to industry news resource, VRM Intel, HomeAway Software (now Vrbo) is
sunsetting both V12 and Australian prevalent software, Yes Book It (YBI).
If you are currently on V12, sources say, you will have roughly 24 months to switch software. Vrbo is now enhancing Escapia software and hoping to move it’s V12 and YBI users to the Escapia platform. To read more about the switch, read VRM Intel’s article here.
Property Management Companies recently left Property Plus and switched to
V12. Switching software is an expensive project from a time, money, and
attention perspective. The article mentions that many Property Plus users
switched to Streamline, VRM, and LiveRez which have since had a majority share
purchased by the private equity group GSV (Greater Sum Ventures) out of
considering what to do and where to go, our Director of Sales, Vanessa Humes
remarks that, “It is definitely a time of change and shake up in terms of
Property Management Software. While we’ve seen our clients make a big
switch from Vrbo softwares over the years, we haven’t had a ‘fan favorite’
software stick out that we could make a big recommendation. While I’m
sure that VRMs would love to have a ‘one stop shop’ for everything software –
pricing, data, housekeeping modules, website, marketing—it’s just not out
there. The good thing about ICND and the other long-time vendors services
the industry is, If you have our website, we can integrate in with just about
any software that offers an API. Your website stays the same to guests
and owners and in a time of so much change, I think that’s very important.”
went on to recommend that, “although it’s a lot to manage, it’s really good to
have companies that specialize in solving your pain points”. It’s a lot
for one company to have the resources to be able to offer the best in
everything when they focus on more than one thing. For instance, Vanessa
goes on to say, “It’s very important for ICND to stay focused on websites and
digital marketing. We want to be the best at what we do
independently of who you use for software, travel insurance, payment processing
or any other service you opt into. We aren’t over here talking about how
you should be putting your properties on distribution channels and taking a cut
of your commissions. We’re talking about and focusing on direct
finger is on the pulse of these changes and we’ll adapt our websites and
digital marketing services to fit the needs of our clients. As we receive
more updates from changes in the industry stay tuned to VRM Intel, our blog,
and our VR Ninja Marketing Podcasts for further industry specific news updates.
The word is out – ICND has been traveling across the country with our partners for vacation rental seminars but some of you might be left wondering: What exactly is Beers & Idears? We sat down with Director of Sales & Marketing, Vanessa Humes, to answer all of your questions.
Q: Tell us about Beers & Idears.
VH: Beers and Idears is a great way to get together with VRM’s in a close knit market, infuse some networking and education, build relationships, and have some fun. You learn a lot about the area’s pain points and concerns and all come together with ideas to solve them. There is a tremendous amount of need in every market for a company to come in and do a good job of what they say they are going to do. I feel like this group of vendors does that well and why we decided to partner together. Vacation Rental Managers are looking for a one-stop-shop and we’ve basically put together a mall for them to go talk to vendors that enhance their business outside of property management software (which we know is the 800 lb elephant). We work with pretty much any property management software to do things better or implement unique functionality not offered by your PMS. Not only is it a lot of useful information you can go back and immediately put into play in your own business, it’s also a lot of fun and laughs by the end. Some come early to learn and stay late to play!
Q: Who are the partners?
VH: We’ve partnered with other independently-owned, like-minded companies in the Vacation Rental space. Along with ICND, we have Ascent Processing, Breezeway,KeyData Dashboard & RedSky Travel Insurance. We’re pretty much like family at this point! Read more about our partners here. Each one offers insights about their specific product or service. All of these companies have a ton of years in the industry. We’ve seen it grow and we’ve adapted as VR companies have had to adapt and we will continue to grow.
Q: What are the takeaways for Vacation Rental companies?
VH: You’ve got a lot of vendors that care about this industry and making sure you have an outside perspective to know what to expect from the best. Whether it’s what you should expect from your travel insurance company, the latest technologies in guest payments, the importance of data in making sound business decisions, or what features and functionality will push a shopper into a booker on your website, you are in front of some brilliant companies who have your best interests in mind.
