How To Generate Direct Bookings

How to Generate More Direct Bookings for your Vacation Rental website

By Vanessa Humes

Recently HomeAway has let their customers know that they will be changing the way that leads communicate with companies and owners that list their properties on HomeAway.

As one of the last Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) to email leads and allow direct communication with guests before booking, many Vacation Rental Managers are concerned that they are going to lose valuable lead information.

To many owners / vacation rental companies, they view these leads as part of their marketing plan by integrating follow-up and promotion in their marketing mix.

I think back to hotels in the early to mid-2000s. They often used the OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies) like Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline to move inventory. However, they found that they were training their guests to go to these sites for the best deals. (Sound familiar?).

To add insult to injury, the amount of commissions that were getting paid to OTAs made it a struggle to keep their operations budgets in the positive. And I think, in a lot of ways, it drove down the rental rates as the OTA’s insisted on rate parity and getting the lowest bargains to promote on their websites.  Now, these OTAs have a big presence in the vacation rental industry.

To be completely honest with you, there is no perfect solution. But, it’s not all doom and gloom.  If you are a new company, you probably rely heavily on Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) to help you fill your inventory.

But I tell you this, you have to have a strong digital marketing presence, look at the cost per acquisition (CPA) of both guests on your website and on OTA’s, and focus on the lifetime value of that guest — with extensive marketing post-booking to ensure repeat guests.

It’s really all about developing your own digital footprint with your guests.

9 Opportunities & Marketing Strategies to Generate Direct Bookings

  1. Property Brand Optimization

    It may seem really obvious, but make sure the Name of the rental and the Address of the rental are Optimized in the Search Results (or SERPsSearch Engine Result Pages) to send traffic to your website.

    Also, be sure to optimize any features that are unique to that rental. For example, we stayed in a home in the Outer Banks that had the pool table from the movie The Hustler.

    When I couldn’t remember the rental company, I was able to Google the "Vacation Rental OBX with pool table from the Hustler," and it came up in the results.

    Same with the name of your property. Say the rental’s name is "Paradise at Penn Cove," make sure you are Dominating the Search Engines for the name and addresses of each property. Having a good URL structure with the name included will help increase those results.

    Vacation Rental Property Brand Optimization showing SERPs

  2. Mine and inform past leads from OTA’s

    If you are like many of my clients, you probably have a Large Database of leads from HomeAway, VRBO, Flipkey, etc. Harvest your leads and store them in an outside database. This can be an export in Excel if you don’t have a CRM.

    Use these databases to enhance your marketing. Make sure you inform your customers that they will save the booking fees (up to 15%) by booking direct on your website. Let them know, for this particular unit, they will get the best deal on your site – guaranteed. Think about using repeat guest specials. What’s their incentive to book with you again?

  3. Invest in an Email Marketing program that allows you to mine your data

    We have a great program that can tap into your historical booking data, help you mine data from previous stays, and help you reach out to people and remarket through PPC and Social Media, your past guests. The message is again, Book Direct and Save, but also Branding.

  4. Make sure you are Generating Leads from your Website

    Request More Information for Vacation Rental PropertyThere are many key points of gathering leads. But the most popular we find on our sites are the "Request More Information" from the property detail page, as well as Send to a Friend.

    Remember, vacation rental guests generally want more information, ask questions, and engage with the company they are going to rent through.

    Vacation rentals have a history of being a little more "high maintenance" than booking a hotel room. People may do a search to find your website to talk with you more, verify rates and best deals, and search out specials.

    Make sure you have all of this information readily available on your site.

  5. Use Remarketing

    Social media and paid advertising (PPC) allow you to stay in front of people who visit your website. You can put tracking on your website (in the code) that stores the pages that a visitor goes to you. Based on the activity, you can serve up ads on Social Media and Display ads through Google’s Ad Network. Use this to increase brand awareness, stay in front of visitors who haven’t converted, and promote deals and sales that can turn a "looker" into a "booker."

    Vacation Rental PPC example in SERPs

  6. Bid on your Brand in PPC

    If you haven’t noticed yet, you will soon find out that not only are OTA’s dominating Organic Search, no longer linking out to your site or promoting your brand on their site, but they are also GOING AFTER YOUR BRANDED SEARCH PHRASES IN PAID SEARCH.

    WHAT?! Sorry, I get a little worked up about this.

    As if your organic search results aren’t pushed down far enough, now we HAVE to bid on our brand names. And we are competing with mega budgets.

    The good news is, if you are that company, you are going to generally pay a lower Cost per click (CPC) than your competitors because you will have a higher Quality Score.

