Vacation Rental Online Marketing: In-Depth Beginners Guide
Even the most beginner vacation rental marketeers can get to grips with our new step-by-step guide!
Online marketing (or digital marketing, online advertising – there are a few different ways of saying the same thing) refers to any strategy, tool or method of getting your vacation rental brand name out in the world.
All vacation rental owners are aiming for the same goal:
- get more bookings for their home
- make a successful business out of their rental
In recent years, in light of high commissions charged by online travel agencies and given the changing nature of how travelers book their accommodation, online marketing can really help owners to stand out from the crowd and generate more direct bookings.
But what use is online marketing if you’re not sure what to do with it?
Though we recognize that online marketing depends on the type of business, so we’re confident that these strategies catered to the vacation rental industry will provide actionable tips for those just starting out with their own vacation rental website.
This eBook will focus on helping owners like you to get more direct bookings from your own professional website.
First off, we’re going to take a look at what exactly online marketing for vacation rentals are and how it works.
We’ll then walk you through the main advantages of using online marketing for your vacation rental website, before diving into what the best methods are for increasing your direct bookings and how you can put these into practice.
We’re taking it back to basics with this article, so we’ve stripped online marketing for vacation rentals down to its core. Expect to learn what it is, how it’s beneficial for your VR business and what the best online marketing channels are for increasing your direct bookings.
Let’s get started!
What is Online Marketing for Vacation Rentals?
Online marketing refers to any strategy, tool or method you use – on the internet – to get your vacation rental brand name out in the world.
As a general rule, this type of marketing will help to:
- generate inquiries
- drive direct bookings on your website
Online marketing is by no means limited to one action. Rather, it encompasses a whole range of different elements such as:
- Online Brand Awareness
- Content Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Online Advertising (banners, search engine marketing)
- Email Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing
- Article Marketing & Guest Posts
If you’re not sure what any of these terms mean yet – don’t fret – we’re here to help.
Using a combination of these different online marketing strategies is by far the best way to gain traction for your vacation rental because it will help increase traffic to your website.
Let us show you how.
What Can Online Marketing Do For Your Vacation Rental Business?
But when you’re sick of paying fees or you have loyal, returning guests who want to book direct – what do you do?
With your own website you can:
- boost your bookings
- become more self-sufficient
- take control over your vacation rental business
You need a beautiful and optimized vacation rental website which has the features and functionality needed to:
- take direct bookings
- manage reservations
- synchronize all your other channels
That’s where online marketing comes in. The very nature of having your own website calls for the need to carry out some online marketing. Online marketing is what will ensure you get traffic flowing to your website, and bring you visitors who will make bookings.
Through online channels, you’re able to distribute information about your vacation rental much more than you are offline. It doesn’t matter whether this is done through your own vacation rental website, through paid Google adverts or via appearances on listing sites. You’re also able to vary your prices easily depending on seasonality, to attract more off-peak bookings, for example.
Online marketing enables vacation rental owners to give their potential guests extra benefits (a.k.a. more reasons to book!) or inform them of changes to the vacation rental through immediate and direct real-time interactions.
Using web and email forms, polls and online market research in the form of surveys etc. vacation rental owners are able to create a two-way conversation with their potential guests and learn a lot more about them. This information can later be used to create content, drive promotions or even update the interior design of your vacation rental.
When you use online methods for your marketing efforts, the nature of employing email or instant messaging communications to close or confirm direct bookings means you’ll not only have fewer costs in terms of staff as you’ll be (more or less) able to do everything yourself, but also you’ll save on printing and postage costs as no snail-mail will be necessary.
Once you’ve established your website processes (including automated email responses, if you like), you’ll see how quick, seamless and most importantly, low-cost online marketing can be.
Your guest’s experience on your vacation rental website, on your social channels or on any other pages related to your vacation rental (like a review site, for example) will really help to build your brand name as a great vacation rental.
Having a good brand not only helps you stand out from the crowd in a saturated market, but it also builds trust, loyalty and is the basis for all your other marketing tactics.
Choose a great brand name for your business
There are many different strands of online marketing that work to complement one another as part of your overall marketing strategy. For those just starting out, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Many owners make the mistake of jumping the gun and trying to create a website or do some online marketing with no brand in place.
That’s why we can’t stress enough that the very first step you need to take is to name your vacation rental.
Once you have a name in place, you can start thinking about building your rental brand and website and kick off your online marketing efforts.
“We have found that there are two really important and oft-overlooked steps to getting started with vacation rental marketing. The first is simply acknowledging your success thus far: so many independent owners and managers forget that they’ve done something pretty remarkable (launched a vacation rental business) without any help from professionals or formal education. Recognizing one’s accomplishments is instrumental in vacation rental growth.
The second is remembering to take things step by step: avoid trying to do more than one marketing project at a time. Independents build momentum by creating concrete, actionable three-month goals. For example, instead of trying to build a complete web presence, focus first on getting version 1.0 of your website up and running. Instead of trying to generate hordes of repeat guests with a newsletter, focus first on choosing an email marketing platform and uploading your former guests into the database.”
