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Great vacation rental listings are created much like cooking a fine meal. Start with the right ingredients and portions. Blend them together with love and attention. Apply heat for the right amount of time. Then, sit back, indulge in the taste and watch the income pour in!
The most effective way to market your vacation rental is by listing your property on a vacation rental listing site such as VRBO, AirBnb, TripAdvisor and of course, your local regional site, such as EleutheraDirect.com. In addition, you should be using social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as well as your own website. Business listing sites such as Google Business and Bing Places are also helpful in getting the word out. Pay-per-click ads (PPC), such as Google Adwords, can be effective, but can be quite costly especially if you are looking to buy a lot of clicks for high traffic keywords.
The best overall strategy for your vacation rental listing, quite simply, is to get the word out in as many places and in as many ways as possible. Let’s face it, though, the large listing sites have an advantage that you, as an individual, just can’t match. CHOICE. The #1 reason that renters choose to start their search on a vacation rental listing site is because they can search and compare from amongst a number of different properties that occupy the same general geography. Location is generally their first search criteria and the vacation rental listing sites are the best equipped to offer superior choice using a geographic search because they are an aggregator of properties in the same geography. So, what does that mean to you? It means you need to come up with a way to stand out or get lost in the crowd.
A regional listing site can be even more effective in helping you stand out since renters can search within a more specific geography. Additionally, regional sites offer a much higher return on investment for a property owner. A regional site provides targeted searching coupled with in depth local knowledge that the big online travel agencies (OTAs) like VRBO just can’t match. Regional sites provide better service, charge less to advertise and eliminate rental commissions for your customers. A regional vacation rental listing site that incorporates links and videos to your own site is really one of the best and smartest advertising investments you can make since they are helping to drive business directly to you.
But, back to our original question, how do you stand out? There are things you can do to improve your own listing’s appeal and ultimately make it the needle that stands out in a stack of needles. Read on to learn our best tips and tricks for creating your own great vacation rental listing.
We here at EleutheraDirect.com have been doing this for decades, and we are sharing our tips for success!
Most travelers will quickly glance at rental listings looking for one that appeals to their eye. In searching for great vacation rentals they will only stop at those listings that wow them. You only have seconds to attract them to your listing so how do you get them to click on yours? A great thumbnail photo and benefit oriented headline description are what you need to grab their attention and make them want to learn more about your property. While these two things are essential, they are just a few of the pieces of the puzzle.
Below are more ideas to help you create great vacation rental listings that generate bookings.
1. Thumbnail Photo
Your first vacation rental listing photo usually becomes the thumbnail photo that vacationers see first before clicking into your full listing. As such, you have to consider what it is about your property that is unique and jaw dropping. You want to show vacationers what their vacation will be like, not necessarily what your house looks like, unless your house is so unique that it is what actually draws people to your property or its destination.
You have seconds to attract the travelers’ attention. That first picture has to sell your property and motivate a traveler to click on your listing. The picture itself must be clear, professional, have bright colors with good contrast, and make a statement about why your property is the perfect location for a dream vacation. Is it the home itself? Is it the view? Is it a special room in the house? Is it the house’s proximity to something fabulous such as the ocean or the beach? Remember that people aren’t going on vacation just to experience your house. They are going, first and foremost, to experience where your house is. A picture that incorporates a key feature of your house, such as an elevated deck or where it is in relation to the outstanding feature of your property, is usually your preferred thumbnail image rather than a picture of the house itself or a room in the house.
As with the thumbnail photo, your headline text is where you get to make a first impression with your vacation rental listing. A stop-them-in-their-tracks benefit laden headline is your first statement regarding your listing. It should highlight what benefits your property offers rather than simply be a description of what the house is. What makes your property unique? What makes it standout from other neighboring properties? Why is your location special? Keep it short and simple. Make it accurate. Really try to hit home.
Here are some examples:
- Your own Private Beach!
- Experience the BEST sunsets in the Bahamas!
- The most Romantic Location. Steps to the Ocean!
- The CLOSEST Vacation rental to Pink Sands Beach!
- Come, Swim with the Turtles and the famous Swimming Pigs!
- 10 Bedroom House with Majestic Ocean Views!
