Yes, your own website is definitely worth it. Now remember, it does take time and a lot of work to get up in the search results, but if you have someone who knows what they are doing with the SEO (search engine optimization), it won't take as long (still figure a few months at least though).
Things that will help you get moved towards the top of search results (in no particular order):
- Have a website name with your keywords in it
- Meta page titles and descriptions
- Meta keywords (but not as important as they used to be because of spamming)
- Alternate tags on all photos and graphics
- Relevant incoming links (i.e. link back to your website from forum posts like this one)
- Relevant outgoing links
- Minimum 300 words on the home page that incorporate your target keywords but don't spam
- Links within your website to your other website pages to create a strong "web"
- Get on Google Places
- Have at least one social media page/account, but more is better
- Link to those social media accounts
- Keep your content always fresh for the new Google current search results (Easiest way is to place a social media widget in the website and keep up on your social media posting. Also using a calendar widget works for this purpose.)
For example, if you search for "branson vacation home" - you will have a list of Google Places pop up first (of course, after the paid ads). Then, my site www.vacationhomeinbranson.com is there on the first page of natural results. Don't fall into the trap of the paying a marketing company to place you in those ad spots at the top of search results when you can place high in the natural search results.
I haven't done the Google Places yet since I am debating on how public to make my exact location. I have a Google map on my website to pinpoint our places, so I think that is enough for now, as I am happy with the number of bookings I have right now. I do have the address on Facebook so guests may "check in" if they would like.
I would still stay on at least one website that lists other vacation rentals, but try to choose one (or more) that will link back to your website. And ALWAYS give your website to every guest that inquires. Even state in your descriptions to direct people to your website for more information and pictures of your places.
There is another thread on the forums somewhere about this same topic as well.
Nature's Retreat and Canyon Retreat | www.vacationhomeinbranson.com
Website Design and Photography | www.marcinkdesigns.com
Great tips Tyann! Thanks for the refresher course on what to do.
I keep reading this stuff but it is hard to put all into practice (especially the social media things). Your 'link-back' idea is great! Thanks. David
I built my site through GoDaddy but they are expensive and difficult to use and I hate their politics.
Anybody have a suggestion for a good alternate to GoDaddy ???
There is some great info and advice on this thread. I'm new to the Community Page, but as vacation home owners, we've had great success with with alot of these techniques. We own a vacation home in Gatlinburg, TN and since tapping into the social media resources in combination with VRBO we've seen a 22% increase in rentals this year over last.
My wife and I were recently discussing the possiblity of offering additional marketing services to othe owners utilizing the techniques that we've found helpful inclusing:
1. Setting up and maintaining personal vacation home blog sites
2. Linking your blog site to your VRBO site and facebook page
3. Advertising your site on your home's local and regional Craigslist pages 3 times weekly including links to your VRBO site and blog site
4. Advertising your mid-week, seasonal and holiday specials
Here's a link to our vacation home blog site for reference http://rwpropertyholdings.blogspot.com/
We've considered setting rates as follows:
$49 initial site set-up and linkage
$15 monthly maintenance fee
We're looking for input and interest before kicking this off, so give me your honest opinions.
I use Bluehost and Yahoo for my sites. I like them both. Yahoo is a bit more expensive, but it tags onto my regular Yahoo email, and the site statistics are very user friendly. Bluehost is less expensive and known for running PHP scripts well. Both have excellent customer service in my experiences with them.
Nature's Retreat and Canyon Retreat | http://www.vacationhomeinbranson.com
Website Design and Photography | http://www.marcinkdesigns.com
SFowner, I just had to transfer my 2 web sites ( hosted free by Cox) to GoDaddy and the rate was $60 a year. I thought that was very reasonable considering I used to pay zero. My sister-in-law does all my web services so I don't have the challenge of dealing with the web language. http://home.comcast.net/~soozweb/ If you get tired of the hassle send Susie an email and ask for help. She's great.
Great tips Tyann!
I think it's important for vacation rental owners (many of whom may not be super computer savvy) to know that anyone can create a website using a free platform like Wordpress in an afternoon.
