By Brynn Flaherty, Andy Gaylord, Beryl Coulter, Jack Scherrer, and Alex Moshenskiy
It’s 2020, and staying up-to-date on SEO trends should be on every vacation rental manager’s to-do list. To address SEO topics that will be relevant in the coming months, we assembled a panel of Bluetent’s digital marketing experts: Brynn Flaherty, Andy Gaylord, Beryl Coulter, Jack Scherrer, and Alex Moshenskiy. They’ve compiled a comprehensive list of essential search subjects and provided their personal digital marketing recommendations as well.
HOT TOPICS IN SEARCH AND DIGITAL ADVERTISING
Google Vacation Rentals: This was a big topic in 2019, but because the feature was in beta for the entire year, there wasn’t much opportunity for vacation rental companies to take advantage of it. Because Google Vacation Rentals (GVR) is likely going to change the search landscape pretty dramatically in 2020, making sure your properties are positioned to show up there will be important.
Featured Snippets: Google is changing the way the search engine results pages (SERPs) look by adding featured snippets: interesting finds, image carousels, and more. These new types of search results take up more real estate in the SERPs, so when a vacation rental company’s web page is rewarded with a featured snippet, it can drive even more traffic and increase the company’s brand exposure. There are many ways to get a featured snippet in the SERPs—savvy digital marketers should be constantly testing content and page structure to see what works.
Competition for High-Volume Transactional Queries: Competition within the Google SERPs is increasing every day as more and more vacation rental businesses enter the space. As a result, it’s important to develop increased transactional content that ranks for relevant long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords like “North Lake Tahoe rentals with hot tub” or “Hatteras Island homes with an elevator” are going to be easier to rank because there is less competition. And, because the keyword is more specific and targeted, it is more likely to inspire a conversion.
Quality Content: Increasingly, Google recognizes quality over quantity when it comes to content. Vacation rental companies have a huge opportunity to stand out from the OTAs by creating quality content that’s relevant to potential guests (visitors’ guides, travel tips, upcoming events, benefits of booking direct, etc.). For the most part, OTAs aren’t creating this type of content. Vacation rental companies can give the best recommendations for their areas, and they’ll be rewarded in the search results. Bonus: Guests love this type of content!
Improving Page Speed: Google continues to come out with different ways to “grade” websites and measure how fast they load. Google’s expectations for page speed are growing, and this topic is going to become even more important as we move further into 2020.
Leveraging Schema Markup: Schema markup is code that can be added to a page that gives Google more information about the page’s content and can enhance how the page is displayed in the SERPs. Schema markup is especially powerful because it can result in featured snippets (see above). For example, schema markup can be added to a vacation rental company’s FAQ page, which can help that page show up in the SERPs—complete with expandable menus showing a few questions and answers from that page. With space in the SERPs shrinking these days, schema markup can help vacation rental companies improve their presence and take up more of that valuable real estate.
Google Ads: Recently, the primary focus of Google Ads has been changing their platform to rely more heavily on automation and artificial intelligence. Through 2019, we saw significant effects of this, such as increased competition in the ad space because of this change. Automation allows for fewer barriers to entry, meaning more competitors are easily entering the space. OTAs are able to use this automation to scale their advertising rapidly and increase their online presence. Manually creating ads that more accurately target potential guests will help keep vacation rental companies competitive in the increasingly automated ads space.
TEAM RECOMMENDATIONS FOR STAYING COMPETITIVE ONLINE
Google Vacation Rentals and Google My Business
Brynn Flaherty, Director of Marketing Services
Google Vacation Rentals (GVR) is still in beta, but we think it has the potential to fundamentally change the industry’s search landscape in the coming months. We believe vacation rental companies need to list on GVR. Bluetent has taken a proactive stance: in 2019, we started working with Google to integrate directly with GVR through Boost, our channel management tool.
The Google My Business platform has many new features that can help local businesses such as vacation rental companies showing up more prominently in the SERPs. OTAs like Vrbo and Airbnb can’t show up in the local Google results, so this is a nice way for vacation rental managers to compete with the big companies. From “Posts” to “Offers” to the new “Shop” feature, we can help our clients increase their brand exposure in real time in Google.
Super Meta Descriptions
Andy Gaylord, Content Marketing Manager
As Google’s algorithm has gotten smarter, it has become better at scraping content from websites and rendering it on SERPs. This means meta descriptions have become less important and on-page content has become more important. I am encouraging our clients to focus on clear and concise summaries (super meta descriptions) within the content to give Google and other search engines more to read and render in the search results.
Local Listings and Booking Strategy
Beryl Coulter, SEO Account Manager
Many of my clients are active on local listings such as Google My Business. Local listings generally have good placements within the SERPs. When vacation rental companies provide updated local listings, they can show up multiple times in the organic results. Within a local listing, there are more opportunities to share info with guests—property photos, company updates, links to vacation rentals, and so on.
OTAs continue to rank well organically and gain recognition with travelers. Many people searching for a vacation rental still think of searching an OTA first rather than going directly to a vacation rental company’s website. Listing on OTAs is important, but so is direct booking—individual properties should be optimized to show up in search results. We recommend that our clients write property descriptions with searchability in mind.
Page Speed, Analytics, and Branding
Jack Sherrer, Analytics Manager
One of the ways our digital marketing team has been helping clients improve page speed is by migrating third-party marketing scripts (like Facebook tracking pixels, pop-up windows, call-tracking scripts, etc.) from the codebase to Google Tag Manager. That way, each script doesn’t have to load before the page loads, which can drastically improve speed and website performance.
Bluetent’s new business intelligence reporting tool utilizes Google Data Studio to expose areas of opportunity in our clients’ marketing efforts and in website functionality. We can embed this new custom analytics report directly into a Rezfusion Cloud or Pro website so that the data is always at the client’s fingertips. Vacation rental companies can develop actionable insight into website traffic origination, average size of booking windows, performance of marketing campaigns, and more—just by visiting a page on their website.
Competing with OTAs, which have infinitely more marketing reach and budget, for organic search results can be difficult for smaller vacation rental companies. Although you need visibility there, it’s more important than ever to push your brand through unique value propositions and excellent customer service. Procure and respond to reviews—the good ones and the bad ones. Be genuine. Leverage your local knowledge. Be better than you are right now.
Targeted, Personalized Digital Advertising
Alex Moshenskiy, Digital Advertising Manager
Google Ads is a pay-to-play platform, and our clients are always faced with the issue of how they can compete on far smaller advertising budgets than the OTAs. The OTAs have strong brand recognition and are able to flood the market with large advertising budgets and automation. However, automated ads are often poorly targeted and frequently don’t resonate well with living, breathing searchers. Bluetent focuses on building strong digital advertising strategies for our clients using deep-dive analysis to create personalized ads that connect with target markets. Applying a wide variety of data points allows our clients to efficiently and effectively reach potential customers, drive direct bookings, and compete against the OTAs.
Want to stay competitive online? Our digital marketing experts are here to help. Contact Bluetent at 970.510.5615.