People are often surprised when I say they need to stop stressing out about search engine optimization (SEO) because it may not even be right for their vacation rental marketing strategy. “Jonathan, don’t you guys offer websites? Why would you tell people not to do SEO?”
It’s true that MyVR offers powerful vacation rental property management software, and it’s true that websites are one of the key features. However, we’d much rather customers have a clear sense of what their strategy is before starting a website; the entire approach to your website could radically change depending on your purpose.
There are plenty of very good reasons to have a website even if SEO isn’t a core part of your strategy. Here are five of them.
1. Improve your conversion rate on inquiries from listing sites
Listing sites are a teaser for you rental property; you can bet that a good number of people will check out your website before they decide to book—even if you have a knock-out listing. Why?
- They want to know your vacation rental is legitimate. There are plenty of scams out there, and a professional web presence makes it easy for people to find more proof that your rental is ready and waiting.
- They want to learn more about your property. Listing sites help you get noticed, but locked into their uniform formatting it’s hard for your property to really stand out. Many potential guests will click through to your website looking for more information. Using it to highlight what’s unique and special about your property is your chance to clinch the booking.
- You’ve drawn them in with a great auto-responder. Potential guests won’t send an inquiry then sit around to wait for your response; they keep looking. With an auto-responder, you can reply to their inquiry instantly, and use that message to point them to information on your website—away from browsing the competition.
You can also improve your conversion rate by looking more professional yourself. Even when people want the independence of a vacation rental, it’s reassuring to know there’s someone available if something goes wrong. An effective website doesn’t just showcase your property—a stand-out web presence inspires confidence that you take the rest of your vacation rental business just as seriously.
2. Get repeat business more easily…
To build a steady stream of income, you need to be more than “the white house we stayed at last year, which we found through one of those listing sites.”
Establishing a memorable brand gives people something to remember with a simple way to find you in the future. Will people even find your listing among the options on a listing site when they’re booking their trip next year? Your rental could buried several pages in, you may have changed your marketing priorities and cancelled your listing. If they do find your listing, will they get distracted by the selection of nearby alternatives that any listing site will serve up?
Without a professional and well-branded website, you leave too much to chance. Even if someone has had a great experience, they’ll only go so far to try to track your rental down a second time.
3. …and make word of mouth simple
Like giving people something to remember, it’s much easier to tell a friend to look up “”Sonoma Square Cottage” (my property) than “VRBO #3537208,” and it’s infinitely preferable to “I don’t know, I just found it on HomeAway.”
4. Give yourself more marketing options
Whether you want to pursue paid ads, Facebook ads, or email marketing, a great vacation rental website gives you options.
Free listings from sites like Yelp, Yahoo Local, and the Yellow Pages may be lower volume, but they’ve still sent some bookings my way. The cost of paid campaigns like Google PPC, remarketing, and Facebook targeting may not make sense for small owners, but they can be used effectively. Email marketing is another option that’s easier and cheaper than these paid options.
However, any of these marketing tactics need a page that’s designed to convert new leads. As I said above, trusting a listing to convert leaves a lot to chance—especially if you’re paying for the exposure.
5. Automate your workflow
Vacation rental owners are busy, and listing sites just don’t offer the same flexibility you get by building your business around your own website.
Learn what people want to know about your property, then build your website to meet those needs. Create a local guide, share your contract, better explain your rates, provide quotes, offer package deals, set up an FAQ section. You can even feature local recommendations, deals, and events, like I’ve done for SonomaSquareCottage.com.
These are all valid and powerful uses for a website that have nothing to do with SEO ranking. Your website can have many different goals, but having a primary goal will help prioritize your efforts.
Some goals require a certain time or cost investment; sometimes goals can even conflict. Prioritizing paid advertising campaigns could mean an entirely different site design than if your primary goal is better converting your existing flow of inquiries.
…And if you just can’t knock SEO off your to-do list? You can do much of the fairly quick on-page SEO configuration on your own without knocking other goals off track.
image by Andrew Eason (CC BY-SA 2.0)