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Once upon a time, a vacation rental listing was merely a potential guest’s introduction to a property.

After finding a few favorites, the guest would then get in touch with the property owner or manager directly. Then, the owner/manager would have a chance to further sway the guest in these personalized, more targeted communications.

The goal of the listing, back then, was simply to offer the initial handshake. The potential booking often became a “done deal” only through phone calls or follow-up emails.

Not so much anymore.

Why A Great Listing Matters More Than Ever

While these one-on-one communication still happens before some bookings, the push towards instant booking has been swift and decisive. Very often, guests and owners/managers don’t speak a word to each other until the guest crosses the threshold into the vacation rental… if even then.

The game has changed, and as a result, listings are more important than ever. It has to do lots of legwork right off the bat. Like:

  1. Get the guest’s attention.
  2. Establish trust.
  3. Inform about many aspects of the property.
  4. Address and explain potential issues.
  5. Portray the property in its best possible light.
  6. Let the guest know about yourself, as the property’s owner or manager.

That’s a lot of responsibility for 24 photographs and a few paragraphs of text!

What Makes a Great Listing Description

The good news? Listings are now more helpful than ever for guests. As listing quality improves, guests find:

  • Better, more intuitive web design
  • Sharper photos that give a real sense of the property
  • More guest reviews to back-up the claims
  • And, last but not least, greater attention paid to the listing description

Let’s talk about that last one: the description.

As co-founder at Guest Hook, a writing agency that specializes in marketing copy for vacation rentals, we obviously find a great property description to be important in converting a booking.

We hear countless times from owners and property managers that “guests don’t read listing descriptions.” But they do – when the listing is done right.

And when you don’t have follow-up emails and phone calls to speak to potential guests, the listing description is your voice. It matters!

Here are the factors that we think make a great listing, in the context of instant booking:

1. Clear, helpful information.

Guests are seeking information they can’t find in the photos. Respect their time and get straight to it.

How far are you from the hot spots in the area, how many beds/baths do you have, and what’s the bed configuration? Are you pet-friendly? Kid-friendly? (And if so, in what specific ways? Don’t just say child-friendly, prove it!) Is your rental appropriate for guests with mobility issues? Since guests might not talk to you on the phone or through email, you have to anticipate questions before they even know they have them. They’ll be relieved to find the info they’re after so easily and clearly presented.

2. A sense of the unique experience you offer.

Information is important, but don’t miss the chance to sell yourself a little bit. Think about your favorite thing to do at the property (or the most-often mentioned experiences in guest reviews) and let the guest know about it! A glass of wine on the deck overlooking the mountains. Coffee at the light-washed kitchen table. A stroll to Main Street for a gourmet dinner. These images go a long way to bringing a guest on board.  

3. A mention of things guests might not like.

This might seem counter-intuitive. Why use valuable description space to talk about negatives at the rental?! The reason is trust. Because you likely won’t get the guest on the phone, you need to convince them that you care about their good experience and aren’t selling a false bill of goods. If you don’t have A/C, mention it. If you live on a street with nightlife that can get loud, mention it.

For example: “This property does not have A/C, but with the sea breezes coming through the open windows, you won’t miss it.” Or, “Note that this property is located above a busy street with an active nightlife scene. If you’re coming to Nashville for a quiet retreat, this won’t be the right place for you.”

Bonus: this saves you from disappointed guests and their inevitable negative reviews (which are incredibly important for establishing trust, too).

Remember, with instant booking capability, guests will make their booking decision in about 10 minutes or less. Put your best face forward in your vacation rental description (and the rest of the listing) and you’ll be sure to convert more guests!


About the Author:

Jessica_Vozel_Guest_Hook.pngJessica Vozel is the co-founder of Guest Hook, a vacation rental copywriting agency that provides property descriptions, content marketing, insider guides and more for owners, managers, and other vacation rental businesses.  

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