The average traveler will visit between 3-5 vacation rental websites, and inquire about 7 different properties, according to data from FlipKey. To make the shortlist, you need to do one critical thing: Get their attention!

 

That doesn’t mean scream and shout at travelers in all caps, use lots of exclamation points or post "click-baity" photos of cute - yet irrelevant - animals to make them swoon. It means putting together a great listing that speaks directly to your target traveler.

The real competition starts with search results. If you’re updating an existing listing, take a minute to search for it and see what kind of “first” impression it makes. If you’re feeling too biased, show a friend and see what they think.

Recently I was asked to look at a great short-term rental listing in Maui. The listing's title stated “true beachfront property,” which was compelling to me as a traveler. One time I stayed at a hotel that said “beachfront” only to find a busy, 2-lane street intersecting my room and the beach. But, with their title in place, the first shot that appeared in the search results was a photo of the bedroom. Not exactly the beachfront I was envisioning.

All of the items that typically appear in the search results are pulled from your listing, so be sure to keep these in mind when creating your listing.

  • A small photo of the property (approx 1.5” wide x 1” tall)
  • Descriptive, enticing headline
  • Basic details (i.e. type of rental, number of rooms, max occupancy, rates)
  • The number of reviews received and star rating
  • A very brief summary (i.e. the first sentence of your description)

Headline

How do you write a headline people will click on? As outlined in this answer, there are five things that make that little snippet of information more clickable:

  1. Choose words that convey a unique aspect of your home
  2. Clearly define the type of property: villa, cabin, apartment, etc.
  3. Highlight some of its special amenities (i.e. hot tub, deck, WiFi, grill)
  4. Describe what type of travelers it’s best suited for (i.e. family-friendly or pet-friendly)
  5. Specify proximity to featured attractions like ski slopes or beach access

Avoid using abbreviations — people may not understand what you mean — but keep your headline short or it may get cut off!

Description and overview

Good photos are important, but you need a thoughtful and effective description to match. An ideal description is one that:

  • Starts with a great introduction that highlights something unique about your rental
  • Goes beyond the cold basics and is descriptive
  • Is ideally 2,000 characters (300-400 words) or more
  • Matches the photos you use to promote your property
  • Is easy to skim, with short paragraphs and formatting (where possible)

Review our 5 Tips for an Inquiry-Worthy Vacation Rental Description for help getting started.

Think about the search page: on some sites, search results will extract a bit of information from your description as a teaser. For example, Expedia will show first 160 or so characters from your description in its search results.

Use this introduction to your description to draw people in with something special you couldn’t highlight elsewhere. Maybe it’s the floor-to-ceiling windows that put nature at your fingertips or the way it feels to walk straight from the bedroom to dip your feet in the ocean. Perhaps it’s the vibrant market just steps from the front door.

Photos

The more photos you have, the better; listings with 20 or more photos tend to get more bookings. But they need to be good photos!

If you haven’t pulled together photos of your vacation rental yet:

  • Review this list of must-have photos to include with your listing.
  • Avoid stock photos. People want to see photos of your vacation rental, not the same thing they’ll find on other tourism sites. Plus, these images come at a cost; you’ll get more value from investing in photos of your own property.
  • Hire a professional photographer

For a real-life look at the difference between do-it-yourself and professional photography, check out these before and after shots from the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog.

Think about the search page: The photo that will show up in search results will be very small. To make the most of this tiny space, choose a main photo that...

  • Is wider than it is tall. Images used with search results tend to favor landscape-oriented photos.
  • Has good contrast, like a photo of your house against a clear blue sky or a well-lit interior photo. A photo that’s more subtle — a cottage tucked away among the trees, for example — may be too small to recognize.
  • Doesn’t have a lot of detail. Like contrast, a photo that has a lot going on — your incredible games room, for example, or the cobblestone street your apartment opens onto — will likely be too small to appreciate.

Amenities

When listing the amenities available, it can be easy to dismiss some as being too basic to list. However, people often don’t know what to expect from a vacation rental and a detailed list can work in your favor; listings that note more amenities generate more bookings. Some items you may want to highlight include:

  • Self check-in
  • Free parking
  • Fully-equipped kitchen
  • Bathroom essentials
  • WiFi
  • Washer and dryer
  • Cable television
  • Dishwasher
  • Hair Dryer
  • BBQ grill

Rates

Your rates need to be up-to-date in order to compete with similar short-term rentals in your market. Whether you decide to price yourself or use a dynamic pricing tool, making sure your rates are competitive have a number of benefits, including:

  • Higher rankings: Many of the listing sites include updated rates as part of their ranking factors, meaning that your listing will show up higher in the search results when you’ve published and regularly updated your rates.
  • Missed inquiries: Travelers generally need accommodations that fit their particular budget. If your rates are out-of-date, you could be getting filtered out of search results in channels.
  • More bookings: Like it or not, the short-term rental industry and its channels are evolving to be more instant book friendly. Having out-of-date pricing in an instant book world will hurt your bottom line.

Make sure you’ve done your homework and know how your rates compare to other vacation rentals in your area.

Map

Locate where your property by placing a pin on the map. This may seem simple, but many travelers filter by zooming in on the embedded map. By showing people directly where your vacation rental is located, they can decide more easily whether your location meets their needs. It’s also another ranking factor for listings sites.

Reservation Calendar

Keeping a reservation calendar up-to-date takes time, but it’s worth the effort.

  • It can help cut back on the time you spend responding to inquiries.
  • Double and cancelled bookings hurt your brand's reputation and your rankings on listing sites.
  • It makes it easy for travelers to see at a glance whether your availability matches their timeline.

Insisting people contact you to inquire about basic information like your availability adds unnecessary frustration and time to the booking process.

Reviews

With a new listing, you won’t have any reviews; instead, you need to prioritize accumulating reviews from this point onward. Sites that allow reviews highlight the number in search results, and a short-term rental with a high number of good reviews stands out in a crowd. Encourage people to share their experiences by leaving feedback either directly with you (which you may be able to use on your website, with permission) or through listing sites.

When managing one or two properties, maintaining listings can be relatively easy, but as your business scales, accurately managing every detail of your properties can become demanding.

One of the many benefits of using property management software like MyVR is that we centralize all of your listings' details across channels into one simple dashboard. We empower property managers like you to work smarter by focusing solely on what matters most: your business's performance.

Fine-tuning your short-term rental listings is not just about catching your target's eye, it's about making a memorable first impression on your next guests.