Afternoon Delight With April & David | AKA The Nameless Podcast

 

We are so excited to launch our very own podcast where we will be talking about everything from Marketing Strategy to Vacation Rental News and everything in between! Alright, we will have a little fun with it too and there might be the occasional joke or two. We pride ourselves on staying ahead of the curve in the Vacation Rental Industry not only when it comes to Website Design and Marketing but also how the industry functions, right down to the consumers. What better way to share than just plain talking about it.

Episode Numero Uno, Getting To Know April

On our first episode we have April Burns, one of ICND’s Account Executives and David Thompson, our Social Media Director talking about where the industry is going as a whole, what the biggest buzz topic is right now, and what April’s favorite drink is. We hope you enjoy our podcast and have a couple laughs while we bring light to some major vacation rental topics that effect us every day.

Things To Come…

This podcast is also going to show you who we are as a team and as people. We want everyone in our industry to know that we aren’t a bunch of web developers that don’t like sunlight… ok some of us are; but we are also people just like you and we face many of the same struggles that Vacation Rental Professionals face every day. And we want to come up with solutions that makes all of our jobs a little easier and a little more fun.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Start following us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. We will be publishing episodes every month and would love your feedback and encouragement.
  • If you have suggestions for the show, don’t be afraid to send them in! With such a mix of people, we have a lot professional diversity which gives us a unique perspective. You never know, we might just solve a problem for you.
  • If you think it’s funny and informational, share it. We want to make our industry better and I think we can all agree from the latest #BookDirect campaign that we can make an impact if we do it together.

We hope you enjoy our podcast and our “crazy” team. We certainly enjoy what we do, and the industry we get to serve. Laugh a little and join us for a informational roller coaster.

Only Dead Fish Go with the Flow

Are You Swimming Into or Against the Current?

I left a marketing position for resorts in 2009 to join ICND where our focus was on vacation rentals. I quickly learned that the vacation rental industry was similar to the hotel industry, but growing quickly and up against some of the same hurdles as the hotel industry as well as many different challenges.  Similarly, the hotels had already gotten comfortable with putting their inventory on the OTA’s only to learn that the OTAs then wanted rate parody, didn’t give the guests information, and were squeezing profit margins with their high commission fees.  The hotels had to learn how to get guests to come back and book direct through direct marketing channels such as email and direct mail.  They already understood the power of an email address and how important it was to get a guest to come back and #bookdirect.  

Differently, the vacation rental industry faces a large amount of legislation from having most of their inventory amongst full-time homeowners who are complaining about vacationing guests being too noisy and disruptive in their neighborhoods and complexes.  For hotels, they already were zoned for rentals.  However, with the introduction of Airbnb into many of their neighborhoods and causing more competition, they are busy fighting against vacation rentals in metropolitan areas such as New York City.

By 2009, hotels had already gone through the era of major brand franchising and acquisition of mom and pop run hotels. Even the “mom and pop” brands had grown so big, managing multiple resort properties they had already performed much like a corporation.  Meanwhile most of the vacation rental industry had historically been owned and operated by “mom and pops” successfully.  ResortQuest was acquired in October 2010 and entered one of the major travel brands world-wide.

Air Bed & Breakfast

In August 2008, a company called Air Bed and Breakfast entered the marketplace, bringing new ideas and business model.  The idea of shared accommodations entered into the playing field.  While the vacation rental industry was known for renting the whole house, cabin, or condo, the idea of being about to rent a room or apartment short-term was now a possibility and added, not only awareness to vacation rentals, but also additional legislative battles we are facing today as an industry.  By the time Expedia announced they would purchase HomeAway in late 2015, HomeAway was already living in the shadow of Airbnb as one of the most highly valued privately held companies.

Today, Airbnb, Expedia, and Priceline (through Booking.com) continue to drive continued awareness (and traffic) to the vacation rental industry.  Still, most vacation rental companies continue to be owned and operated by sole proprietors in locations that are historically well-known for vacation rentals such as the Outer Banks, Gatlinburg, and Breckenridge.  As inventory in these areas doesn’t grow as much as the demand for vacation rentals allows vacation rental companies to increase rates, book more shoulder season stays, and increase their customer base.  

