Now worth an estimated $87.09 billion and predicted to grow by 3.4% from not until 2027, there is certainly no mistaking the boom of the vacation rental industry.
With this growth comes an inevitable truth that vacation rental owners are beginning to face: it is now becoming more important than ever for hospitality businesses to build and maintain their own websites.
As a result of the increasingly high commissions charged by online travel agencies and the changing nature of how travelers book their accommodation, a professional website with an optimized design can really help hosts to stand out from the crowd and generate more direct bookings.
Unfortunately for business owners, however, the hard work doesn’t stop at creating a vacation rental website. Each and every aspect of their site must be optimized in order to attract more visitors and convert them into bookings.
That’s why we’ve created this infographic – to show vacation rental owners exactly which online features can make websites more attractive while at the same time, enhance the all-around user experience to generate more interest, inquiries and direct bookings.
Anatomy of the Perfectly Optimized Vacation Rental Site for Increasing Booking Conversion
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Before owners can even think about creating a vacation rental website, they must know that curating a brand is essential. Branding is important to help distinguish hospitality businesses from their competitors, to set expectations for guests, build trust and loyalty among guests and form the basis of any marketing campaign.
Many features fall under the umbrella term of branding, including domain names. So what goes into a good domain name? Here are some criteria to help you choose:
- Use the right domain extension (.com, .net, .au, .uk)
- Avoid being too generic; make it brandable
- Keep it short
- Make sure it’s typeable and easy to pronounce
- Avoid hyphens, numbers, and symbols
- Consider using niche keywords that reflect your brand
These are just a few pointers to get you started with your domain. Domain names are essential for an optimized website and that’s why all Lodgify plans include a personalized domain name, free of charge. Domain names help define your brand identity, so we recommend that you choose something you love from the beginning and stick with it.
When you’re optimizing your website, consider that the logo is also essential to your success. Your logo is the visual representation of your brand and it’s usually the one that sticks.
Take social media, for example. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram might all be a part of the social media sphere, but they’re distinctive and one of the very first elements that set them apart from each other is their logos. Each logo is well defined and unlike the rest.
To stand out from the competition, you’ll want to create your very own logo that not only represents your brand but also is one of a kind and easy to remember.
Your logo and domain help to shape your brand, but it doesn’t end there. To maintain your professional image, you have to really focus on building a brand for your vacation rental to stand out from the crowd. Think of all the details that go into a consistent brand: font, color schemes, photos, and tone, just to name a few. To get some more ideas on how to optimize your website with branding, read this article.
Titles, headings and hero images
Upon first glance, the most eye-catching aspects of a vacation rental website are the hero image and hero title. The hero image can either be just one or a series of images at the top of the homepage which shows off the very best about a vacation rental home, like its unique selling propositions, plus interesting photographs of what the area has to offer. Their purpose is to attract visitors with nothing more than a quick glance, and when paired with an appealing headline or “hero title,” your guests are bound to book.
Consider that the headings and hero title are going to be the first thing visitors see when they enter your page. This is your chance to “hook” those coming to your page. Your goal is to convince them to book a stay at your property, so make sure that your hero image and title are created with that in mind. Good graphics and aesthetics are nice, but they shouldn’t distract from the main goal: bookings.
If you feature an aerial shot of your rental property for the hero image, follow it up with close-ups of the different amenities offered on a gallery page or as the background of another place on the landing page, like behind a promotions page. Subtly but surely convince potential customers to make a reservation by only uploading high-quality, consistent images.
USPs and featured properties
A USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is defined as “the factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.” Put simply, USPs set hosts apart from any of their nearby competitors because they are exclusive to the property. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think, “what would make me book this property?”
What makes the optimization of a vacation rental site unique is the need to showcase your properties. The product is your home, so by highlighting and featuring your property(s) at a noticeable location on the landing page, you increase your chances of getting reservations from web traffic.
Showing these notable features on the homepage will immediately draw potential guests in when they see what’s on offer. Equally, for owners with more than one property, a featured property section showcasing the most popular options (and their prices!) can give guests a helping hand to make up their minds.
A CTA, or call to action, is what is going to get your website visitors from passively browsing your page to taking real action, like making a reservation or signing up for your newsletter.
Although general engagement is great, the CTA for vacation rental owners needs to be geared towards reservations. Owners with their own website can’t afford to fall into the trap of sending guests elsewhere to book – accept direct bookings and online payments with a few clicks with a call-to-action like a “Book Now” button.
