43 Replies Latest reply: Nov 14, 2018 11:27 AM by ohst8er RSS

    What is the current experience with inquires way down?

    khs Contributor

      I've used VRBO successfully on several of my properties for nearly 15 years. This is the first time ever that I've not received a single inquiry in nearly 2 month from VRBO.

      I've spoken with my premier partner about this and she basically praised me telling me how great my listing was. The one suggestion she gave me was to try a new thumbnail she selected. It failed and my page views dropped even more. Is this a growing trend others are experiencing as well? Or am I seriously out of touch on how to play with their rankings?

        • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
          feibus CommunityAmbassador

          Provide us with your listing # and we can provide more in-depth specific feedback.

            • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
              khs Contributor

              houseofsummersand.com  domain name takes you to my page my listing #72946 which is the property i'm focused on and spoke to my PP about.

              We are going in to holiday high season in Costa Rica which is typically busy.

              Yes I do have a pretty full calendar which I know effects my injures as my calendar is not open

              which I am grateful for. I typically book out for high season accept this year.

               

              I did do a search for my area and properties no where near ours show up and are lumped together.

            • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
              green_mango Active Contributor

              Is it low season for you, or do you have limited availability? 

               

              Try doing a search after clearing cookies (or whatever) and see where you land - make sure your listing is coming up with the right location and search parameters.  I didn't get any inquiries for awhile - turns out my listing was hidden, even though I was told it was online - oops!  So I'd first make sure there's not a glitch impacting views - and of course feel free to post your listing number to invite feedback. 

              • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                u0999 Premier Contributor

                I tried all that. different thumbnails, etc. new property I have gets too few views.

                • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                  ohst8er Premier Contributor

                  khs, I have no idea why you are not getting inquiries and cannot even take a stab at it because I know nothing about your area.  Your property looks beautiful, and I'd love to stay there!  What I DO suggest is, try searching your area and one by one click on filters.  I see you are a two bedroom.  Click to search by 2 bedrooms and see where you show.  Then click the next most common filter someone might select, etc, and make sure you are showing up by each filter search.  I am nothing short of amazed by how many of my competitors fall off the filter grid by not having obvious things selected.  Perfect example, If I do a search in my tiny area of Hilton Head for 3 bedrooms it shows there are 284 3 bedrooms.  If I click fishing as a nearby activity, 133 of those fall off the grid.  WE ARE A 12 MILE SQUARE ISLAND, SURROUNDED BY WATER!  EVERYBODY should have fishing checked off as a nearby activity!!  That's just one example. Some of my competitors don't have AC checked, A full 130 listings don't have shopping and relaxation checked as a nearby activity.  The list goes on. 

                   

                  From time to time I will recheck filters.  I start as I explained above, I search by 3 bedrooms, see where I am, then I check the next box, and view, then the next, etc.  That's how I learned last year that we fell off the radar when Internet/WIFI was selected. 

                   

                  No idea if this will help you, but it's worth the exercise. 

                    • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                      khs Contributor

                      Yes, I was researching filters yesterday. Is there a specific place on our listing/dashboard that we can chose all the obvious filters for our property?

                      It seems I do and then things on my listing disappear when HA they makes changes. For my property the most important selling feature (or filter) is beach/ocean front and the amazing view. This is what I try to sell first and foremost. Not the kitchen or bedroom..

                      Thanks for your input.

                        • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                          ohst8er Premier Contributor

                          khs, from time to time I go to my owner's log in and pick thru everything.   Click thru your Amenities section, sometimes they make changes to what you have to offer (and sometimes, weird things are randomly clicked that you did not click yourself-like wood stove??).  Check thru everything, safety features, etc.  LOCATION is where you find the stuff like ocean front, ocean view, fishing, golf, etc.  Scroll all the way to the bottom and make sure you have everything checked.  I click on every tab and look to make sure I'm not missing anything.  I do this about once a month just to be certain.  And every few months I change my heading, and make sure my description is completely up to date, and rotate around a few of my pictures.  And I also occasionally ask my friends to click and look thru my listing.  Not sure if any of this will help you, but it certainly cannot HURT.  Good luck!