The original vacation rental companies that were founded 20, 30, and even 60 years ago were built on blood, sweat, and tears and often handed down leadership across generations. When we look back at the last two decades of the vacation rental industry, we realize we are in a time of big change with disruptions on many different levels of the business.

This disruption has led vacation rental company owners and managers to face many challenges like having to have a bigger presence in legislation and advocacy on a local, state, and federal level.  It’s made vacation rental companies have to compete not only on a local level, but against large brand sites across the search engines and other marketing mediums.  It’s caused changes in business models and using technology to streamline the company to perform as cost-effective and creative as possible.  It’s brought about mergers and acquisitions at a pace the industry has never seen before.  It’s caused increases in operational costs, marketing costs, and a decrease (many times) in commissions to manage properties.  Vacation rental managers feel like they are often squeezed by both ends.  But together, VRMs are doing amazing things against the rising tide.

The changes have also brought many positives, like a tremendous amount of awareness to the overall idea of vacationing in a house, cabin, condo, room that somebody else owns, as well as destinations that weren’t typical for vacation rentals.  It’s opened up the amount of inventory available to manage.  It’s help to show us that there is a huge amount of potential in delivering our message to millennials and they can, in fact, be very loyal to a brand.  Technology has allowed us to be more creative and cost effective with every facet of running a vacation rental company: management, operations, housekeeping, and marketing/communications.

But, in time with such attention to our industry, we are asking ourselves, how will we continue to compete?  How will you continue to strive?  With marketing, there seems to be two roads… distribution, or more direct bookings.  And even if you rely heavily on distribution, in the back of your mind, you know… you need more direct bookings.  It’s like the holy grail of vacation rentals, but also smart to maximize your exposure with bookings through distribution channels.

Here are the steps…

Step 1 is having a website that is easy to use, allows for you to market your properties, integrates with your software, and allows for you to communicate directly to guests.  A good website is built to be mobile friendly.  More than 50% of traffic, on average, comes from a mobile device and conversion rates are going up every year.  That means, a majority guests are still booking from a desktop, but more and more from mobile.

There are different tools out there like HotJar and Google Analytics that will tell you if your site converts well.  You should always be looking to improve your conversion rate.  Additional items that help you increase your conversion rate are quick user experience, offering search criteria that make it easy to find the right property, and offering all of the possibilities of linens, pet fees, add-ons, and travel insurance without having to call. In case you missed our last email, we gave you a checklist of items that help you convert more visitors into online bookings – Top 10 Marketing Power Moves.

Step 2 would be to make sure people can find your website in the search both organically (SEO) and through paying to cut through the clutter and be at the top through Pay-Per-Click (PPC).  It’s time to invest in your website and digital marketing.  What is your value proposition for search audiences that is going to make them book with you?  Do you have the largest inventory of vacation rentals in the area?  Do you offer a different guest experience?  Do you offer something for free?  You can always brag about the no traveler fees when you book on your site to help educate guests to come back and book with you direct.

Step 3 is to use social and email marketing to drive traffic to your website and to remarket to the visitors who have been on your website and haven’t converted.  Email addresses are essential to be collected from guests that have stayed with you before, no matter how they found you.  Emails should include: an offer, a reason to come (upcoming events or things to do), and call to action.

In conclusion!

Distribution is not out, but when you can market your properties on your own, these disruptions make a ripple rather than a wave.  Distribution can still be used for tougher to rent properties, or shoulder seasons.  Programs, like ICND’s Distribution partnership with MyBookingPal allows you to block out certain periods (like your peak periods) and only select those homes that need the boost to go out into the land of distribution.  That helps maximize your income from your top performing dates and properties.

To be honest, I’m excited about what I see in the industry trends: the amazing amount of growth, the influx of technology, and the amount of investment.  But we can’t just sit around waiting around to see what happens next, but make sure we are on top of our game. Don’t be a dead fish. We don’t have to go with the flow.  Even if the current feels strong, ICND is here to help.  Connect with us about your pain points and let us help you overcome your hurdles.  Our experience with building websites and marketing for a diverse portfolio of vacation rental companies across the world allows us to provide the expertise to help you succeed.

