For most of us, search engines are mysterious tools that not only magically give us the answers we need (driving directions, movie times, restaurant reviews, and more), but also help bring renters to our vacation home listings. So when you receive a phone call from a company promising to get your vacation rental listing to rank #1 in Google, we can see why you’d be intrigued. But think again – it’s time to put on your skeptic’s hat and consider that this company’s promise may actually be more of an overpromise.
Many of us can be easily tempted to purchase a service when the end result seems out of reach. For example, you might tackle a small repair like a broken doorknob yourself, but for electrical work, you’d probably turn to a pro. Well, search engines are the same way. Unless you are an Internet expert, mastering the art of producing a #1 search result can be pretty daunting…or next to impossible. So when these companies present you with such a seemingly lucrative opportunity, stop and think: can they really deliver?
When a company promises to make your property listing rank #1 in Google, they are referring to paid search. Here’s what that means.
When you type a search term or phrase into Google, you’ll see two different kinds of results. What appears on the left is called natural or organic search. These websites show up because, according to Google’s algorithms, they most closely relate to the search terms you entered. The full ins and outs of these algorithms are extremely complicated, but search engine optimization (SEO) professionals have built careers trying to get their websites closer to the top of Google searches. So, it’s not something anyone is going to master in one day.
The results on the right side of the screen are sponsored ads, like Google Adwords or Pay Per Click (PPC), and that’s exactly how they work. Based on the popularity of the keywords, Google will charge a certain amount each time someone clicks on that ad. So if you want your site to show up close to the top for “Tampa vacation homes for rent”, you’ll be bidding against everyone else who wants their site to show up for those keywords.
Next time you receive one of these phone calls, here are the top 5 reasons why you should pass.
1. Portal sites give you co-op buying power. When you and a bunch of other vacation rental owners in your area pay fees to list your homes on a website, a significant portion of this money should already go towards paid online advertising. How can you tell if it is? Do a search for vacation rentals in your area using a variety of phrases. Does the site you list with appear on both the left and right-hand side of the search results? Sites like HomeAway, VRBO and VacationRentals.com employ entire teams of SEO professionals and spend a significant amount of money on paid advertising to help your listings appear higher in both types of search results. Due to the sheer amount of competition out there, you should rely on the buying power of your listing sites to improve your presence in the search engines.
2. PPC campaigns might blow your budget. Sure, bidding on a phrase like “Destin, FL vacation rentals” sounds like a great marketing idea - until you hear how much it costs. Because of the highly competitive nature of these popular keywords, you’re going to be paying top dollar to show up anywhere near the top. If you only have a limited budget, you can blow through it pretty quickly with this strategy – and the clicks may not even be worth your while.
3. The ads may not be not targeted. Let’s say you decide to bid on these highly competitive keywords. If a traveler is looking for a 6-bedroom property in Destin, and the ad for your 1-bedroom condo pops up, you’re wasting your money. This traveler is going to click on your ad and immediately click off when he/she finds that your property is not right for him/her. Conversely, this company offering to make your site #1 might do so by using some obscure set of keywords, severely limiting your chances for success. So, if you end up getting a lot of unqualified clicks from people who really aren’t interested in renting your home, then you might be throwing money away.
4. Natural search is considered more reliable. Admittedly, there is a degree of skepticism when it comes to paid search results. Users want to know that the sites they visit will help directly answer their questions rather than feed them irrelevant information. According to SEOMoves.org, about 80% percent of search engine users will click on a natural search result before, or instead of, a sponsored link. Not only are natural search results displayed more prominently, but they arguably garner a higher degree of trust than pay-per-click results. Furthermore, because of all the information out there, Internet users (especially travelers) will refine their searches by making them more detailed to help narrow their results. Your chances of showing up in the search engines for a longtail, and typically more qualified, search are greater when devoting more resources to the content of your listing rather than the depth of your pockets.
5. Reduced likelihood of long-term success. Perhaps the biggest issue with paid online advertising is that it only lasts as long as your budget. When you shut down your daily budget for clicks, your paid link goes away. On the other hand, natural search and search engine optimization allow you to refresh your content and rank higher in Google on the merits of that content, rather than your ability to buy your way into the system.
Perhaps you are still intrigued by the prospect of showing up first in Google search results. However, before you jump into this venture, be sure to consider all the other homeowners who have received the same offer. How can you all be #1? Just remember to learn the methods to their madness before accepting an offer that could cost you big bucks with few results.
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