2020 Vacation Rental Marketing Guide For Proactive Hosts

2020 Vacation Rental Marketing Guide For Proactive Hosts

This year is a great one to completely change your vacation rental business plan.

You didn't really have the choice, of course, but we've learned a few core lessons:

  • We can't rely on a single OTA like Airbnb to support our entire short-term rental business
  • You're only in control of cancellations if guests book directly through you
  • If you decide to take control of your business, you need to learn marketing
  • You need solutions now

In response to these needs and changes, I've worked hard with my team to create this resource for you: the 2020 guide to vacation rental marketing for hosts who need solutions now.

Vacation rental marketing for attracting direct bookings

The purpose of vacation rental marketing is to attract people to your direct bookings website.

You can also use it to promote your Airbnb or VRBO website, so it increases your chances at getting more bookings.

If you want to find independence from OTAs like Airbnb but don't know how to promote your listing, this guide is for you.

You don't need to stop listing on Airbnb. You can have a direct booking website in parallel and increase your chances at getting more profitable occupancy.

Why hosts should have their own vacation rental website

You can't get direct bookings without your own website.

But that's not the only reason hosts should have their own website.

Here are more:

  • It's an online business card for your listing
  • It creates credibility and reputation - you can list more awards and control the way FPGs view your brand
  • It gets you more bookings - why rely on one OTA when you can handle bookings yourself?
  • It gives you total freedom - you control your own cancellation policy. 'Nuff said.

Plan your vacation rental business

Ready to take your vacation rental business into your own hands?

Download my FREE 2020 vacation rental business plan and start taking control of your business now

How do I make a vacation rental website?

You have a few options (one is my favorite):

  • Code & design it yourself (if you don't know how to do this...don't learn...just skip this option)
  • Use a WordPress template (you can easily make pretty websites, but it'll be harder to add the booking engine)
  • Use a vacation rental website builder

Obviously I recommend the last one.

Some tools you can use for this are Lodgify or Your Porter.

What's cool is that they both also work as channel managers, so you can get more out of your investment with them.

What aspects should you look for in a vacation rental website builder?

If you've never built a website before, let alone a rental property website, it might be hard to know what you're looking for. A good vacation rental website builder should let you easily:

  • Create a booking system that syncs with your calendar and PMS
  • Customize templates
  • Manage your different channels
  • Take payments
  • List multiple properties
  • Get real-time notifications

WordPress and Wix are some options, but they aren't designed specifically for vacation rentals like Lodgify and Your Porter App are. 

Both of them are pretty good. Your Porter has a great property automation app that the website builder comes with (and it's far cheaper), but Lodgify is more customizable.

In the end, one good way to choose is to decide which one you prefer for its property management software.

Let's assume you have your website already.

Let's start marketing it!

Pinterest for vacation rental marketing

pinterest vacation rental marketing

Pinterest is a search engine, just like Google.

It's essentially your own internet billboard. This can include your own personal interests or business offerings.

While Pinterest is still home to  elaborate mood boards, it’s evolved greatly since it was founded in 2010. It’s both a social media platform and a search engine.

Pinterest is a unique platform, in that users search for images with words. This way of searching clearly resonates with users, witnessed by the 2+ billion searches on Pinterest every month.

What does this mean for short-term rental hosts?

You now have a chance to have your listing show up in the Pinterest search results.

Pinterest is the third-most visited social media network. The powerful part about it is that people search Pinterest with intent.

vacation rental marketing pinterest

So many short-term rental hosts are on Facebook and Instagram but very few are on Pinterest.

Example Search: “Things to Do in [Your City]”

People use Pinterest for travel planning.​​​​

So, if guests are planning a vacation to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico, they’ll search for “Things to Do in Playa Del Carmen”.

Clicking on any of the resulting pins will open a card with the image, title, short description, and link to a relevant piece of content on your site.

In that article, you can create a guide of what guests could do in your city and promote your listing under the “Places to Stay” section.

  • Use alt tags: you can add an alt tag to your images, which you should do for all of them. This should include your keyword (more on how to find it below) and a description of the image
  • Research keywords: Pinterest is driven by keywords. You can easily find it by typing in the area of your listing and hitting enter. The keywords that pop up are what people are actually searching for.
  • Use the right image sizes: Pinterest images (called pins) work best when they're long and skinny - 238 pixels in width x adjusted to height.
  • Repin other people's pins: Repin posts from local businesses, this will help you network and help you create a more comprehensive board for your location.
pinterest vacation rental marketing

Related post: Case Study: How a Host Got Kicked Off Airbnb and Rebuilt His Business with Pinterest

Pinterest is a traffic machine yet to be tapped into by the majority of the short-term rental community.

