The vacation rental industry is rapidly growing. As a result of not being able to travel during the global pandemic, people traveling now! This has been named ‘Revenge tourism’ and it has fueled the rage. Launched in 2007, Airbnb has now grown to over 6M active listings worldwide. VRBO has over 2M listings worldwide. We’re in an age where demand is meeting or maybe even exceeding the supply available in the market. In a highly competitive market, it becomes extremely important to find the best way to market rental property so that it reaches as much of your audience as possible. Making your vacation rental marketing stand out in a sea of other options is by no means an easy feat!
As with any form of a business, you need customers. In order to find them or for them to find you, you need to understand how to leverage the power of technology by utilizing vacation rental marketing to your benefit.
What is Vacation Rental Marketing? Why is it Important for your Business?
Online marketing is basically the path that you are paving for your guests to find you easily. This can be through various channels – social media, search engine optimization, website marketing, email marketing, and more! (Don’t get flustered already, we’ll take you through all of the channels.)
Personal space, privacy, personal attention, and remote working facilities (obviously!) are becoming the priorities for travelers in 2022.
Why is this information important? Because only when you understand what your guests want, will you be able to provide them with that.
#1 Vacation Rental Marketing Helps to Get People Talking About You
Along with providing the amenity, you need to make sure that your potential guests are aware that you provide their desired amenities. You can do this by spreading the word about your property and its specifications using the various ways to market a listing. This is where online marketing helps. You can put it out there on the internet for your potential guests to find when they are planning their next vacation.
#2 Online Credibility is an Important Step in your Vacation Rental Marketing Strategy
Imagine this, a guest saw your listing on say Airbnb and is impressed. They like the photos and the description of your property. They then try to search for your property online and are left empty-handed. What do you think they would do now? They might not be able to confirm your existence at this point. Any credible business these days has a digital footprint. It is important for your business to have one as well.
#3 Vacation Rental Marketing Helps you Build your Brand
Let’s consider two scenarios:
- you are in the vacation rental industry for the long run and are looking to expand your portfolio.
- you are in this for the long run but are looking for just a source of passive income.
Either way, you should invest in marketing. As you consistently create a digital footprint for your brand, create consistent content, and engage with your guests you will be slowly developing your brand’s identity. Over the years, with a consistent marketing strategy, you will be able to build a strong brand for yourself!
#4 You can Increase Direct Bookings with Vacation Rental Marketing
65% of guests prefer to book directly with the property owner rather than using OTAs. This is especially true for return visitors. Only when you have your digital presence will guests be able to find you online to book with your directly. Otherwise, they do not have the means to contact you.
Dive deeper into your Business Before Diving into Marketing Short Term Rentals
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the digital marketing for vacation rentals process, we need to understand a couple of things.
What are your goals?
You need to understand what you want to achieve with online marketing. It is important to know this because only then would you be able to deploy the right strategies. You want to rent out only during specific times of the year and during the other times, your property gets booked maybe for filming (film, TVCs, or soap opera shoots). Or you want to specifically book longer stays. Or you want to position yourself as an executive accommodation.
The baseline is obviously that you want to increase your revenue. However, understanding what you want to achieve would go a long way in devising the right strategy.
How can you understand your goals?
Try asking yourself these questions:
- In what circumstances do you flourish?
If you want to achieve 70% occupancy, jot down the various points that would help you achieve that level or at least go near that level.
- Who is living your dream?
While setting out on the vacation rental journey, you would’ve envisioned a whole palace or maybe even a kingdom for your property. Who do you think comes close to that palace of yours? List out their names, their properties, and more.
- How do you see yourself making a positive impact in the near future?
Positive impact can be anything from doing good to society to just creating memorable experiences for your guests. The important question here is, how are you planning to do that?
- What is the one thing no one can beat you at?
Everyone and everything is the best at something that no one can beat them at. What is that quality in your business? This will help you differentiate yourself from the market.
- What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
What is it that you want your property to be known for? Understand that and understand what you really have to focus on.
These are a few questions that you can try answering to better understand your business. A dig deeper into your business will only open up a path to a strong marketing strategy.
Who is your Target Audience?
When you have a deeper understanding of your business, your next step should be to understand the kind of people that would have access to your business. Only when you know your target audience will you be able to tailor-fit your marketing strategies to their preferences.