Matt Landau, VRMB
Should you do online marketing yourself or hire someone?
Online marketing is vital for your vacation rental’s success. Therefore, it’s essential to understand everything that goes into efficient online marketing because of the time and energy it requires. You may choose to tackle it yourself or hire someone to ensure it is done correctly.
Reasons You Should Do Online Marketing On Your Own:
- With one less business expense to worry about, it’s the more economical way to go.
- Your vision will be more clearly achieved.
- As you learn skills from classes and books, those new talents will help you in other areas of your business.
- You can make changes and tweaks to your marketing campaigns with ease.
- You will have a closer relationship with your clients.
Reasons You Should Hire a Freelancer or Agency to Handle Your Online Marketing:
- They may have a clearer understanding of specific strategies such as SEO.
- You can focus on enhancing your product rather than spending time learning online marketing.
- They will suggest which strategies are best for your vacation rental business.
- All of your digital marketing will be in one place.
- Experts will design your brand and logo, making it more appealing to clients.
Only you can answer this question, depending on your own budget, skills and time available.
If you decide to hire a marketing agency or consultant for your vacation rental business, get in contact with the ones focused on your niche and ask for their own quote. You can start from our Top 16 Vacation Rental Marketing Experts to Follow article or find vacation-rental agencies from websites such as Rentals Marketing, Guesthook, BuildUp and VR Marketers.
How Much Should You Pay Online Marketing Agency or Freelancer?
Before hiring the first person or agency that advertises digital marketing, it’s a good idea to know how much you should expect to pay. That way, you can be sure that you’re not overpaying. It will also ensure that you are hiring a reputable agency.
What You Can Expect to Pay an Agency or Freelancer:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): $350 to $2000 monthly
- Pay-per-click Advertising (PPC): 5-20% of the monthly ad
- Email Marketing: $0.01-$0.05 per email or $300 to $5000 monthly
- Social Media Marketing: $250 to $10,000 monthly
- Website Design: $2,500 to $100,000
How Much Should You Invest in Digital Marketing for Your Vacation Rental Business?
It is suggested that 40% of your advertising budget go toward digital marketing. For many businesses, that is roughly 3% of your annual revenue. As there are many forms of digital marketing, it is best to determine which avenues of marketing will yield the most profit for your vacation rental.
Hiring a Marketing Agency or Freelancer?
Most agencies or freelancers will specialize in one aspect of digital marketing or another. For example, while some offer all services, others focus mainly on specialized services such as SEO or social media. Before hiring an agency, take a look at their portfolio. It will demonstrate the success of clients that had hired them in the past.
If you decide to hire a marketing agency or freelancer, here are a few questions you should ask them:
- Have you ever worked with a vacation rental business before?
- What can I expect to pay, and how will I be billed?
- Do you have any guarantees regarding the results I can expect?
- Can I see samples of your work?
- How will you be able to identify the needs of my business?
Successful Marketing Plan for Your Vacation Rental Business
Before you can start moving forward with online marketing, you must create a plan. For example, you need to understand the market before you begin advertising. Read reputable articles and watch as many videos as you can to fully understand how online marketing works. Only then will you be prepared to move forward with your marketing plan, by yourself or with a supported agency or freelancer.
Create Your Own Website
With more than 3.5 billion internet users worldwide, it’s no surprise that having your own website should form the very basis of your vacation rental marketing plan. It’s your strongest marketing tool, and often the first (and best) place potential guests can get all the information they need about your rental before booking.
Use it to your advantage!
You don’t need to be an expert coder to make a great website, either.
There are plenty of templates, simple CMS and providers out there who already have the measures in place to help you. You’ll just need to make sure it’s functioning well and has all the capabilities that a modern vacation rental website needs.
That means features like:
- mobile-responsive design
- intuitive easy-to-navigate layout
- slick booking engine for accepting online reservations and payments
With so many listing sites popping up (most of which charging both host and guest fees), the most effective way to get the best deal for your guests (and not lose any of the booking income yourself) is by setting up your own vacation rental website.
Having a vacation rental website will help you on your quest for listing site independence, bring you more word-of-mouth referrals and keep you in control of your reservations.
What is the most basic action I need to take?
If you haven’t got one already (or the one you have is very outdated), you’ll need to create a bookable website for your vacation rental.
We recommend using a vacation rental software provider like Lodgify to keep things super simple and to make sure it’s bookable.
We advise using software over hiring someone to build your website from scratch for many reasons.
One of which is the fact you’ll get an instant result.
Not only do these drag-and-drop software solutions make website design a breeze – you could have your site up and running in less than one day – but they are also suitable for users who aren’t tech-savy.
Your website doesn’t need to be perfect on the first attempt, but as long as you have the basics like photos, an updated calendar, contact information and booking capability in place, you can work on fine tuning the rest later!
