result near the top that said something like “Sunshine Villa in Miami on BigGreedyCorporateSite” with a bit of text from the property listing on that site, and a link such as

If we clicked on that search result, the link would indeed take us to and when we arrived on the site we would be on the individual property listing on that site for Sunshine Villa in Miami. That was good because we were able to find the specific property that we were looking for on

Then something changed. We started noticing that those links didn’t show up in Google as much anymore, and the links which did, wouldn’t take us to Sunshine Villa in Miami on that site. Instead, they would only take us to a page which listed hundreds of properties in the area of Sunshine Villa in Miami. And if we clicked on the search box right on the web site itself, we wouldn’t be able to reach Sunshine Villa in Miami that way either. If we manually scrolled through the listings that had been returned on our Google search inquiry, sure enough, we would eventually find Sunshine Villa in Miami, but we had to look for it, and look hard.

Suddenly, there was no way to search for an individual property on that website. You either knew what its specific property page URL was, or the listing ID number, or you were out of luck with no real way to find it.

This, along with the news that these particular sites had instructed Google and other search engines not to index vast portions of their websites, left us with the following speculation. And remember, this is just a theory, but it makes complete sense given the approach that these sites have taken to individual owner’s properties of late.

What if these sites told the search engines NOT to index all of their pages because they wanted to hide, or make it more difficult, for an individual property to be found on their site?

It would make perfect sense because it falls completely in line with the strategy that these sites have been recently applying more and more, which says that no one individual property is important (Why else would they offer six alternatives after a guest makes an inquiry?) so if a Guest is looking for a particular property, they will instead show them ALL of the properties in that particular location, with the ones that THEY think the Guest will be most likely to book showing first. They call that Best Match.

Most owners call it “Disastrous.”

But no matter whether they are trying to hide particular properties or not, lets understand one very important thing; their use of property numbers in the URL makes it way more easy for them to hide an owner’s property on their site. Why? What is more likely to be known by a guest; a property or owner’s name? Or a listing ID number?

If I knew the property ID number on that site, I could have found it. But I couldn’t do it with the property or owner’s name. All I got was properties in the area that they wanted to show me first. I wonder why that is.

What do you think?

Up Next: Winning Online: How Site Design can Help You Get Found


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Category: Site Q&A

5 thoughts on “Hiding Properties: ID numbers your worst enemy

  • mauinani2014
    on May 6, 2016

    I think you are 100% correct in your theory. What a disaster! The “Best Match” is turning out to be a curse to all of us home owners. My inquiries have all but disappeared. All these sites are doing the same thing. I can’t imagine potential guests will linger on my site (if they even find it) very long knowing they are one click away from seeing everything around me. It’s really underhanded, unethical and cut-throat. Why can’t companies do the right thing by the very people who grew their business and continue to keep them in business? I’m glad UnitedVacation.Rentals is having this conversation. It’s important for us to learn the truth!

  • Julie
    on May 6, 2016

    I love you guys!!! You are the rockin’ bomb-diggity-dot-com! Oops, I mean dot-rentals!

    It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes philosopy over on the dark side. If they say it’s so, it IS. Far be it from us poor ignorant property owners with years of renting experience to know what we need and want. Just drink the kool-aide, and NO there is not a choice of flavors. Rumor has it that early subscription renewals at BGCS include a complimentary lobotomy.** Buh-bye!

    **Mandatory after 2017

  • Julie
    on May 6, 2016

    P.S. Thank you for your savvy, innovations, wit, and communications. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be part of your site.

    • admin@unitedvr
      on May 8, 2016

      Thank you Julie. It is great owners like you that we created the site for! Thanks for being aboard! 🙂

  • on May 13, 2016

    I think you are right. Their business model apparently shifted to one that is no longer a listing site that makes money from each listing (that is, subscription based), but a transaction-managing booking site that profits from the fees associated with each booking (transaction). In that model, whatever maximizes the number of transactions consummated maximizes revenue, and apparently displaying a menu of properties does (or is believed to) ensure the maximum likelihood of at least one booking.


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