You can do this by mapping out various user personas of your target audience. This way you will be able to perfectly outline their needs and target them accordingly.
Some groups of your ideal guests would include:
- Large groups
- Business travelers
This way you would be able to understand how to transform your property to fit the needs of your target audience. Suppose, in your research, you find remote work coming up a lot. Then you would be able to add more remote working facilities to your property. This would go a long way in improving your guest’s experience. When this is promoted online, it would also help in increasing visibility.
Best Way to Market Rental Property
As we mentioned before, there are various things to do when it comes to digital marketing for vacation rentals. While not all channels might be appropriate for you in the beginning, it might become to leverage all of them in the long run.
When you take it step-by-step, the results will be much better than expected.
Choosing the Right OTA
When you are thinking about starting a vacation rental, the obvious first thought is to list it somewhere. That somewhere is known as an Online Travel Agency or a Channel Manager. These are websites like Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com, Expedia, and more.
Say you have a beach-facing property in Hawaii, let’s see the Google results for such properties (without considering google ads):
Here, we are able to see that most guests are being shown VRBO, Airbnb, and the personal websites of the properties to book their stay. While you shouldn’t base your entire decision on this basic research. You can use this to form a preliminary idea of which OTAs and channel managers to list your property in.
You need to ask yourself a couple of questions such as:
- What are their tech requirements: Do you need a property management system?
- What is their cancellation policy? Can you set up your own rules?
- How do they handle transactions?
- How much commission do they charge you?
After choosing the OTA for your vacation rental property, it is also important to note the different things that would impact your visibility.
The factors that would impact your online visibility:
- Your minimum length of stay restrictions might impact your visibility. Suppose, the market standard is a 2-day minimum night, and you have a 4-day minimum night restriction in place. This would mean that whenever a guest searches for a 2-day search your property would not be visible to them. You can customize your minimum night specifications as per your guests’ booking patterns and your market trends.
- If you keep getting more and more cancellations, your visibility would be impacted. It gives a sense that your property is not reliable. As and when your cancellations increase, it should worry you because not only does it impact your revenue but also your online visibility.
- Once you are certified as an Airbnb Superhost, the platform will be favorable to you. There is a special ‘Superhost’ filter available on the platform. Most Airbnb users turn this filter on because this then means that the host maintains a high-quality guest experience. On the off chance that guests have subscribed to Airbnb newsletters and curated lists, they would get first-hand information about properties managed by Superhosts. Both of these factors impact the visibility of your property.
- Your listing’s presentation is an important factor that affects your online visibility. Like every other search engine, the words that you use in the listing. Use the description (summary and detailed) to highlight the important things of your listing to attract customers. Here you can talk about your USPs, discounts, amenities, and anything else that you would want to feature here. Make sure that it is in bullet points. Avoid long paragraphs. In the neighborhood description, talk about places instead of providing directions. Mention things that will draw the attention of your guests. For example, location, amenities, views, etc., like 2min walk to town center | best views of the valley.
- It is also important to get reviews for your property. As and when you get reviews that make you look better, guests are bound to book your property. Mention the reviews that you received in the captions of the photos. For e.g. – Bedroom 2. Gary who stayed in Aug 2021 said: “<Review>”.
- Your property has to match the market demand. Suppose, a person is searching for a property with a pool in Florida, your property would not be shown if you are not placed in Florida or do not have a pool. You need to understand what the market is expecting to deliver it appropriately. It not only helps improve your guests’ experience but also your online visibility.
It is important to list your property properly in the OTAs and channel managers. A list of Airbnb hosting tips and tricks would go a long way in making your property stand a step ahead.
Creating a Website for your Property
With over 3.5M internet users worldwide, having your own website can be a big plus for you. It will probably be the best place for you to provide your potential guests with all the information they would need about your property before confirming a booking.
Each booking you get through your website saves you money on fees and commissions that you pay to your distribution partners. You are also in full control of all terms of the transaction. Your website should work seamlessly with your distribution partners. It should be easy to integrate your reservations between your website and your distribution partners with the help of an Application programming interface (API). Creating a website might be an important step in your vacation rental marketing journey.