Digital Marketing Myth 1 of 4: Your Google Analytics Data is CORRECT

Myth #1: Analytics is always correct!

As a digital marketing agency we hear a lot of wives tales when it comes to vacation rental marketing. Many of these myths exist in the Vacation Rental Industry when it comes to marketing and can really cause confusion when it comes to measuring results. We are all about the truth, and nothing but the truth, which is why we are going to bust a very common myth for you today: Your Google Analytics Data Is Accurate. Yes, that is a bold statement, but we didn’t say it’s not accurate, just that it isn’t always accurate.

Wait a second, you’re telling me that Google Analytics data isn’t correct? Well, let’s just say sometimes the numbers can be misleading and sometimes requires some digging the find the real data. One great example of this is how revenue is attributed to a user. But first let’s talk about how that process works.

How Google Analytics Works for a Potential Rental Guest

When a user visits your website Google Analytics sets a cookie for 2 years and this is called the first touch source path. Let’s say they visit your website a second and third time, but on different devices each time, those are different touch source paths with the same user. Finally, they book on the fourth session to your website and the revenue is then attributed to that last source.

Now, this is IF that person uses the same device, such as their home computer, through this entire process.  In the vacation rental industry, we KNOW that’s not the case. They will visit your site 3-7 times before booking!

The following graphic is a bit more accurate for the life cycle of a rental guest.

In this instance above, analytics will attribute the BOOKING to the Home Computer, as a direct visit.

So Where Are My Guests Really Coming From?

So what about the four previous sessions? Especially if the first session originated from a social channel or a PPC campaign, it would be really great to know that those things are actually pulling their weight! But instead you see that the booking came from a direct search because by the time they booked, they knew exactly who you were and what they wanted. Sometimes the data can be misleading if you don’t do some digging.

In this picture you can see the differences in Last Interaction compared to First Interaction for Organic Search and Paid Search. Those numbers are completely different and it is important to note that the First Interaction will not be attributed to the revenue generated by a user. Ok, so this is all good information… well, we think so. But how do you start tracking these users to show that what your doing is making a difference when it comes to what matters most, Revenue?

Start using different attribution models and multi-channel funnels to monitor PPC, email and social media. This will allow you to see where the correct attribution lies in regards to specific channels.

 

Customers Using Different Devices Mess Up Your Data Too

Another aspect of this data is the fact that people tend to search on one device and book on another. For example, most people tend to begin exploring on their phone because of the convenience and ease of use and then later on will book on a desktop computer. Maybe people still don’t feel secure purchasing their family vacation on the phone or maybe mom wanted to get everyone’s opinion before she put money down on the rental, we really don’t know but we do know that there is a split in the data.

Why is this important you may ask? Well, Google Analytics is not basic and therefore the data it provides should not be interpreted as basic. What we are trying to do is paint a picture of what our audience is doing and what is really working so we can do more of that.

Everything in the sales process matters but finding what sparked the interest of your buyer can mean the difference between you just doing marketing and you truly knowing what really works and what doesn’t.

Chances are, your PPC campaign you didn’t think “was working”, probably is. Start looking at your 

different attribution models. They can be found in Analytics here on the left:

 

#BookDirect Day Is Almost Here | February 7th

What is #BookDirect day? We know it, you know it, but most consumers don’t know that there are some major benefits when you book direct with a vacation rental company. Well, February 7th is our day to educate the public about all the advantages of booking direct with your company. We think it is so important that people understand that they can still reach out to vacation rental companies and still have a unique, personal and positive interaction.

#BookDirect day isn’t a day to bash Online Travel Agencies and that isn’t the goal for February 7th, but it is a day to show people that there are some amazing, unique brands out there that can offer some great prices and amenities when they book directly with the company. Let’s all use this day for a positive impact on our industry.