                      • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                        ohst8er Premier Contributor

                        khs, as far as changing your thumbnail, I just don't agree with this.  To me, your thumbnail is like your "brand," your "logo."  Target doesn't change it's logo, McDonalds doesn't change theirs, etc.  We updated ours halfway thru being on VRBO, but it only strayed slightly from the original.   I know there are some on here that disagree with this, that's fine.  A few have beautiful cottages and they show their winter view and summer view respectively.   I think that's just as effective.

                         

                        I want people who are looking thru our over 7,000 competitors to remember ME.   If they remember that they looked at our listing and it didn't meet their criteria that's ok too, and I don't need to confuse them by presenting a  different thumbnail in an attempt to "trick" them into looking again.  I do change the order of my pictures from time to time, I do update my pics when we update our condo, or when my husband takes some new scenic shots, or when I want to showcase a different "thing to do" based on the season.  I also change my heading from time to time.  But I NEVER change my thumbnail.   Some of my competitors show a picture of the beach and some show the pool.  I have several competitors that show the EXACT SAME pool picture, so you can have ten listings with the same thumbnail.  I don't see that as a benefit, but to each his own.

                        • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                          floridarob Active Contributor

                          I absolutely would change your thumbnail (I assume it is the first one), and many more of your photos. Why?

                           

                          I had to click through at least 15 photos before I saw one that told me anything about your property! If you show photos which sell your destination (instead of your property) on a vacation rental listing, you are basically wasting the opportunity to sell your property.  You don't need to sell the destination. On a listing site guests are looking for places to stay in particular locations because they have already decided where they want to stay.

                           

                          Your job is to convince them to stay with you instead of the 30 or 40 (or in my case, 40,000) other properties that you are competing with. If you have a photograph that would not be out of place on your neighbor's listing, get rid of it!  Perhaps one or two out of 50 maybe should be used to highlight nearby amenities, (as in, so nearby that they make your property special) but not endless generic photos of beaches and animals that say nothing about your property!

                           

                          My reaction looking through them? Who cares? I stopped around #35 and couldn't be bothered to keep going through them. That's bad. Especially when it looks like you have a nice property.

                           

                          Your photos are all roughly 4x3 proportions (and less/worse) vertical! You are wasting screen real estate that HA gives you to feature your property. Where you could have a nice wide angle view of your living area, showing how it relates to the kitchen and the outdoors, I can't see it because your photos are almost square in proportion. We live in an era of widescreen movies and wide photos.  HA gives you the space, make use of it!  Your photos ALL need to be redone, as they are doing a very poor job of helping you sell your property. (They have recently increased the resolution they recommend/will accept as well, and everyone should be resubmitting maximum resolution photos as soon as possible.)

                           

                          I didn't examine your listing beyond the photos.

                            • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                              khs Contributor

                              Well thank you for your blunt evaluation. I will consider your input and appreciate your personal opinion.

                              Considering I've been using these photos in the order you see them and completely booking out my condo for many years, these ideas did not occur to me. Thats said, it's a whole new game on HA. So I will certainly reorder them and reevaluate especially if verticals are represented. As I am aware that horizontal is optimum.

                              • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                khs Contributor

                                I also wanted to add that for my property the most important selling feature (or filter) is the beach/ocean front location and the amazing view. We are known for our sunsets from the picture window. So this is what I try to sell first and foremost over and above the kitchen or bedroom. This is the image I've used successfully for years as my thumbnail that I believed branded us more then an interior photo.

                                 

                                DSCN5036.jpg

                                  • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                    floridarob Active Contributor

                                    khs wrote:

                                     

                                    I also wanted to add that for my property the most important selling feature (or filter) is the beach/ocean front location and the amazing view. We are known for our sunsets from the picture window. So this is what I try to sell first and foremost over and above the kitchen or bedroom. This is the image I've used successfully for years as my thumbnail that I believed branded us more then an interior photo.