Q: How was the idea of these educational seminars born?
VH: A lot happened back in the fall of 2014: I had my third child, we hired April Burns, we had a kick-ass booking engine, and we had a lot of energy to put our ideas into motion. So on the cusp of going out to San Diego for VRMA (which I missed because I was on maternity leave and April was too new to be thrown to the wolves, by the way she now leads the pack at these conferences) we tried to figure out how we could get VRMs together to network and we could share our ideas. So we called it Beers and Idears. When RedSky and the others approached us to put together a “Road Show” we thought it was great timing to pull that back in.
Q: Where are you most excited to travel to next with Beers & Idears?
VH: Hawaii. It’s on my bucket list to visit personally, a challenge on my fear of flying list, and a tremendous opportunity for us to show the commitment we have to servicing our friends in the islands.
Q: What excites you most about Beers & Idears?
VH: I love being in-market and building relationships. You learn so much about a destination when you are on the turf talking one on one with different companies. I have a passion for educating VR Marketers and Managers about the importance of direct bookings and the ever changing, ever evolving strategies to achieve that. I know ICND is the best at it. If we weren’t, our competitors wouldn’t be adopting our tagline of being “conversion focused” or emulating our innovative website features. That may sound conceited, but people who know me know that I give you straight-up, candid answers. ICND isn’t looking to bring on a million customers and get bought out by VC groups. We want to be the best provider and work with the best VR companies around the country and around the globe.
There are several important factors to consider when choosing the right marketing agency, whether it’s for a new website or to manage digital marketing for your company. So how do you choose the right agency for you and your company? After all, there’s a lot that needs to be taken into consideration such as SEO, Pay Per Click advertising, social media management, website support, and overall your company’s branding! Here are some things we think YOUR agency should have: 100% Support – This is top of the list because no one wants to get left in the dark when it comes to their website or digital marketing. Make sure the agency you work with offers the support you need whether it be big website redesign projects or swapping out a banner image on Facebook. You and your company deserve 1st class support regardless or how big you are.
A Dedicated Digital Marketing Team – This may seem like a “nice to have” but it really is crucial especially if branding is important to you (and it is). We all know that consistency is difficult to achieve in the vacation rental industry so having everything in one spot makes it that much easier. Take the time to figure out if your agency can offer a robust, end to end digital marketing package.
A Web Development Team That Gets It – Not every website needs to be custom BUT having a team that understands the aspects of custom design comes in handy even if your website is a “standard” site. Be weary of an agency that wants to put everyone in a box with a template site. No one should be put into a box even with “standard” websites. You need an agency with the idea that if you can dream it, we can build it.
A Scalable Solution – The idea of hiring an agency is to grow your vacation rental business so make sure they can grow with you. You may not be at the point of needing a dedicated Service Level Agreement team to complete complex, custom projects but if the agency is doing their job right, one day you will need one!
Do They Understand the Vacation Rental Space? – The vacation rental space is extremely unique making it difficult for standard marketing agencies to fit the role. Having an agency that not only understands the industry but has employees that have first hand experience is more valuable than you think.
Are They Concerned with Your Goals? – Our last point might be the biggest of them all! If they aren’t asking you what your long and short term goals are then they aren’t right for you. Yes, everyone in the vacation rental space is selling, well… vacation rentals, but your brand is unique and your goals are unique. Don’t be put into a box.
Okay, okay, we are an end to end marketing agency that is focused on customer service and helping our clients achieve their goals BUT that doesn’t mean you should work with us! Find the agency that you feel works best for your business model but remember that your agency can either help you achieve great success or hold you back from reaching your goals. As always, we are open to questions too, even if you aren’t our client we’re here to help!