Lady doing research on laptop

 

You may be wondering, how can I make a difference? That is a great question and #BookDirect day is only impactful if we all do our part. Here are some things you can do to help spread the word and be heard:

  • Use the hashtag #BookDirect. We have the power to make this viral and if we are all talking about the same thing, it will be! Use the hashtag wherever you post, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc… And remember, keep it positive.
  • Send out an eblast. Email is a great way to tell your audience about something specific and this is definitely a perfect time. You can highlight the fact that it is #BookDirect day and that there are advantages to booking directly with your company or any vacation rental company. Most importantly, tell people that you care about them as an individual and not as a number, no one wants to be treated like a number.
  • Blog about it. Use this opportunity to create some great content for your blog. It is a great way to tell everyone exactly what you think about #BookDirect day and it will also add to your site’s SEO.

The most important part about #BookDirect day to us is showing that the people booking are still people and not numbers and we need to show consumers that we still think that way. With the online changes in the vacation rental industry and such a huge push to fast, convenient booking, consumers get put into boxes and categorized like cattle. We think that every consumer is unique and should be treated that way.

As a Digital Marketing and Website Design company we do our very best to build products that treat consumers like people and not numbers. We also want your company to share it’s story and one of the ways to do that in today’s age is by great website design and digital marketing.

If you want to know more about #BookDirect day check out this article by VRMintel and find out how you can get involved. Let’s all do our part in making #BookDirect day a day of education and show our consumers that we care about them, their family, their friends and most importantly their vacation. Join the movement and spread the word on February 7th!

How To Get A Video To Go Viral?

By Vanessa Humes

Did you catch the video of the frozen alligators? I mean, who didn’t? It reached hundreds of thousands of people across the world and grew their Facebook followers to over 12,000 likes. Just minutes down the road from ICND world headquarters in Ocean Isle Beach, NC, our clients and friends over at the Shallotte River Swamp Park took a few videos that they’ve been posting on Facebook, and all of the sudden it’s on the DailyMail and National Geographic! Who knew?

Finding the right content

Getting a video to go viral is no easy task. You have to get it filmed, post it online, and pray to the viral gods that it continues to get picked up. But once it takes off it’s going to drive brand awareness, traffic, and ultimately–Conversions.

So what’s it take to make your video go viral like that? With Social Media integrating more and more viral videos in their organic feed, it seems like something we should all be integrating into our digital marketing strategy. But how do we make our videos go viral?

Its about unique content. Generally, it takes an original idea to make it big. There’s generally some copycat attention you can get from doing a related video, but for the most part, it takes an original video. Think about the momma giraffe that was pregnant and we all watched the Youtube feed for months waiting for her to go into birth. There’s some copycats with other types of animals, but nothing that big.

Ok, now you are in the vacation rental business, you really don’t have pregnant animals you can video… But you have amazing animals in your destinations. A lot of the vacation destination is getting into the nature and seeing animals. If you go to the beach and you see dolphins swimming it’s added value to your vacation. Swimming dolphins aren’t the greatest, but jumping herds of dolphins visible from the beach that you get just the right reel of, are. So it goes back to the originality and capturing just that right moment. Have a contest with your guests, millennials love this, to share the best video of their vacation.

The other aspect of the video should strike a chord in the emotion of the viewer. It’s going to make them laugh, cry, jump out of fear, etc. Most people want to share upbeat content. Like with the alligator, it’s all about the cold-blooded reptile surviving the bitter cold weather. Something we’ve never seen or encountered in our cozy, warm homes and offices.

The content should be short, sweet, and to the point. Again, it’s going to be very spontaneous. There may be some editing needed to get there. You’ll lose more than half of your audience before a minute, so cut to the chase.

Going Viral

Once you have your content posted and you see it’s starting to take off, tag or message your local news sources. They like to share in almost any viral video for the traffic and visibility of their social media posts. Once a few local news outlets pick it up, you know you are on to something and can start reaching out to your feeder markets. Those destinations have a good population interested in your area and will likely pick it up too. And really, from there, you can tag any of the big news outlets, but they’ll probably have picked you up. At this point, not only are you online, but you’ve probably gotten some free TV media time, as well.