“With so many web pages on the internet, very few stand out. Constraints of the big online booking sites have taken control away from the owners, while constantly changing “terms of service” and increasing fees. The consumer is looking for more personal connections with owners while saving money. Great marketing and a beautiful booking experience puts the joy of vacation back in the hands of travelers and owners.”
Craig Bassignani, eSonomaCounty.com
Choosing the Right CMS and Website Builder
CMS stands for Content Management System. This aspect of digital marketing is crucial because it displays and manages the content you’ve worked so hard to design. Once you choose which CMS or Website Builder you want to use, it is complicated to switch to a new system. So you must research your options thoroughly before making the decision.
Today you can easily build a professional website by yourself using one of these tools, but be sure to learn more about each of them before making your decision.
Vacation rentals CMS software like Lodgify let you easily add and manage the content of your website – no matter how many properties you have. All of our templates are mobile-friendly and feature an integrated booking engine, so guests can reserve (and pay) directly on your website.
You can add new pages and modify your website navigation: customize each page layout via drag and drop, then upload content, slideshows, forms and videos to your new pages.
These website builders are SEO-friendly, following best practices and support on-page optimization.
You can build a professional website by yourself, while implementing everything you need in a single software.
Along with an easy-to-use website builder you have access to channel manager tools, providing connectivity to the most popular online portals (Airbnb, Booking,com, VRBO, etc.).
You can then receive reservations from your own website while keeping your calendar synchronize with external vacation rental listings. This ensure your calendars are always up-to-date and consistent. Never manually update calendars on third-party sites again.
Depending on your skills, budget and technical knowledge you can choose the one more fitting to your needs.
Always Remember to Take Direct Bookings
One of the most important reasons you’ll want to do online marketing for your own vacation rental website is so that you can take bookings directly.
That means no extra host or traveler fees – great news for you and your guests!
Research on hotel booking preferences has revealed that 65% of guests prefer to book directly with the provider rather than using OTAs like Booking.com, and that’s especially true for return visitors.
So what’s to say these figures are any different for vacation rental bookings?
A lot of specialized vacation rental website templates like Lodgify will already have this feature, but even if you choose to create your website with a more general provider, there are plenty of widgets out there that will allow you to add booking capability to your site.
Just find a way to directly reach prospective and returning guests: the more you can get without passing through OTA, the safer and more profitable your business will become.
Market Research and Data Analysis
Knowing who your potential customers are and what they are looking for in a vacation rental is the first step to effective digital marketing. An excellent way to learn about your audience is to examine the latest rental market research (such as the Global Vacation Rental Market report), travel trends in your city and checking your competitors. Review the prices and amenities of similar vacation rentals near you, then adapt marketing techniques to your local market.
To learn more about your market, tourism trends and how to analyze data, you can start from articles such as Tourism Trends: 13 Opportunities for The Tourism Industry, Top travel trends for 2019, Travel statistics to know about in 2019 and 2020, and Vacation Rental Industry Trends in 2020.
Online Brand Awareness
What is Online Brand Awareness? When people recognize the name of your “company” (your vacation property) and remember what your company can do for them (rent rooms or the whole house for their vacation) then it means they are aware of your “brand”. If this is exactly what they had in mind, then they’re more likely to choose your house instead of a hotel.
People spend many hours a day on the internet. It’s not uncommon to walk into a room full of people only to find they are all looking at their phones. You can use this to your advantage by making internet users aware of your vacation rental business: your brand. The stronger your online presence, the stronger your sales will be.
Build up your brand
Having your own website is the best starting point for building a solid brand presence online. You want people to know about your vacation rental?
It’s vital to have a branded website.
Establishing your vacation rental brand, however, isn’t a matter of black and white – though colors are certainly involved in the process!
It’s about creating consistency across your website and any external listings, always referring to your business by its brand name and, having a good logo to accompany all your marketing efforts both on and offline.
On online travel agencies, yours is just a commodity – a needle in a haystack, one listing out of thousands. And in many cases, guests will see the OTA as the brand, rather than the host themselves.
Your brand will help you stand out from your competitors, and your guests will begin to identify with your brand as something more than just another vacation rental.
This is even more true if you have your own stunning vacation rental website!
The Importance of Online Credibility
Nowadays, every reputable business has its own website. If it doesn’t, doesn’t something seem wrong? This same mentality should apply to your lodging business.
Yes – other platforms with the specific purpose of helping you advertise your business do exist, but what if potential guests try looking for your home elsewhere on the internet and come up short?
It might even dissuade them from booking with you in the first place.
It’s no secret that guests love to window shop on OTAs, then google the property brands from their shortlist to check out their reputation and credibility. So, name-drop your brand on OTA portals, and you’ll find that users who love to cross-reference everything on the internet can make sure your listings are consistent and verifiable.
Savvy guests wanting to avoid booking fees will also hunt around for a better deal on prices – that’s where your website and online marketing comes into play.
Think of your website as your business card: if someone is interested in your property, what URL will you give them? Do you really want to send them to a third-party OTA listing?