May 2019 marks InterCoastal Net Designs’ 20th year in business and much of our success can be attributed to our humble beginnings with Brandon Sauls at the helm. We recently sat down with Brandon to discuss where ICND is today, where we plan to go and how it all began with a fishing charter website. We live & breathe the tourism industry with our headquarters in the small beach community of Ocean Isle Beach, NC – making us well suited to understand our client’s business model and helping them see success in the vacation rental and tourism industries.
Follow Our Journey:
Q: Tell us about ICND’s beginnings 20 years ago.
Brandon: I was in college at the University of South Carolina, spending my summers working as a Captain in Ocean Isle. Two unique opportunities popped up back in 1996: 1) We needed to generate more business for the charter boat operation so we built a website and optimized it for HotBot, Lycos, Yahoo and AltaVista, there was no Google back then. Clients found us and we ran a successful charter boat operation for years while in college. 2) When I returned to USC, I posted on a campus billboard that I did website development. I landed an account and began optimizing a website for online golf club sales. From there, I had a full-time summer job with the charter boat operations and was working full-time during the school year marketing the golf club sales site. Graduating in 1999, I began working on the H.L Hunley website, which quickly generated revenue and gave me the confidence to dive into the website design and marketing realm. ICND was fully born and incorporated in 1999 and it was off to the races from there. I hired my first employee in 2000, second employee in 2001 and by 2005 had ten employees. By this time we were building full scale eCommerce systems and one of the first companies in the area interfaced with the real estate MLS / IDX data feeds. We were delivering fully integrated websites to the local area long before anyone else. Fast forward to 2010, ICND joined the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association. My wife, 3rd generation vacation rental manager at Sloane Vacations, showed me the way into this space. At first ICND had an equal product to the competitors but I quickly realized we needed to make a move. In 2014 ICND spent 8 months on R & D, rolling out www.AcmeHouse.com on our first version of our booking engine which made waves in the VRMA Community and catapulted ICND to the top of the competition. From there ICND has moved 90% of our focus on the Vacation Rental and Real Estate space.
Q: Thinking about where ICND is today versus 20 years ago, what are the largest changes that have fueled our growth?
Brandon: Prior to 2010, ICND was successful but we hadn’t honed in on our niche. We built sites for charter boat companies, lawyers and doctors. Joining VRMA and focusing our efforts on one main product allowed us to develop a strong code base that we could quickly deploy, support and maintain. Since HomeAway.com, VRBO, and AIRbnb have showed up in this space – it has really accelerated the growth of the industry we serve.
Q: What sets ICND apart from other website design & marketing firms?
Brandon: Our team is key here at ICND, but here are a few things I think set us apart from the rest:
Direct Bookings: We maintain a strong focus on generating bookings through YOUR website. With a customized marketing plan, we focus on generating more revenue directly from your website.
Speaking of customized, our custom websites are award winning. VRM Intel voted us the best website in 2016 with Topsail Realty.
Customer Service: Our team is positioned to provide you with a hands on customer service approach. The customer is the focus here at ICND, and we pride ourselves on quick response time and customized solutions.
ICND is independently owned & operated, however, we have formed strong industry-wide partnerships allowing us to provide the best product to our customers.
Q: We know ICND keeps you busy, but tell us about your hobbies!
Brandon: You don’t have to look far across the internet and social media outlets to know that I’m an avid fishermen. If I’m not working or chasing behind my twin twelve year-old girls, you’ll find me on the boat in the nearest body of water! I enjoy traveling to the southern latitudes and always seeking some outdoor adventure!
Q: Where do you see ICND going in the next 20 years?
Brandon: That is a big question – as fast as the industry is growing right now the sky is the limit. We have a strong product offering and we will continue to improve, expand and grow our core products. We have plenty of room here to grow within the US, and we’re also looking at new horizons in Europe and Australia. The same product that works in the US, will work anywhere in the world. Why limit yourself to just the US market?
Q: Tell us a little bit about Team ICND!
Brandon: Team ICND consists of forty of the finest developers, co-workers and friends that you can find. Check out our Team Page to learn a little more about each employee. Each person is very talented and bring their own unique playbook to the table that is in sync with our master plan… to make ICND the very best it can be. Everyone gets along really well and works toward a common goal! The team we have in place now is most likely the most talented team ICND has ever had.