So managers, get your social media managers out there looking for the right content to get out there. Buy them some quick video software to spruce it up and cut it into a solid reel, and watch your social media presence soar.

3 Mistakes You’re Making With Social Media

Social media has definitely earned it’s place in the ring with the big boys when it comes to vacation rental marketing. It has allowed us to engage with audiences on a very personal level and connect with people that were outside our grasp previously. However, there are some things that social media does not do and, in some cases, it tends to get a little too much credit in the grand scheme of the digital marketing plan. Today we are going to discuss 3 mistakes you’re probably making with social media.

Mistake #1: Wanting a definitive ROI

Where’s the ROI? So many people ask, “how can I track return on investment when it comes to social media?” Well the answer to that question is, stop making that your priority. Social media was never intended to make big conversions in the realm of digital marketing. Not to say it can’t, but don’t force it. Remember that people engage on social media to be social, not buy something. Constantly pushing products and promotions on someone will only make them disengage and eventually unfollow you.

Instead, use your social channels to promote your brand as a whole and let the consumer decide whether or not they want to purchase from you. This is a hard step for most marketers out there because we have to let the consumer decide, it would be easier if we could just make the decision for them! However, when you use your social channels as branding tools instead of sales tools, you begin to attract people that will relate to your brand and in turn, your products.

Mistake #2: All Eggs Go Into that Facebook Basket

Facebook isn’t everything. When I say social media most people think of Facebook. Just to be fair, Facebook does hold an extremely large audience when it comes to the Vacation Rental Industry and they have made it very simple to engage with that audience but don’t think that Facebook is the only thing out there. There are several other social channels that most people do not use that can be extremely valuable and require less upkeep than Facebook.

Pinterest is a great example. Also, you don’t have to worry about nasty comments with Pinterest because most people get on for ideas and, let’s face it, to waste a little time. The audience on Pinterest is about 85% women ranging from all ages which is perfect for VR. It also allows you to build a following and engage with others. Definitely worth checking out in our books!


Screenshot of Pinterest

Another great undiscovered gem is YouTube. Video has become one of the main sources of content in today’s world which is why you should be investing time and energy into YouTube. It is also a part of the Google family and can help with your organic SEO ranking. So basically you’re killing two birds with one stone.

Image of YouTube

These are just two examples of a very large list and once you start thinking about social media as branding, you will begin to see how you fit into virtually all social channels.

Mistake #3: Not Knowing Your Audience

Audience, audience, audience! Don’t forget who your audience is. I have seen so many social campaigns fail because the person behind the account forgot who their audience was. A tactic that can be useful is to create a persona. A persona is an outline of your perfect consumer and can be extremely helpful when you’re planning your next social campaign. Especially when you’re neck deep in graphics and statistics and you forget why you started the campaign in the first place, we have all been there, done that.

Everything you talk about and promote should in some way relate to that audience. Guaranteed, if you do this you will see a huge impact across your social channels.

Overall, don’t treat your followers like a number. Your fans want to be known as individuals and if you engage with them and show them that you care about their interests, it will have a tremendous impact on how they perceive you as a company. And if all this seems a little too much, ICND is here for you and we have years of experience managing social channels and would love to point you in the right direction.

 

 

ICND Forms Distribution Partnership with Popular BookingPal

Yes, you read that correctly!! We are happy to announce that BookingPal, the world’s largest and most advanced vacation rental distribution platform, has signed an agreement with ICND to be our preferred partner for the distribution of rental listings!!

This is wonderful news for clients of InterCoastal Net Designs because it provides them total access to BookingPal’s extensive network of the biggest online travel websites that include Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, HomeAway, Priceline, VRBO, and other major sites.

ICND Forms Distribution Partnership with BookingPal

Seamless and Efficient Software

Clients of ICND will be able to create listings and connect property data seamlessly, eliminating all manual work. Setup is fast and BookingPal’s reservation and payment processing team is always available to ensure accuracy and support for all listings.