The short answer is no, and that’s why a website is an absolute essential for any serious vacation rental business owner looking to create online credibility.
What is Content Marketing? This is the process of creating worthwhile, quality and useful content on your website. By publishing articles, blogs, insights, guides and tips able to help users answering their questions while searching online or by sending them interesting newsletters, over time potential guests start seeing you as an expert in your market. They will easily remember your vacation rental services when in need for a short-rent in your city.
How can you use content to promote your vacation rental?
Ideally, when you create content for your website, potential guests will already be trawling the internet for answers that you can uniquely give them.
When you deliver information to viewers that makes any potential guests more intelligent or more aware of a topic that they are concerned, or at the very least, interested in learning about, it makes your vacation rental brand trustworthy and positions owners as experts.
A good place to start is with the listing descriptions on your vacation rental website – don’t just sell a stay in your VR, but instead, tell its story and describe what guests can expect to do, see, taste, touch, hear and smell! Studies have shown that travelers prefer creatively written yet informative content on vacation rental descriptions, so it’s best to bear that in mind if you want to generate maximum inquiries.
To add that extra pizzazz to your vacation rental site, you could think about starting a blog to really push your content marketing efforts.
A blog is an easy way to get traffic and even position your site in terms of SEO when you use certain keywords. Think about all the topics that will draw readers to your vacation rental site, things like:
- Top 10 restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area
- 5 Must-visit rooftops to see the sunset in Madrid
- Top 10 steakhouses in London
- 5 Must-visit rooftops to see the sunset in Madrid
- 7 Most authentic pizzerias in Rome
Your blog posts don’t necessarily have to be related to your vacation rental or its management – sometimes it’s even easier to rank highly for search terms that aren’t directly related to your vacation home.
Though websites can and do survive quite easily without a blog, having a blog gives your business that extra something. That’s because it is one of the most simple ways to publish more content and push more traffic to your website.
Ideally, when you create blog content for any website, readers will already be trawling the internet for the answers that you can uniquely give them.
So when you deliver information that makes any potential guests more informed or more aware of a topic that they are interested in learning about, it not only positions you – the owner – as an expert, but it also makes your vacation rental brand trustworthy.
This strategic approach referring to the process of creating worthwhile, relevant content that will capture and retain a target audience, all the while publicizing your brand itself, is what is known as content marketing. The aim of content marketing is to drive profitable customer actions, in this case, vacation rental bookings.
Writing frequent blog posts is an easy way to get more traffic flowing to your vacation rental website, and can even help position your site Google search results when you use certain keywords.
Once you’ve set up your blog, you can get to writing some great content.
Start by brainstorming all of the topics that can (and will) draw readers to your vacation rental website. Use your expertise to your advantage here – you know what to do/eat/see/visit better than anyone!
In addition to helping you rank on Google results for specific search terms, writing content about, for example, your area will be super easy (as you already know loads about it) and it will help guests see you, the owner, as someone with reliable, insider knowledge.
Your posts will be exactly what potential guests are searching for, and are bound to bring you much more site visits – and hopefully bookings!
The aim of having a blog is to get a higher volume of traffic coming to your site – whether or not they’re interested in finding a vacation rental is another matter completely. The very fact of having more users land on your page and reading something valuable you’ve written can easily lead them to take a further snoop around to see what else your site offers – sending them quite smoothly through the rest of the marketing funnel.
“In a hugely competitive environment you just have to stand out from the competition and a listing is no longer enough to get that high visibility. An entertaining, informative and insightful blog is the way to do it and can propel you into ‘local expert’ status in your visitors’ eyes. If your blog is part of a well-designed website, your site visitors will feel compelled to explore more, so getting them to convert that interest into a booking becomes much easier.
Post articles on local events, attractions, places to eat, family activities… in fact, anything that your guests could do when they come to stay at your place. Give away some of your insider secrets and share your favorite things to do. Then use social media to link back to your blog posts. Voilà! You have traffic.”
Heather Bayer, CottageBlogger
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What is SEO? Even if you offer good articles, products and paid-services on your website, they are of no use if people can’t find them online. Search Engine Optimization is a series of methods and strategies you can follow to make your website and your content easier to find on Google, Yahoo or Bing. Usually SEO main goal is to organically rank your site on the first page of search engines’ results. The higher you rank on these results, the more visitors (and potential clients) you receive. Search engines are a free service and when people click on your site on these organic results, you don’t have to pay anything.
You can use certain SEO techniques to boost your organic ranking when potential guests search for specific terms related to your vacation rental, for example, “Vacation Rental in Rome”, “Room rental in London.”
For good website SEO, there are many factors to take into consideration. These include everything from your domain name to the URLs you choose and the metadata you input.
Having basic SEO knowledge is becoming more and more crucial for vacation rental owners, especially as the industry is always growing more competitive. And best of all, it’s free!
To learn more about how SEO can help reach more guests, check out the articles 50 Actionable SEO Tips for Vacation Rentals and Why Mobile Optimization Matters For Your Vacation Rental Website.