Any current promotions such as “10% off”, “book four nights and get one free,” etc., should also take pride of place on the homepage. How else are guests going to find out about them? Special offers and seasonal deals can persuade even the most indecisive guests into booking a vacation rental over another.
We’ve all been there. You tried a new restaurant or visited a shop because you heard it was worth checking out, maybe even without knowing anything else about the place! Word of mouth and personal endorsements are the best way to boost bookings. To communicate these references online, you’ll need a testimonials section.
Testimonials that describe, in the guest’s words, just how delightful the stay was (with an accompanying photograph of themselves) make for a relatable and personable commentary, plus a great way to convert lookers into bookers. After all, nothing says “Book Now” like an array of glowing five-star reviews!
External ratings and reviews
A testimonial praising the greatness of your vacation rental would be the best source for demonstrating trust. Still, to really drive it home, you’ll need to accompany these shining stories with reviews. Reviews are a more simplistic way to say, “Hey, it’s a great place to stay.”
Travelers love reading reviews – most people do it before purchasing anything online – so vacation rentals are no different. Making a great impression as a host is vital to succeeding in the industry, so showing off these good reviews when they roll in will also encourage others to book their stay.
By offering clients proof of value with external ratings, you show that your vacation rental is booking-worthy and unbiased. Using a third-party site for reviews tells guests that your property is great and not just because you said so. You can display reviews from different listing sites and platforms onto your optimized website with our Reyvoos integration.
Building client trust by highlighting some glowing reviews is going to quickly indicate to guests that your stay is as exactly as advertised.
Tourism board seal and digital badges
Another way to boost vacation rental business credibility is by displaying external ratings in the form of digital badges – think TripAdvisor excellence certificates or even the Airbnb Superhost badge. This helps to confirm the reputation of a vacation rental business by demonstrating its validity.
Especially in the age of domestic travel, getting the mark of approval from local authorities and tourism boards shows guests that your stay is up to standards, even at the grassroots level.
A vacation rental business decorated with digital badges from OTAs and local tourism boards shows that your property is incredible, officially speaking.
As a result of the pandemic, people are also looking to confirm the cleanliness of their stay. Across the hospitality industry, accommodations have been asked to prove new standards of hygiene. Fortunately, this is something you can demonstrate on your webpage. By adding cleaning protocol badges to your website, you let guests know that your vacation rental meets a high level of cleanliness and you’ve got the credentials to prove it.
Press and partner logos
When vacation rentals have been featured in press articles or magazines, they have every right to display any press logos of these mentions on their homepage. For guests, media mentions are positive social proof and a sign of brand trust, not to mention credibility and reputation.
This is also true for partner logos – partnering a vacation rental with local companies such as tourist attractions, car hire or even restaurants and bars is a great way to reinforce the VR brand in the local community and outside of it on a vacation rental website.
Hosts can’t go wrong by including their contact information in the footer of their site. That means vacation rental business name, address, phone number, plus social media links so that guests can inquire any time via the channel they prefer. Make it easy for guests to get in touch and see more conversions as a result!
Bonus tip: this is also great for local SEO and climbing up the Google rankings.
Lookers can only become online bookers if the site accepts payments. That’s why including logos for whichever payments are accepted (Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, American Express…) will help convert guests and persuade them to book directly online. What’s more, security seals like VeriSign can provide guests with the peace of mind they need to ensure their sensitive information is safe from online fraud.
Having a robust online payment system in place that actually accepts these payment forms and lives up to what your advertising is crucial. When guests come to your website, they want to know it’s legitimate, so by boasting about your secure payment system on the main landing page, you reassure guests that they’re safe with you.
Social media can be hugely influential for a potential guest: typical vacation research tends to include some time spent on sites like Facebook, checking out photos and posts by previous guests. Showing social media follower numbers on vacation rental websites can boost conversion, not only because it shows the host is up-to-date but also because it encourages visitors to engage with posts across these different sites.
Mobile-responsive and page speed performance
Modern websites won’t get anywhere in Google rankings without being mobile-friendly, and that’s a fact. Using (or even designing) a website template that is 100% mobile-responsive will allow the VR business to show up in more search results and even permit guests to make their booking on these types of devices. Mobile travel booking stats are constantly rising, so ensuring websites are fit for all devices is a step in the right direction to an optimized site for increasing booking conversion.
Equally, a slow loading time can dissuade visitors from staying on a website for longer than a matter of seconds, so improving speed is a necessity for any owner looking to keep users connected long enough to stay interested and make a booking.