BookingPal provides property managers with the best tools available while furthering the vacation rental industry’s progress in technology. This will result in more direct online bookings, increased conversions and strengthened brand awareness giving property managers the ability to grow their business by capturing the additional market share they may not currently have.

What makes BookingPal worth getting excited about?

  • It’s the largest network of Vacation Rental and OTA Channels
  • Access to Revenue Optimization and Yield Management tools
  • Access to BookingPal’s content optimization specialists
  • Real-time listing quality feedback
  • Fully Automated Distribution Platform
  • Payment Management Services
  • Guest Inquiry Support

“We’re thrilled to have ICND as a preferred marketing partner for property managers,” said Alex Aydin, CEO and Founder of BookingPal. “This relationship will allow ICND to extend its value for their property managers. With BookingPal’s large distribution network and added layers of marketing and revenue management services, ICND clients will have the ability to boost their marketing efforts, get their properties in front of more vacation rental seekers seamlessly, and significantly increase their revenue.”

ICND Forms Distribution Partnership with BookingPal

Benefits of BookingPal

The BookingPal platform offers both managers of vacation rentals and property owners superior revenue benefits by utilizing proprietary products to optimize distribution capabilities including:

The myBookingPal channel manager software toolset provides electronic connectivity between a supplier of rep level and key level properties and 3rd party distribution channels.

myOptimize scores content to calculate listing quality and provide key feedback to achieve optimal channel placement and conversion.

Additional managed distribution services offered through BookingPal include consolidated contracting, consolidated accounting and reporting, additional content syndication services, revenue and yield management tools, consulting, analytics, transaction processing and payment services.

At ICND our commitment to innovation and research has allowed us to assure our clients stay on the cutting edge of their industry. As the preferred distribution partner for InterCoastal Net Designs, BookingPal will connect our clients to the largest vacation rental and online travel agency network worldwide while taking advantage of unique content optimization and their revenue maximization services.
 

 

Orlando, We are Coming For You!

Orlando, VRMA we are coming for you! Not only are we coming for you, we are fully loaded and ready. We let our own marketing director out of his room, and he has some great informative information for you wont find anywhere else. Paul has been in the vacation marketing business for over 11 years now. He has some great insights and has seen all the trends and hype throughout the years. The Digital Marketing world is scary. After all, one mistake could wind up costing a good chunk of change out of your marketing budget with nothing but a head scratch and bewilderment to show in return.

In order to make your business decisions, you have to rely on the bits and pieces of info you acquired from random webinars, articles and even sales tactics that could put a little fear into you if you don’t comply. So on October 18, let our very own Paul Hanak help you decipher some of those rumors, myths, and help you make better marketing decisions for your business!

 

5 Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website

Getting Geo-Targeted or local traffic to your vacation rental website doesn’t have to be difficult. As a matter of fact, here we give you five great tips!

Local Search to Local Traffic for the Vacation Rental industry

You may be wondering "Why, as a Vacation Rental Company, should we be concerned with Local Traffic to our website?" and rightfully so.

There can be two ways of thinking about local traffic and local search:

  1. Actual Local Searchers
    This type of Internet Searcher is someone who is searching from a relatively local geographic location. People in your local area are not immune to the desire of having a wonderful vacation; and your rental just might be what they want.
  2. Geo-Targeted Searchers
    Geo-Targeted Searchers are those who might not be local to the area, but they are searching for what you offer – in your area. In other words, their actual search terms, the words they input into the Google search box, will have geographic names in them, such as names of towns and / or cities that your vacation rentals are located in.

Although these are two different types of searchers, perhaps coming from different places, the way we address them both are basically the same… They both specifically focus on Geographic terms.

And what that means is that there are many tactics we can use to highlight geographic search terms, or Geo-Target search terms.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I want you to consider the growing trend of mobile use. In some niches, the number of people who access websites or search for products and services by mobile is soaring past those who use the traditional desktop. "Near Me" searches are on the rise via mobile. So make sure your website is responsive and mobile-friendly.

Now let’s dive into the Five Powerful Tactics to Boost Local Traffic!

Five Powerful Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website

NAP Consistency

One of the most commonly-advised tactics is to establish your "official" NAP or Name, Address and Phone Number.