Even without realizing it, it’s possible that in creating your website in the first place, you’ll have already done some work that gives your SEO (search engine optimization) a helping hand.
Once you have a vacation rental website, you also have a brand for your business. Your brand name is (and should be) visible in everything you do as an owner.
Learning to practice good SEO across your website and your blog will help you in the quest to rank in first place for your own vacation rental brand, receive more traffic to your site and take more bookings. You can even hire specialists to help out with your SEO, though it’s not entirely necessary! As you can see above, there are plenty of beginner’s guides and tools available to help you out.
You want your website to be the first result that comes up when somebody Googles your vacation rental brand name, right?
So to optimize your website and push it up in the search engine results pages, you’ll want to make sure you mention your brand in all the right places. That includes:
- In your website domain name
- In your website’s title and headings (e.g. title and H1 tags)
- On your logo
- In your photo gallery’s alt tags
- In your meta description and title.
By including your brand name in these different places across your site, you’ll start sending signals to Google and other search engines about your vacation rental brand which will help you to position in search engine results for your business’s name.
For more in-depth information, download the Local SEO Guide and get top Google rankings for your vacation rental website.
There are also many free tools available out there to check your keyword rankings, i.e. see at a glance where your website is positioning for your key search term.
One free, simple-to-use tool is the Small SEO Tools keyword position checker. Simply type in your website’s domain, the keywords you are aiming to rank for and it’ll generate your current position in Google.
It’s likely that once your website starts to position well for your keywords, you’ll start experiencing more traffic and take more direct bookings.
Online Advertising: Banners, SEM and PPC (pay per click)
What is Online Advertising? Just like with traditional advertising, you can pay someone to promote your brand, your services or website. Your ads could be banners (images or buttons) on other websites, short promotional videos on Youtube or titles and phrases on Search Engine Results (promotional results branded as ads to differentiate them from organic results). Basically you pay to spread your message online to potential clients, usually with the goal of attracting them to your own website where you sell your vacation rental services.
SEM sounds a lot like SEO, and you’d be right in assuming the first two initials stand for ‘Search Engine’. The ‘m’, however, means marketing, and search engine marketing is the method of gaining website traffic by paying for ads on search engines like Google.
How many times have you done a Google search for a specific product, service or anything else you can pay for, and been presented with a list of results that have a little green box saying “Ad” next to them? These are Google Ads and, for some owners, they are the future of vacation rental marketing.
PPC is the acronym of the term ‘pay-per-click’, which means you only pay when your advert is clicked on by a user. PPC isn’t just used for search engine advertising, though. It can also refer to other types of paid adverts, such as banner ads on social networks, or remarketing.
Remarketing pixels track cookies when you’ve visited a website, then you’ll be shown said website’s ads when you enter other sites later, e.g. on Facebook.
On social networks you can really target guests directly with your display adverts. For example, if you have a house in the Bahamas and you realize most of your guests are coming from Florida, you can target specific demographics on Facebook, such as families living in Florida with an interest in travel.
How can you use it for your vacation rental?
Bid on the keywords you define as most important for your vacation rental business to help make your ads appear at the top of the search results pages.
Using PPC tactics is the easiest way to get to the top, and as a result, it can help you drive more traffic to your vacation rental website, generate new leads and take more direct bookings.
It’s a fairly economical way to get results, after all, you only pay once you receive click-throughs to your site. Keeping any potential guests interested in your offerings once they’re on your website is up to you, though.
There’s also another metric, called CPM – cost per 1,000 impressions – which is a low-cost option. If you’ve got little competition, you can bid as low as 0.10-1€.
Paid advertising isn’t for everyone and not all owners do it right, either. We simply want to let you know that forms of paid advertising exist, and some owners do like to use it because when it’s done correctly, it can lead to many more bookings.
PPC is a powerful tool, but it is an advanced method of online marketing, so it’s not an essential step for all vacation rental owners to take.
Yet for those wishing to kick-start their SEM efforts, you can begin by using Google AdWords to bid on the keywords you define as most important for your vacation rental business. Quite often, your keywords will be your brand name, or your brand name plus location.
Using PPC tactics is one of the quickest ways to get to the top of search results pages. Consequently, paid ads can also help drive more traffic to your vacation rental website, generate new leads and take more direct bookings.
If you want to start using search engine marketing techniques but you aren’t entirely confident to do so, you can always hire freelance SEM specialists or read around the subject with beginner AdWords tutorials.
What is Email Marketing? This is a type of direct marketing, meaning it’s used to contact potential customers directly to their email inbox, rather than by using a third party such as other websites or social media. Usually you buy long lists of email addresses of potential customers (for example users interested in travels), then send them your promotional email. The hardest part is convincing them to open your email by choosing a great subject, and then make them click on a link to your website for more information or to directly booking their stay at your vacation house.
Many people will argue that email marketing has been dead and gone for a long time, but the stats prove otherwise – email marketing still sees a huge return on investment (ROI) in the present day.
