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Promoting your vacation rental online boils down to one thing: You want to be found by people who will want to book your place. Listing directories are an important part of marketing plans; having your own website is another.

"Flower shop on Google Maps", photo by Lars Plougmann on Flickr. Used under a CC license.Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process that helps make your website as visible as possible in search results on sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing. In previous posts, we’ve talked about

Local search adds another layer to your SEO efforts; you don’t just want your vacation rental to show up, you want it to have top placement when someone searches for properties like yours in your geographic area.

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More than 7 in 10 travelers do their travel planning online according to Google, and if someone is looking for a vacation rental in your neighborhood, you want your property to show up at the top of the list.

"Search!", a photo from Flickr by Jeffrey Beall. Used under a Creative Commons license.Getting to page one of search results takes ongoing, dedicated work — and in travel hotspots, competition for those top places is fierce. Some of this work, called search engine optimization (SEO), is out of your hands. For example, attracting links from reputable websites indicates to search engines that your website is trustworthy, too; getting those links takes time and effort, with no guarantee that they will ever come.

Improving your search results doesn’t exclusively rely on other people, however. There are things you can do to make your website more search engine friendly — called on-page optimization — that are straightforward and completely within your control. Continue Reading…


Having a quality website for your vacation rental property is one of the most important things you can do to maximize the potential for your rental business. Given how easy and inexpensive a website is to launch, not having your own web presence is one of the biggest mistakes we think owners can make.

Here are four simple ways having your own website can help you.

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You have your vacation rental website, Facebook Page, listings on several different sites — and feedback from different people on each one. Your new challenge is to bring reviews from all these disparate sites and link them all together.

Why copy-and-paste is not the answer

Copying a review from a site and adding it to your own website is the easy solution, but it’s not necessarily the most legal option. Your safest bet is to always contact the reviewer directly to get their permission.

Online copyright can be confusing or subjective at the best of times, not least because different websites have different terms and conditions.

HomeAway.com, for example, holds a non-exclusive license over user-generated content on its site — which includes your property information as well as any submitted reviews.

As interpreted by ezine WritersWeekly, a non-exclusive license means “the reviewer can publish their review at any other site they choose and they can also give permission to someone else…to re-publish their review.”

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How do I get my vacation rental website to rank on Google? I get asked this question a lot so let me help break it down for you.

This is a visual map of the Internet. See that huge dot in the middle? That’s Google. And, this one is Wikipedia. And, this one is Craigslist. They have hundreds of thousands of links pointing to them from all over the web so it’s easy for the search engine crawlers to find them. Continue Reading…

I often receive emails from concerned subscribers that go something like this:

Mostaza Panama

Photo credit: Matt Landau

Dear Matt,

We don’t know what to do. Our leads from listing sites were going down and more competitor rentals have opening their doors weekly, so we’ve built our own website with great descriptions, professional photos…etc. But the problem is, nothing seems to be happening. We haven’t had an inquiry in days. Please help!!!!

These emails always get two things incorrect.

First, they assume that I am a magic genie (rub my belly twice, pick your ideal occupancy rate, and then *POOF* your wish is my command). I run the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog. I am not a magician.

The second, and clearly more significant assumption, that many owners get wrong is that by building your own website, your bookings will automatically increase. They think that a website is the remedy to all their worries and that once they get set up, tomorrow will begin as a new and entirely more profitable day.

But here’s the thing…it probably wont. Tomorrow will most likely begin precisely how yesterday did (only now you happen to have your own website and some added monthly costs).

I can’t help but draw the false analogy to computers. It’s common in today’s market to consider our bookings like computers: if a computer breaks, we take it to a specialist who’ll fix it for us. It’s so easy for vacation rental owners and managers to just assume that a specialist like me could turn their season around with one convenient fee.

But your bookings are not like broken computers.

Your bookings are like plants.

My rentals are located in Panama and when I first started off, I wanted to grow beautiful and traditional veraneras (aka bougainvillea) on all the balconies. However, with my forgetfulness combined with my busy schedule leaving Panama every few weeks, they began, along a period of about 1 year, to wither away until they resembled ugly brown sticks emerging from dirt. But here’s the thing: they never completely died.

Our bookings are not unlike plants: they need the right conditions to grow. You can’t fix a plant. You can only give it the proper conditions – light, soil, water – and then wait.

