With the economy the way it is, having a successful vacation rental season may make or break some people that own second homes, so follow along and learn how to market your vacation rental property like a pro.
I wrote an article several years ago on advertising vacation rentals and figured it was time to update it. But instead of rewriting that one, I figured I’d write a new, more meaty one here. Plus, like having more than one vacation rental listing, having two articles on vacation rental advertising is better than just having one.
Why should you listen to my advice?
I have been a Certified Professional Webmaster since 2000 and have offered a free vacation rental advertising service in my local market that makes hundreds of second homeowners tens of thousands of dollars in income every year for the last 12 years. Literally millions of dollars in the last decade have been made by second home owners from this free local service.
I have promoted all of the big “paid” vacation rental listing sites as an affiliate for years on several of my other websites, where I get paid for each vacationer inquiry. From my affiliations with these vacation rental listing websites, I know what vacation rental websites work for property owners and which websites don’t produce bookings.
I get paid real money from paying clients to give them the same kind of advice that I am going to give away for free in this article. So if you want to learn how to market your vacation rental property online, read on.
Much of this is internet marketing 101, but since most vacation property owners are not internet marketing pros, we’ll cover some basic principals here to give you a good overview of how to go about marketing your vacation rental listings the right way.
Seek out all the places where you can advertise your vacation property. There are numerous websites, both free and paid, where you can advertise your vacation property, gain some bookings and make some money. The most important thing about your listings (both paid and free) is that they show up in Google and other search engines.
Pro tips for advertising your vacation property
- When you add your property to different websites, or make your own vacation rental website, don’t be lazy. Vary the text and descriptions you use to describe your property from site to site and listing to listing. Make them all unique.
- Do not use the exact same title and descriptions on each site.
- If the site gives you multiple fields to fill out, take advantage of it. The more information you provide the better off you’ll be.
- The more descriptive text you use, and the more unique that text is across your various listings and websites, the more weeks you will book. This is the single most important thing you can do and is really a very simple way of increasing your online exposure.
- When adding pictures, use images that portray a nice, clean, welcoming property. Also, take your pictures in nice weather. There’s nothing worse than a picture of a rental property under a gloomy, grey sky. Remember, the people you are trying to get to rent your property will be hoping for nice weather on their vacation. Make your property look bright and sunny, both inside and outside.
Creating the content for your listings
Take some time to gather your ideas for these unique property descriptions before jumping in to add your property. Use a text editor like notepad or Word and write different titles and descriptions to use on all the different sites. Also write some good keyword rich paragraphs that mention amenities and nearby attractions to use in your property descriptions.
Mentioning nearby attractions will include these keywords in your text which is great for obtaining visitors from internet search engines via keywords such as “vacation rental near nearby attraction“. Use location specific keywords in your property descriptions.
Detailing your property’s amenities is also a source of great keywords for your property descriptions. Keywords like bbq grill, hot tub, swimming pool, internet access, wifi, deck, walk to beach, outside shower, private yard, quiet neighborhood, close to golf course, swimming pool, kid friendly, pet friendly, etc… Many vacationers will include these keywords when searching for their ideal rental property.
How to properly manage your vacation property listings
While adding your property to each site, make a note of the sites URL (link) and any login information you will need to edit your listings later on. It may also be handy to jot down the length of time the ad or listing will run for each website, so you can stay on top of your renewals. You can easily set up a simple spreadsheet to keep track of this information.
Notice how the editing functions work as you enter your information and create your listings. Make a few notes for each site. This will come in handy later on when you need to edit your property information or update your availability calendar on the various rental listing sites.
Where to list your vacation rental property
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Build your own vacation rental websites
You should also set up several personal websites for your vacation rental. You could go ahead and buy a domain name and get a real website for your property, but if you aren’t into that, you can get a free webpage or a blog at Blogger or WordPress to host your personal vacation rental site.
Free blogs are great to use as a personal vacation rental website because they are simple to manage. You can upload your property descriptions, pictures, visitor testimonials, etc… very easily to a free blog site. This will allow you to show as much information and as as many pictures as you want to, since some of the paid listing services limit the amount of pictures you can use.
Other places where you can setup free personal vacation rental webpages include Google Sites, Weebly.com, Yola.com, Wix.com, Tumblr.com, etc… Your internet access provider may also offer a free personal site with your monthly subscription as well.
If possible, link some of your listings together. The more links you can get to your listings the better your online exposure will be. Many of the paid services will allow you to link to a personal website from your paid vacation rental listing. On your personal website, you can link to all of your paid listings, where potential renters can see all your listings and guest reviews, etc… Indicating that your property is listed on several different websites will give your vacation property instant credibility.
Think of it this way, every webpage you set up about your property is another doorway for potential vacationers to enter. Not that you need to have hundreds of websites for your rental property, but there are literally thousands of places you could set up free websites for a vacation rental property.
Paid Vacation Rental Listing Services
You’ll need to first establish your advertising budget and select paid services which have a good reputation for “return on advertising investment”. One important thing to remember is, the longer you keep your paid listings running the more visitors you will get from Google and other search engines. Your vacation rental page on these websites will age and with age comes authority and more visits.