ICND & Ascent Processing have long been partners in the Vacation Rental industry and we’re excited to announce their newest product, ASCENTpay. ASCENTpay powered by Uplift is an essential tool for vacation rental companies that is both beneficial to guests and property managers. It is not required to be a current Ascent Processing client to utilize this product. ICND is fully equipped to implement ASCENTpay on your website today.
Why should you use ASCENTpay?
Immediate FULL reservation payment paid to
vacation rental company
powered by Uplift assumes all risk for chargebacks, fraud and more
Earlier average booking window
Higher average transaction value as guests are
more willing to upgrade rental or stay longer
ASCENTpay is easily integrated on your website and allows
guests to pay for their vacation in low, fixed monthly payments. Guests simply
select ASCENTpay as a method of payment during booking.
Why is ASCENTpay
great for guests?
Three easy steps
Great loan options and rates for maximum
No hidden fees, no late fees
Simple, instant approval
We’ve seen a similar trend in e-commerce shopping, but ASCENTpay is the first unique offering of its kind for the vacation rental industry. This cutting-edge technology will create a simple and easy process for guests making their dream vacation affordable and attainable. Visit Ascent Processing’s website or contact us to learn more.
#BookDirect Day is Feb 6th and the ICND team has compiled tips to educate your guests. The #BookDirect movement is primarily focused on guest education. OTAs have the brand recognition and marketing bandwidth to get in front of YOUR guests, but what makes booking directly with your company better? Here are a few highlights to market for #BookDirect.
Better Price Guarantee: Your guests can likely save $100s by booking direct, make sure they know! Share instances where your guests have saved money or create a case study demonstrating the unique experience you offer.
Discount Offered: Its simple, guests are incentivized when it comes to discounts. Something as simple as 10% off makes your offering unique compared to OTAs.
Local Knowledge: What does your Vacation Rental company know about the area? Likely your team is a wealth of knowledge. Make sure your guests know that by booking direct, your team is there to answer questions from the best burger in town to the most affordable golf cart rental company.
Maintenance: Who do guests call when the pool needs heating or the AC goes out on a hot summer day? Educate guests on your fleet of maintenance and housekeeping staff that are readily available to make their vacation go off without a hitch.
There’s a reason #BookDirect Day is centered around guest
education, and that is because your guests NEED to know. The hardest part may
very well be nudging guests to book direct. Once someone experiences all the
benefits your company has to offer, your company is equipped to convert guests
into lifelong customers.
So what’s next?
Get the word out on social media – schedule posts or join real time sharing your #BookDirect stories and benefits.
Email Marketing – get in front of your guests with a branded email campaign celebrating the #BookDirect movement.
Offer a discount – no time like the present to win business than #BookDirect Day.
We finally did it, we’ve finally started our very own podcast! If you’re not very familiar with podcasts, it’s basically like talk radio, only a little funnier. On our podcast, Vacation Rental Ninjas, we talk about everything related to the vacation rental industry including marketing strategy, SEO, social media, website development, and so much more. Our topics are relevant and relatable, and we’re pretty funny to listen to as well.
This Episode focuses on some great questions to ask yourself as we move into 2019. Many people are wondering what they can do to improve their marketing strategy and bring in more renters and that’s exactly what we are discussing for our first episode. We also discuss what we call, “Tool of the day” where we break down one useful tool that you can utilize in your marketing strategy. This episode’s tool is Facebook’s Audience Insights and is extremely useful when building a social audience.
You wont want to miss the discussion between Paul Hanak, Director of Marketing and David Thompson, Director of Social Media as they dive into some must know topics for 2019.
Where To Find The Podcast?
You can download the first episode and all to come on Google Music and iTunes completely FREE. And don’t forget, we are releasing a new episode every other week so stay tuned!