Nowadays, email marketing isn’t just about newsletters, but rather it’s very closely linked with content marketing.
The best practices for email marketing should enhance the relationships between the vacation rental host and their potential, current and previous guests. These emails should subtly persuade repeat bookings through their content.
The best kinds of vacation rental email marketing examples will always show a good value exchange, whereby the owner provides valuable content in return for their potential guest’s (even more) valuable time.
Email marketing is a cheaper way to get your potential guests’ attention and can be hugely beneficial for vacation rental owners. What’s more, it’s so simple to measure success, email open rates, and click-throughs using almost any email provider.
Social Media Marketing
What is Social Media Marketing? “social media” refers to all those networking sites you’re probably already very familiar with – think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube to name a few. Therefore, social media marketing is all about using these networks to engage and reach your target audience. You can show promotional messages, photos and videos to potential new guests and past guests in order to bring more bookings. As well as more website visits, social media marketing can help vacation rental owners to improve booking conversions, raise brand awareness and strengthen brand identity.
Do you already have a personal Facebook account to connect with your friends and share what you’re up to? If so, you’ll probably know just how popular the social network site is and how quickly and easily news can travel.
Depending on which channels you’re using, there are different types of updates you can post which will direct traffic onwards to your site. As well as more page visits, social media marketing can help vacation rental owners to improve booking conversions, raise brand awareness and strengthen brand identity.
Furthermore, social media can be used as a real-time communication tool to speak with your potential guests and reply to inquiries.
Sounds good, right?
Facebook is currently the world’s most-used social network, but other sites like Instagram and Snapchat are rapidly catching up. You’ll have to find out which social network is the most used by your specific target.
We recommend you test the waters by creating a Facebook Page or Instagram profile first.
Posting on your business Facebook or Instagram Page shouldn’t be any harder than it is on your personal one.
Got a great photo of the sunset from your vacation rental? Share it with your audience. Come across an inspirational travel quote recently? Type it out and update your status.
Posting little and often is the key to building your business page and creating more online visibility for your rental. And if your posts can direct readers through to your site, even better!
Once you’re confident with posting on Facebook and Instagram, then you’ll be able to try your hand at other social media.
For the complete low-down and an in-depth tutorial of Facebook marketing for vacation rental rentals, download the FREE owner’s guide.
What is Affiliate Marketing? You can subscribe to affiliate services or directly to site owners to promote your vacation rental for you. When someone refers a customer to your service, and that person makes a purchase, they receive a commission for the recommendation – that’s affiliate marketing. You basically pay your affiliates a commission for each paying guest your receive from them.
Affiliate marketing has been around since the beginning of time. Well, the beginning of marketing time at least…
One of the easiest ways you could use affiliate marketing for your vacation rental would be by starting collaborations with owners of other websites related to useful services or offerings in your neighborhood, such as guided area tours, bus tours, vehicle rental, boat trips, ski hire – you name it, there’s probably a site for it!
By offering them a small commission for each new booking-guest they send to your website (and by tracking them using a special code), you can easily get many new visitors already interested in tourism activities in your city.
Article Marketing & Guest Posts
What are Article Marketing & Guest Posts? When you write quality, interesting content to be published on other websites instead of your own. You could want to do this to receive links from related websites (something useful for SEO) or even just to let their readers know about your vacation rental (useful for brand awareness). Most of the time you have to pay the owners of those websites to publish your content, or agree to publish their content on your site to help both of you.
This is an easy and usually inexpensive way to promote your business. When you write and publish an article on websites separate from your own, you have the prospect of attracting new readers to your site. Always request a link to your website to be included in the article, so readers can be redirected to your page.
Advertising Your Vacation Rental with Online Travel Agencies
Online travel agencies are ideal for your potential guests: they can easily compare rental houses and prices in any given area, book, and pay all from the comfort of their own home. Since the majority of us book our vacation rentals this way, even when you have your own website you should still consider marketing your vacation rental through an online travel agency.
The most popular vacation rental websites among travelers are:
By using a professional OTA channel manager you can easily sync all of them with your booking calendar and your own website.
Keep in mind that to drive visitors to your list on OTA websites, you can still use the same marketing channels and tools you would use for your own website (email marketing, social media ads, etc.). Check each site “terms and conditions” to know which ones permit promoting your list on external marketing channels.
You can find specific marketing and promotional tips for these vacation rental websites in the following articles:
- The Airbnb Host Guide to Skyrocket Your Bookings
- 9 Ways to Optimize Your HomeAway Listing
- Optimize your VRBO listing with these 9 tips
- Channel Manager: Increase Bookings and Reduce Manual Errors
The Pros and Cons of Invest Your Time (and Money) on Online Travel Agencies
While an OTA can give your rental property plenty of publicity, it can also cost you a lot of money (hidden fees, controversial guests who receive refunds, etc.). That is why it is a good idea to take into consideration all the advantages and disadvantages of using an OTA to find potential guests.
- Potentially being seen by millions of users who already search for rentals on OTA’s websites
- You can set your price by comparing it to your local competitors.
