I often find myself in conversations with vacation rental owners of just one property — or perhaps a few - about whether SEO should be a part of their marketing strategy.
For many larger, professional property managers, it’s not just a good idea, but a necessary piece of their long-term strategy to diversify and take control of their business. For that reason, MyVR’s mobile responsive website templates allow for full on-page SEO configuration.
However, the SEO decision for most smaller “mom-and-pop” owners is not so clear.
Reason #1: SEO is complicated and changes over time
Very few vacation rental owners also happen to be SEO experts, so the knowledge gap is large and the ramp-up time considerable.
SEO is also a relatively complex set of algorithms: No one knows for sure exactly what Google’s algorithms are, although some tenants do hold true over time, like high-quality backlinks (links from other websites) and having useful and relevant content. The SEO game, and what it takes to rank high, also changes over time as search engines refine and improve their algorithms. Staying ahead of the curve can be time consuming and it takes a large investment of time to read Google’s guidelines and updates.
What’s clear is that there is no short cut; to climb your way to the top, you need fresh, relevant content on a website that is both credible and reputable.
Reason #2: No time for SEO
Most vacation rental owners who manage their property on their own are already stretched thin: They work full-time jobs, have a family, or have other responsibilities, hobbies, or interests. Who has time to learn a new profession on the side—knowledge it takes experts years to accumulate and refine?
More than the commitment to learning a new skill, however, SEO it takes a lot of effort to create an effective presence. You need to have a base of solid content that’s fully optimized with keywords and other on-page elements. You also need to invest time to build off-page SEO, like building a network of backlinks (i.e. links from reputable websites to your site) and social shares.
Doing all of this is a major commitment that most owners just don’t have time for.
Reason #3: Outsourcing SEO is expensive (and risky)
If you acknowledge that you don’t have the time to do it yourself, a busy vacation rental owner does have the option to hire SEO help. However, it’s an industry that is unfortunately littered with unscrupulous service providers who prey on uneducated customers. The really good ones—which do exist—are not cheap.
I’ve seen clients so confused that they believed they were instantly boosted to #1 in organic search results, when what they really had was a $350 /month pay-per-click (PPC) ad! If you don’t know the difference, or don’t understand what “organic search” or “PPC ads” are, don’t risk your money hiring SEO help until you learn more.
Conrad O’Connell, of InterCoastal Net Designs, works with large vacation rental companies all over the U.S. on their SEO efforts. According to Conrad, it isn’t uncommon for his clients to have spent months—even years—working with SEO companies who lacked solid strategy, monthly reporting, and a reasonable client contract. He says the best results come from an agency that’s highly knowledgeable about the vacation rental industry and that interacts with you on a regular basis.
Reason #4: SEO requires an ongoing commitment
Not only does SEO take a big investment of time and/or money up front to see a noticeable difference, the investment doesn’t end once you’ve finally achieved some success (assuming you achieve success).
SEO is not a one-time thing that you set up and watch it grow; maintaining a reputable website with relevant content for your desired search terms is ongoing, both to keep your site fresh and to keep up with the changing SEO environment.
Reason #5: SEO can be very competitive
If all this didn’t seem enough of a challenge already, the competition for good positions in search results can also be fierce.
You’re not only up against the major listing sites (HomeAway, VRBO, FlipKey, Airbnb, etc.)—big brands that are all vying for page one on Google—but you’re also up against professional property managers, too.
And don’t forget the dozens—even hundreds or thousands—of other individual owners in your area. For example, VRBO currently lists more than 7,500 properties on the Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach; just 10 organic results make it onto page one of the search results, a few more if you include the ones who’ve grabbed their location on Google Maps. (The collection of paid ads are a whole different ballgame!)
For the typical vacation rental owner, getting ahead of the listing sites and property managers— as well as any other owners in the area who decide to pursue SEO—isn’t impossible, but it’s practically guaranteed to be a steep climb.
So, is SEO right for you?
This may all seem daunting, but it isn’t meant to scare anyone away from doing SEO; it may make sense for some owners to pursue it.
However, it is something that requires a thorough assessment of the return you’ll get on your investment before you commit. There are plenty of great reasons to have a website, and SEO doesn’t need to be one of them. If it isn’t for you, make that decision up front, then stop worrying about it.