                                     

                                    DSCN5036.jpg

                                     

                                    While I agree that this is a very nice photo, and has some great colours, nothing about it makes it "yours".  In other words, if I stood in front of the next door neighbours property and shot a picture of the sunset, it would look pretty much the same, wouldn't it? NOTHING tells me that this is the view from your particular property, you are trusting the reader to 'get' that, but you are providing no visual proof of it.

                                     

                                    Now... If the same photo had been taken from your living room, so that your patio doors frame the outside view showing this sunset, defining for guests that THIS is the view from YOUR living room... or your patio furniture, or something that is unique to your property was in the foreground, so that a guest understood that THIS is the actual unobstructed view from your property... THEN it would have some value.

                                     

                                    But think about it... It is a beautiful picture of a sunset. And if you look at it in detail, there is nothing in the foreground, not even beach. The water goes right to the bottom edge of the picture, which means that this photo could have been taken from a boat 30 feet off-shore, 100 yards down the beach, or copied from a travel magazine, or from the other side of the island... or whatever.

                                     

                                    I understand that these may be your own photos and you may be very attached to them, but you have to think about this from a marketing point of view.  That is a beautiful great photo of a sunset.  But in reality it actually has NOTHING to do with your property.  You are assuming that a guest will make the connection that this is the view from your property, but why should they?  Are they also going to see wild animals out your front window like the ones that appear in your other photos? If that is silly, then it is just as silly to think that a potential guest is going to think that this photo has anything to do with your property.  Remember, you can't rely on captions to explain or sell what a photo is or is for. Photos are supposed to speak a thousand words on their own, they should never need explanation.

                                     

                                    Imagine if you had a photo of the interior of your property with this view showing through the window, or a photo of what is clearly your front yard with this view in the background.  THAT would sell YOUR property.

                                     

                                    As it is, you are selling your location, and showing off beautiful scenic pictures, but that won't do anything to get a guest to book with you.

                                     

                                    I realize that my explanation of this may seem blunt, and I don't mean to sound attacking or critical if I do. It is just that as a seasoned marketer, I look at everything from a marketing point of view... in other words, based on its ability to sell, which ultimately is what we are trying to do here. I love beautiful sunsets as much as anybody, but I don't let that interfere with my goal, which would be to maximize my chances of getting bookings with a property listing. This photo simply does not do that.

                                     

                                    You also need to establish credibility photographically, with your first few photos, so that readers understand that your photos ARE real and are of your property. Once you have done that, you could include a photo like this (around #48 or something like that), but to include it earlier does little to help you sell your property. (Sorry.)

                                • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                  green_mango Active Contributor

                                  Thanks for posting your link - your thumbnail photo is excellent - it's colorful and eye catching.  I agree with the suggestion above about having more interior pics sooner - looks like first one is #19?  That's too many exterior shots before we see the goods.  So, here's my feedback on the interior, which may not go over well since I saw you're an interior stylist/decorator specializing in VR homes.....  but, your condo looks dark/outdated and could use some fresh decor and furnishings (sorry!).  It might have worked well 10+ years ago, but when I looked at other nearby condos there were several that had been nicely renovated and felt newer and more "beachy" than Mediterranean.  Also, you simply might have more competition than you used to have - do you know if the market has grown over the last couple years there? 

                                   

                                  Also, I couldn't easily tell if you have wifi. 

                                   

                                  Lastly, that's awesome that you have your own domain - I'd connect it to your own website instead of redirecting to VRBO - that way people can find you in either place - so if they want to book through VRBO they may choose to, or if they find your website first they can choose to save money and book direct.  Either way, it's helpful to work on diversifying your marketing.  The majority of my new guests come from VRBO, so I know it's tempting to redirect there, but if they find your website before they find VRBO that's great.  Also, I focus my VRBO listing on my home, with a few local photos added, but then I use my website for extra photos that most guests don't want to see, but some do, since some (like me!) want to see as much as possible about the home they'll be renting.  So, your own website might be a great place for many of the exterior/local photos.  Like I said, I love your thumbnail - but since it's grouped with so many other exterior shots it's also not clear that that photo is the view from your condo - maybe the subtitles explain that (but subtitles are harder to see these days since you have to click and expand the whole photo).

                                   

                                  Hope I didn't offend you with the critique - good luck!

                                    • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                      khs Contributor

                                      green_mango thanks or the critique and input. No offense takin. I've learned that on this platform one can not do so, as you will get quite the variety of opinions and input one contradicting the other. So in the end, we shift through and make changes that feel right.

                                      I will be changing the order of my photos, updating others so this is suggestion that has been well made.

                                       

                                      Keep in mind you can only provide so many interior photos of a small 2 bed/2 bath condo. Most my guests spend very little lime in the condo . My most frequent question is about the beaches and near by sites 

                                      Yes the market has changed a lot and some new owners have made some great updates. However, most by the same company managed by the same PM so they all start to look and feel the same which is "beachy" and contrived.Out of 84 reviews, none have suggested and interior update. Although I have considered doing so.

                                       

                                      Most of the owners are not t all pleased with their HA bookings in our area. So we continue to try new things and remain open to exploring other options.

                                       

                                      Does anyone not have wifi? How can one exist without? I repeatedly update this on my dashboard t so not sure why it did not show up for you. Will check yet again on this.

                                       

                                      As far a diversify my marketing, I use Facebook and I do paid promotion /advertising on it which is more fluid and less stagnant then a website for more current updates.I also use Pinterest. I have several videos with a custom, personalized song. I use custom made photo cards and postcards mailed to guests. I have a 6 page insiders guide in pdf I provide. So yes, I am trying new things and working toward LSI.

                                        • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                          ohst8er Premier Contributor

                                          khs, the WIFI thing is quirky, or atleast it used to be, and I have no idea if it was fixed or not.    It reminds me of my 1966 house.  Over the years people have made changes, done renovations etc, but have left original light switches.  I have atleast a half dozen light switches throughout my house that don't seem to go to anything.   That WAS the issue with WIFI, you could check the "Internet" box under amenities, but it wasn't connected to anything on the traveler's side (even though you could search by Free Wifi, or some such search button).   The work around was to put something about it in your description.  THAT somehow connected to the filter button on the traveler's side.  >>>BUT<<<<<  if you put something like "We are pleased to offer complimentary wifi to all our guests," or anything like that, it was again a light switch to nowhere. 

                                           

                                          So unless this has all been fixed to something sensible, if you want to be searchable you have to say the words FREE Wifi in your description.  Not complimentary, just FREE.     As soon as I changed my wording from "We are pleased to offer complimentary wifi.... to Free Wifi, we were magically searchable again.

                                            bang_head_here_classic_round_sticker-rc58e9881dd974cacb39fb54670d51269_v9waf_8byvr_307.jpg

                                          • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                            green_mango Active Contributor

                                            Even if you can only provide so many photos of a 2bd/ba condo, I'd definitely recommend leading with them so they're seen before photo #19 - as a traveler I don't want to scroll through 18 photos to see a photo of the actual unit for rent.  For the photos, if you have limited space, do some different angles to give a sense of the layout.  I also agree with the idea to make your "money shot" clear that it's the view from your condo - love the idea of framing it from your windows etc....  so it's really easy for the traveler to differentiate that from the other exterior shots that are not from your balcony etc...

                                             

                                            Also, one more suggestion I forgot to mention earlier was I think your description could benefit from more detail - when I looked it was just a paragraph.  Mine is the max, which I'm sure some people advise against, but there's a middle ground in there somewhere.  Since there are a lot of nearby units, make a bullet list of what makes yours better

                                        • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                          ohst8er Premier Contributor

                                          There's one important point that khs made, that we are all sort of missing.  "Most of the owners are not t all pleased with their HA bookings in our area. "


                                          Has something changed in your area that makes it now less marketable?  Did the airline patterns change?   Did the cost of flights go up?  Is there anything that has made your location less desirable, harder to get to, etc? 

