Millions of people around the globe are ramping up secondary careers renting out their own homes, vacation homes and other real estate investments.
As any good renter knows, managing your bookings – everything from making your customers happy throughout their stay to keep a steady flow of new business – is practically a full-time job.
As the sharing economy grows, Airbnb and other platforms have appeared to help people manage the business side of things. But owners can manage bookings just fine on their own, too, if they’re willing to put in the legwork – a path that cuts out middlemen commissions and sends more profits their way.
But the biggest obstacle for independent rental owners is building up a steady supply of direct bookings. Whether due to lulls during the low season, or an inability to make themselves seen in a sea of rentals, increasing regular bookings is a year-round struggle.
Here are five ideas you can use to drive up your bookings and stay profitable in the rental game.
1. Create a beautiful, optimized platform of your own
The number one rule of securing an online booking is that you need to have nice pictures of the place you’re trying to rent. Professional-looking photos of your listing will help entice browsers, no matter what site you’re using.
But another upshot of investing in quality photos is you can use them to help build your own vacation rental website, where people can rent from you directly. If your site has the bells and whistles to compete with Airbnb and HomeAway, you’ll be able to take a bigger cut of the profits from your rental.
In order to have your listing show up in search results high enough to compete with bigger platforms, you’ll need optimized, mobile-friendly web pages (which will look as good to Google as they do to your potential customers). Consider contracting an SEO expert to help boost your search rankings, but you can also research things like top keywords for your market/niche and use of meta descriptions.
2. Encourage guests to leave reviews
This may come as a shock to conscientious travelers, but a surprising number of people don’t leave reviews after completing a trip. Even more successful renters report that only about half of their guests post reviews.
That means you’ll have to be proactive about securing reviews in order to get the public feedback you need.
After a guest stays with you, reach out and request a review within a couple of days. Personalized requests often do better than template messages – some even go as far as to send handwritten notes to keep the rental top-of-mind.
Most importantly, do the heavy lifting for your guests. Provide links to the reviews page on your website and make it as easy as possible for them to quickly click, write, and send.
You can even pull value from a negative review. If someone posts about a less-than-stellar experience, you can respond publicly and thoughtfully to address those concerns – which will boost your reputation in the eyes of the majority readers, according to TripAdvisor.
3. Be open to short stays
Some owners have policies that they won’t rent out their place for fewer than two or three days – the idea being that the cost of continuous turnover isn’t worth it.
But there are hidden (in plain sight) benefits to letting people stay for a quick overnight. The biggest perk is that if you allow people to book quick trips (especially at the last minute), you’ll quickly rack up guests and, subsequently, reviews. The more reviews you have, the higher your site will rise in search rankings as well as on third-party platform results.
When deciding between two places that appear to be equal, people typically go with those that have more reviews. Two reviews that average out to 4.5 stars carry much less weight than 20 with the same score.
4. Optimize and link your social media pages
No business’ online presence would be complete in this day and age without social media channels. Facebook is, of course, the standard, but other platforms like Instagram and Pinterest – sites that specialize in showing off big, beautiful pictures of things – are hugely popular as well.
Spend as much time outfitting your social media pages with quality photos as you do your regular listing, and explore paid campaigns and user engagement in comment sections to boost your exposure. The right hashtag at the right time could be a new lead and a new booking.
With quality web design platforms, you’ll be able to link all your pages together, creating a strong brand presence across the web.
5. Get your Hemingway on in your descriptions
First and foremost, your listing descriptions should be accurate and truthful. Don’t mislead people about the important details, such as the location, size, and layout of your rental. If there are blemishes, it’s better to be upfront and let people decide for themselves whether that’s a deal breaker than springing it on them when it’s too late. That leads to negative reviews.
But remember: You’re selling (well, renting) a product. You want a write a description of your listing that will entice people to pull the trigger. Paint pictures of your listing with your words (especially your keywords) and try to connect to the guest types you want to attract.
Don’t be afraid to wax a little poetic. Typically, when people want to rent someone’s home, they’re as interested in the story of the place as they are the location or number of bedrooms. Infusing your personality could be the difference to a renter who is on the fence.
There are lots of other little ideas, techniques and hacks that you can use to boost your booking brand. Feel free to borrow tips from professional real estate agents, whose job it is to market listings to a variety of clients.
Soon, you may find yourself being considered an expert in the field yourself, fighting off requests from friends on how to boost their own listings! Be sure to send them this article first.
About the Author
Jay Egger is a digital marketing specialist for Fit Small Business, a digital small business education publication. He has experience in public relations, SEO, journalism, social media management and video production.