Instagram for vacation rental marketing

Instagram is the mother of social media platforms.

1 billion people use Instagram a month, 63% of which log in at least once a day.

Those are some numbers!

So how can you use Instagram in your vacation rental marketing plan?

Let's dive in:

1. Create a separate business account for your listing/vacation rental company

It's important to have a separate account, one because you want to be seen as a brand and a business, two because business accounts let you see metrics and audience insights.

Add your business logo and a tagline that describes what you are.

Pro tip: Use your ideal guest profile in your tagline (e.g. Luxury Baltimore homes with offices for remote workers).

2. Connect your account with your vacation rental website

That means if people find your Instagram account, they can directly go book, or if they find your website, they can look at your account. It's win-win.

3. Create a content strategy

Alternate between spectacular photos of your listing, pictures of the area,  past guest features, and once in a while drop pictures of you in it to add a personal touch.

You don't need to hire a content marketing agency to help you with this, but you do need to publish regularly.

I recommend at least 3x a week.

When you start getting audience insights, you'll see what times your audience is most active.

You can also use a free app called WhenToPost which looks at your stats and tells you the best time to post.

4. Use Instagram stories

You can use story highlights to humanize your property. You could feature some behind-the-scenes clips of you giving a tour of your property or even include photos of past guests’ reviews. 

5. Engage with your followers

Posting regularly isn't enough - you need to get social. Start conversations, like other people's posts and respond to all comments.

Related Post: How This Couple Grew Their Airbnb Business With Social Media

Email marketing for your vacation rental

It's one of the best marketing strategies for vacation rentals, especially to recapture past guests.

You will need your guests' email addresses, but I explain how to get that below.

hospitality email marketing

How to capture your guest’s email addresses

There are different ways to capture your guests’ email addresses

Ideally, your email collection process:

  1. Doesn’t hurt the guest experience 
  2. Has a high conversion rate (i.e. most guests will provide their email) 
  3. Doesn’t require a lot of work for us hosts 

Now that we’ve established what a “good” process is, let’s look at the different options. 

The traditional method: a guestbook

If you’ve stayed in a few traditional B&Bs or family-run guesthouses, you may have come across one of these. A real guestbook, made of paper. A place where guests can leave a message for the hosts, and a place where you can ask for their email. 

In terms of the guest experience, this is pretty good. No guest will object to the presence of a well-placed guestbook.

But the conversion rates are low. Not all guests will write a message, and those who do still may not leave their email. Even if they do, you will lose some emails due to unclear handwriting.

It’s also a lot of work. Every time your guests leave, you have to check the guest book, find the email and enter it somewhere online (preferably an email autoresponder like Active Campaign

Use technology to capture email addresses

Have you ever been to a hotel, cafe or restaurant where the WiFi is provided through a separate login screen?

There’s a reason why hotels and food & beverage establishments use this system: it provides them with email addresses that are automatically captured in an email autoresponder. I use Flamingo Wifi to capture guest emails.

Why is this so good? First of all, it doesn’t affect the guest experience - the guests only need to login once. You can tell them your network is more secure and faster this way. I’m sure your guests will understand these benefits! 

Secondly, the conversion rate is almost 100%. Every guest wants to use the WiFi.

What vacation rental marketing emails to send your guests

The goal of the email marketing strategy is to entice your past guests to come back. You can do that by:

a) Staying on their radar and

b) Giving them incentives to come back. 

These incentives could be in the form of special offers, such as discounts or a free airport pickup. Another option is to let your past guests know what’s going on in your area. This is where you can get creative. 

Think about the reasons that your guest came the first time.

Maybe they were remote working or staycationing. Let them know that you now have a comfy ergonomic chair or noise-cancelling headphones, or you finally got the trifecta of HBO, NetFlix and Amazon Prime.

The idea is to not be too salesy and provide some value to your past guests with information that they will probably be interested in. 

How often should I email past guests?

Find the right balance - not so often that they'll unsubscribe, but enough for them not to forget about you.

I recommend at least once a week or twice a month.

Use an automated email marketing software

I personally am a big fan of Active Campaign for hospitality email marketing. It’s intuitive and gives you a lot of freedom to deliver different messages to different audiences (fantastic if you have several listings that are totally unrelated to one another).

Related Post: How to Use Email Marketing to Super-Boost Your Hospitality Business

Plan your vacation rental business

Ready to take your vacation rental business into your own hands?

Download my FREE 2020 vacation rental business plan and start taking control of your business now


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