As the New Year starts to kick-off, companies ask themselves a few questions about their vacation rental digital marketing efforts.
“Is this the year I create that new marketing plan I always wanted and start exploring a new creative platform?”
“Do I use a professional agency to help me manage all the changes I keep hearing about in the digital marketing world?”
“Who can I trust and ask questions to if I don’t understand an update or need advice for a new vacation rental website idea?”
The Marketing Department at ICND has heard all of these questions (and more!) in recent weeks. With these customer concerns in mind we present,
The 2021 Resolutions & Tips from the ICND Marketing Department.
Expect the Unexpected
If there is one thing COVID has taught the vacation rental industry, it’s that vacations are a very important and necessary part of life in America — much more so than we thought. When we’re told “no, don’t travel”, that pent up desire increases as well. We noticed, in EVERY market, when the city/county/state announced their main attraction/destination is back open, traffic to those VR companies’ websites tripled compared to YOY numbers, and many set record highs! Couples and families everywhere were taking their vacations again, and there wasn’t anything to stop them (despite how low on staff you were and still recovering). Most companies made up their “time lost” from the spring/summer down.
However, you have to keep in mind, 2020 “robbed” everybody of their one true vacation a year, instead forcing a shorter or less planned vacation. It just wasn’t the same and didn’t have the same relaxation feeling we are all used to.
Fast forward to the start of 2021 so far. This will be the year to “try again” for renters. Seeking out that perfect rental, having high hopes for vaccine resolution, and a more adapted mental state dealing with social distancing guidelines all are positives that will drive that hesitation down for 2021.
My suggested resolution for 2021? Stay vigilant! Bookings will be coming in, but with such a volatile market, that can change and even reverse itself (as we have seen). Tensions will be high this year for both VRMs and guests. Pace yourself. Brush off the irritating guests. Plan on coming out ahead. I feel people WILL book this year and it will be a great year for us all. The only true unknown is the “when” they will make their booking.
(Check out our latest Episode of Vacation Rental Ninjas podcast “Stay Limber” where we explain why 2021 is going to be a record year.)
Google My Business – don’t neglect it!!
The best thing a small business can do for FREE marketing is put time into their Google Listing and Local SEO. Make sure your listings are verified and that you stay active on the GMB platform. When you receive a negative review, don’t shy away! This is the perfect time to show future consumers how you handle negative issues. Make sure you address the problem publicly and take the conversation away from the platform into a more private conversation like email or over the phone. Your Google My Business listing is one of the first things that show up when a consumer searches you, make sure you have your best foot forward and are representing your brand’s voice.
By putting effort into your GMB listing and staying active you will inevitably over time earn your way into the Local Map Pack which will help generate a huge increase in website traffic and give you a leg up against competitors. Make sure when sending out survey emails you push patrons to leave a review not only on your website but also on Google and other popular outlets like TripAdvisor, yelp and Facebook.
Last Tip: Post, Post, POST! Use the 80/20 rule when posting on all social outlets and just for content creation in general. Make sure at least 80% of your content is educational, entertaining and captures the audience’s attention while only 20% directly promotes your business or product. Advertising on social platforms is more about forming a connection and a trusting friendship with your audience. If your brand is trusted than your audience is more likely to purchase a product from you.
Stop Wasteful Paid Spending!
Google Ads announced late last year they’ll be providing less search term reporting for the search terms your ads show up for!
That means you’ll have a significantly harder challenge ensuring you’re not serving ads for “vacation destination + umbrella rentals” when you’re trying to target “vacation destination + rental homes” etc. if your campaigns aren’t properly built. On top of this, we at ICND find wasteful spending due to poor choice keywords and negative keyword issues in every account we audit.
Search Term Reports
Make it this year’s resolution to review your search term reports in every campaign you run. Use both Google Ads and Google Analytics platforms to review these terms, identify the issues and rectify them.
If every click is a dollar, and you’re consistently serving up for search terms unrelated to your business or product, you’re giving Google money.
ICND is only vested in providing our clients the best return for their ad spend. Our job is to maximize your success on these ad platforms (Google and Bing).
Increase subscribers to your YouTube Channel. Or… start USING it. It’s 2021.
Whenever you share the link to a YouTube Channel that you want to get more subscribers to add the following verbiage to the end of the link:
So instead of just https://www.youtube.com/c/InterCoastalNetDesignsOceanIsleBeach
Add it like this and watch your subscribers increase!
Social Media Influencers
When using Influencers to promote your business have goals in mind to help set expectations to validate whether or not the influencer campaign was successful afterwards. Communicate these goals through a binding contract that both parties agree on.
Use an influencer that already loves your area, this way you can create a lasting relationship with them for future partnerships. Provide your influencer with specific links using UTM tracking codes, #hashtags or a PROMO code for them to share when posting about their travel adventures in your local area. These tools will help you measure their impact and goal achievement during and after their stay when looking at both your social media trends & Google Analytics reports.
Take advantage of all of the free tools at your disposal to discover valuable insights about your website and search performance.
Two that you should definitely be checking regularly if you aren’t already are
Google Analytics & Search Console.
