Author: Keiran Griffiths | CMO Lifty Life Vacation Rentals
Many short term rental operators are looking to improve their online visibility, rely less on the large booking platforms, and grow their direct reservation business. If you’re a host looking for additional avenues of booking growth, read on to learn about some creative opportunities to diversify your bookings and lower your cost of acquisition with your own direct booking website.
By doing so, you’ll have opened up a huge opportunity to improve your business while most of your competitors will continue to have Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway as their primary source of new bookings.
The first step to gaining direct reservations is by building your own website. Most channel managers, such as Lodgify and Your Porter, provide hosts with the ability to easily launch direct booking websites with little to no effort. Alternatively, consider building your own website with WordPress, Wix, or SquareSpace and using a reservation plugin.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to drive guests to your direct booking website
- Step-by-step tactics to improve your direct bookings
- How to rely less on the large booking platforms and be in control of your vacation rental business
Here are the top seven ways to drive guests to your direct booking website, lessen your reliance on third-party booking platforms and ultimately grow your business!
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Guest Rebooks
- Social Media Marketing
- Your Network
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
Get in-depth training about direct bookings and vacation rental marketing in the Inner Circle
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Optimize Your Direct Booking Website For Local SEO
- Ensure each webpage has a clear topic or keyword
- Provide all the information a guest would need to know
- Include high-quality imagery
You’ve created a website, great! Now what?
A website alone will not generate traffic. In order to gain web traffic, you’ll need to optimize the content for search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Search engine optimization (SEO), when done right, is the most powerful method to receive a steady flow of online traffic that can be converted into guests.
Sounds complicated? It really isn't.
SEO is a giant competition between every website on the internet. The way to win is to be smarter, more focused, and provide better content. You don’t need to be an expert to start optimizing your website, you just need to be willing to learn, and invest your time. Complete beginners can easily start optimizing their direct booking websites if they focus on the right strategies.
It’s important to focus on your local area.
Spend your efforts on local SEO, which refers to the process of targeting your website to searchers looking for services within a specific geographic location. In your case, you are trying to attract guests looking for short term accommodation in your city.
3 Tips To Start Optimizing Your Direct Booking Website:
- Conduct Keyword Research
Put yourself in the mindset of someone looking to find a place to stay. What specific words would they use in a Google search for your area?
Take a moment to write out two or three phrases for each of the templates above.
Once you’ve got a list of possible searches, do some research. How difficult will it be to rank on Google for that search? What competition ranks for those keywords? Are there possible searches with weaker competition?
- Write Your Website Content Using Keywords
Once you’ve identified a handful of relevant keywords, you need to start incorporating those phrases into your website content. The content of your page includes your titles, menus, blogs, paragraphs, URLS, photo descriptions and more. Building your content around your chosen keywords is crucial to ranking on Google.
However, it's important that you incorporate these keywords in a natural manner and don't overuse the phrases. Don’t sacrifice the flow and readability of your website in order to add an extra keyword.
- Create And Verify Your Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is the online equivalent of the Yellow Pages but better!
This listing is absolutely free and will provide you with increased local visibility. Have you ever wondered how to get your business listed on Google Maps? Well, now you know.
In order to get listed on Google Maps you must have a GMB account. Once you’ve created and verified your GMB listing, you can start to optimize it. Your GMB listing will create valuable local traffic for years to come and improve your overall website ranking.
2. Guest Rebooks
Leverage Your Current Guests Into Booking Direct
- Include a note in your suite with details on booking direct
- Provide the URL of your direct booking website
Want to try something simple? The easiest tactic, for driving direct reservations is marketing to your current guests.
Guests that have stayed with you are a great target market; they have already shown an interest in your property. To contact them, simply leave a message in your guidebook encouraging guests to stay with you again. Recommend that they book directly through your website rather than through Airbnb or VRBO.
Consider offering a discount of 10-15% as a way to entice a rebook and explain the benefits of why your guest should book directly. Let them know that they can avoid costly fees when making direct reservations.
It is very important that you do not market direct reservations via the Airbnb messenger app or anywhere on your digital listings. Airbnb will block these attempts and flag your listing for misconduct. Only market to your guests via direct methods such as your physical guidebook or the guest's direct phone number.
Benefits Of Encouraging Guests To Rebook Your Vacation Rental
- Free and easy to implement
- Provides value to your current guests
- Creates a loyal customer base
3. Social Media
Get Social By Creating Facebook, Instagram, And Pinterest Pages
- Add beautiful photos of your units
- Include your website URL
- Write an engaging and informative About section
- Invite all of your friends and family and ask them to share your page
Social media platforms are excellent ways to drive customers to your direct booking website! It can also be a fantastic way to develop your brand and create a following.
Not only is it easy to set up social media pages, it's also free!
In just a few short hours you can create stunning social media pages for your vacation rental website that will start attracting valuable interest in your properties. It's worth mentioning that you need to post regularly to these platforms in order to keep interest and grow your following. A “set it and forget it” mentality will not work on these platforms.
Like most marketing strategies you get out what you put in.
When determining the type of content to post, keep in mind that people use Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest primarily for entertainment purposes. Therefore keep your posts entertaining, engaging, and lighthearted.
Most people do not want to join a business page that is trying to aggressively sell to them in every post.
While it is free to get started, it does require time to build up a following. You’ll need to have a steady pipeline of valuable content ideas that you can share.
