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I will be presenting the session on making your presence known on the Web (see the agenda), which is largely about search engine optimization. I'd like to make sure that this session, while only about 30 minutes, is as useful to you as possible.
I expect the attendees of the session will have a range of experience and awareness of SEO and findability on the Web. I can cover the basics (what SEO is, what HomeAway does and what you can do), but I'd like to try to address specific questions, too.
We won't have time for a number of in-depth SEO reviews for listings, but I would prefer to use attendees' listings as examples if anyone is open to that.
So if you have a question that you think others may also have or that people could benefit from, generally, please add it to this discussion thread.
Thanks in advance.
I can't attend again this year (conflict with Association Budget hearings). I would like to know how important the name of the property and location are as key words and if they improve SEO. If I could be there, I would definitely want you to use my listing as an example - so I'll know how to improve it.
I am really looking forward to this session -- but really think we could have a full day on this and still not learn enough.
You can use my listings so I can see what you would improve.
I will be attending the seminar and would like to know why a single property specific listing url within homeaway/vacationrentals/vrbo will show up in search results and most others do not. It seems to me that homeaway's focus is on the vacation city to be placed vs a specfic listing within that area. Is there anything we can do to our listings other than content that will help get our listing to be indexed and placed in google?
This is a great question. I'm going to oversimplify my answer because it's a complex topic, but I hope it's still helpful.
Without going into a lot of detail, we try to create a baseline of optimization for the entire site so that as many pages as possible have an opportunity to be discovered and make it into Google's index to potentially show up for searches. That's the part where we are most in control.
Let's assume that all of the listings in a location are in the index, as well as the location (or city) page. There is a great variety of search phrases for which any of the pages might be relevant. Some pages may be slightly less relevant, but have other strong signals that cause Google to prefer it over other pages (links from other websites, mentions in forums or social sites, low bounce rates, etc.). Unfortunately most of the signals aren't known, nor can we know how they are weighted.
Adding complexity is that all of these pages (let's assume for now that we're talking just about HomeAway.com pages) are weighed against each other first. A winner may emerge for a query, but then that is weighed against all of the other pages that might be relevant for that query.
Data has shown that most searchers prefer city pages when searching with shorter, more general phrases, such as "austin vacation rentals" because they are interested in seeing a variety of options. These types of phrases tend to have consistent search volume, so it's easier for search engines to determine which are the most appropriate pages to rank.
It gets a bit messier with lower volume, longer-tail phrases, such as "austin condo downtown rental for sxsw", which is quite specific. It includes a property type, a particular area of town and an event / time of year. This is where you will more often see listings ranking instead of city pages.
Whether that is the best experience for searchers is debatable. One person who searches that and lands on one property might think it's perfect, but a different person might not like what he sees and then leave with a bad impression (perhaps thinking there aren't enough options).
Part of our job is to provide the best experience possible for people who enter at listing pages. One of the great challenges is understanding what people expect when they do land on a listing page because there is such variety in the search phrases they use (and their expectations). There are hundreds of thousands of different phrases per month, some of which will happen once and never again.
One opportunity for you, then, is to determine what about your property is uniqe or most valued and emphasize that in the content of your listing. This should help differentiate your listing from other listings, potentially carving off a segment of search phrases for which your listing is more relevant than either the city pages or the other listings. A good way to get at what is most valued about your property is asking your past renters or from your reviews.
The next best opportunity to help your listing (as you might have guessed) is to get links to it. There are often natural (and free) places to link to your listing in the course of your Internet life. If you have a LinkedIn profile, for example, you can link to a website on it. If you use Facebook or Twitter, or you participate in forums, you can link to your listing in your profile or in your posts (sometimes - you need to check site guidelines). This site allows links to your listings, for example.
The other benefit of such links is that people may notice them and visit. It's not always about SEO - having your link in an email signature could yield some renters over time.
As with many things moderation and context are key. If it feels inappropriate or like you're spamming your friends, don't do it. There's already a lot of noise in life; people appreciate the increased signal that comes with relevance.
And please don't spend money on it; buying links is not appreciated by Google and can negatively affect the sites, and therefore your own results.
I know this was long-winded, but I hope helpful. Feel free to ask more here or at the summit.