Wordpress is great, and I recommend it to all vacation rental owners, because you can easily change content (blog posts, prices, testimonials...etc) without the help of an expert. To get set up, either...
A. If you are confident in your abilities, buy a domain/hosting (I like GoDaddy), install the free Wordpress software on your hosting (GoDaddy makes this as easy as a few clicks), then log in to your back end and start designing your site.
B. Simply use a freelance designer on a site like Joomlancers.com to get Wordpress set up for you. Do a quick Google search for "Free Wordpress Themes" and send him/her your choice along with the content (images, text, layout) for your site.
I have walked owners through this seemingly daunting process in about 1 hour. Choose a free theme that uses images front and center (I like the options here: http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/wordpress/free-portfolio-photo-gallery-wordpress-themes/). All together, this process is worth its weight in gold. In response to the primary question in this thread -- "Have others had success with their own website?" -- I wonder how you can have success WITHOUT it?!
Your own site allows you to alleviate reliance on listing sites (that's directed at everyone who complains about not getting enough good leads via VRBO/HA anymore) and truly demonstrate some uniqueness and authenticity in your destination.
Matt is the author of Vacation Rental Marketing Blog: the DIY guide to increase your rental bookings for free.
Tyann...I agree with Sarah from web Chalet...you listed great tips and went to a lot of effort to help out. Thanks web chalet also.
One of the things, that I have been reading about recently that helps out with links for your website is to have a blog.
Also, the more reserch you can do a head of time, the better. Not just on the content, etc. for your website but the company that hosts your site...there are a lot of them out there.
If I had it to do over again, I would chose a host to set up my website that caters to vacation rentals. The one I have now does not. It is also not very user friendly and is hard to edit.
- Have a website name with your keywords in it
Great tips, Tyann!
You are right on that a vacation rental website is well worth it. I have also included some links to helpful tools that will help you optimize your website.
1. Choose a domain that includes your keywords is key! If you want to find out what people are searching for, check out the Google Keyword Tool . A good rule of thumb is to include your location in the domain name. Are guests searching for "cabins" or "vacation rentals" in your area? You can find this info here! For example, you can see that there are 1,600 monthly searches for the term "Mount Shasta Rental." Thus, the website http://www.mountshastarental.com/ is great choice if you are trying to go after this keyword.
2. Keeping your content fresh and new is also important. A blog is a great way to add new content on a daily or weekly basis about local events or area info that your guests may find helpful. Wordpress, Tumblr and Posterous are three great options.
3. A website is a great way to keep in touch with past guests. You can add a newsletter sign up option on your website and email past guests about deals and other promotions.
4. Just like your HomeAway listing, pictures are very important. Your website visitors should easily be able to view your property photos. The images should be large and high res. Plus, if you choose a clean website design, the pictures will really stand out.
5. Track your traffic. In order to see if your website is successful, you need to have some metrics. Google Analytics is free and will give you more information than you can every ask for. You can see the number of website visitors and page views, and even see the locations where visitors are coming from.
Let me know if you have any additional questions! Lastly, our clients have seen a lot of success in local search by adding a Google Place page.
Around 45% of our business comes from our own website at http://www.kendalcottages.com
We are only in our first full year (opened for our first guests in April of 2010) but business has been good.
I think our domain name (which I registered long before we bought the property) has been helpful, as it means we are doing well for a number of key terms such as:
kendal cottage - #1 on Google
kendal cottages - #1, #2 and #3 on Google
kendal apartment - #2 and #3 on Google
kendal apartments - not ranking so well just yet
kendal self-catering - #3 on Google
kendal holiday - #6 on Google
kendal holiday cottage - #1 and #2 on Google
kendal holiday cottages - #1 and #2 on Google
It's not just down to the domain of course, I also try to make sure we are 'out there' as much as possible, that I blog regularly, etc. etc.
My day job is online tourism marketing so that helps a lot of course...
tyann... although your general advice is helpful, it's not entirely accurate, or at least out-dated. Just for the record, the meta keywords tag will NOT help you move up the search results. It's not just 'less important' - it's no longer important at all (as far as moving up the rankings in Google is concerned).
