Updated: Jul 3, 2020
As a vacation rental owner, you are a small business, and small businesses need a website. It gives your rental more online exposure and it allows for a personalized branded touch. Even if you do not want to accept your own direct online bookings, maintaining a website sets you apart from the rest of the pack.
A website can sometimes be the first touchpoint a new guest has with your rental. Travelers are savvy and they know that sometimes doing a Google search will yield new and more varied results over going to one of the bigger companies directly. Again, even if you do not offer direct online booking, a Google search can many times yield your first interaction with a client. Having a cohesive branded website with a social media presence can set you apart.
To summarize, if you want to have a leg up from the competition, having a website for your vacation rental is key. This post will dive into how to get started with a website for your short term rental.
How do I choose a domain for my short term vacation rental?
Begin by thinking about a domain name. If you have one property (or a portfolio) in one area, choose a domain that includes that area in the URL. For example: www.vacationrentalsinsandiego.com. If you have rentals in many different areas, you might consider a few websites, one main site with all of your properties and then smaller city/town specific websites. Including the city in the URL will give you bang for your buck in search engines. I always recommend purchasing domains from Google Domains.
How do I decide where to build my website?
There are many website builders that you can choose, from WordPress to Squarespace to Weebly to Wix. WordPress (when self hosted) is a great budget friendly option. It gives you everything you need to launch a site and take direct bookings, but there is a steep learning curve. We have seen many frustrated clients come through hoping that we can fix their WordPress site. We enjoy building on Wix. Wix includes a robust user friendly backend and an intuitive design interface. Additionally, SEO is fairly straightforward with their SEO wizard. There is no right or wrong answer, but as an agency, we always urge clients to take a close look at Wix.
Also keep the following in mind:
1- When building your website, you also must ensure it is mobile friendly. Google is a mobile first search engine. If your site is not mobile friendly, you will lose points on search engines. Wix, Weebly, and SquareSpace make this very easy. WordPress is a bit more of a learning curve. Just keep this in mind as you research companies.
2- The website will need to be secure ESPECIALLY if taking online bookings. Notice the little padlock by the URL of this website. This means your information is secure. If you bought something from here or signed up for our newsletter, you would be assured that nobody else could steal your information. This is another crucial piece of the puzzle for a well optimized website. You shouldn't need to worry about this with most website builders though. Self hosted WordPress is slightly trickier but most everyone provides SSL certificates for free now.
Ok, I have my domain, and I have the website builder, do I need to consider anything before diving in?
YES! Branding is so often overlooked by vacation rental owners. Before doing anything at all, think about your ideal client. Is it young couples, older couples, families, groups of friends? There are many quizzes online to help you with this. We also have one should you wish to schedule a free marketing session, we can provide this to you. Think of when you ask friends or family for advice or referrals, you always want the website. This is the same thing.
Branding also includes a logo. The key is to not just have a website, but to have a website that wows and shows your guests you care. A logo is a part of this. Once you have established your key audience and demographic, the next step is the logo. Choose a design or find a designer that can help you illustrate the look you want to convey. Is your space rustic? Is it modern? Again, who are you trying to attract?
You want your website to be professional. Think about a website you hated and a website you loved. What was it about those sites that either drew you in or made you want to navigate away? Chances are it was the branding. Branding is everything.
The next thing you want to think about are your keywords. This is important from an SEO standpoint. You'll want to incorporate your keywords in a natural fashion throughout your website. Take time before starting to do some Google searches to see what people are searching for and how they might access your website. Write 5-8 keywords down and incorporate them in a natural fashion on your website. For example, I might use, "condo great for couple in San Diego" as a target keyword.
What are the must have sections on my vacation rental website?
For a vacation rental website, you will want the following pages: homepage, property or properties page, about page, local knowledge page, and a blog page (which can double as a local knowledge page). A blog page is key because content is what helps sites rank on Google. We have a client who dedicated her time to blogging consistently and ended up ranking between pages 1 and 3 on Google for her keyword set. It takes time and dedication but it pays off.
For your homepage, you will want to lay out your page in the following manner:
1- A navigation bar at the top of the page with social media buttons clearly visible, your logo, and a call to action button.
2- A hero image (a big image across the page) with a byline and a call to action.
3- A description of your property or properties. This is where you will want to show off your expert copy writing skills and incorporate your chosen keywords. Convince people why your property is the best place to book. Call to action button to your property page and also a button leading to your booking page (whether that is on site or off site)
4- About Us with a two column layout. One column should be a photo and the second column should be the About Us section and a button to Read More.
5- Testimonials slider
6- Contact Us form. You should include a very simple form in case people have more questions. It should include a section for name, email, and comment.
You can then move on to your full About Us page, Property page, blog, and local knowledge page.
What are the biggest mistakes when creating a vacation rental website?
Print out the checklist below and keep it handy as you create your website. Ensure you have addressed each of these items.
Creating a website that is disorganized, lacks structure, and has poor copy. Plan your site in advance. Our favorite thing to do is to plan a website on a piece of paper using a pencil. Ensure your copy is engaging and professional
Creating a website with poor navigation
Simply listing amenities without descriptions
Failing to show off your local knowledge of a location with information about favorite places in the area and activities. Do you have partnerships with local businesses? Advertising that you have these is a big draw
Posting poor or tiny photos that have been screenshot or saved from elsewhere. Always try to use original photos, even of your neighborhood. Use an image compressor to compress photos before uploading to your site.
Not posting an About Us page or Bio where you share a little personal information, your hosting experience, and any other web pages
Missing a CTA (Call to Action). For example, contact us and book now buttons
Failing to include testimonials from previous happy travelers
Not keeping an up-to-date blog. Content is crucial for SEO and it also shows potential clients that you maintain the website frequently
Contact Us with any questions, to schedule a free strategy session, or if you would like us to get you started with your winning vacation rental website.
Also comment on the blog post with any questions you may have and we will respond promptly.