Let’s be honest — search engine optimization (SEO) is time consuming and you’re often competing against companies who employ teams of experts trying to beat the competition. The good news is, there are ways to level the playing field.
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, there are long-term rewards to be had because search optimization has a longer lasting effect than paid advertising. When you stop paying for ads, your listing is removed and all of the traffic and bookings that went along with it are gone too. With organic search, while it’s not as easy to earn a first page ranking (vs. buying it), once you do, it’s harder for your competition to bump you out of your position.
But first, you need to have your own vacation rental website. And while you may not become an SEO expert overnight, there’s a bunch of things you can do to improve your organic search rankings. First, I suggest you check out a few resources to get you up-to-speed on the basics of SEO. My favorites are:
- SEOmoz – Beginners Guide to SEO
- Search Engine Land – What is SEO?
- Rand Fishkin – A Comprehensive Intro to SEO (in PowerPoint slides)
Finding the Best Keywords for Your Website
Broad vs. Long-tail Keywords
Let’s review two different types of keywords – broad keywords and long-tail keywords. Broad keywords are typically general keyword phrases for your website that have high monthly search volume and lots of competition. They are difficult to rank for and the traffic is not as relevant, meaning you’ll get less qualified inquiries as a result.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are very specific keyword phrases for your website. They have lower search volume, but also less competition. They are easier to rank for and produce higher quality traffic to your website, resulting in more qualified inquiries for your vacation rental.
Here are some examples:
|**Broad Keywords**||**Long-Tail Keywords**|
|vacation rental||tahoe donner ski home rental|
|vacation rental homes||agate bay vacation home|
|lake tahoe vacation rental||ski home rental north lake tahoe|
|tahoe vacation homes||kings beach summer vacation home|
Create a Keyword Universe
Open up an Excel or a Google Doc spreadsheet and start typing all of the keywords that might be relevant to your vacation rental. What phrases would potential renters search for if they were looking for your home? Include terms that relate to your surrounding area, local attractions, and are descriptive of your rental. Aim to generate 50 – 100 keywords.
Visit competing vacation rental websites and pay close attention to the topics they cover and headlines throughout their site. Many of these keywords will relate to your audience as well.
Google also has a couple of tools to help you create your keyword universe – the contextual targeting tool and the keyword tool. Just enter in a couple of keywords and Google will help you identify other related terms. While both tools are part of Google AdWords’ paid advertising product, they are free to use and can provide just as much value for your organic keyword research as they would for paid search.
Select 10 Keywords to Target
Now that your keyword universe is complete, copy the list into Google’s keyword tool to see the competition and monthly search volume for each term. Your goal is to narrow down the list and select 10 keywords to target for your website. While many of the terms may be relevant, we just want to start with a reasonable number to work with first.
Strike a balance between broad and long-tail keywords. If all of your targeted keywords have very low competition, there may not be enough people searching for those phrases to have an impact on your traffic or bookings. At the same time, if you choose only highly competitive phrases, it may be so hard to rank for those terms that your website never gets any traffic from them. Getting to the first page of the search engine results is key because a whopping 75% of users never click past page one according to Sitepoint.com. Using the keyword examples above, “heavenly village” and “lake tahoe ski season” would be good choices.
Search engine optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. By choosing 10 keywords to focus on first you can prioritize your efforts and measure your results. You’ll want to apply these keywords to your website by making sure you have content that addresses those terms. For example, adding information on your website about the “lake tahoe ski season” or where “heavenly village” is located is a good start.
Stay tuned to the blog as we build out this series on search engine optimization for your vacation rental. We’ll cover:
- How to apply keywords to your website (on-page SEO)
- Link building tips to improve your keyword ranking
- Advanced link building tips for those who have moved past the basics
- How local search and social media affect your rankings