Benefits Of Using Social Media To Grow Your Vacation Rental Bookings
- Free to get started
- The setup process is quick and easy
- If you build a following, it can feed your vacation rental business for years to come
- You can use Facebook Ads Manager to promote your properties to your ideal audience
Regularly Write Relevant Blogs For Your Website And Social Media
- If your units are luxury properties, then write articles like “Top 5 Luxury Vacation Rentals in [enter city]”
- Blogs should include high-quality images and properly formatted text
- Include call-to-actions in the middle and bottom of each blog encouraging readers to book your properties
Blogging is an amazing way to provide great shareable content that also boosts your SEO! How do you get started as a blogger? It’s simple, just write.
Writing blog content is easy, even if you’re a novice.
3 Tips To Writing A Great Blog
- Know Your Audience
First things first. rel=”dofollow” Who is your target audience? This is a really important question because it will not only dictate your blog, but the strategy of your entire business.
Chances are, you already have a target audience. Consider the guests that book your vacation rental. Are they couples booking a romantic getaway, families with young children, retirees?
Once you have an answer to this question. Write content with that audience in mind.
- Make It Easy to Read and Scan
Use lots of bullet points, paragraph breaks, pictures, numbered lists, and headings. This will let readers quickly pull valuable information from your blog.
Blogs can be written in a conversational manner. Put your personality into it! Readers aren’t looking for a scholarly article. They want content that's easy to consume.
- Write With SEO in Mind
Blogs are a great way to develop your website SEO, so keep it in mind. Make sure you write content that is relevant to what your guests would be searching for.
Before you sit down and start writing, ask yourself, “what would someone search in Google that is relevant to my property?” This will be the keyword of your blog article.
Once you have an idea of what someone might search for, focus the entire blog on providing the perfect answer to that search.
- rel=”dofollow” Top 5 Luxury Vacation Rentals in Whistler
- The Best Cabins at Big White
- Most Affordable Corporate Retreats in Vancouver
- Unique Bachelorette Suites in Kelowna
Benefits Of Writing Blogs To Grow Your Vacation Rental Website
- It's free to write blogs
- Your websites search engine visibility will improve
- You can share this content on your social media pages
- Blogs continue to produce website traffic for years
Post Your Property Listings On Craigslist’s Vacation Rentals Section
- Plenty of travelers still use Craigslist to find suitable vacation rental accommodations
- Fully recreate your Airbnb listing on Craigslist
- Encourage guests to find more information by visiting your website
Plenty of travelers still use the vacation rental section of Craigslist to find short term accommodation.
These travelers are clever; they know that if they book the property directly, then they can instantly save on the service fees that companies like Airbnb and VRBO would charge.
Importantly, posting on Craigslist is free!
When creating your Craigslist ad, ensure it has all the important information someone would need to know in order to book. Provide high-quality images, a full list of property features, and let them know your cancellation policy, whether you allow pets, smoking, or additional guests.
The downside of Craigslist is that your advertised rates will need to remain fairly static.
Benefits Of Using Craigslist To Grow Your Direct Bookings
- Free to get started
- Ads can easily be created in 10-15 minutes
- You can repost your ads for free every 30-45 days
6. Your Personal Network
Tell Everyone You Know About Your Property
- Offer discounts to friends and family that book direct
- Look for referrals within your network
Tap into your network and get the message across that you’ll offer discounts to friends and family.
Post on your personal social media accounts, bring it up with work colleagues and even mention it to your waitress. Trust me, you’ll be surprised how many leads you can generate this way. I’m always surprised and delighted when I receive a message from an old classmate or colleague that I haven’t talked to in years, asking if they can book a stay at my property.
Not only is your network of friends and family a great way to gain direct bookings, but they also can be amazing advocates that refer you to their friends.
This strategy can quickly snowball into a steady stream of bookings.
Benefits Of Using Your Network to Drive Direct Reservations
- Completely free
- Lower risk of issues since you already know them
- Friends and family can become advocates
7. Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)
Quickly Drive Valuable Traffic To Your Direct Booking Website
- Determine the important keywords you want to show up for
- Create high-quality ads that make people want to click
- Ensure your landing page is relevant and easy to navigate
If you’re looking for a quick way to grow your online traffic, then advertising on Google and/or Facebook might be your best option. As the name suggests, every time someone clicks your ad, you will be charged – effectively, you pay-per-click.
3 Tips To Having A Successful PPC Campaign
- Target, Target, Target
In order to get the most out of your ad spend, ensure your ads are targeted to your ideal audience. In the case of Google Ads, you can specifically target certain keywords such as “Luxury Vacation Rentals” and geo-target anyone searching in your market.
- Utilize Calls To Action
PPC can add up, so you want to ensure that your ad spend is converting into leads. Conversions are key to any ad campaign but even more so in PPC.
Add “Calls to Action” throughout the landing page. Test different button titles such as:
- Book Now
- Limited Time Offer
- 20% Off
- Monitor The Success Of The Campaign
PPC campaigns, unlike many other marketing strategies, have amazing tools for monitoring success. Utilize these tools to evaluate the success of campaigns, then use this knowledge to improve future campaigns.
Continually run tests on your campaigns.
What happens when you narrow your audience? What happens when you add a new Call To Action? Do conversions increase when you provide a discount?
While PPC is an effective strategy, it can become very costly in the long run.
Before you launch your PPC campaign read a few guides on how to launch a successful PPC campaign.
Benefits Of PPC For Your Direct Booking Website
- Almost instant traffic to your website
- Highly targeted traffic
- More control over your guest persona
Want more hands-on training about direct bookings and vacation rental marketing? Join the Inner Circle!