- Very Private with Commanding 360 Degree Views!
3. Description of your Vacation Rental
Your description is where you provide the information a renter needs to decide whether your property meets their essential requirements. It should highlight your selling points while also provide a thorough yet concise description of your rental property, its amenities, location and key features. You can also include details about your property that might be helpful in screening out renters who may not be a good fit for your vacation home. If the headline can be considered the benefit statement for your property then the description explains its features.
- Describe your residence, i.e. number of bedrooms and bathrooms, types of beds, family room, kitchen, dining room, deck, etc.
- Include unique features, i.e. are you located on or near a popular beach, one of the settlements or a major attraction such as Lighthouse Beach or the Glass Window Bridge
- Respectfully explain features that might impact certain travelers, i.e. many stairs to climb, does it require guests to have 4WD, is it very isolated, etc.
The description helps sell your property, BUT it is equally important that you set expectations and help identify characteristics of your property that may make it less desirable to some renters. It needs to be honest and accurate. Consistently exceeding customer expectations is what you need to do to build repeat customers, a key factor for financial success.
Your portfolio of pictures will likely be one of, if not THE, key factor that solidifies the renter’s decision. The number of photos in your vacation rental listing matters greatly. The more photos you have, the better you can show your prospects why your house is a cut above and the right choice for them. Clear, detailed, high-quality photos that are current are very important! Most travelers (and people in general) have short attention spans and prefer to look at pictures rather than read about your property.
At EleutheraDirect.com, we offer two vacation rental listing subscription options with either 24 or 50 photos per listing depending on which one you choose. We don’t filter out owner contact information or watermarks from your photos like some other vacation rental listing sites. We highly recommend owners utilize all of the pictures that their packages offers. Additionally, there are some technical details that are important to consider.
- Order and Composition: The first picture MUST be your best. This is the image that will attract them to click on your ad and view the rest of your listing. We DON’T RECOMMEND using an interior picture of the house as your first image unless it somehow shows off the exterior of the house and its location in a unique way. Subsequent images lead the renter on a virtual tour of your property. The final pictures need to make a lasting memory. Think of the pictures as a circle where we want to take the viewer back to where they started. We recommend starting with pictures of the exterior of the property, followed by pictures of the house, the main rooms, the bedrooms, the bathrooms and then back to the exterior using sunrise or sunset photos to end the sequence. Try not to use pictures of furnishings unless they are done artistically. Make sure that there is no mess or clutter in any of the photos. Avoid pictures that look like your family vacation. Make sure any subjects in the photo are examples of how your renters will be having their vacation. You can use photos of island attractions, but limit them. If you are going to use attraction photos then make sure to caption them and explain what they are so that there is less confusion.
- Size & Resolution: Pictures should be large, high quality, and high resolution. An image resolution of 72dpi is considered adequate for websites. Small pictures that have to be enlarged by the website will cause blurring and distortion. The minimum size in pixels for your horizontal images used in your Eleutheradirect.com vacation rental listing should be at least 640px by 480px and ideally 1132px by 768px.
- Orientation: It is important that all of the images you use in your vacation rental listing are of similar size and orientation. Too often pictures switch orientation between landscape and portrait. They also switch between large and small. This lack of consistency becomes disorienting to a viewer and makes your listing less appealing. It is also critical that photos are rotated properly to be right side up. Eleutheradirect.com has a picture rotation tool included with its picture loading tool.
- Light: Images of dark rooms should be avoided. Your photos should be light and airy. Pictures should be taken on sunny days. Interior photos should have the shades left open, lights on, and, if necessary, a flash. If you are taking exterior pictures be sure to move any vehicles from the shot and make sure everything is neat and orderly.
- Time Stamps: Photos that have timestamps are distracting. They also can point out that the pictures are not current if you are using photos with older time stamps. This leaves the impression that the house may not be as advertised. We strongly recommend avoiding time stamps on images and refreshing your pictures with current ones every 6 to 12 months.
We recommend including photos of:
- Main living area
- Kitchen and dining area including any special breakfast areas
- All bedrooms
- All bathrooms
- Unique features such as a high quality entertainment center
- Amenities such as a washer and dryer, but only if they are an absolute selling point of your property. Renters aren’t choosing your house to do household chores, but it is sometimes nice to know that important appliances are available and included.
