Suzy, I'm not a web designer but I've learned a bit or two along the way with several site overhauls. On your landing (home) page, search engines like keywords and metadata but humans get overwhelmed by lots of clutter. I'm a fan of clean, simple navigation...a few excellent photos (larger is better)...and a call to action on every page of your site. As a page visitor, I don't want to be bored to tears with blocks of copy that run on and on--sometimes below the fold. Many people are looking at dozens of properties during the search process. So find a happy medium with copy--keep it to-the-point and keyword rich. Some carefully chosen superlatives are all you need to add some spice.
I don't think I can narrow down my answer to any one of your choices because it takes several elements to create a good home page. Just do everything very well (photos, text, navigation, call to action) and in moderation.
I must Agree with the above advice from arnyg.
People don´t like to read, but the search engines recognise the text and keywords that you have on your landing page. Keep this in mind, make a short description of what it is you do, who are, and easily direct people to the appropriate information they are searching for.
Take a look at what we have done, maybe you can get some ideas, though this too is always a work in progress.
What my renters have told me were most important when they chose our cottage:
1. Lots of GOOD CURRENT pictures. I have a clickable floor plan for that.
2. Reviews. Before VRBO I had a link to reviews that I copied from our guest book. Now I have a link to the VRBO reviews on our listing.
3. One of the biggest is the list of improvements we've done each year since we bought it.
You can see our Chatterbox Too .
Great thread! Here's my abbreviated list..
- Large, clear, slideshow of professional-grade photos of your property and surrounding area
- Simple color scheme: do not use more than 3 colors
- Uniform font and font size
- Call to action: may be a contact form, phone number, reservations calender. Needs to be top front and center
- Not too much text: let your images do the talking and try to use (max) 1 paragraph of exlpaning
- One menu: simple and predictable menu on top bar or left hand side bar (don't try to get creative here)
- Your logo/identity: explain first and foremost what you are selling (ie. "3-Bedroom Ski Cottage For Rent")
- Outbound links: so many people put links to other websites but this is counteracting your reservation process
- Translation: The option to switch languages if your location is relevant
I actually just did a video seminar about this topic. So many people focus on getting users to their website: yet they forget that traffic is only one half of the equation. Once you figure out how to convert more traffic on your homepage, you'll see more bookings guaranteed. This is nice because it requires no additional investment: just making the most out of what you already have.
My website likely goes against every rule . . . . yet it appears to be successful and I have been complimented on the range of information I have included.
But, I would recommend a simple homepage, to start, which includes one to three pictures of your home, the location of your home within the town or resort (without giving an address), and a description of the key features of your home.
Photos are vital because, in my opinion, they will draw the visitor into the website; poor photos are likely to discourage the visitor from exploring further.
The location is important if your town or resort has naturall or other features visitors may want to be near. For example, if it is an ocean or lake rental - which beaches, parks, etc is it near and is it a walk or bike ride to the beach or park?
A brief description of the property would also be appropriate for the homepage including how many people your property sleeps, number of bedrooms and baths, description of kitchen, and any features you believe will attract guests.
You can build links to additional pages into your homepage and encourage people to explore further information on pages such as availablity and rates, planning your visit, floorplans, "25 things to do", a blog to cover local events and news of interest to your guests, etc.
The majority of visitors to my website visit the homepage and the availability and rates page. The next most popular is the photo album (70+ photos of the interior and exterior of my home and places of interest in our locale). The remaining pages are rarely visited, but I believe the detailed information on the other pages does demonstrate my commitment to my guests. Luckily, these pages don't require much updating.
I would encourage you to think about your target audience. Do you rent to many first time visitors or do your guests have some familiarity with the location? Do you rent to adults/couples, families, etc? Is your home casual or luxury? What type of information would YOU need to consider your home/location?
I think the best advice I can give based on my own website, and as a traveler renting homes for my family, is to keep the homepage simple. Use links to other pages to provide a visitor with as much or as little informaiton as they would like. The photos, location, and description of your home/area should be sufficient to acquaint a visitor with your home but will not inundate them with too much information that doesn't enter the preliminaty decision making.