So if our bookings are like plants, what are the conditions needed to make them blossom?

Perhaps the most important condition (and one which MyVR solves pretty transparently) is your own website. You must diversify your business (away from solely listing sites) if you ever plan to establish some control and independence. If you’ve got your own website (or are thinking about getting one) you’re on the right track. But remember, your bookings are not fixed with one fell swoop. So you can’t stop here…

You must be involved with your website. Publish posts on your blog consistently, gather guest email addresses for monthly newsletters, upload resounding reviews, build backlinks…etc. You must give your bookings the right conditions to grow, and then wait, just like I did with my flourishing veraneras, which now – after several years – are about as bountiful as the guests inhabiting my very rentals.

 

photo: Matt Landau

 

This is a guest post by Matt Landau, a good friend of MyVR.com and the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and VRLeap, two resources designed to help vacation rental owners and managers establish independence and increase their bookings with bulletproof techniques.

professional photosIf you don’t know exactly what should go on your website, you’re not alone. We get a lot of questions about what’s most important. There are some must-haves and some when-you-have-more-time, but here’s our complete list, in order of importance:

1. Perfectly cropped, well-lit photos – You can take these yourself, but hire a pro as soon as you can afford it.

2. Professional, staged photos – Check out this side-by-side example to see the difference.

3. A compelling description – Longer descriptions do better than short ones. See our 5 Must-Follow Tips when you write yours.

4. Complete rates – Learn how to set your rates correctly and when to adjust them. Be sure to show rates at least 1 calendar year out if possible. Continue Reading…

farmhouseYou can probably distinguish between a yacht, apartment and a villa. But what’s the difference between an apartment and a condo?

The truth is, many of these terms can be used to describe the same property; one person’s chalet could easily be another person’s cabin. You may choose a term because of what’s commonly used in your area, or because of the feeling a particular word evokes. Here’s an overview of the more standard categories.

Apartment — one of a number of units within a building that is owned by one common person or entity. (See also condo.)

Bungalow — generally speaking, a detached house where the main living areas are all on one floor. It may be one-and-a-half stories, with additional living space in either a basement that has above-ground windows or a second floor built under the slope of the roof. More specific features vary by region.

Cabin — “a small one-story dwelling usually of simple construction,” as defined by Mirriam-Webster. The term has traditionally implied a more rustic building. (See also chalet, cottage.) Continue Reading…

family reunionIf you were looking for the perfect vacation rental for your family reunion, which headline would get your attention?

  1. Amazing, multilevel 6 bedroom spacious home 6000 SF
  2. Waterfront Tahoe Keys Home, Hot Tub, Boat Dock
  3. Comfortable 6 Bedroom, 4 Bathroom House in South Lake Tahoe

The reality is, these three rental properties from FlipKey all have six bedrooms and sleep 16 people. They’re all good headlines, but A stands out. Why? It packs in four ways to tell you it’s big – multilevel, 6 bedrooms, spacious, 6,000 square feet – before you even click.

While some owners shy away from accommodating groups, others rely on it. But, it’s important to think about what types of groups might be relevant for your home. Some groups might include:

  • Family reunions
  • Church group vacations or bible study weekends
  • Close friends for a ski trip
  • Corporate off-site or retreat
  • Activity-based group like geocaching or kayaking

According to FlipKey, houses are the #1 type of vacation rental property, making up 67% of their listings in 2012. If your rental property is a home, you have a large market, but you need to stand out. Here are a few basic steps to attract large groups to your vacation rental. Continue Reading…

writing descriptionPhotos that capture the best your vacation rental has to offer are critical when it comes to attracting attention — but they’re not the only thing that matters. In fact, they may not even be the most important thing.

Without the “1-2 punch” from great photos and an effective description, travelers who come across your listing may move on to someone who does a better job of showing and telling what their property has to offer.

What earns an inquiry is a rental that captures the imagination or meets the needs of a particular traveler. Your description’s goal is to relay the key features of your property as effectively as possible.

1. Have a great intro

You first sentence helps shape first impressions and hooks people into reading more.

Starting with the basics, like “This three-bedroom house is in a quiet neighborhood that’s walking-distance to downtown,” is a simple way to begin.

However, an opening like this misses a great opportunity for two reasons: Continue Reading…