#BookDirect Day is back. How will you take advantage of the annual movement and turn this campaign into more bookings?

The Second Annual #BookDirect Guest Education Day, or #BookDirect Day for short, is an annual campaign created by VRM Intel to encourage travelers to book directly with vacation rental property managers and owners like you instead of booking through online travel agencies (OTAs) and listing sites.

Experienced property managers will tell you, the most effective channel management strategies involve a healthy balance of driving direct bookings and marketing your properties on third-party listing sites. As the power of these third-party channels have grown, it’s easier for this balance to become lopsided - making property managers more dependent on listing sites. VRM Intel’s #BookDirect Day aspires to correct this imbalance by advocating travelers to empower property managers by booking directly with them.

For Guest Education Day, vacation rental managers and owners are bringing attention to the campaign by posting their support to social media with the hashtag “#BookDirect.”

Many small businesses are including VRM Intel’s campaign photo to educate travelers about some of the benefits of booking directly with vacation rental managers.

Informing travelers of the benefits of booking on your business’s direct channel the next time they are in the market for a short-term rental is a great first step in encouraging future direct bookings. But similarly to New Year's resolutions, this intention can be forgotten by travelers in time.

Truly advocating for direct bookings involves strategic thinking and consistent execution. Here are 4 must-haves if you want to create more direct bookings beyond #BookDirect Day.

1. Build your channel

The first step to attracting more direct bookings is a beautifully designed, SEO-optimized website. There are many website builders out there, but we recommend using a provider that was built specifically for short-term rental businesses. Having your own personal channel gives you the platform to let your unique brand shine through. Developing a brand - and all of its components - takes time, but doing so will make your properties memorable and will increase direct and repeat bookings.

2. Draw attention to yourself with SEO & PPC

Perhaps the most important step beyond creating a website is creating a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Improving SEO will increase you search ranking for specific keywords related to your properties. If you are unsure of where to begin with SEO or if you think your strategy could be performing better, download our free SEO eBook to get on the fast track to higher search rankings.

While SEO refers strictly to free, organic search, pay-per-click (PPC) is another way to get more attention to your direct channel by targeting keywords and paying a small fee every time they are clicked. We recommend targeting very specific keywords related your properties’ locations and defining characteristics (you can learn more about keyword research through our SEO eBook as well). For a deep dive on PPC explicitly for vacation rentals, our friend Conrad O’Connell wrote an informative piece on how to get started.

3. Stay active with past guests through email lists

Another effective way to increase direct bookings, especially from past guests, is to create an email marketing list. Actively reaching a wide group of people about promotions and last minute availabilities is a great way to stay in your guests’ retrieval sets. Follow these best practices on email deliverability to make sure you avoid the trash folder.

4. Show off your properties on social media

If your business doesn’t have social media profiles of its own, you are missing out on moments to interact and inform guests, like #BookDirect Day. Social media - especially photo-centric platforms like Instagram and Facebook - is a great place to attract guests, announce property upgrades and post seasonal and past guest photos that will make your followers want to book again.

Educating travelers on the value of booking directly with you is important to achieve a harmonious balance between your channel and other listing sites, but if prospective guests can’t find your website, they can’t book your properties.

Simply tweeting your support for #BookDirect Day won’t bring customers clamoring to your door. To truly improve performance, you must be proactive. Just as important as today’s campaign is what you do to drive direct bookings on your channel afterward.

Use #BookDirect Day to energize your direct channel's marketing strategy. And continue to apply MyVR’s expert support and educational resources to reach your performance goals.