How to Advertise & Market a Vacation Rental Property

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.

The Basics

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.

Be aggressive

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.

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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.

Homeaway

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.”

Advertise your property to thousands of travelers.
HomeAway

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.

Advertise Your Vacation Rental
Vacation Home Rentals

VRBO

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.”

VRBO.com - Vacation Rentals by Owner
VRBO – Vacation Rentals by Owner

Tripadvisor (FlipKey)

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.

RBO - Special Offer
Tripadvisor (Flipkey)

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.

Free classifieds

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.

Offline advertising

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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If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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Comments

How to Advertise & Market a Vacation Rental Property — 12 Comments

  1. Great Information, Thanks Darren.
    I am Surprised not to see WeNeedaVacation.com on your list.
    That site works well for my Summer House Rental.
    I found HomeAway a bit irritating, and not worth the return.
    Best, Tim

  2. Great atticle, thank you for the advice. A COMMENT ON CRAIGSLIST Not sure what others have experienced but I get about 90% bogus fishing emails with about 10 % real renters. What am I doing wrong or does every one receive these bogus requests? I get” international” travelers who will have their agents pay. I get FBI inquiries about money vound, I get home land securityu awards in the millions, I get offers for free IPODS form “APPLE” pn and on. How do you handle these? Regards

  3. Thanks! RE: Craigslist — Unfortunately, Craigslist is a scammers and phishers haven, so scams are widespread (its not just you). It is just best to ignore anything that sounds “phishy”, like free offers and other garbage. Also “international” inquiries or deals that involve third parties (like you describe) should raise a major red flag. Also use the craigslist anonymous email address instead of your own and if possible, do not use your phone number in the ad. CL offers a good audience for vacation rentals (especially for filling last minute vacancies) just keep your guard up.

  4. While I do work in the industry, I personally find that locally managed vacation rental companies are by far your best bet. Check up locally for a company promoting vacation rentals, see if they are insured, see if they are regulated by the local government and go with them. While they will take a percentage of your sales, they will save you so many headaches as they take much of the risk for you.

    Would you buy a house without a real estate agent? Why rent your property without a vacation rental manager? Sure you make more money possibly if you do it yourself but most of the time you just get more headaches.

    Check us out, we do British Columbia vacation rentals up in Canada. Our largest market is Vancouver.

    Thanks!

  5. Local rental agencies are a complete ripoff, the majority truly do not care about your property unless you’re an extremely high end rental and they steal 30-40% of the profits. I’ve used VRBO and my own personal site and my neighbor uses a rental agency. I book as much as he does and I keep 92% of the profits the other 8% goes to the city. Also I have the ability to screen my renters, google and facebook does wonders. I’ve been able to avoid bad renters however, my neighbor has had several terrible renters. Plus it seems though when people rent directly with the owner they care more about how they treat the rental as opposed to going through a rental agency. Tripadvisor is also another site that’s growing.

  6. I haven’t had much luck with local agencies either. I think I’ll take your advice and start marketing my own properties. I already have a site for my personal business, but never thought about using it for the rental since I only rent the property out a few times a year when I’m traveling.

    I take comfort in what greeper said about how people tend to care more about how they treat the property when they deal directly with the owner. I’m going to look at the sites you recommended and see if they’ll work for my situation. Thanks for all of the information, it was very useful.

  7. This is a little off topic, but would anyone care to offer recommendations for a cancellation policy? I.e. when should their payment become partially or fully non-refundable? Etc. Thanks.

  8. 1. Craigslist provides multiple bogus leads however if you are on a tight budget then this is an excellent source of reservations if done right, in the beggining i would generate 20 reservations per month (1 per home) i admit i had to add 100 postings per day but it was free advertising!

    2. Rental agencies are entitled to take 30-40% of the rate (remember you dont have to accept the reservation) these agencies are also known as tour operators, they are generating bulk reservations to multiple management companies and private owners.

    3. Management companies – dont get confused with rental agencies. There are two types, the one that looks after your property (management, lawn/pool care/pest control/smoke alarm checks/fire extinguisher checks etc) and the type that do all of that and also provide reservations, the latter typically charge between 15%- 20% for this commission they are paying for advertising, handling inquiries and any issues that might need dealing with while the guest is in the house.

    4. Homeaway/VRBO/ETC (the homeaway network) is and will be the best place to advertise your vacation home. they provide terrible customer service and the websites are constantly being upgraded which results in unfriendly userability when trying to update a listing but for a constant stream of inquires and a booking ratio of 1-10 you cant ask for much more.

    5. if you have just purchased a vacation home and you’re thinking of advertising on flipkey/trip advisor then dont bother, this only works if you have lots of reviews which you wont have as you have just bought the property.

    6. Use a management company to look after your home. Many people have a neighbor “look after” it for them however they wont be licensed, they wont check smoke alarms each month, they aren’t licensed to cut the yard or clean the pool (this is a commercial property, you can be sued!) Remember just because a management company might charge you $300 a month this should include management, pool, lawn and pest care, these services are typically sub-contracted out.

    7. Advertising a vacation homes is very easy, getting reservations is not. Your house needs to offer everything to the guest. This now means at the very minimum (talking from an orlando/disney point of view) Private pool (unless in a resort) spa, HDTV LCD TVS in all living areas and bedrooms, Wi-Fi, Game Room, themed childrens bedrooms, at least 1 king master bedroom, modern furniture, quality linens and towels. Extras such as DVD library or upgraded cable is a plus. most homes dont have any fitness equipment so think about having a game room / gym.

  9. Jeff, when talking a reservation you should probably ask for $200 to secure the house and the dates the guest wants, $200 becomes non-refundable, if you ask for more that may put them off making the reservation, most people will want to pay using a credit card if given the opportunity. the oustanding balance should be taken at most 6 weeks prior, this way if they cancel you still have $200 and 6 weeks to find another renter.

  10. Thanks Darren for the great information. It is really the wise suggestions made by you here, is a great source to popularize one’s vacation rental property. But, I guess the suggestions are made to find one time visitors rather than turning your existing visitors to come again and again or to get more satisfied customers.

    Though these free/paid listings or making websites can flood you with tons of vacationers, but the real secret of business lies in what you offer to your customers rather than making great noise over the listings. If you don’t have a good service, then you might get visitors once. But the next time, you’ll lose then to someone else. So, always be authentic, be proactive than what your neighbors are offering and should care to your customers to win more and more guests.

  11. Some really useful advice here. I agree that you should try and gain as much exposure as possible on your vacation rental by posting it on multiple portals.

    Additionally, a great tool to manage multiple listings is a channel manager. Vacation rental software like http://kigo.net/ equip vacation rental owners with a channel management tool that makes updating availability calendars & property information effortless. That way you can increase exposure without having the added stress of managing multiple website listings.