    A quality score is generated by Google by taking a look at the Click Thru Rate (CTR), content of the ad, and content of the Landing Page. You should always be monitoring and optimizing your quality score to ensure you are showing the highest for the lowest possible amount. So those who have a lower quality score, will have a higher CPC and have to bid more than you.

  7. There is still Google Local

    By Google Local, I mean what is known as the "map pack". For many area searches like "Panama City Beach vacation rentals" the map pack will be included below the paid ads, but above the organic search listings.

    There is a science to showing and maintaining rank in the map pack which includes Not hiring a company that does any Black Hat SEO tactics for short term results.

    The best way to get up there (and stay up there) is to have your profile completely filled out and utilize Schema markup in the code of your site. Schema markup is code (semantic vocabulary) that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users.

    Vacation Rental Customer Satisfaction Survey and Google Reviews link

    You should also focus on Getting Reviews. Ask your happy customers for reviews. We also have a great survey program that helps push satisfied guests to Google to write you a positive review.  The first three stars link to a guest satisfaction survey.  The last two link to Google.

  8. Market Moderation

    What does your doctor tell you? "Too much of anything is bad for you" and "Everything in moderation."

    The same with a good marketing mix.

    Sure, if you are a new company, you are going to rely heavily on getting your inventory rented on OTAs. But, that’s not a long-term marketing strategy. You’ll have a tough time keeping owners if all you are doing is renting through OTA’s. They will think they can do it on their own (even if they are wrong).

    Start with the Basics – an optimized website, email marketing, paid advertising, and social media engagement. As your budget allows, start doing more social media advertising, adding remarketing, and hire a professional company to help you out.

    Our clients that don’t rely on OTAs have historically had better return on investments from their digital marketing. Their customers are trained to…Book Direct!

  9. Think Brand

    Don’t forget the power of a great brand and how you can impact that brand on your guests to come back and stay with you. Think of things like giving swag to stay with them after the trip. Also, think about who your brand is and what your brand messaging is.

    Does your guest know this message when they leave and is it something they can relate with?

    Airbnb does a great job of branding to the millennials which a few years ago, we were told were the most un-loyal generation, ever. Today, we see them embrace a cult-like following to brands like Apple and Airbnb. Think of what you want your company brand to be and embrace it.

There is no doubt, the vacation rental industry is evolving into something it wasn’t as soon as a few years ago. Our messages and marketing need to be strong, more precise, and engaging more than ever before. Long gone are the days of mass-mailing brochures and filling up peak-seasons.

Today, each vacation rental has more opportunity and threats than ever before. However, ICND is ready to help guide you through with a strong digital presence in both your website and your marketing.

VRMA 2016 National Conference

No one likes to miss out.

In the world of Vacation Rental Marketing however, you simply can’t afford it. Our industry changes greatly from year to year (even month to month) and your company’s response to these changes can truly make or break your site.

But imagine if you knew everything you could possibly need to know about the state of VR Marketing in 2016.

Well, that’s exactly what you’ll learn when you join Team ICND at VRMA National 2016! We’re giving 3 presentations at the conference, all packed with information and strategies you can’t pass up.

2017 Marketing Game Plan

With the seemingly endless supply of marketing advice you can find these days, which sources can you really trust? To put it simply – not many of them.

That’s why you need to hear from ICND – a company in your specific industry that knows exactly what you’re going through.

We’ve been very successful using the strategies Brandon Sauls (President), Vanessa Humes (Director of Sales), and Paul Hanak (Director of Marketing) are going to teach you in the 2017 Marketing Game Plan presentation – and we want the same for you, so don’t skip this one!

Big Dog Conversion Tactics

Many companies get lost in the weeds because they’re not willing to think big. They believe all they need to do to get by is to figure out what the competition is doing and then to do that slightly better.

Here’s the thing – they’re right.

But do you want to just “get by”, or do you want to play the game like a Big Dog and rake in those Big Dog conversions? If you answered the latter then you absolutely have to come hear Brandon and Vanessa’s Big Dog Conversion Tactics presentation.

Leverage Social Like a Pro

Did you know that when the first trains were invented, people were terrified to ride them because they genuinely thought the human body would melt at speeds faster than 30 miles per hour? Because of this, the first companies to start utilizing the train for business ruled the game for decades.

This story seems pretty silly to us nowadays, but it’s a perfect example of how a simple lack of knowledge about a new technology can lead to your competitors passing you by.

We’ve had a ton of success using Social Media for our clients, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. That’s why our lead Saleswoman April Burns is giving her Leverage Social Media Like a Pro presentation, and you can’t miss it!

Check out Team ICND at VRMA National 2016!

Can’t attend the conference, but want our marketing advice anyway? No problem – reach out to us via Facebook, Twitter, or drop us a line at 866.249.6095 – we’re always here to help!


