Many owners choose to create personal websites for their vacation rentals in addition to advertising their homes on listing sites. This is a great way to diversify your marketing plan, and with a variety of marketing tactics, you can help increase your chances for success.
Why create a personal website?
Feature additional photos or more local information. Most of the vacation rental websites out there place limitations on the number of photos you can upload or the amount of text you can include in your listing. A personal website will allow you to feature as much as you'd like, and it's a great way to answer your guests' common questions. You can provide details about area attractions and even include your rental rules. And, when prospective renters ask to see more photos, simply point them to your personal site instead of worrying about maximum file sizes for email attachments.
Control the appearance of your site. By building your own personal website, you can choose the layout of each page and create a design that suits you and your home. When you use a personal website, you are not restricted by design or layout. You are free to add functionality that makes it easy for both you and your renters to navigate.
Create a brand. Purchasing a domain name and building a website specifically for your own vacation rental business gives you the opportunity to create a brand around your vacation home. By giving it a unique name that's easy to remember, your guests will be more likely to find you again in the future by visiting your site directly or with the help of search engines.
Increase your credibility. Many owners feel that the professional appearance of their website is what gave their guests the confidence to rent from them. Some travelers might just feel that if your home is as nice as your website, it must be a good place to rent and you must be a good person with whom to do business.
How can I create a website?
There are plenty of books, websites and classes out there that can provide a beginner with a straightforward crash-course in web design. Plus, there are many easy-to-use programs available that are as simple and straightforward as Microsoft Word. Bear in mind that although it might get the job done, your website might not be quite as slick if you use one of these beginner programs.
If you have higher hopes for your website, you might just want to hire a professional web designer to achieve the type of website that meets the needs and expectations of you and your guests. Despite the fact that many owners like to do everything themselves, certain things can be left to the experts, who can perhaps create your site more quickly and efficiently.
Whether you attempt this on your own or choose to hire a pro, to start, search the web for other vacation rental websites and figure out what you like and what you don't like. Research different styles and take notes to be able to determine how you'd like to proceed or share with your web designer. The next most important step for you is to take lots of photos and write very descriptive text about your home and your area to include on the site once it's built.
What should I look for when hiring a web designer?
Your web designer should really understand the goals you have for your website and your level of experience. You want to be able to update the site yourself once it's built. To do this, you'll need to learn how to use a web editor like Dreamweaver or FrontPage or the site's content management system, which should be a pretty straightforward program for updating the text and appearance of your site.
To find a designer, you can look locally on the online Yellow Pages or Chamber of Commerce site, or you can get a recommendation from a friend. Remember, websites can be created from anywhere so don't be afraid to look beyond your city, too.
What will a personal website cost me?
The actual purchase of your domain name (the URL your renters will type in to see your website) is very economical, typically as low as $10 for the year. Web hosting is also relatively inexpensive, ranging from $8 to about $30 per month.
As for the actual creation of the site, many web designers will charge around $500 to $1500, but the price will really depend on the total number of pages and how fancy you want your site to be. However, you might be able to strike a deal with a friend, relative, or teenage neighbor knowledgeable in web design to build your site for you.
Should I use my personal website instead of my vacation rental listings?
You should still advertise on vacation rental websites because they simply have more search engine power than a small business or personal website.
You should never put all your eggs in one basket, and we definitely recommend continuing to do what works for you. But it doesn't hurt to try something new and add to your marketing mix.
Major sites, like HomeAway, VRBO and VacationRentals, have significant budgets dedicated to search engine optimization and paid Internet advertising, all of which bring travelers to your listings. Because the vacation rental industry is so competitive, the big sites simply have more weight in the search engines than a single vacation rental website. Once again, diversity should help your chances of success, and your personal website should really only be one component of your marketing plan and not your main marketing channel.
Besides, a personal website could help you close a deal with renters who are having trouble deciding where to stay. Imagine two very similar properties in the same area at comparable prices. The only difference is that one of the properties has a website where the owner features tons of pictures, information about local festivals and attractions, and guest reviews. Which would you choose?
What should I include in my personal website?
Accept online payments with a shopping cart or link to your PayPal account.
Include a link to your availability calendar.
Spell out your rental rates and rental policies.
Advertise specials or last-minute openings.
Address frequently asked questions.
Continue to update with area events.
How should I use my personal website?
Point renters to your website for more photos, vacation ideas and booking information in your correspondence or with a link in your email signature.
Give out business cards, magnets, and postcards which include your easy-to-remember website name.
Create a newsletter signup form on your site to keep in touch with past guests and interested renters.
Link to your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts to encourage social networking. This can help keep visitors coming back to your site.
There are many options for your personal website, from the creation to the cost to the overall look and feel. Be sure to do your research to figure out what you like and don't like, and don't be afraid to hire help when something just isn't your forté.
© Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2009