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submit.jpgEveryone wants to improve their vacation rental’s online presence, but not everyone knows where to turn. In addition to spending your valuable marketing dollars on annual memberships, here are 8 cost-free online hotspots where you can submit your vacation rental website – whether it’s a listing page or your personal homepage (preferred) – and see immediate results. I like to suggest owners spend one hour every month searching for (and applying to) new sites like these. They are worth their weight in gold...

 

1. Dmoz:  The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as Dmoz (from directory.mozilla.org, its original domain name), is an open content directory of World Wide Web links. It is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors and it’s the database from which hundreds of thousands of other directory websites draw their data. Which is to say, once you submit your vacation rental site to Dmoz (and get accepted) the amount of residual links to your property will increase monumentally.

 

2. Google Places: Google Places is a free web mapping application and you may have seen it pop up on your Google searches or perhaps embedded in other websites. Once you submit your vacation rental company to Google Places through Google’s Local Business Center, your contact information (email, phone number, address, etc) will display on all kinds of hyper-local searches meaning, if someone is looking for a place to stay in your area, they’ll be presented with your information almost like a phone book listing.

 

3. Yahoo! Local: Much like Google Maps and Google Places, Yahoo! Local is a platform that’s still worth your vacation rental site’s inclusion. With their free basic listing, you can submit your contact information, select 5 categories in which to list your rental, as well as list any services you may offer on top of a traditional nightly stay.

 

4. Purple Roofs: Gay travel is an ever-expanding industry and lots of vacation rental owners report tremendous results when posting on sites like Purple Roofs where your free listing submission will most likely make you the only “gay friendly” accommodation in your area (a huge boost for bookings). The only requirement is that you are actually friendly towards gay travelers: easy enough!  

 

5. Gay Journey: The gold-standard in gay travel sites, Gay Journey is the go-to site for many gay travelers and posting your rental on their site is guaranteed to bring in good new traffic. They even give you the option of registering as gay owned (in addition to gay friendly). Gay owner listings are highlighted with a rainbow flag and tend to get extra clicks.

 

6. TripAdvisor Forum: TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel review site so it’s not a surprise that their massive traveler forum is frequently crawled by tourists looking for new accommodations, especially alternatives to traditional hotels. By creating an account on TripAdvisor (if you don’t have one already), browsing the discussion threads in your area, and anonymously recommending your rental with a link, rental owners have reported huge upticks in bookings. 

 

7. LinkedIn: One of the most direct and no-nonsense ways of getting the details of your vacation rental in front of potential guests is using one of LinkedIn’s Groups. Joining groups like travel agents, tourism boards, specialty travel, etc and posting a simple introduction message to its members about you, your rental and your excitement to host new guests can do wonders to generate new bookings.

 

8. Thorntree: Imagine taking Lonely Planet’s loyal traveler following and consolidating the individuals who have area-specific travel questions all in one place. There might be no better place to plug your vacation rental as an authentic/private/alternative place to stay than Thorntree, Lonely Planet’s uncensored traveler forum. Thorntree also tends to be very easy on moderation, meaning as long as you’re not overly promotional in your posting, the advertising is free! I also recommend offering advice in your area of expertise as this tends to garner much more traffic. 

 

Matt is the author of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog where you can find lots of juicy free tips for generating more bookings as well as his $77 report, which on average increases owners year-round occupancy by 10%. When he's not marketing his vacation rentals, Matt plays soccer with members of the US Men's National Team.

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tree.jpgRecently I spoke with a client who was lamenting over the fact that hiring a professional photographer to take stunning photos of her vacation rental would cost between $1000-$2000. After listening for a few minutes, I suggested she consider the photos not as a cost, but as an investment towards the future profit of her vacation rental. But she was having none of it.

 

“Whatever you want to call it. $1500 is still eating away at my bottom line,” she claimed. “I just don’t have thousands of dollars to throw away on these kinds of things, you know? I mean to say, I already bought plasma TVs for all the bedrooms and had the entire upstairs repainted.”

 

Vacation rental owners generally fall into two categories: those who view marketing techniques as costs and those who view them as investments. This particular client definitely viewed the photographs as a cost, as in, hiring a photographer would be yet another expense in operating her vacation rental business: an addition to the growing list of payments that she would never recoup back.

 

But what this client failed to realize, was that having strong photographs would directly impact her sales. Having strong photographs is an investment to her vacation rental, not a cost.

 

It can be very helpful to try and view your marketing decisions through a different lens. Ask yourself, does this purchase have the ability to pay for itself over time? In other words, will this purchase generate more bookings and if so, how many? If the answer is yes and future profitability is apparent, then you’d be an ignorant businessperson not to seize the opportunity.

 

As a vacation rental owner looking to generate more bookings, you need to be able to discern whether you’ll be paying a cost or making an investment. Let’s take a look at one of my favorite purchases – a one-time $89 Press Release with the industry gold standard of online public relations, PRWeb.com. This is one of my go-to tools to promote seasonal specials at my rentals, to boast about awards we receive, or to announce new features that we have added to our properties.

 

For just $89, I get my article distributed to all the major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing…etc.), submission to the major online news platforms (like Yahoo News and Topix), and permanent placement on PRWeb, a very powerful site. Other than my time spent writing the release, my cost here is $89 and it usually equates to several hundred clicks through to my rental website and a large handful of actual bookings. Since the cost per night at my rentals is $150, I multiply the return on my investment over and over again, every single time.

 

Investments aren’t just monetary either: time is a valuable expenditure too, particularly since many of us have other jobs. One good example is associating your property with niche tourism segments such as green travel. What might seem like an expensive “cost,” the roughly 15-20 hours I invest every year researching and posting on green travel forums pays for itself in a heartbeat. I am referring to open forums like Green Travel Forum by Yahoo. Since so few of my competitors ever think to list here, we enjoy year-long referrals, which more than compensate for the hours spent in registration.

 

It is possible, of course, to make poor marketing decisions that end up not working (and qualify as costs). But as long as you’re asking yourself the big question – will this purchase contribute to the future well-being of my rental bookings? – you’ve made a giant step in the right direction.

 

Matt is the author of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, which outlines free and inexpensive ways owners can generate more bookings. He is also the creator of 30 Bookings in 30 Days, a $77 report that is guaranteed to increase your occupancy in 30 days or less. When he's not marketing vacation rentals, Matt researches the best recipes for traditional Peruvian ceviche.