A functioning modern vacation rental website needs features like:
1. Mobile-responsive design
2. Intuitive easy-to-navigate layout
3. A functioning booking engine
4. API to synchronize with your OTAs
With your own website, you can take control of your own vacation rental marketing and business while also boosting direct bookings.
You need not be an expert coder or developer to create your own website. There are many templates online to create a perfectly functioning website, to begin with. You can try the templates offered by Lodgify, Get Floor Space, and more.
After having created a website that helps your guests, you should understand what you should do to make sure it has good visibility:
- Whenever a person comes across your listing on an OTA, they would go to other search engines to find out more information about your property. Your website can help you in providing your guests with information that you have full control over. You can decide which content to show where, when, and how.
- You can also take direct bookings through your own website. When your website is integrated with your OTAs and channel managers you would be able to better manage your bookings. Direct bookings help you increase your revenue while eliminating service and commission fees that you would pay to your distribution partners. A guide to direct bookings can help you take control of your revenue.
- It is important to make sure that the developer code of your website is crawlable by Google. By this, I mean that Google should be able to understand what you are trying to communicate with the help of your website. When you improve your website’s language, you make sure that Google is able to place your website as a thought leader in the market. This directly impacts your online visibility. It will also properly index your website.
- Just like in your OTAs and channel managers, it is important to have your reviews listed out here. When people are able to see good reviews, their trust in your property would increase exponentially.
- As and when your website starts having a conversation with the other websites in your industry, it is going to be generating backlinks. Google trusts websites that have a good amount of backlines. This trust is translated to good visibility in the search engine.
- Once you’ve established your organic search engine optimization strategies, you can move ahead to search engine marketing. With the help of paid online marketing, you would be able to specifically target the audience you desire. For example, it is Valentine’s day, and you have a special couple’s discount. You would want to specifically target the couples in your locality to make sure that you target the right audience for your discount. It is important to understand that while paid marketing will give you easier results, it is also important to put your weight on organic marketing.
- You can also start writing in your blog. This helps in generating organic traffic to your website. Slowly, you can start writing content according to market trends. You can find your guests’ most frequently asked questions on Google trends, Reddit and other social media channels, and your competitor sites. It is always important to understand what you’re competitors are doing.
Staying Connected to your Guests through Email Marketing
Email marketing is still at the top of the list in vacation rental marketing. It gives you direct access to your guest’s personal inbox. You need to start by collecting the email addresses of your guests. Do not forget to get their permission to contact them with future promotions, news, and any other marketing communication from you.
Having a website for your property gives you an additional advantage. You can also build a database of email ids through lead generation tools such as a form to give out downloadable knowledgeable content in exchange for their email address.
When a guest has just booked your property, you can send them a couple of emails at various intervals. You can start by welcoming them to your property. It would help if you could also customize this email to the guest’s specific preferences.
When a guest books your property, you can collect their email id along with other information such as their birthday, phone numbers (optional), anniversaries, and/or any other important details. You can store all this information in a CRM to trigger automated emails/alters for your guests. This way you would be able to stay constantly in touch with your guests. If they are repeatedly booking your platform during a specific period, you can trigger an automated email to remind them of your property during that period.
Repeated communication is one of the best ways to make a lasting impression on your guests’ minds.
What can you do?
- Welcome kit for a comfortable onboarding
- Complimentary goodies like vouchers, coupons, etc.
- Different itineraries for their stay
- Special offers for the future
- You can use the mail to get to know their dietary preferences to tailor their experiences accordingly
- Thank you message for choosing their property
- Ask for reviews and feedback
- Blog and website updates
- Amenities and maintenance updates
- Any tourism updates in your locality
You should remember that in the excitement of it all you might get lost and send as many emails as possible. It is important to remember that you need to balance your send frequency. Another thing to remember is to cut off the email ids that do not engage with your emails.
It is important to create a compelling social media marketing strategy to make sure your profile stands out from the crowd:
- Research your competitors specifically for social media
- Establish your KPIs
- Create unique, engaging, informative content
- Organize your posts in a schedule that fits your guests’ scrolling pattern
- Leverage the different formats of social media content creation
The most important step in vacation rental marketing is to showcase your property itself on social media. Remember to take quality photos of your property. This is your chance to make sure you showcase your property in the best light. While you can take good photos on your phone with the photography suggestions that your camera app provides, you should invest in professional photography. The recent developments in social media have led to a reduced attention span in people. Reels and tik tok videos have the most engagement. Create as many 15 to 30-sec videos of your property, people enjoying your property, and also your amenities. This can help in increasing your brand awareness and engagement which will help digital marketing for vacation rentals.