Approximately 80% of our business comes from our own website which we started 5 years ago. www.cairnsholidayhomes.com.au
We were lucky enough to secure the domain name of Cairns Holiday Homes, which has given us a great advantage in terms of specific key words in a Google search.
Having a website that has a content management system is not as difficult as it might seem, and is well worth the money. We use a joomla template, and with not a lot of experience, have managed to negotiate around the site making changes and updating it. Our technical help is very quick to fix any problems that we get stuck with.
We also advertise on HomeAway, VRBO, FlipKey and Homelidays.co.uk, but none of these sites bring in the traffic compared to our own website.
Set up a Facebook Page. I have just read today that you no longer need 25 likes to secure your "Vanity" URL http://blog.hubze.com/2011/09/no-longer-need-25-likes-to-get-a-facebook-vanity-url/
Good luck with the website.
Our web site doesn't cost but about $50/yr (bluehost.com). I haven't considered trying to actually get bookings from it. I use it to supplement our VRBO listing. Most of our renters are young families with a grandparent or two thrown in for good measure. They do most of their cooking in the house rather than eating out. They appreciate the kitchen inventory, the list of other things provided, the links to things to do on the Outer Banks. This helps them determine what they do and don't need to pack. The interactive floor plan shows them exactly what to expect, and many of them choose who gets which bedrooms ahead of time so there won't be any squabbles when they arrive.
It's all home grown, nothing fancy. The trickiest part was the floor plan which I did with PhotoShop, but you could just hand draw a floor plan and scan it as a jpg and include it just like any picture. I think there are free apps for making hot spots and links out of the areas in the floor plan. I used DreamWeaver, but that costs. The easy part is to just make multiple pages with lots of pictures of each area.
Our rental area is just about all rentals, very few residents, thousands of rental cottages, so I don't think we would be successful at this time trying to get all our bookings through our site. We have only 6 weeks of repeat renters, and only 2 of those weeks is high season, and our two week September (5 years) won't be coming back because their daughter has now started school. I think the $600 or so we pay to VRBO has been well worth the money.
I agree with the above replies. A personal web site isn't magic, but it is very helpful and it works together with your other marketing efforts. Google will automatically find it, but in high competition markets like ours (maui condo rentals), it is extremely difficult to get ranked highly. I created kulakane302.com four years ago to supplement/complement our VRBO listing, and have followed nearly all the SEO rules, but it still ranks far behind the big rental management companies in Google searches using any search terms that I expect a potentital guest would use. Nonethless, I believe that having a personal web site is very worthwhile, because it allows us to provide much more information to our guests and in ways that would not work or fit within the constraints of a VRBO listing. I also embed some of my YouTube videos in the web site, and include my calendar on my web site. Mostly, it's a convenient way to provide a lot of additional information to my guests.
Overall, I would say that my personal web site does not bring in a lot of guests (maybe 15-20% of the total), but it really helps convert inquiries into rentals. I would say that more than 50% of inquiries that I want to have as guests end up renting.
I also recently created a Kulakane 302 Facebook page, and it also links to the web site and our YouTube channel.
IIn addition to the above, I run a low-budget Google Adwords campaign, thus creating a 5-point marketing effort - VRBO, personal web site, YouTube channel, Facebook, and Google Adwords. It's a lot of work (and money spent on VRBO and Google Adwords), but we have all the guests we want.
Mauizeus and any other owners with websites,
What are the most important features of your website? Are there any features that you wish your website had? We are always trying to improve our websites for vacation rental owners and managers and would appreciate any feedback.
Here is a quick list that we put together:
- Vacation Rental Template is customizable: you can change colors of the website design, etc.
- Easy to Edit: you can log in and make changes yourself with no tech know-how.
- SEO: Website have Page Titles and meta tags and are optimized for search.
- Website syncs with your HomeAway calendar.
- Websites has social media tools built in (Example, look at the Facebook widget in the footer of this website:
- Website has a Blog
- Website allows you to add Local Info
- Local Weather Widget
- Vacation Rental Reviews
thanks in advance for your thoughts!