NAP Consistency means your business’s Name, Address, and Phone Number are consistently listed the same across the Internet.

Any time you list your business, anywhere Online, use the exact same spelling, capitalization, wording, etc. for your NAP. If you display your phone number with the area code in parenthesis and a space, before and after number-sets, with a dash between, on your website, like (910) 575 – 6095, then write it that way every time. If you abbreviate "Road" to "Rd." in your address, do it that exact same way.

Consistency is the key, but why?

The reason is simply to build the confidence and authority of identity in the eyes of the search engines.

Although it may be tempting to build out several different websites, with different versions of the company name, all housed out of the same office in order to boost revenue – you’re also confusing the search engines as to just who is where.

In short, don’t confuse the search engines; decide on your consistent NAP and use it on your website, social media, Google Business, Online directories, citations, mentions and in whatever other ways you may come across.

Google My Business

When compared with the alternatives, Google is the number one search engine; everybody uses it.

So using their tools, suggestions and methodologies might be a good idea. And getting a listing in Google’s business suite of "Google My Business" might be a great idea.

On their page, they suggest you "attract new customers" with their listing. Further, it states that "your listing appears right when people are searching for your business or businesses like yours on Google Search and Maps. Google My Business makes it easy to create and update your listing—so you can stand out, and bring customers in."

Google My Business is basically a one-stop-shop to manage if or how your business shows in Maps, the Knowledge Graph, Google+ and organic search results.

It’s important to have as complete a listing as possible, including your NAP, business hours, details, photos and more. You can even see and respond to the reviews that customers have left for your business, as well as using their latest feature, which allows for short update posts.

Citations

Think of Citations like "Mentions." The idea of people mentioning our business or talking about our business brings to mind good things; like word of mouth advertising, authority, trust and in the end – profits.

In truth, that’s really how you should think about it. The fact that the search engines, like Google, are fed a bit by this should be second in your mind.

But yes. Google does consider mentions or Citations, when considering your business. Are many people talking about it? Is it listed prominently in many places? Is it the same place (remember Consistent NAP)?

Sometimes Citations can include your website address or URL, in the form of a link, which is, of course, of added value. However, citations do not need to link back to your website to be valuable. The value in a citation is the mention of your business.

There are basically two types of Citations, structured or unstructured.

Structured Citations

A structured citation is most usually defined as your vacation rental business (NAP) listed in a business directory. Examples of these types of listing sites are Yelp, MapQuest, Yellow Pages, Facebook, etc.

If you go to one of these sites, you’ll notice that each business listing is displayed in the same format (although some sites might allow more information for a fee or some businesses do not fill out their complete information), or structure, from company to company.

Unstructured Citations

An unstructured citation, on the other hand, usually has no pre-set format or structure; is usually free-flow text.

Places you could find mentions of your business might be articles, blogs, wikis and more. These may have links pointing back to your vacation rental website, or they might not.

Remember that even without a link, citations are still a good thing.

Shared Citations

We’ve already noted that having a consistent NAP is quite important. We’ve seen that citations help build verification, trust, and prominence. And here’s where these two concepts come together: Shared Citations.

What this refers to is the fact that not all directories get their information regarding businesses directly from those businesses submitting their information to them. Instead, there are things called data aggregators.

These aggregate and validate data from a variety of sources and then distribute business listing data to many other websites.

Consider, now, that you have submitted your vacation rental website in five different business directory listings. But you’ve not used a consistent NAP; instead, they are each listed slightly differently.

When a Data Aggregator comes across these, which one do you think they will decide is the "real you" to then disseminate across their network of sites? You have control over this, and it begins with consistent NAP.

Geo-Targeted Content & Pages

There is a common saying in the world of Online Marketing: "Content is King."

Although this adage can (and does) apply to a variety of topics, let’s consider it in the context of boosting local traffic to your vacation rental website.

In order to boost our chances of being seen in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) when someone enters in a search term, we need to have pages that actually talk about that topic.

