Do you want to drive direct bookings and build a brand for your vacation rental business? Are you unsure your properties even need a website?
Listing sites are a key pillar of every vacation rental marketing plan - a cost-effective way to reach travelers using infrastructure and brand power few property managers can develop on their own. And the fact that the market share of online travel agencies (OTAs) is on the rise means they aren’t going anywhere.
But that popularity doesn’t negate the need to build your own vacation rental website.
As your business gains momentum, your website isn't just a vanity domain - it's your direct channel. Having a direct channel is essential for driving bookings from word-of-mouth referrals, repeat guests, partnerships and other marketing initiatives that you control - not to mention the revenue you save on commission and service fees.
Still not convinced? Here are the top four reasons you need a direct channel for your properties.
Why You Need to Have a Direct Channel
1. Establish trust and credibility
Having a direct channel helps establish trust and credibility – something that’s particularly important in the short-term rental industry.
Scams have forced travelers into a state of natural distrust. Anything you can do to ease the worries of a potential guest and add to your integrity will help your business.
2. Make a professional first impression
An engaging, interactive direct channel demonstrates a high degree of polish.
Websites make a great first impression for any small-to-medium sized business. A beautiful, responsive website reflects the quality of your properties, meaning you should opt for a direct channel that was built specifically with vacation rental property managers in mind.
3. Showcase your inventory and brand
Your direct channel allows you to exhibit your home the way you want, making it easier for you to convert inquiries.
Although they're crucial, listing sites are crowded and competitive. Your own direct channel helps you differentiate your home, making it stand out and memorable.
Your direct channel is about your properties – and only your properties – and you should use it to tell your brand's story.
You can add as many photos as you want, highlight what makes your properties special and provide local recommendations that your guests can easily access from anywhere.
4. Generate more inquiries
Your direct channel is the hub of all your marketing activities.
Use online advertising efforts to push people to your site. Choosing a memorable domain name makes it easy for people to send word-of-mouth referrals your way. Plus, it's easy to include your link everywhere you advertise your property: business cards, email signature, local advertising and more.
There’s no better way to fuel referrals and repeat business than having your own direct booking channel!
Whether it’s providing a sense of credibility and trust, conveying your professionalism, better showcasing your home to renters or making it easier for people to find your home, your direct channel will help you get more bookings.
What You Need To Build Your Direct Channel
Now that you know how important your direct channel is to your business. Here’s a look at what you’ll need to get your vacation rental website off the ground.
Defining a brand gives direction to your marketing efforts
If your short-term rentals have been in business for a while, you likely have a good sense of your target market — the specific group of travelers that is most likely to book your property.
Knowing your ideal guest helps you define your brand — the qualities that will make people search for your business — which, in turn, helps you make better-informed decisions about your brand’s image. That image includes details such as your:
- Domain name
- Color scheme
- Overall design package that will help people identify and remember your vacation rental
Must-have info about your short-term properties
Your direct channel is a blank slate for creative marketing ideas. But you need to start with the basic information prospective guests expect to find. That includes:
A great description. An effective property description captures the imagination and highlights key features in a way that’s easy to read and gets right to the point.
A detailed list of features and amenities. From laundry facilities and bedding, to WiFi and workspace - details are what help set guest expectations. Make a special section to list the property’s most desirable amenities. (Need ideas? Check out this list from HomeAway.)
Clear pricing. Clearly outline the overnight rates - including seasonal differences — as well as any additional charges such as a deposit, cleaning fees, and taxes. List any costs that might be associated with on-site amenities or optional services.
A way to book your rental. Make it easy for someone to see an up-to-date vacation rental calendar and book through your website. At the very least, embed a booking form into your site to ensure inquiries include the essential information you need to confirm the reservation.
Your contact information. Have an easy-to-locate contact form on your site and list your contact information throughout the site. Publishing it in the footer of your website is a standard way to help ensure it’s easy to find.
Your business's bio. Renters want to know who they are renting from. Share why your team is passionate about the vacation rental industry, how many properties you manage, any business accreditations, and the number of years you’ve been operating.
Local recommendations. It’s likely that many of your guests will be visiting the area for the first time. Make trip planning easier for them by providing a local guide to highlight restaurants, activities, service providers, and other recommendations.
Make the most of your online marketing efforts
Getting traffic to your direct channel can include all kinds of marketing tactics. Get more bang for your buck by polishing your efforts and integrating them into your website. Here are a few ideas:
- Use high-quality photographs captured by a professional photographer, ensuring your property will be seen in its best light. Then use these photos everywhere you have a presence, from your website, to Instagram and Facebook.
- Include links to any social media accounts on your site and look at ways to leverage your social media content within your domain. Embedding Instagram photos, for example, can be a great way to expand your reach and connect channels.
- When sharing content from your site on social media, add referral codes to the URL so you can better track where your post has been shared and seen.
- Use video marketing to engage potential guests and show off the location, amenities, and what they can expect.
- Take advantage of videos that are already available, such as promotional videos from your local travel authority or even videos from past guests.
Keep your website simple and informative
As you create your direct channel, remember that your goal is to give renters the high-level information they need when deciding to book your property. And consider a website builder and channel manager like MyVR!
We host and empower you to build a mobile friendly and SEO-optimized direct channel in minutes, making it easy to expand your marketing to dozens of listing sites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, Booking.com and TripAdvisor.
Need some inspiration? Check out some direct channels that have been built with MyVR: