How to market your vacation rental on social networks and remain sane?

The dramatic rise in  popularity of visual social media means more opportunities for owners of vacation rentals to market their properties.   It also means more confusion about how to get started and continue to consistently use these sites.

Social networks such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter  are placing a much great emphasis on making it easier for users to consume visuals, from photos, to videos and infographics –  and new social networks such as Pinterest and Vine are seeing  dramatic increases in membership.   This shift from text to visuals provides vacation rental owners with more opportunities to quickly and effectively connect with and share a large amount of relevant information with potential renters though along with it comes the challenge of how to stay organized and consistently market your rental.     Getting started is one thing though staying the course is a totally different matter.

The problem as you are likely aware is how to know where to invest your time so that you will receive the most return on your investment – both now and in the future.  The stories of owners that get immersed in the world of social communication only to later discover that all the hours that you have invested have hardly made any difference in the number of  reservations that you receive are far too common.

The purpose of this post is to share a the blog hub strategy with you that will enable you to both get started, stay organized and continue to market your vacation rental on existing and new sites, without ever having to wonder about whether you are wisely investing your time and energy.

Here’s an image of what a Blog Hub looks like.

So how do you create an organized way of using these social sites?

You need a home base on the web from where you first share and create all your content.   The most effective and powerful place to do this is from a blog.    The reason for this is that blog enables you to quickly and easily  curate and share articles, images, videos and related content about your rental.

You will benefit by having a central location, that you control,  and that isn’t on a third party social network in many ways including:

1.  Having all the information about your rental and the area in one place.

2.  Being able to effectively and consistently promote your rental information across the most popular social network channels regardless of what happens to any one social network.

3.  Always know exactly where to add new information about your rental.

The key: by having a   “hub”  you have the ability to  push your content out to any and all the social networks that you belong to and then pull visitors back to your site for more detailed information and reservations without ever having to lose sleep over what social network is best to use.    You’ll be in a position, once your HUB is set up, to join, connect and share your information on any social network because you’ve already created it on your own channel – your blog!

Where should you begin?

1. If you have a blog, ask yourself if you are using it “just as” a listing for your vacation rental or are you using it as a channel where you create and share useful and interesting information about your vacation rental and the area where it’s located.   Remember you are the “expert” of the area and likely know far more than any renters do about your area.

2.  If you don’t have a blog, then it’s time to set one up.

3.  Once you have either set up a new blog or taken inventory of how you are currently using your blog,  start to evaluate what information is most valuable to potential travelers.

What should you do with your blog?

The terrific aspect to owning a vacation rental and having a blog about it is that travel and vacations overlaps so many other highly popular online categories, including  home decor, food, restaurants, destinations, weddings, entertainment, fashion, and many others.

The majority of blogs today by vacation rental owners are just advertisements for their property.  This is alright though if your outcome is to effectively and efficiently leverage social media and communities to increase your reservations then you need to take a different approach.

This approach involves taking the most commonly asked information from travelers and organizing the answers on your blog in both photographs, videos and text descriptions.   And the great thing about a blog, if you don’t already have one,  is that it really is easy to organize information into different categories.

Getting your blog to stand out!

Think about the things in your area and about your rental that visitors commonly ask you.    Write these questions down.  Most likely they ask you about things such as:

1.  What are the best places to eat and how far are they?

2.  What are the major attractions?

3.  What are your favorite places to visit in the area?

4.   Is there mass transportation near the vacation rental?

5.  How is your home furnished?

6.   Is the beach safe for swimming and are there other beaches in the area that you like?

7.  What is your favorite thing to do when you’re there?

Brainstorm a list of questions.   Remember you’re the expert about your area and your vacation rental.   Once you have come up with your questions,  figure out what categories they go into.    Next create those categories on your blog.    Now start putting together photos, videos and answering the questions.      The more work you do upfront and time you spend thinking about how to make your blog a really valuable education resource the more powerful it will be as a source of information for your future guests as well as for you to leverage it and promote your rental on other social networks.

One thing to keep in mind is that search engines are starting to place a much higher value on (1) the length of time that a visitor spends on a particular post and (2) how many clicks a post received when it was shared on a social media site.

What this means is that you should be:

1. Incorporating videos on your blog posts, so that visitors to your blog spend more time on a page, and

2. Writing interesting titles for each post so that when you start  sharing them on sites such as Google+ and Facebook you receive a large number of click throughs and shares.

Remember that in order for this to work in a way that reduces the stress that is commonly associated with the rapid and overwhelming growth of social and produce a great ROI you should always start with your blog because once your have your own house in order — your blog — you will find it really easy to share what you have on any site that is out there — regardless of how things change.

In the next post I will discuss the importance of high quality images that share a story about your vacation rental and the area so that guests are drawn to your blog and to inquire about your property.

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How to Increase Your Vacation Rental Reservations

Vacation rental marketing is  about educating your prospective guest.  It isn’t about selling them.  One of the most effective ways to educate your potential guests is to create your own blog offering insights and information about the area where your vacation rental is located.

In 1996 when the online vacation rental market started to grow most vacation rental owners were in the business of either getting renters  by listing an ad in a magazine or listing it with a vacation rental agency —  and typically if their rental property was halfway decent they would receive frequent  bookings.

Unfortunately those days are gone.   Today competition in the vacation rental marketplace is fiercer than ever before. There are many reasons for this though two primary reasons stand out.  First is the increase in supply of vacation rentals, and second is the dramatic increase in importance of getting your vacation rental “discovered” online.    There are both more vacation rentals and the number of vacation rental websites and competition for search engine and social network discovery continues to intensify.

Vacation rental owners now compete for the attention of the online traveler who is pulled in different directions by vacation rental listing sites,  vacation owner sites,  agency sites and general vacation sites — and that’s not including the massive growth in social platforms that also present owners and agents with a myriad of opportunities to market their rentals.

One thing hasn’t changed though,  and that is, to stand out from the crowd one needs to be different, and better,  in how you do things both online and off than most vacation rental owners in your area.    This includes:

  • how and where you market you vacation rental ,
  • how you educate travelers while they’re online discovering and exploring different vacation rental possibilities,  to
  • how you quickly and effectively get potential guests comfortable with you and your rental, to
  • securing the reservation and then exceeding your guests expectations when they do stay at your rental so that upon their return home they are eager and willing to write a great reviews about your home.I know that’s plenty to take in —  though just like any other business,  success in the vacation rental business requires one to be remarkable.

When it comes to online marketing of vacation rentals a well run blog is vitally  important  to your current success and will  to grow in importance as the web continues to evolve.

Why?

From a basic level — a blog for your vacation rental places you in a far better position than an owner of a similar vacation rental.   However not all blogs are created equal.   In order to have a blog that attracts traffic and attention that turns into leads you need to approach the way you blog intelligently and with the goal of openly and honestly educating your potential guests about your vacation rental and the area where it is located.

The following 5 major benefits  are key reasons for creating and maintaining a blog:

1.  A blog for your vacation rental allows you to create an ongoing conversation with potential guests and prior guests.

2.   It enables you to more effectively gain your guests’ trust,  by providing them with more insights and useful information about your rental, including the area,  photos and past guests reviews than any vacation rental listing site can.

3.   You control your blog and can reach out to previous guests of your home to write posts and share photos, something that is quite challenging to do on a regular website.

4.  You are the expert of the area where your vacation rental is located providing you with the position to easily, clearly and effectively share valuable information with potential guests that no other owner is providing.

5. For numerous reasons, the trend of search engines that love new, interesting and fresh content, that attracts the attention of users on major social platforms, will continue to grow in importance.  ie. the “old days” of SEO and backlinks while not “dead” has been replaced by a much more sophisticated search engine environment.

Why is this important?  Well, while larger vacation rental sites may seem to receive the bulk of the search engine traffic, there is a clear shift towards fresher more relevant content.

This trend means that if you write about your home,  the area where your home is located — which you likely know much more than most, if not all your guests,  then you will substantially increase the chance of your blog posts ranking high in Google’s results.

If you’re beating yourself up over not coming up for major search terms you need to quit that now.  You may never come up for the most competitive terms —  such as  “location + vacation rental” and that is alright because the number of searches for vacation rentals that are not so specific is as large, if not larger, than these so-called “popular terms.”   It’s these less popular terms that you want to start coming up for on search.

So how do you do this?

With a blog 🙂 where you consistently write informative content, including specific details about the area that you are uniquely qualified to write about given that you own a vacation rental there, with catchy titles that  attract clicks on social platforms — a factor that Google is looking at,  and you will start to show up for many more of the “less popular,” though equally important searched on terms, that travelers are using when looking for a vacation rental in your area.    Take it a step further and add videos about the area that keep visitors on your pages longer and you’ll start to rank even higher as Google looks at how much time a visitor spends on a particular post.    Top this off by posting the video on YouTube and you’re likely to start getting inquiries because Google continues to favorite content on it’s own sites such as YouTube and Google+.    By executing on these few steps you’ll start tapping into the more important developments and changes to Google’s algorithm with the result being that you generate more traffic to your site from more sources that result in more inquiries and reservations.

The primary goal here is to extend what you are already doing to promote your vacation rental on listing sites by creating a platform that you own,  and that isn’t part of a vacation rental listing site, and the ultimate way to do that is to create a blog.

If you already have your own domain, the best thing to do is to add a blog to your domain.  If you don’t have a vacation rental website of your own, then go to wordpress.com and create a blog,  and make certain that you obtain your own domain name – as not using your own domain is essentially akin to renting something rather than owning it.

Ok, so now you may be wondering how to create a vacation rental blog and maintain it.

The most effective way to do this is to brainstorm all the questions that you have been asked about your vacation rental’s location.

Think of questions like:

1. What’s the best place to eat?

2.  What’s the weather like in _____?

3. Are there any surfing instructors that you recommend?

4. Where can we rent ATVs?

You’ll    probably come up with a really long list of questions and that’s a great thing.  Instead of coming up with questions about your home focus on the area at first because this is what many travelers are going to be searching for.   Also,  unless you’re sharing information from other guests, or just providing factual information about your rental, using glowing prose to “showcase” you rental is more like selling than it is about educating or helping out someone that is figuring out whether to vacation in your area.

The next step is to select a question per day, week,  or bi-weekly — whatever you feel comfortable with and have the time to answer and spend some time writing an answer to your question.    Next publish, or post,  your question and answer on your blog.   You will quickly start to separate yourself from other vacation rental marketers in your area and become a source of information for your area which will benefit you and your guests..

Start to do this you’ll fairly quickly see an increase in traffic to your blog that  will turn into more inquiries and more reservations.

The following graphic provides amazing insights into the competitiveness of vacation rental marketing and the typical process a guest will go through before renting a home.  The key takeaway here is “give them more.”  Educate them about your rental so that if there is a “good match” they pick yours!

Netamatix-vaction-rental-infographic (1)

The fact that 83% of travelers are more likely to make an inquiry if there are 20 photos or more, and that 64% are more likely to make an inquiry if there are more than 2,000 words describing the rental — most listings are about 500 words in length – is pretty clear proof that people want to “know” what they are renting.  It’s understandable though sometimes when we think “sales” rather than “education” we miss out on common sense which is that we should want to be renting to people that truly want a vacation rental like ours.      That’s why on vacationdiggs we provide owners with unlimited room to describe their vacation rental plus unlimited photos.    Still, listing on vacationdiggs or any other listing site is no replacement for a “living, breathing” blog that truly shines a light on your rental.

In the next article I will discuss how you can take your blog and use it as the central hub in your online vacation rental marketing strategy.The power of blogging is under estimated in the vacation rental industry by private owners that have become in large part dependent on vacation rental listing sites.  While these site are a tremendous asset and important to be on,  relying on them alone will not be sufficient to stand out in the highly competitive marketplace.

 Google