- Being able to be found by users who are searching for specific amenities or locations.
- Listing is mostly free on sites such as Airbnb.
- You can check guest profiles and comments by other hosts before accepting them in your house.
- Payments should be protected for both you and your guest.
- Some sites require an annual fee or have hidden costs.
- Guests are often charged service fees.
- Damaged property is not always covered by OTA insurance.
- Some OTA are illegal in certain countries.
- Rental homes have to be furnished according to OTA standards.
- Problematic guests may be refunded by OTA and you could lose your money.
Become Independent from Listing Sites with Online Marketing
There are now more hosts than ever on Airbnb, Booking, VRBO and all the other VR websites, and this number looks unlikely to decline any time soon.
History has shown that as OTAs become more powerful, they take more and more value away by charging higher commissions to travelers and owners alike.
Having your own website and plan your online marketing strategy are the first steps in taking back this control that you are losing to OTAs and taking your business into your own hands, without your business being at the mercy of some large corporate travel agencies.
Having your own website adds another channel into your marketing mix where you can reach guests you couldn’t reach before.
Your own website is a way to stand out from the crowd and run your hospitality business according to your own rules, not the rules of whichever OTAs you’re listing with.
Enjoy Your Freedom
There is no denying that having your own vacation rental website allows you to be 100% in control of the content that is published on it.
Want more photos on the homepage? You can make it happen. Want your headline text a bit bigger so it stands out more? That’s on you, too!
No matter what you want to put on your site, there are no restrictions that will limit your decision making.
Listing sites and OTAs tend to censor hosts by imposing character limits and the maximum number of photos, which can leave users feeling frustrated. With your own site, however, you are the only person in charge of the rules.
That means you can add as many reviews, local tips, blog posts, details about add-on services like bike rental, and special promotions (etc.) as you like, without any limitations.
The Importance of Quality Photos and Videos for Online Marketing
Having attractive photos of your rental property is a must for your own website and OTA listing.
According to research conducted by Princeton psychologists, you only have one-tenth of a second to make a great first impression. The same rule applies when it comes to travelers looking at your website or property listing. If the photos of your vacation rental don’t successfully capture their attention in that fraction of a second, they will move on.
- Good photos set your home apart from the competition.
- Showcasing the best parts of your home will make it more inviting.
- They can make potential guests fall in love with your home before even arriving.
- Homes with professional photos tend to earn 26% more.
- Well photographed homes get more bookings faster.
Learn why photos (and videos) are essential for your vacation rental marketing strategy in our guides Why Good Vacation Rental Photos Make or Break Booking Opportunities, How to Optimize Images to Improve Vacation Rental Website SEO and Vacation Rental Photography: Double Your Bookings with a Single Tweak.
Tools to Automatize Online Marketing and Lead Generation
Making the time to update marketing campaigns, or post to social media can be complicated. However, you can easily search online to find tools and software to help you organize campaigns and schedule regular social media posts. They can also help you monitor top keywords and trends in the rental home industry and thus increase the quality of your online presence.
Understanding Privacy Laws and Cookies for Online Marketing
Although your guests will have to share a measure of personal data with you when they book a vacation home, they are entitled to a certain amount of privacy. Many countries even have laws regarding online privacy. For example, in the EU, marketers must ask the consumer for their consent to collect data. They must also have the ability to delete the data if requested by the individual. So while sending campaign emails and using cookies on your website will help your business grow, you must consult your local privacy laws as every country is different.
How to Track the Results and the ROI of Your Marketing Campaign
In order to understand whether or not the investment you’re making in online marketing is worth the cost, you need to know how to measure the effectiveness of such an investment. To start with, you need to identify your marketing goals. For example, your goals might include increasing brand awareness or increasing sales.
- Measure brand awareness. Before you start your campaign, use an analysis report to set the baseline. Then measure the increase of social media likes and shares as well as the increase in web traffic.
- Keep track of reviews, comments, or questions that guests or potential guests may have about your vacation rental. It’s always a good sign if communication between you and the customer is increasing.
- Identify who is responding to your marketing. Is a specific demographic drawn to your campaign? Use that knowledge to enhance future digital marketing.
- Pay attention to those who are first-time guests and who are returning customers. While it’s always good to have customers return, the goal behind improving your digital marketing is to attract new customers.
- The simple equation (sales growth – marketing cost) / marketing cost = return on investment. This equation isn’t foolproof because some sales may not be a result of the marketing campaign. However, it is a quick and straightforward way to see if the investment your making in digital marketing is paying off.
Stay in Touch with Your Guests
Many hosts make the mistake of thinking the correspondence and marketing efforts end once a guest checks out – but it shouldn’t!
One of your best resources for marketing your property is actually the contact pool you already have – your former guests.
As well as keeping in touch before, during and directly after a guest’s stay, you can use your database of your past guests’ email addresses so you can follow up weeks, months or even years after they’ve visited your vacation rental.
