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HomeAway Insights - News from the Birdhouse
2

I’m very proud to share some news for those who list your properties on VacationRentals.com.  By early summer you will find many new and exciting features on your VacationRentals.com listing that have been developed as a result of your feedback on how we can bring more inquiries and bookings to your vacation rental. 

 

As a company, VacationRentals.com has a rich history of serving as an excellent source for beautiful vacation homes for families and groups around the globe.  Founded in 1997, VacationRentals.com has made its name as a premier site for our HomeAway family since 2007. 

 

The enhancements making their way on to the site will provide a new aesthetic for travelers browsing vacation rentals. The site upgrade will have a new owner dashboard and tools for you to update and manage your listings more efficiently. Also of note, we’re enabling more photos and property details and giving you the option to upgrade your subscription level and promote special offers to maximize your property’s exposure.

 

New Look and Feel

 

The enhancements will kick off with an all-new site design.  In addition to some aesthetic differences, a prominent change will include a brand new search method and filter options to help travelers quickly find the property that best suits their needs. Travelers will be able to search listings by location, price, availability, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms and more. They will also have the ability to create an account so they can save favorite properties and keep track of inquiries.

 

Make your Listing Stand Out

 

Starting on March 13, each listing will be able to upload 16 photos, free of charge, to catch the eyes of their prospective guests (once the site is upgraded early this summer, listings will receive 24 free photos). Survey research conducted on our travelers consistently shows photos as one of, if not the highest attractor of visitors to a listing.  Stunning, high-resolution photos can often be a make-or-break factor in whether or not your window shoppers will convert to bookings.

 

A new aesthetic feature that will be added to your listing is the ability to insert a video of your vacation home for the traveler to view—a compelling way to show off your home in addition to your photos. 

 

On a personal note, you will be able to add a profile about yourself and the vacation rental.  In addition, you will be able to add nearby points of interest to your listing which can act as a “local’s guidebook,” so to speak, for your vacation rental guests to check out your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, hiking trails or farmer’s market, etc. 

 

Exposure Options of your Vacation Rental

 

Completeness and quality is indeed a weighted factor in determining the position of your listing in search results and, in addition to the new travelers you’ll be able to attract thanks to your listing makeover, you will be able to attract even more by choosing between additional exposure options:

 

  • While the base subscription rate will remain at $199 per year, you can now choose between five subscription levels, placing your listing higher in search results for your vacation rental’s region.
  • Purchase a bundle to add your listing onto HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, and purchase a bundle to expose your property to travelers using our top 15 international vacation rental sites. The traffic to our network of sites average about 800 million people each year, something you may consider taking advantage of.
  • Run special offers on your vacation rental for offseason rates, last minute or special holiday rates, etc.
  • Purchase a featured listing to have your vacation rental highlighted within traveler searches to your region or on the VacationRentals.com home page.

 

Manage your Vacation Listings More Efficiently

 

And now on to the nuts-and-bolts portion of the enhancements:  you will continue to manage your VacationRentals.com listings within your new dashboard – but you will also have the opportunity to manage your HomeAway.com and VRBO.com bundled listings from the same location, streamlining any calendar, rates or property detail changes that need to be made.  Listing quality recommendations for how you can improve your listing are also sent through the dashboard, so while you’re logged in you can make note of any improvements to your listing that need to be made.

 

On the payments side, your VacationRentals.com listing will allow you to include quotable rates, accept online booking from travelers and receive and process payments online in a secure and easy-to-manage method.  As with HomeAway.com online booking, industry-low credit card processing fees and free eChecks will also be available through online booking with VacationRentals.com.

 

Access to your VacationRentals.com listings will also be accessible through HomeAway's mobile app, so that you can quickly respond to your future guests whether you are at work, walking your dog or perhaps enjoying a vacation rental yourself!

 

________________

 

 

For a detailed rundown of all changes being rolled out over the next few months, please visit our VacationRentals.com info page here: http://www.homeaway.com/info/homeaway/microsite/the-new-vacation-rentals-1.

 

Thank you for your feedback which allowed us to make these enhancements to better your business and thank you for your support over these now 17 years of VacationRentals.com!