Click here to get the full schedule for VRMA National.

VRMA 2016 Eastern Conference

It’s amazing how much can change in a single year. Since we left VRMA Eastern last time, Team ICND has been busy – to say the least.

We streamlined our code base, launched around 25 high-converting vacation rental sites, and even doubled the size of our offices! Needless to say, we’ve learned a lot more about the vacation rental marketing industry along the way.

icnd-vrma-eastern-2016

That’s why we’re so excited to see you at the VRMA Eastern Conference this year. We love giving back to our industry, so we put together two awesome presentations to let you in on the secrets we’ve uncovered.

If your company utilizes VR Marketing of any sort, you can’t afford to miss these talks – and we can’t wait to see you there!

Dominate your competitors with Social Media.

The first presentation from ICND is called Get More Engagement Through Social Media With Your Team. As you know, Social Media is incredibly important in the world of Vacation Rental Marketing – and is only becoming more so.

Over the years, we’ve made much use of its great power and have consistently improved and adapted our strategies along the way. It’s been a long yet rewarding road for ICND to discover the Social Media strategies that actually worked best for our industry.

That’s why we want to help you to skip over that struggle by teaching you everything we learned – putting your company on the fast track to Social Media domination!

The talk will be held from 11 – 12 a.m. on Monday, April 25 and will be presented by our own Account Executive April Burns. Come learn how ICND has been able to get our clients more engaged social traffic, as well as improved online recognition and reputation management – and how your company can do the same!

Onboard new homes easier than ever before.

Our next presentation is called How To Onboard New Homes Effortlessly. In the Vacation Rental Marketing industry, we all know how confusing and long-winded the onboarding process has the potential to be.

That’s why ICND want’s to teach you how to properly take on a new vacation rental home, all the way from signing on to adding the home to your website.

The talk will be held from 3 – 4 p.m. on Monday, April 25 and will be presented by ICND President Brandon Sauls and our Digital Marketing Director Conrad O’Connell.

Come learn about the “Ready To Rent” Checklist we’ve developed for Property Managers (who now love us for making their lives easier), and how we keep our property owners happy from day one by effectively marketing their homes online.

There are a lot of takeaways from this talk – and it’ll leave you wanting to run back to the office to put our strategies to use immediately!

Come see us!

At the end of the day, no presentation can cover everything – no matter how awesome. That’s why we hope to meet you in person this year at VRMA Eastern!

Come by our booth (# 33) and we’ll be happy to answer any burning questions you’ve got – or we can just shoot the breeze!

At ICND, we love throwing around ideas with our fellow Vacation Rental Marketing friends. So, come see us at VRMA this year and let’s get Summer 2016 started off right!


Click here to get the full schedule for VRMA Eastern.


Can’t attend the conference, but want our marketing advice anyway? No problem – reach out to us via Facebook, Twitter, or drop us a line at 866.249.6095 – we’re always here to help!

VRMA 2016 Western Conference

This April, the team at ICND will be attending the annual VRMA Western Seminar. The event takes place April 4th-5th and will be held at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, Colorado.

ICND Account Executive April Burns will be giving a presentation titled Get More Engagement Through Social Media With Your Team that’s not to be missed.

The biggest names within the vacation rental industry will also be attending/speaking at the event, so this will likely be the most important conference most VR companies attend in 2016.

VRMA-2016-Western-Conference

It’s a common problem.

As the team at ICND works to improve the social presence of our clients, we see a few other companies that know what they’re doing. Far more often though, the opposite is true.

It’s a sad moment for us when we see a business using social media in an ineffective way. That’s because we know from experience just how valuable of an asset it can be when used in the correct way.

That we want to help you solve.

That’s why we created the Get More Engagement Through Social Media With Your Team presentation. We know how long and mistake-filled the road to understanding social media can be – trust us, we’ve been there.

But it doesn’t need to be that way for you. We want you to benefit from our mistakes so you can skip the learning curve and get straight to the earning curve!

Through better understanding.

Our presentation will help to ensure that your business is using social media in a way that is actually beneficial to the business.

Some topics we plan on taking a deep dive into are: increasing engagement on social media, improving your online recognition, and reputation management.

Of this new playing field.

There’s no question that social media marketing is the newest player in the world of vacation rental marketing.

It’s because of this (and a few more factors we’ll discuss in our presentation) that many companies are not using the medium in the most business-conscious way. We’ll show you how we have navigated our way through the murky waters of social media and emerged with a set of amazing business-building strategies.

That’s widely misunderstood.

Of the many mistakes we’ve seen companies make on social media, they all stem from one of two specific mindsets – overthinking or underthinking.