- Images of the outside of your property, garden and grounds
- Outdoor features including decks, pools, gazebos and hammocks
- Amazing views, sunrises, sunsets, your closest beach and any other special features that are associated with the location of the property
- Bikes, kayaks, canoes, fishing poles, or any other specialty items that you provide
- Scenic images of nearby attractions such as beaches, caves, natural attractions or nearby settlements
Be sure to add a profile picture to your vacation rental listing! Don’t you like to see the person you are buying from? Studies show that accounts with a profile picture receive more clicks than those that don’t have one. If you prefer not to use your own profile picture then use your main thumbnail picture instead.
Reviews add credibility to a vacation rental listing. They also provide renters with an unbiased opinion of your property, location and customer service from someone who went out of their way to share their experience. Reviews carry weight. They provide renters with a way to get to know what you and your property are like through the experience of those who have gone before them.
Reviews are a great way to display positive and independent feedback from satisfied guests and receive recognition for all your hard work! Adding a reply to someone else’s review shows graciousness as well as providing a method for you to highlight other key benefits of your property while also addressing any issues a renter might have had. If you receive a negative review use it as an opportunity to explain what you did to correct the issue so that others won’t experience the same thing. Don’t be defensive. It’s important for you to listen to your customers while allaying any concerns that future renters might have. Always thank the traveler for their candid feedback, whether positive or negative.
Recent reviews carry more weight than older ones. You don’t need thousands of reviews, but if all you have are older reviews then consider contacting some recent guests and ask them to post something more current. When a renter finds a property with only older reviews they think that something has changed that has caused people to stop reviewing your property favorably. Make sure you have at least 3 to 6 recent reviews within the last twelve months.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words then a video is worth 4,000 and is an integral component of a great vacation rental listing! More and more Internet searches are conducted on mobile devices and the most consumed media are videos making it imperative that you have a high quality property video. Even if you can’t afford to hire a videographer and do a professional shoot then you should at least create a video using your pictures. You can add motion to them using a program like Adobe Premiere Pro, Premiere Rush or something similar making the appearance of a video. One-third of online activity is spent watching video while more than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube…EVERY DAY! Additionally, because videos can be watched across a variety of social media platforms and different devices, having a video will allow you to market effectively across the major social media outlets such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
Providing current and accurate rates extending for at least one year and preferably two will allow travelers to decide whether your property is within their budget and is a good value for the money. These days with so many choices renters are picky and oftentimes are bargain hunting. Seeking a discount has become the norm instead of the exception. Setting your price should be a function of occupancy balanced against the cost of operating your rental business. If you use the hotel business to compare, a house that meets or exceeds 70% occupancy is statistically doing well.
As a general rule of product sales you want to avoid being in the middle when setting your price. However, we don’t agree that that holds true for vacation rentals. Pricier homes will often get overlooked as being too expensive while lower priced homes can sometimes be harshly judged as lower quality. Renters want the nicest home that they can afford. In the vacation rental business an owner can only rent their home once for a given date range. How many renters are seeking properties in your area for that specific set of dates? Will all the homes eventually get booked up leaving your house as their only choice? The amount of demand for certain dates is a critical factor when pricing your home.
Here are our guidelines for setting rates:
- Try to be somewhere in the middle compared to other houses in your locale
- Use seasonal pricing to maximize profits during peak seasons
- Don’t make seasonal pricing strategies overly complicated – 2 or 3 is ideal
- Use special holiday rates
When displaying your rates in your vacation rental listing it’s important to include the following key information.
- Minimum night requirements
- Daily, weekly, and monthly rates
- Seasonal or holiday rates
- Any additional charges i.e. VAT, cleaning, security deposit, additional guest fees, pet fee, etc.
- Payment terms i.e. initial deposit, balance due date, etc.
- Payment options i.e. credit card, PayPal, check, etc.
- Any special deals or discounts
It’s important to set the rules for your property, but just keep in mind that renters tend to gloss over them if you are only including them in a written contract. Any important policies should be spelled out not only on your vacation rental listing, but also in your contract and in any guest literature that you provide before someone arrives at your rental. Keep your vacation rental listing up to date with your current policies.