 

Brian Sharples

HomeAway Co-founder & CEO

6

You may start noticing some changes to the order in which listings are displayed in the sort and search results on HomeAway.com and VRBO.com.  As of today, we have made these changes to the way we display search results based on direct traveler feedback on what is most appealing to them when searching for a vacation rental.

 

Please watch a short video we have put together which highlights some of the specific feedback we received from travelers about listing quality, and why it is so important:

 

 

 

The placement of your listing in search results first depends on your subscription level.  Within each subscription level, listing quality is the most important factor that determines your search position within those results.  Based on feedback, we know the most important factors families and groups look for when renting a property include high quality photos, reviews from past guests, quotable rates, online booking capabilities, online payments acceptance, updated calendars, an accurate map pin placement and your listing’s tenure.

 

The Listing Quality Scorecard within your owner dashboard is a quick and easy tool that provides recommendations for how you can improve the quality of your listings and your position within search results.  For example, if you accept online payments and provide quotable rates, provide 24 photos, etc.  You can learn more about the Listing Quality Scorecard from this previous blog from our Product Marketing Team: http://community.homeaway.com/groups/product-updates/blog/2013/10/02/new-listing-scorecard--more-insight-to-improve-your-listing.

 

If you have noticed a change in your search position, we recommend you go to the Listing Quality Scorecard in your dashboard and follow the customized recommendations. Improving your listing quality scores can improve your search position.  You can also visit the Listing Quality portion of the HomeAway Owner Toolkit for a step-by-step instruction on how to improve your listing: http://www.homeaway.com/info/owner-toolkit/listing-quality.

 

Our goals align the desires of our travelers to ensure our sites have the highest quality listings possible—and bring as many travelers to your vacation rental as possible.  Now more than ever, your listing quality will have a significant impact on where your listing falls in the sort order.

 

We want to help you get the most out of the valuable time you commit to the marketing and management of your vacation rental.  It is with this in mind that we hope to continue to work with you closely to determine how best to keep your properties filled with guests!

 

Thank you,

 

Brian Sharples

Co-founder & CEO

4

I have to say I am REALLY excited about our new ad campaign that launches on January 15th during the 69th Annual Golden Globes!  Kudos to our advertising team and new agency of record, GSD&M, for really nailing the essence of HomeAway’s business with the new tagline, “Let’s Stay Together.” 

 

This time I feel like we’ve really got it RIGHT!  Truth be told, we’ve resorted to some pretty gimmicky stuff in the past couple of years, preying on the hotel industry and trying hard to stand out in the pack of Super Bowl ads with something shocking and memorable. 

 

Two years ago it was the Griswolds, an award-winning campaign starring the one and only Chevy Chase.  It received a ton of buzz and even won an EFFIE (for most effective ad campaign), and we sure had fun making it!  But for the most part that ad was a way to simply introduce the brand and poke fun at hotels versus vacation rentals.  And with only 30 seconds at the Super Bowl, we had little time to really highlight the positive benefits of renting a home. 

 

Last year we stayed with the “Why hotel when you can HomeAway” theme and introduced the “Minister of Detourism” as a character tasked with saving family vacations.  In the process, we made a major faux pas when a (fake) baby was flung into a window during the ad. That caused quite a stir, and in retrospect rightly so. We quickly pulled the ad and apologized.

 

This year is very different!  We’ve decided to skip the Super Bowl – it forces you to try and be provocative to stand out.  Rather, we have a much longer and broader campaign, and have really taken the time to focus on what our business is really about – promoting togetherness with families and groups. 

So this year it is all goodness, togetherness, and happiness – and emphasizing where you stay is as important as where you go while on vacation. As an added bonus, we got Al Green to agree to license his classic song “Let’s Stay Together” for our campaign.  The end result is a beautiful and artistic scrapbook montage of families and friends having the time of their lives while on vacation, and of course staying in rental homes!  

 

Most importantly, this campaign is as much about the industry as it is about HomeAway.  If we can simply get people to associate vacation rentals with better togetherness, then we will have succeeded with the campaign.  I think it is going to be a real winner for our industry; I hope you enjoy it too.

 

You may read the press release and view the 60-second ad here: http://www.homeaway.com/info/media-center/press-releases/2012/lets-stay-together

 

I look forward to reading your comments.

 

Best,

Brian