With a clear-cut social media strategy in hand, you can:
- Increase brand awareness. Social media can boost brand awareness by driving up engagement through comments, likes, shares, reposts, and saves. It can also help in directing traffic straight to your site. This is why it is important to add direct links to your website in your profile, bio, and posts.
- Foster better relationships with your guests. By connecting and engaging with your followers, you will be able to build a community. This will also help you in reaching more people. You can interact with them by commenting on their post, responding to their questions and comments, and providing them with any help they may require. You can also use the platform to ask them questions about your service, and their pain points.
- Generate leads. You can improve lead generation, boost conversions, and increase sales by promoting and sharing your products on social media. When you advertise to the people who have opted to engage with you and your account.
One thing that most people overlook is consistent brand communication through all social media channels. More often than not, when a person starts following you on one platform they might also follow you on other platforms. It is important to make sure that your communication is consistent across platforms.
What do you need to make sure?
- Consistent display picture that clearly communicates your brand. Use your logo if you have one Otherwise use a specific image of your property.
- Consistent cover image for all platforms. Try clicking a picture from a wide-angle lens to capture more of your property in one frame.
- Your bio (Instagram) and about section (LinkedIn and Facebook) not only help in communicating your ideas and your property to your guests but also helps in ranking. When you use the words that your followers are using to search, your profile will be shown at the top.
- The next step is to make sure that your design and content are consistent across channels as well. Decide on a couple of colors, fonts, and design ideologies for your brand. And only use the decided ones for all channels.
Updating Information About your Business on Google My Business
Google My Business offers companies a fantastic opportunity for businesses to appear in Google search results for free! There are no underlying costs to listing yourself on Google My Business. You can display important information about your business such as:
- Opening and closing times
- Contact details
- Link to your website
- Images of your property
- Information about upcoming events, festivals, and special occasions
- Promote any offers that you have going on
How to optimize your Google My Business page?
- Write a proper description. Your description is a gateway into your property. You need to take some time to write a good description. Try and make it as local as possible. The description is used as an overview of your business’ services and keywords related to your business can be used here. You only have 750 characters to make sure you create a worthwhile description.
- Add posts and images to your Google My Business Page. The content you add here will be shown on google search and on map results. To add a post all you have to do is go to your GMB account and create a new post. You will be able to upload an image and a description for it for about 300 words and add a title to the post. You can also add a call-to-action to the post. With the post option, you can promote events, share content and promote your products and/or services.
- Respond to Reviews. When a guest is trying to book your property, they will check the reviews that you have gotten. It is always a good thing to collect as many reviews as possible for your property. Also, if you want to rank higher in search and map results, reviews might be the secret key. You can seek out customers who you know have been satisfied with your service and ask for a review/feedback. Whether good or bad, make sure you respond to all reviews of your property. This shows your guests that you are serious about them and value every single feedback.
Leverage Affiliate and Influencer Marketing
Affiliate marketing is promoting other people’s products or services in return for a small commission for each sale. You’ve probably seen blog headings marked as ‘affiliate link’ or ‘sponsored post’ on many of the websites you visit.
You can provide links to your website, social media profiles, or any other services and/or products. This will help you in getting as much reach as possible by piggybacking on the reach of the blog of your affiliate.
The biggest form of vacation rental marketing right now for the travel and tourism industry is Influencer marketing. Offer your property for influencers to do their shoots. They will post it and tag you as well. This can give you easy reach as well.
You can either decide to let your vacation rental marketing run on autopilot or decide to tailor-fit everything to specific channels. Whatever might be your hold on marketing short-term rentals, remember anything and everything will take a while to come to fruition. You will have to be patient to see if your efforts are translating to results. In the long run, a good foundation will have a very strong building. If you get your basics right, then you will be able to generate more leads and convert them to sales-qualified leads in no time! Remember that you might have to try various ways to market your listing before landing on the best way to market rental property.