The paid services below all have a strong search engine presence and a large visitor base, which is very important for getting your vacation property seen by vacationers on the internet. I have been an affiliate of these services for years, and can recommend all of them as places that you should definitely list your vacation property. A few of them offer free trials so you can test them out first and see how it goes.
Perhaps the most widely known and trafficked vacation rental website, HomeAway has delivered millions of inquiries to owners, and receives over 85 million traveler visits each year. Homeaway also offers a risk-free “No Booking, No Fee Guarantee”. “Your subscription is completely risk-free on HomeAway.com. We are so confident that you’ll receive bookings from our site, we guarantee your success. When you list your property for one year, we guarantee that you will receive at least one booking, or you will be eligible for a full refund.”
Vacation Home Rentals
Vacationhomerentals.com boasts that they get the most visitors per listing in the industry. Vacation Home Rentals listings include unlimited photos, availability calendar, hit counter, currency converter and optional link to personal site. Vacation Home Rentals also offers a free 30 day trial, so you can try it out for 30 days with no risk of obligation.
VRBO is one of the original online vacation rental listing websites. More than 95 million travelers visit VRBO each year and members receive an average of 90 inquiries per listing per year. “VRBO.com guarantees that during the first year of your first VRBO one-year membership, you will receive paid rental bookings from your Vacation Rentals by Owner listing equal to at least 10 times the cost of membership. If you do not receive bookings equal to 10 times your membership fee from your first one year of membership, notify VRBO.com, and your membership will be EXTENDED six months FOR FREE.”
FlipKey is the exclusive provider of vacation rentals on TripAdvisor, which receives over 25 million visitors each month. Showcase your property with unlimited photos, link to your website, complete property description, guest reviews, and much more. The average homeowner property listing on Flipkey is currently receiving more than 75 inquiries annually. With access to Tripadvisor’s member base, Flipkey boasts the most genuine vacation rental reviews through their guest review platform. Try it free for 60 days.
Local and regional listing services
There are numerous other local and regional vacation rental listing services and websites that may be worth getting listed on as well, but that’s well beyond the scope of this article. You may be able to ask your neighbors who they list with locally and whether they have had success with local listing services. Local real estate and rental agencies can also be a good source of vacation rental bookings, but be prepared to pay commissions of 10%, 15% or more to get your property booked through them.
There are many places to advertise your vacation rental for free. Websites like CraigsList, OLX and Kijiji can be very effective and if you are aggressive and crafty enough with your listings they can often outperform paid services.
Some free listings may only run for a short period of time and may require re-listing often, or periodic editing to keep your ad up on the site. All of these sites will show up for Google searches, but the majority of free listings will expire quickly without letting you reuse the same URL (web address). If you have specific openings, specify those in your classified ads.
Dealing with last minute cancellations
The best time to take advantage of free classifieds sites is when you get stuck with last minute cancellations. The listing churn on most free classifieds sites is high, meaning that your listing will get buried after a day or two, so it is best to list timely offers.
Sites like Craigslist have been good venues for those last minute bookings, like when you have somebody cancel a couple weeks out. Keep this in mind in case you get stuck with some last minute weeks due to cancellations.
If you are trying to book a cancelled week or a last minute opening, make sure you create your ad using the specific time slot in the title of the ad, this will grab the attention of people that are looking for that particular vacation week in the sea of other vacation rental classified listings.
Other vacation property advertising sources
Pay Per Click advertising
You can also drive potential vacationers to your online listings by purchasing Pay-Per-Click advertising from Google Adwords or other similar services. If you are going to use PPC ads, send the visitors to your personal website and not a paid listing. You don’t want to pay for clicks and then send the visitor to a site with numerous listings similar to yours.
The thing to remember here is to refine the keywords that you target. Don’t just bid on “city vacation rental”. That search is much too broad, it will cost you alot of money and you will not get the right targeted visitors.
You are better off choosing keywords like “town/village name rental”, “nearby attraction rentals”, “rental close to nearby beach”, etc… Also target the specific weeks that you have available with keywords. Something like “city rental week July 4th”, “city rental second week of August” is much more targeted to a visitor’s specific criteria.
You may not get as many clicks and visits as “city vacation rentals” but the visitors will be much more likely to rent because they will be much more targeted to your property and the weeks or time slots you have available.
There are two things to remember here: It will cost much less to use highly targeted long tail keywords and phrases rather than simple broad range keywords and the competition will be less for keywords that specify certain weeks or time slots.
As far as advertising your property in guidebooks, newspapers, etc… Don’t waste your money. This has been a loser for many folks I have talked with. Usually the person picking up a guidebook is “already there” and likely has a place to stay already. They might look for a restaurant, or maybe a hotel room, but not a weekly vacation rental. There is the chance that the guidebook may be brought back home and referenced at a later time, but don’t count on it.
Good luck with your vacation rental season. May all your weeks be booked up solid.
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