Email is a powerful tool that still sees a huge return on investment in the present day. The best thing about sending emails to past guests to generate more bookings is that it’s so easy!
You can personalize them without any extra effort (you already have their name and contact details); you can mention something that they loved about their stay last time (you received their great review); you can even go an extra step further and mention a detail that will surprise them and, at the same time, remind them what a great host you are (“I noticed your birthday is coming up…”).
For vacation rental owners, email marketing can be the key to subtly convincing past guests to return to your home, as receiving your email will plant the vacation seed in any former guest’s mind – even if they weren’t thinking about going away. Though it doesn’t stop there – emails can also be the persuasive push that helps a new guest to choose your home over another.
More than anything, you need to start embracing the world of email! However, you can’t do that without an organized database or email list in place.
So before sending any emails, take some time to go over the contact details of each of your past, potential and future guests, making sure they’re all recorded in one place – either in your website’s correspondence system or by using an outside email provider.
You can increase your email database by creating your own custom branded WiFi splash page that every guest uses to log into your vacation rental’s WiFi. This is an easy way of collecting emails from every guest, and not just the booker.
Remember that your emails will go directly to your guests’ inboxes, so bear in mind the most successful emails you can send will always show a good value exchange.
What can you offer your contacts that other rentals can’t?
Whether it’s a special offer or promotional discounts, some news or updates about your home, or simply a seasonal greeting at certain times of the year, email marketing best practice should always aim to enhance the relationships you have (or are trying to establish) with your guests.
What’s more, measuring success like email open rates and click-throughs is usually very straightforward using almost any email provider, and it’s also a pretty low-cost way to get guests’ attention.
Advice from a successful owner:
“We have all heard that one of the keys to success in any endeavor in life, is simply showing up. I believe the same holds true for the vacation rental business when it comes to inquiries.
I am amazed at the lack of responsiveness by many vacation villa owners. I always ask my guests why they chose Villa Beachcliff for their vacation accommodation. Most tell me that when they inquired, I responded immediately and thoroughly. I have been told that some of the responses from other villa owners were received two weeks after their inquiry!
Not only do I respond to my email inquiries quickly, but I also make it my mission to speak to them live as soon as possible, either by phone or by Skype/FaceTime. In my first email response (which includes a quote), I ask for the opportunity to speak with them live, “to answer any questions they may have about Grenada, Villa Beachcliff, or to confirm their reservation”. Connecting the name to a real person is extremely important. People want to do business with a person, not a website listing, so the sooner you connect live, the better your chances are of confirming the reservation. Many of my conversations are about why my wife Karen and I left our jobs in Canada to open our business in the Caribbean. My booking rate is over 90% once I speak live to a potential guest!
Many listing sites do not provide a phone contact, so I always ask for the opportunity to call: “What is the best time(s) and number to reach you at. Let’s schedule a call”.
In the event that I am given the phone number with the initial inquiry, I will call immediately to follow up my quote.
Set yourself apart by striking while the iron is hot.”
Rick Feld, www.grenadavillabeachcliff.com
Helpful Books on Online Marketing
There is so much information available on how to improve your vacation rental business with your own website and online marketing. Experts from around the world have written books with many more examples and suggestions to help your plan.
The following books will inspire you to find the right approach for a successful marketing plan:
This book won’t necessarily teach you how to optimize your marketing strategies, but it will teach you to think bigger, spend less time working, and design your business around the lifestyle you want.
2. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
Donald Miller covers seven story points to which everyone responds to, the real reason customers make purchases, how to simplify a brand message so that people understand it and how to build the most powerful content for blogs, brochures and social media.
Serial entrepreneur and rebel marketer Allan Dib reveals how to develop a marketing plan simple and quick. It’s basically a single page, divided into nine sections. With it, you can chart your own sophisticated marketing plan, going from zero to marketing hero.
4. Digital Marketing Strategy: An Integrated Approach to Online Marketing by Simon Kingsnorth
This book comes with downloadable templates and resources; the perfect road map for any professional looking to streamline a digital marketing plan for tangible results.
Regardless of your experience, this book will lead you through search engine optimization strategies used to expand countless online businesses, reliable measures to rank high in Google, and how to get a lot of customers through SEO.
The biggest takeaway from this eBook is the importance of having a proper online marketing strategy for your own vacation rental website. Though the first step is creating your website, that is just the beginning – so don’t expect to become an online success overnight.
Our parting note to owners is this: don’t be scared to get stuck in and take some of the things we’ve explained on board. The truth is, most of it is easy to do. But remember that once you have your own website, online marketing is a necessity to build your web presence.
You don’t need to be a seasoned expert to start working on your marketing strategy, nor do you have to implement all these ideas in one day. Just be sure to work on one step at a time, set yourself achievable goals, be patient and take each day as it comes!
We hope this guide has helped you understand the true value of having your own website and why online marketing is so beneficial for your vacation rental. We hope it’s got you thinking about the different ways you can help attract guests directly to your website using effective techniques such as social media, email marketing, content marketing, SEO and SEM.