For example, if I were to enter in the search query "vacation rental homes in Destin, Florida," do you think that pages titled "Condos for Sale in Los Angeles, CA" would come up? Neither do I.

However, let’s imagine for a moment, that our vacation rental company indeed specializes in vacation rental homes in the Destin, Florida area. What can we do to help move our position higher in the Search Engine Result Pages for those searchers?

Aside from using the tactics mentioned above (NAP Consistency, Google My Business and Citations), there is the technique of creating pages of relevant textual content, focusing on what you’re looking to optimize for; in this case a page about "Destin, Florida."

You might be thinking to yourself "We already have tons of pages dedicated to this area; all of our MLS listings are of vacation rental homes in Destin – AND they list the address, with the city, etc."

True, but let’s pretend that you have a competitor; I know, crazy, right? And they also have similar types of MLS listing pages.

Who, then, does Google decide gets the better placement in the SERPs? There are a great many factors within the world of SEO or Search Engine Optimization, however in this case, think of it like this: whoever has more relevant and authoritative content regarding the topic in question is going to have a leg-up on the competition.

So then, we need to build Geo-Targeted pages with textual content surrounding the topic at hand.

Here are some ideas of what kinds of pages you should begin thinking about building content around:

  • About [Destin, Florida] page(s)
  • Things to Do in [Destin] page(s)
  • [Destin] Events page(s)

In creating these rich, geo-targeted content pages, you’ll want to make use of this next tactic as well…Structured Schema Data.

Schema Structured Data

"Schema" refers to www.schema.org, which outlines a very specific vocabulary of tags to help you provide the information Search Engines need to understand your content.

If you’ve ever heard of the Google term "Rich Snippet," Schema Structured Data is the same thing (and luckily, Google seems to have moved away from Rich Snippets to the Structured Data terminology).

Without going into too much technical detail here, there are three types of Schema Structured Data formats: Microdata, JSON-LD and RDFa, with the first two being the most popular.

Think of Microdata like HTML tags containing name-value pairs, often surrounding visible content elements on the page, and JSON as a JavaScript also containing name-value pairs, but not visible on the page.

Let’s look at an example of the two most popular formats.

Microdata


<h3><span itemprop="name">Destin Vacation Rental Homes</span></h3>
<span itemprop="description">Destin, Florida's most popular vacation rental home agent.</span>

Here you can see that the name of the company is surrounded by not only H3 (Third-level Heading) tags, but there is a name-value pairing that says the data within this tag block is the entity’s Name. And for the next block it says "This is the Description of the entity."

JSON-LD


<script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "http://schema.org",
"@type":"LocalBusiness",
"description":"Destin, Florida's most popular vacation rental home agent."
"name": "Destin Vacation Rental Homes"
}
</script>

Here you can see that we are providing the same information to the Search Engines as we did in the previous example, but in this one, none of the information will be visible to the website visitor.

In the above examples, we show name and description, but of course there are name-value pairings available for address, phone number and much more.

So one option allows you to mark up visible content on the page, with specific markers for the Search Engines. This allows for double-duty; visibly display information and send markers to Google. Pretty handy, right? Indeed.

With the JSON format, there’s nothing for the end user to see. Why might this be valuable? Consider that you can send to the Search Engines information such as the founding date of your local vacation rental business, the founding location, amenity features – but you probably wouldn’t want to group this information together visibly on a page of your site for the end user to read; it just wouldn’t logically work. Thus the power of the JSON method. And keep in mind – there’s no reason why you couldn’t use both methods. 🙂

Used on your geo-targeted rich content pages (and elsewhere on your site) could give you a very big boost indeed.

Summary

In summary, we covered Five Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website. These tactics should serve you well in not only getting more targeted traffic, but you should also see a rise in your both your local and overall SEO rankings and traffic as well. Remember: NAP Consistency, Google My Business, Citations, Geo-Targeted Content and Schema Structured Data. And it all begins with the Consistent NAP.

If any of this sounds a bit overwhelming, I can totally understand. Let us help lighten the burden with our SEO Services or you can take a look at our full suite of Vacation Rental and Real Estate Tools.

Article written by Craig Kiessling.

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.