Common mistakes to avoid
Most vacation rental owners aren’t expert website designers and, thankfully, with Lodgify, they don’t have to be, but there are still some important mistakes to avoid when putting together a website.
Glaring mistakes make guests question your professionalism and expertise, which can scare them away from booking. To avoid this worst-case scenario, your website should be optimized without flaws. By fixing these common mistakes listed below, you improve guest satisfaction and consequently increase bookings.
Spend any amount of time on the internet and you’ll get acclimated with some of the error codes like 404 error, page not found, or 404 files not found. What that basically means is the requested page has been removed or moved to another URL that can’t be found. Imagine if that broken link is your property page or photo gallery!
Don’t put your reservations at risk by having a partially functioning website. Besides using a top-notch website hosting service, like Lodgify, you should also follow these steps to avoid broken links or pages:
- Be sure that your URL is fully qualified and has ‘https://’ at the start of it
- Don’t put punctuation after your URL
- Preview your pages and test your links
Having a sturdy website is the first step to avoiding problems with your links and pages, but following the steps above will also safeguard your website from any errors you might have accidentally created.
No Booking Widget
Remember the CTA we mentioned earlier? Let’s talk about it again! Having a clearly defined spot for guests to make reservations is going to be the best way to get direct bookings from your website. Some VR owners make the mistake of having the reservation button smaller than other, less important pages. Worse yet, some owners don’t even have a booking widget!
A booking widget is where you’re going to funnel all that website traffic to make a booking. The purpose of having your own website is to increase direct bookings, be sure that you have the right tools to make that possible.
Using a website builder not specialized in vacation rentals
Have you ever visited a website that was absolutely stunning in design, but couldn’t perform the basic functions that you needed? Sometimes vacation rental owners get far too caught up in the design and forget the purpose. You’re advertising a vacation rental property so why wouldn’t you go with a website builder that specializes in your industry?
Using a vacation rental website builder will give you the proper tools, like a reservation system, payment integrations, and overall design, that a generic website builder couldn’t.
Slow landing pages
If your visitors have to wait any longer than a couple of seconds to load a page they might just go to the next site to avoid wasting time. The internet moves fast and so do your opportunities to get direct bookings. Keep your pages speedy so guests can make quick reservation decisions.
Not having a website optimized for SEO
Guests are likely to go first to a search engine, like Google, and type in what they’re looking for. More often than not, it’s a generic search for a vacation home in your area. It’s very rare that you’ll get guests that type in your property name directly and, even so, those aren’t the guests you have to worry about really attracting because they already know what they’re looking for.
The guests who are casting a wide net and searching for something like “Vacation Rental Kissimmee, Florida” are only going to click the first, maybe the second or third, link that appears. With millions of search hits, you certainly don’t want to be the last one.
SEO can be a bit tricky, but it’s essential. To learn the ins and outs from the experts, read our guide here.
Not tracking the performance of your website
Even if you’ve followed all the tips, tricks, and avoided the major mistakes, your website still might fall flat. Website building is a process and the best way to improve your page is to understand what’s working and what isn’t.
Tracking the performance and keeping analytics of your webpage will help you to promote successful content while also rethinking the low-traffic areas of your page. Google Analytics will give you an idea of what’s working for your business on the whole, which you can then carry over to your website to increase bookings and profits.
How often should you optimize your vacation rental website?
If only it were as easy as building a website and walking away. Just like we mentioned with analytics, maintaining and optimizing your website will be a continuous process. Trends come and go and interests change. To stay on top of what your guests want, your website needs to constantly be updated. If you can’t optimize and check your site performance on a regular basis, we recommend you perform an in-depth website audit at least every three months.
An updated website will keep the attention of your guests, but it will also help the performance of your actual page. A slow, dated page isn’t doing anyone good. Lodgify’s website templates are always state-of-the-art and in line with industry trends and standards.
An optimized website is crucial in the quest to legitimize your vacation rental business. In the digital era, websites are normally the first place customers go when they’re looking to make a purchase. To keep up with the fierce competition, your site should be surpassing the standard.
Lodgify knows the importance of a superb site and that’s why we’ve built out top-performing website templates for vacation rental owners to easily implement.
If website building sounds difficult, keep in mind that it shouldn’t have to be. Both ready to use and striking in design, Lodgify’s website builder triumphs. Don’t miss out on direct booking opportunities by having a drab website. Make the upgrade today or start our free trial to see the sensation for yourself.