To the overthinking group, social media represents a new skillset that they’ll have to learn from the ground up. This leads to an “information overload” that ends up leading the company to avoid the medium altogether.

For the underthinkers, social media is something made for kids (or for informal conversation). Again, this may lead them to avoid the medium completely. Even worse, companies with this mindset often share or post things that are so informal that they’re only appropriate for family and close friends.

We want to meet you!

That’s why you need to attend April’s “Get More Engagement Through Social Media With Your Team” presentation and stick around for questions afterward so we can keep you ahead of your competition in the coming year.

We can’t wait to meet you in person, so make sure to swing by our booth and say “Hi”!

And this is the perfect chance.

The VRMA Western Conference is one of the biggest annual conferences for the vacation rental industry. If your business falls into this category, this could be the single most important event you attend all year. So, don’t let your competitors pass you by in 2016 – follow ICND on the road to Denver. We’ll see you there!


Can’t attend the conference, but want our social media advice anyway? No problem – reach out to us via Facebook, Twitter, or drop us a line at 866.249.6095 – we’re always here to help!

VRMA Annual 2015 Wrap Up

Team InterCoastal Net Designs is back from New Orleans for VRMA Annual 2015 and it was a blast!

For three days, we took the stage, vendor showcase (and some bars too) to have the most fun and education possible. I think it’s safe to say that everything we set out to do was accomplished.

Representing our team at VRMA was President Brandon Sauls, Sales Director Vanessa Humes, Sales Rep April Burns and yours truly (Conrad O’Connell, Director Of Digital Marketing). Arriving on Saturday, we were able to carve out some time to get our booth setup dialed in before the rush.

Continue reading “VRMA Annual 2015 Wrap Up”

VRMA 2014 Recap Blog

VRMA Annual was held in San Diego this year from October 26th-29th. The ICND team was there in full force, with SEO Director Conrad O’Connell, Social Media Director David Hutnik and ICND President Brandon Sauls taking the 6,000 plus mile round trip journey to VRMA.

During the conference, we were demoing our newest, latest greatest booking engine integration featured in our most recent vacation rental website launch. We heard from tons of attendees that the features built into were “downright amazing”, “truly innovative”, and even “F*!^ing AWESOME!”.  More brainstorming sessions and early morning programming went on to continue developing this so if you haven’t had the chance to check it out, let us know and we’d be glad to show you.

Continue reading “VRMA 2014 Recap Blog”

VRMA 2014 Annual Conference

vrma2014-icnd-booth

The InterCoastal Net Designs team is excited to be traveling to San Diego, CA for the Vacation Rental Managers Association Conference (VRMA) October 26th – 29th.

For the 4th conference in a row, the ICND team was selected to speak on marketing and web design for this industry.  We are proud to have this opportunity once again and to present two great sessions at VRMA 2014:

“Elements Of A Perfect Vacation Rental Website”
Monday, Oct. 27  |  11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

“Your Complete 2015 Online Marketing Strategy Guide”
Wednesday, Oct. 29th  |  10:40 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

If you’ll miss the conference, we will have the presentations and handouts available for download after each presentation here.

 

We’ve also put together a few creative campaigns for this years show!  Take a look how and where you’ll be seeing ICND around the VRMA conference this year.

#1) We’ve sponsored the Tuesday night party.  You’ll see our logo in lights and we’ll be there having a great time!  Will we see you there?

#2) Drinks are on us for our “Beers & Idears”.  We want to learn about struggles in your business and provide free – no committment ideas and action plans to help.  Let us by you a beer or two and chat about different ideas.  See details here.
beers&idearsTshirt

#3) We came up with the idea of creating a “Twitter Wall” in the main lobby area.  We’re providing all of the equipment and setting up this “Twitter & Instagram Wall” that will filter in different tweets and photos using #VRMA2014.

twitterwallpostcard#4) We have a little surprise that you will most certainly see at some point during the conference.  You’ll have to come share with us what you think but we’re making a statement that ICND’s service is #1 – NOT …#2.

#5) We have an even BIGGER surprise to announce at #VRMA2014!  But you’ll have to wait until the event…

#6) A brand new innovative booking engine will be revealed – let us show you how to increase your online conversion rate – you will DEFINITELY want to see this!

Don’t forget to visit us at Booth 224!

Growing the Vacation Rental Managers Association Community

Calling all vacation rental managers!  Are you a member of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA)?  If not, let me tell you why it is more important to join now than ever and how VRMA is making it easy to get signed up.

Being part of this community means that you’ll have online access to member resources, quarterly magazine subscription, weekly e-newsletters, discounts on VRMA event registration and much more!

Continue reading “Growing the Vacation Rental Managers Association Community”