                                          • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                            mvphawaiicondo Contributor

                                            There are so many responses to this post and I'll admit I did not read them thoroughly but just skimmed them to see if anyone wrote what my thought process is.  Unless I missed it, I do have a thought for you.  Could it be that either one of two things has transpired...either travel is down to your area or your competition is up.  Perhaps it is both.  Here is my example.  In my market, my competitive market is 7109.  I started keeping a tally only about a month ago.  A month ago my competitive market was 7055.  More and more people are getting into the vacation rental business.  I've only been doing this for 2.5 years but I think when I started, my competitive market was only about 4000.  I don't exactly remember though and that is why I am now keeping a tally.  If someone knows how to find out what your competitive market was years ago please post that.  I don't have a single booking for next summer and usually I do.  It's OK though because I know the bookings will come.  Btw, when I say competitive market, it's whatever VRBO says it is for me in the Ranking Metrics but not necessarily in my immediate area.  It's crazy though how many people are jumping on the vacation rental bandwagon.  I used to tell people, "This is great!  You should do it too!" Now I tell no one if they will be my competition...lol!  Also we don't know if you have raised your rates and other such details.  I haven't raised my rate because more places are new to my market and their rates are way lower than mine.  Just a thought.

                                              • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                                green_mango Active Contributor

                                                Very good points - I know in my area there are more VRs than when I started just a few years ago.  Watching the numbers is hard though - for a couple years now VRBO has been tweaking the properties that show up in our area - if I type in my location they include a lot more than they used to - so it's not just new listings being added, but their map of my "area" is expanding & in flux - can include up to an hour away, which is *not* my area..... 

                                                  • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                                    khs Contributor

                                                    Yes, I see the same thing on my listing. They no longer limit the listing to one area. So I see properties grouped from miles away form each other.

                                                     

                                                    One point no one has mentioned is perhaps travelers are seeking VR outside of HA/VRBO to avoid all the booking fees. LSI should be our goal.

                                                    In summary, it's a whole new VR game and unless we master the new rules on this platform, our listing will disappear in a sea of new competitor properties.

                                                • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                                  susaninrehoboth Premier Contributor

                                                  We've had 4 inquiries since 7/17 and 1 four night booking. 2 inquiries were for next summer, which I don't rent until guests from this year yeah or nay same week 2019. One wasn't aware of cost and thought it was about 1/2 of actual fee. One was bargain hunting. This is about the same as last year.

                                                  • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                                    kmarsh New Member

                                                    You and I have videos in our picture set.  The slowwwwnnneeessss of the video loads could be why we are both experiencing low or no bookings.  We've been told potential guests take mere seconds to scan through the photo stack to make a selection.  Maybe the potential guests get bored waiting for picture #3 to appear (video to load) and moves on?  Could there be a way to have our videos load faster?  Anyone else with decreased response also have videos inside their photo stack? 

                                                    • Re: What is the current experience with inquires way down?
                                                      linky17 Active Contributor

                                                      Almost like you -- 11+ years as a demonstrable, high booking/5* reviewed, quality VRBO property -- my inquiries are way, way down.  So much so that in the prolonged lapses of activity, I find that I forget how it is, in this "new" landscape, I need/should respond to the rare inquiry/RTB so as not to suffer the 'dings' that hang in the {insert a seeming incursion} balance.  Even if the prospective Guest flaunts the few basic, precepts set forth in my simple rules.

                                                       

                                                      Mine is a year-round, 4 season destination.  If not professional football and baseball: arts + culture, graduations, family weddings, reunions, et cetera *had* proven to be guaranteed draws.  Alas, in the past 2+ years, most former 'competitors' have dropped from the local VRBO roll.  Many, entirely.  Some?  Now appear -- and with seeming success -- on AirBnB.  And the listings that appear on the latter have skyrocketed as -- it seems -- do the listers' bookings.

                                                       

                                                      Daily, traveler viewed "VRBO" properties in my area are increasingly bloated by the inclusion of inns, hotels and motels.  And most of the new 'competition' is sub-par in terms of quality, claimed location, presentation ("Hey, let's IB this "c-l-e-n" property!  Look at the side-ways photos!") and less than euphoric reviews.

                                                       

                                                      All of this to say that I fear that the shrinkage of true VRBOs, in combination with the insurgence of non-VRBOs and the too broad "Premier Partner" indicia, de-value + dilute anything that could be promising about this platform.