We have found that 99% of our bookings have been through HomeAway and Holidaylettings.
It just seems that if potential guests Google their desired location, accommodation requirements etc., the big company names automatically come up first in their search. We have been very happy with this way of advertising, as it seems to lend some 'legitimacy' to our apartment....
Having said that, we have put together our own personal website www.thevenetianterrace.com so that when we receive inquiries, we respond immediately with our standard form, along with a link to our website which explains in much broader detail our holiday home, policies and other pertinent information. This has done much to turn inquiries into definite reservations, plus I think it adds to the confidence of the person making the booking.
Although we have only been rental owners for the past 6 months, we have had 2 (!!!!) reservations from people who found us on Google.........page 15!!!!!! Kudos for their perseverance!
I have VRBO, local chamber of commerce and my own websites which I pay google adwords $50 a month for. I get about 150 hits a week on each of my sites and about half come from google searches, the other half split between vrbo and the chamber of commerce site. I've setup a website to help people with my experiences, check it out and see if I can answer any questions to help you. http://www.vacationrentalhelper.com
I think having a personal site is a great way to provide extra information on your area (expert resource) that can make you stand out from the competition. I don't think we will ever be in a position to rely on our website alone, a mixture of holiday rental advertisements on portals and personal website works.
Another hosting option I haven't seen mentioned in this thread is Google Sites. It's free and offers a fairly simple editor tool to create your site. There are some limitations, but we've managed to build both our vacation rental web sites (Beech Mountain Bliss and Sunset Beach Bliss) with it, and get a fair amount of business through them (see this article on our vacation rental websites for specifics). It integrates well with Google Calendar, Google Docs and Picasaweb, which we use for our Availability Calendar, Rates and Photos respectively.
As several other people have mentioned, we have found blogs to be a good way of improving our SEO, while providing useful information for guests too. We set ours up on Blogger (Beech Mountain Bliss Blog and Sunset Beach Bliss Blog). I mention these and other benefits in this article on starting a blog for your vacation rental.
Reciprocal links is one very important part of web development. If we all have websites why don't we exchange links? But in a different way. Incoming links are more important than reciprocals, so if website A links to website B which links to website C. It's like a pyramid, and everyone gets incoming links.
Anyone interested in getting involved?
It would need a coordinator to control the setup, which I am prepared to do. You would need to know how to make changes to your website, or have a webmaster who will make the changes for you in a reasonable time frame.
If you want get involved e mail me at email@example.com with your website URL
A personal website is one of many prongs of a successful online campaign. It can help with being found, but as someone else mentioned above, once you are found, it can convert inquiries into rentals. The more professional your site looks, the better you will do.
As others have said, there are now a lot of ways to get a website created and hosted. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you that my company does this as well. We are currently taking a limited number of clients to beta test our design/hosting and marketing packages.
I think it always pays to have your own domain name (yourhome.com) versus some of the "free" hosts (yourhome.blogspot.com). After that, it's all about visibility, including search engines, backlinks, directories, portal sites, etc. The more effort you put into it, the better your results will be over time.
I have a personal website, but find I use it more to sell the rental to my guests.
Unless I wish to pour tons of money into SE, I find that advertising on Homeaway and many other sites, these brings me the iunquiries. I then direct the guests to my site which sells them on my homes. I also have the lliberty of tons more photos on my site and limited photos on Homeaway.
Great discussion here, it defintiely is important to have some visual eye candy to look appealing to travelers. I know I would personally rather check out a pretty website dedicated to a home than have to dig through VRBO and stuff. Here's a great informative blog I read recently regarding websites for rentals: http://blog.rentini.com/2012/06/06/a-website-is-essential-for-your-vacation-rental-business/
Hi there everyone,
I see that this tread was started newarly 2 years ago, and I just wante to check in to see how things with your website are going?
What are some of the issues you've had or struggles? I know that the time investment is huge with a personal website.
Additionally, I am always reading, researching, and learning the newest and most effective marketing techniques and trends. I am curoius to know how many have incorporated video sales marketing into their website?
Just curious in how things are going?