Items to cover include:
- Check-in/check-out time
- Changeover days and times, if applicable
- Pet and smoking restrictions
- Max guest limit
- Handling and returning of security deposits
- Restrictions on utility or water usage
- Refund terms and penalties for cancellations or date changes
- Event policies
- Suitability details such as a minimum age for renters, wheelchair access, or other aspects of your property that would make it unsuitable for certain guests
It’s good business practice to clearly and accurately communicate your policies to guests in your vacation rental listing so that all parties are aware of them and in agreement prior to finalizing your rental agreement.
In addition to the stand out features that your rental has to offer – think pool, big screen TV, standup paddleboards, kayaks – consider supplying your rental with extras that you might find in a hotel or items that they will need to enhance their vacation. These can go beyond standard appliances such as a coffee maker, blender, and hairdryers. Consider including small soaps, shampoo and conditioner. For beach houses include beach chairs, towels, umbrella and a blanket. Equipment for snorkeling and fishing are very welcome. Include local maps and business cards for tour guides, restaurants and grocery stores. Indoor entertainment can include board games, cards and a selection of movies and music.
If you really want to go all out consider adding a local bottle of rum or wine or any other type of small gift that can only be locally found that will make the experience even more memorable. Don’t be afraid to mention these amenities in your rental listing because they come across as thoughtful touches that illustrate your kindness and attention to detail, which travelers appreciate.
10. Advertising and the Value of Repeat Business
You need to let the world know you are out there because you have a lot of competition. The large OTAs have gotten expensive and they change their rules frequently making them exceedingly difficult to work with. PPC campaigns can be effective, but they are also costly. Paying for clicks can quickly eat up your advertising budget without gaining you any customers. Remember this adage, people will click on anything, but that doesn’t mean they intend to buy something. As small business owners, every dollar counts. Listing your property on vacation rental listing sites like Eleutheradirect.com is one of the most economical ways to gain exposure as they maximize your exposure through a strong social media presence plus superior positioning for organic search keywords that are hard to compete for as an individual homeowner. While you can do some of those things yourself it’s very difficult to achieve the same result compared to an aggregator like Eleutheradirect. Regional websites focus on your destination and market exclusively to vacationers who are more likely to generate bookings for you.
In our many years in the vacation rental industry, we have found that advertising locally can also be a very cost effective way to reach travelers, however, what’s even more valuable is to focus your attention and energy on turning each customer into a repeat customer. You’ve already spent the money that earned their initial business. Now work twice as hard to turn them into regulars so that you can start reducing your advertising spend. Following some of the previous suggestions that turn their vacation into the best trip of their life will be worth every penny you invest. Consider sending a reminder about your booking your property in a special mailer. Generate an email campaign offering specials, or book early discounts for future years. Small gifts and thank you cards go a long way towards building loyalty.
Have you ever spent time planning a trip only to find out that the place you thought was available was not? You don’t want to be the source of this frustration for your potential guests because it’s likely that you won’t get a chance to get them back. Your vacation rental listing calendar must be current and accurate. Additionally, having an up to date calendar will help travelers find your home while they are searching for particular dates that align with your own availability. EleutheraDirect.com offers owners the ability to sync their calendars with up to 5 different listing sites. This means you can conveniently manage one calendar rather then multiple! We recommend using one calendar as your master. That one should be updated manually when necessary, but when automated bookings come through from any source then the calendars will synchronize on a regular and continuous basis.
Eleutheradirect.com is here to help! We are experienced fellow vacation rental homeowners who simply enjoy helping other vacation rental owners be successful. If you have a challenge, chances are we’ve had it before or one of our clients has had it. We are happy to share our knowledge and solutions.
Are you ready to take control of your vacation rental business? Are you ready to manage your vacation rental property your way? Are you looking to claim your freedom from the big box listing sites that have made your life difficult while decreasing your exposure and revenue?
To showcase your property and start matching travelers to your property, list your vacation rental with Eleutheradirect.com today. Join the #BookDirect movement and start paving your path to independence!
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