On the second #BookDirect Day in 2019, over 5 million travelers received emails with a social reach of 50 million+. about the advantages of booking vacation rentals directly with an owner or manager instead of through a third-party channel. As awareness increases among consumers about the advantages of booking direct, it is well worth your time to invest in assets that drive more bookings to your site.
1. Accept direct bookings on your website
Many vacation rental companies have websites, but they lack the capability to accept direct bookings or inquiries on their site. In 2019, consumers expect frictionless transactions online across all device types, including mobile and tablet. Building a website with these features on your own is a costly endeavor, and thankfully, there are plenty of out-of-the-box solutions to easily launch your own branded booking site.
Most of these solutions are part of a larger vacation rental property management system, so your inventory, pricing, photos, availability etc. are already available when you launch your own branded site.
Tip: I’d recommend to speaking to several before moving forward with a provider.
For more reviews and comparisons of these options, Capterra has a comprehensive list of vacation rental software providers.
2. Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing traffic to your website from search engines, primarily Google. SEO is a long-term investment, and it takes time to improve your rankings in organic search. In the vacation rental space, the large OTAs dominate search traffic; however, there are independent brands that have broken through.
In Savannah, for instance, Googling “Savannah Vacation Rental,” two of the top five organic results are local players Southern Belle Vacation Rentals and Lucky Savannah. These sites employ two of the top strategies we see have the most success for increasing search rankings:
- Increasing the number of high-quality backlinks to your site.
- Frequently updating your site with new content.
High-quality backlinks are when websites with authority in the relevant space and a good amount of traffic link to your site. Publishing content that links to your site on these websites increases the number of backlinks on your “SEO score.” Some of the ways you can generate quality links to your vacation rental site include:
- Partner with local events like marathons, conferences, and music festivals to get listed on their site as a provider of accommodations.
- Reach out to the local tourism authority to get listed on their site.
- Work with local bloggers and publications to get reviewed on their site or to exchange guest posts.
In addition, search engines favor sites that constantly have new content added. Two of the best ways to keep adding fresh new content on your site are:
- Allow guest reviews on your site.
- Start a blog or newsletter and update it at least once a week.
SEO is a long-tail strategy, and you can’t expect results overnight. Build a few hours into your week to reach out to sites that will link to your site and to write a blog post.
Tip: If you don’t have time, use a site like Upwork to find a freelancer that can help execute these SEO tactics.
3. Build an email marketing list
A robust email list is one of the most valuable assets you can leverage to drive more direct bookings. Unfortunately, many of the OTAs make it complicated for vacation rental managers to collect emails from the booker of their properties. Furthermore, getting access to the names and emails of the other guests in the home can be nearly impossible.
An easy first step to start collecting emails is to add email collection to your website. This can be especially effective if you provide a discount code in return for signing up for your email newsletters.
It is more challenging to do this for guests coming from third-party channels. StayFi offers a unique and seamless solution to collect contact information from all your guests during their stay. They set up a branded WiFi splash page that guests use to access the WiFi system with their name and email. This solution not only solves the issue of collecting emails, but also is an easy way to increase your brand awareness to guests whenever they log on to the WiFi in your homes.
They also offer marketing services to help you build/manage your email list and scale your marketing campaigns.
Tip: You can eventually generate additional revenue through affiliate networks like VigLink by building a valuable email list.
4. Deploy email marketing automation
“Marketing automation” is industry jargon for having a series of automated messages sent without human intervention. With the right email service provider, setting up marketing automation is easier than ever. Providers like MailChimp and Constant Contact have tools to set up different types of automated campaigns without any special technical skills.
The most basic type of campaign is a welcome series that sends out a series of emails spaced out over a set time-frame after an individual joins your email list. For instance, if someone joins your email list in exchange for a 10 percent discount, you can set up a welcome series email campaign with the following logic:
|Immediately||Send a welcome email with the 10% discount code and brief introduction to your brand.|
|+2 Hours||If the previous email was not opened, send a similar one.|
|+2 Days||Send an email with highlights of your top six homes.|
|+14 Days||Send an email with the top three reasons to visit one of your destinations.|
|Every 30 Days||Send an email about your homes, destinations, or brand that reminds the email subscriber about their 10% discount code.|
Tip: The more you can personalize and customize these emails based on how and when you collected the email, the better results you will achieve.
5. Include your brand on OTAs
It may seem like a simple idea, but you would be surprised about how many vacation rental managers aren’t doing it. Sites like HomeAway allow rental managers to list their brand under the property manager section. Consumers like to comparison shop on the web and don’t be surprised if they Google your company name once they see it on an OTA.
Offering a discount in exchange for signing up for your email list on your website may be just what you need to convert this traffic into a direct booking.