We at InterCoastal Net Designs have been helping our clients in making their websites ADA compliant. We have been asked recently why a website must be ADA compliant, so we thought we would share some of the information with you and how it helps your company out.
What Does ADA Stand For?
The ADA is the American with Disabilities Act and it requires that businesses and nonprofit service providers make accessibility accommodations to the disabled public. This means that they have to provide the same service to the disabled as they would for the non-disabled which includes their websites.
What Could Happen If We Don’t Make our Site ADA Compliant?
If your site is not ADA Compliant there are a few things that could happen. The first thing that could happen to your business is you could lose a client or a booking. We don’t want this to happen because the disabled person may go to another site that is ADA compliant. Another thing that we could see in the future is where Google and other search engines would only rank websites that are compliant. We know that they have recently moved in the direction to “force” businesses to make their sites mobile friendly or they will lose the rankings altogether. This could be the future with having your website ADA compliant and if it’s not then you lose your rankings. We don’t want this to happen to your business which is why we can help make your website ADA compliant.
How Do We Make Your Website ADA Compliant?
There are many suggestions on the ADA Website, but we know that there are many other considerations as well. We will take the precautions in checking your site to see if it’s compliant and if it is not, then we will make it compliant. There are several things that have to be addressed in making it compliant, but we will cover a few of the items for you.
Your website will have information and user interface components that must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This ensures that the content on your site is available to view in multiple forms that will be easy to see or hear regardless of the disability. We will make sure to place an alt text tag on an image.
We will make sure that the user interface components and navigation must be operable meaning that a disabled user can easily navigate your website. We want to make sure that they won’t run into any limited functionality or time limits if we make it compliant for them. We want to make sure the disabled can navigate through your site using only their keyboard or that the web pages are titled with a topic.
Is It Easy to Understand?
Having a website that is easy to understand is something that the ADA looks at. We want to make sure that your website and its pages are easy to read, are predictable and have the capability to correct user mistakes. We want your website navigation to remain consistent throughout the site and that you provide instructions for all user impute fields. Also, we want to make sure that a user is able to confirm their financial transaction before they submit it for an order or booking.
How Robust is It?
The ADA wants to make sure that the content is robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of users including assistive technologies. This will help ensure that the compatibility between your website and current and future technologies that someone may use to assist them. We will make sure that your HTML documents include a start and end tags and do not contain duplicates. We want to help make their experience as good as it would be if it was non-ADA Compliant.
While there are many other ways that InterCoastal Net Designs can help with making your website ADA Compliant, these are just a few of the examples we do for you. We understand that while this can seem very complicated to get onto your site, it’s something that we know how to do. We hope that you will trust InterCoastal Net Designs in helping build your business and making your website ADA Compliant for the new year!
ICND has been in the vacation rental industry for two decades and a key component of that success is our partnerships. We’ve worked with our partner CiiRUS Vacation Rental Software to launch Uptown Apartments. This marks ICND’s first collaboration of many to come with CiiRUS. This site is the second Australian launch for both ICND and CiiRUS.
Now let’s learn a bit more about our new clients, Uptown Apartments. Uptown Apartments’ site harnesses the power of CiiRUS software and our booking engine while utilizing WordPress to manage all content and contacts. The homepage features a seamlessly integrated quick search component linking to all available properties. Custom features include:
Featured properties that pull based on highest availability in a specified time frame
Urgency features, allowing guests to view number of property views in a 24 hour time-frame
Property availability calendars with nightly pricing
Rental add-ons offered at booking, notifies property manager of request
Uptown Apartments is a husband & wife owned company specializing in executive apartments in the Sydney & Brisbane areas. The entire rental fleet is located in high-demand locations. Their properties are perfectly suited for business trips, vacations or long-term stays due to relocation or home renovation. Each apartment is outfitted with all amenities including complete kitchens, washer/dryer, linens and free cable/wifi.
As we announce our first CiiRUS launch, we’re also announcing that ICND is integrated with their software and ready to serve the custom web design needs of all CiiRUS customers. Contact us to learn more!