Google Analytics provides data that gives you a complete overview of how users are interacting with your site. Everything from the exact number of visits pages are receiving to the average time users spend on the page to the sources where the visitors are coming from can be found in Google Analytics.
Search Console gives you important insights into how users are finding your site within Google’s search results as well as issues with your site that could be negatively impacting your search performance. This is an often underutilized tool that will really help you understand your site’s overall SEO.
Google Page Speed Insights gives your webpages a rating from 0-100 that gauges the loading speed of the page. This is a crucial thing to track in today’s age. A low page speed can easily be costing you thousands as you lose impatient customers to competitors whose sites didn’t leave them waiting 10+ seconds. Google Pagespeed Insights provides you with a full list of action items you can do to significantly improve the speed of your page.
AnswerThePublic can be a content writer’s best friend. It’s a simple, easy-to-use tool to help gather writing topics you normally wouldn’t think of. AnswerThePublic uses Google search insights to help you discover what people are searching related to your niche.
SEMrush offers a free account that gives you your site’s current Google rankings, keyword search volumes, content ideas, backlink data, and much more. The free account does come with its limitations, but it’s still an extremely valuable tool for anyone interested in improving search performance.
Make Your Images Work
Rename your images before you load them into your PMS System with specific keywords to help search rank. Also, use a service called tinypng to compress your images. This will reduce your site load time. https://tinypng.com
You should spend at least an hour per week (if not more) pretending that you’re a consumer trying to find accommodations in your area. For example, if you’re a vacation rental company in Winter Park, Colorado, open an incognito window and try to find yourself some lodging! Start out by looking at the Google Ads and organic rankings that you see – is your website there? Does the title tag look good (the thing that shows up in Google)? Would you want your owners or potential guests to see what your listing (or ad) looks like, or should it be optimized?
From there, check out the OTA websites that are present (i.e. VRBO, Airbnb, Vacasa, etc..) and try to search for lodging on their site. Take note of any features that are particularly useful, and if you like their booking experience, try to think about why. This will help you find ways to enhance your own site’s performance. OTAs are also good at staying on top of emerging trends, for example they were quick to start listing rentals as “remote work & learning ready” at the start of the pandemic. “Spying” on these sites is a great way to make sure you’re not falling behind market trends!
Now, move on to your local competitors. What are their websites like? Do they have any features or search functionality that you’re missing? How does their booking experience compare to yours? After you leave their site, do they attempt to bring you back through remarketing ads or email campaigns? Take note of design, search, or marketing tactics that you recognize as positive or useful, and try to think about how you can integrate them with your own website and marketing mix.
Lastly, look at your own site. How simple is it to navigate? Are there any annoying popups? Are there any barriers to searching for and booking a property? Is it possible for you to break your website by entering a complex search combination of multiple amenities and areas? Remember, any confusion or difficulty in the booking process creates friction for your users, causing the user to go somewhere else.
Useful Research Tools
Ahrefs is a great tool that not only allows you to see what your competitors are doing, but what you can do to optimize your site. It is an all in one tool that is easy to use and it does not require you to be an SEO pro. Starting at $99 per month this is a must have for gathering some hard to find information!
A software based website spider you can use from your computer. This is a free tool you can use to gather a lot of data from the website you are scanning. Simply add the website URL and click start and watch the data roll in. Screaming Frog does have some paid features, but you can still get some useful data using the free version.
Tools are a nice thing to have in your competitive research toolbox , but if you want to leave the competitive research to the experts then make sure you have the best team for the job.
Do your keyword research when getting ready to write a blog post. Taking the time to pull together some strategic keywords is…KEY to any well written blog post!
Knowing what keywords you want to use ahead of time will help you work through the writing process from start to finish and not leave any important topics out of your piece. If you need help if your keyword research any of the useful tools mentioned above will get you started.
Let 2021 be a better year by making things easier on your site. To do this you need to work more on getting outside platforms to work with you and not against you. Every site needs a blog (for fresh content to their site, as well as, potential internal linking opportunities), Social Media support (to help with free promotion of product, events, ideas, and blog posts), and emailers (to keep regulars and researchers informed of opportunities and updates).
The main question is how will all this make your life easier? It seems like I just added in more items for you to manage. Not quite true. Use each item I mentioned above to support one another.
When you write a blog, post its link with an image on your Social Media (a simple copy and paste will do) to help promote it. Whenever you send out an emailer, post reminders to check out your Social Media platforms, as well as your blog. Use each item together to help promote referral traffic from each source. Once you have formed this habit, you will start to see a stronger return on your referral traffic, which intern will increase brand awareness, followers on your Social Media, more subscribers to your emailers, and potentially more sales/bookings on your site. Let the partnership of these services start to work for you instead of against you.
The ICND Marketing Team has just outlined for you just a few of their tips and resolutions for 2021. These first few weeks of the new year has been record breaking, interesting, and complicated all rolled into one month. Stay limber, stay focused, and stay above your competition. Rely on us to do the vacation rental digital marketing for you.
Not a client of ours yet? Why not? Partner with InterCoastal Net Designs and join a team focused on peak marketing performance and conversion-focused websites. Choose to work with ICND and you’re choosing a marketing agency that lifts your bookings and conversions to new heights. Let’s take a deep dive into your direct booking strategy today.