With so many SEO tools floating around the internet, it can be hard to understand what to believe. Raven, SEMRush, Moz and other similar tools have site audit features that crawl your website and spit out a list of items that are hindering your site’s performance.
With so many different issues highlighted by just one of the many site audit tools out there, getting your website optimized can seem like a daunting task. To help you better understand how to optimize your site and not waste time blindly following a third-party audit tool, we created a list of Do’s and Don’ts of Digital Marketing.
Digital Marketing Don’ts:
DON’T get caught up with the “perfect score”
Using a third-party site audit can be great start when looking for ways to improve your website. They can be provide valuable insight about issues and opportunities related to your site, but they should never be used as the be-all and end-all resource for site optimization. Good SEO always starts with good on-site content and a good user experience.
DON’T spend time on social media just promoting yourself (80/20 rule)
Social media is made to be just that- social. It’s not a platform to purely promote your rentals or specials, and should be used to create and monitor social interactions regarding your brand. The best way to balance this is by making 80% of your posts fun and engaging, while the other 20% can be promotional.
DON’T think you can manage your PPC campaign yourself without experience
There are so many ins-and-outs of PPC that it takes years of daily use to master. Without knowing which tools to use inside Google or Bing ads, you could be setting yourself up for a huge spend without a good return on investment. It’s best to leave stuff like this to the PPC experts.
DON’T buy links to your site or participate in linking farms
It’s not enough to just get as many links as you can to your website. Google also takes the quality of your referring domains into account when determining how you rank. Have too many questionable backlinks, and you might not even rank at all! Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there that will hunt down toxic backlinks for you so that you can disavow them in Google Search Console.
DON’T upload photos or images straight from their source (camera, stock site, etc.)
The files needs to be compressed, sized appropriately and be given an appropriate meta description and file name. This affects many different aspects of SEO, and could be something that you’re missing out on.
DON’T use Headings (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) for their appearance
HTML is for content and headings help search engines easily understand page structure. If you’re looking to change the appearance of something on a page, your best bet is to utilize CSS, a styling language. Using HTML headings to change the appearance of a page element will massively impact how Google and other search engines see your page.
Digital Marketing Do’s:
DO spend time on your own website & look at competitors’ sites
Take a look at the functionality of your website from a user’s perspective. How useful is the site? How easy is the booking process? Now take a look at some of your competitors’ sites, how does your site stack up?
DO spend time creating quality content
Creating quality content is a great way to build your brand and get a potential customer’s attention. It’s important to keep in mind that this content should be relevant to your business, deliver value to the consumer (entertainment, good information, etc…) and be more than just blocks of text. This means videos, photos, maps, illustrations, and other visual & interactive elements should all be part of your content strategy.
DO use Google My Business
And update it often! Google My Business has been around for years, but Google has recently put some serious time and effort into boosting its functionality. Make sure you take the time to completely fill out your profile with accurate information, photos, and create posts from time to time. Finally, encourage your customers to leave honest reviews on your GMB profile and reply to them. This will help your local SEO and even get you included in the local map pack.
DO target long tail keywords – it’s easier than you think
Sure, everyone wants to rank #1 for “<location> rentals.” However, spending time on a few lower-volume long tail keywords such as “<location> oceanfront home rentals” can bring in a ton of good traffic. Furthermore, if you have good quality content for a few long tail keywords, it boosts your ability to rank for “<location> rentals” because you are becoming an authority for all the different types of rentals in the area.
DO make sure your website is HTTPS
Would you want to give your information to a non secure (HTTP) page? Google knows it’s not a good idea, and, as of July 2018, warns users if they’re visiting a site that isn’t secure. Oh, and it’s a ranking factor. Enough said.
DO establish the N.A.P. of your organization & standardize It
Having a million citations doesn’t do your company much good if your business name (N), address (A), and phone number (P) aren’t the same across the board. There’s plenty of great services out there that will monitor this for you.