Vacation Rental Marketing Makeover Session 1.6: Creating A Website

Matt Landau
May 1, 2014

If you haven’t heard, I am working to totally makeover one lucky vacation rental owner’s marketing portfolio live (and step-by-step) for my subscribers to follow. You can read all the prior posts here.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.02.57 AMVacation rental marketing is all about control.

Some owners and managers rely on listing sites that may overnight increase annual fees or change ranking algorithms or hold the guest’s email address hostage for correspondence.

These individuals have no control.

Other owners or managers rely on Craigslist and Facebook to generate leads: the very same platforms that are increasingly withholding functionality only for those who are willing to pay the highest price per click.

These individuals have no control either.


How Does An Owner Or Manager Take Back Control?


I believe vacation rental owners and managers fall into two “marketing” categories:

1) Those who continuously (and exclusively) spend their time and money invested in third party platforms and who may very well get boxed out by property managers or fall invisible due to policy changes [These are not my subscribers]

2) Those who (in addition to using these third party platforms) decide to seize control and embrace the two independent and unassailable platforms I endorse (website and email marketing), contributing with each and every effort they make towards the sustainable future of their business [These are my subscribers]

With a number of the major platforms we are talking about (HomeAway, FlipKey, Facebook…etc.) going public and increasingly accountable to shareholders, there is simply no better time to start investing in control for your business and that perfectly describers my community here on the blog.


Build A Website: Create The Center Of Your Universe


Jay William It should be no secret that when I launched Amy Firmani’s Marketing Makeover back in January, the first person I called in for a favor was Jay William over at Villa Marketers.

Jay’s made a name for himself over the past 10 years (that is a LONG TIME in our young industry!!!) building proprietary websites for owners and managers…

Websites that give their owners full, unhindered, guaranteed control…

Websites that offer their owners 100% equity on every little investment made to their vacation rental brand.

And when I called him and was like, “Jay, I need a mitzvah here buddy! Can you make a website for Amy Firmani’s Palazzo Paradiso?” his first question was “When do we launch?”

There are plenty of services out there that build websites for all kinds of small businesses, but Jay and his team are like specialists in that they do one thing (vacation rental websites) and they do them insanely well every single time.


Choosing The Right Domain Name (URL)


There are a ton of components that go into a good website but the first is always the right domain name.

Far too often I see domain names that are too abstract or too long: these domains never get recognized by the search engines…

So to choose the right one, Jay and I sat down for research that went something like this:

> Use Google Keyword Planner to determine keywords or key phrases with a high “search volume to competition” ratio that are, of course, relevant to Amy’s vacation rental (this means that the search phrase “Las Vegas rentals” and Las Vegas airport rentals” would be irrelevant while the phrase “home rentals in Las Vegas” would fit just right)

> Select a small handful with our criteria

> Use to check on domain availability (for beginners, I always recommend buying a ‘hand reg’ domain or a domain that isn’t owned by anyone else and can be registered at for a standard registration fee of about $10)

> Restrict search to DOT COMs and don’t buy anything else (because I said so)

This all led us to settle on the phrase “Las Vegas Villa Rental” and the domain was available (Hooray!!!).

For those of you unversed in search engine optimization, having an “exact match” domain (i.e. a domain name that is identical to a relevant search term) is a tremendous way to get a head start (if you’re just beginning) or a competitive advantage (once you’ve been live for some time).

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 9.55.47 AM

We chose this instead of simply because it garners a much broader search volume on Google (thus more potential inquiries).

[Promotion: For a very limited time, Jay is offering a 100% FREE, NO OBLIGATION hand-picked domain suggestion service, which means getting an expert with many years in the industry to recommend the best domain for your rental(s) whether you’re a client of theirs or not. Simply use any of the contact forms on and include the code “mattsdomaindeal” in your note.]


The 5 Components Of A Successful Vacation Rental Website


So now for the big reveal of Amy Firmani’s new vacation rental website:

What you’ll notice is that the site is not 100% ready as we wanted to let everyone watch it’s completion live…

As such, not all the links are working and content isn’t up yet (we’ll be using some of those genius titles and descriptions done by Christine Anderson in Session 1.1).

But here are 5 main components that Jay and I demanded from the layout:

1. A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words: From our magical photography makeover with Cameron Carothers, we made sure to feature Amy’s photos prominently since that’s the first (and in a lot of cases ONLY) thing guests want to see.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 8.26.32 AM

2. Clear Calls To Action: We made sure that every page had two calls to action: a contact form and a phone number (as you may remember from the Correspondence Session, Amy finds it effective to speak with guests on the phone).

Contact Form

Call Now

3. Get Your Blog On: You need to share information about your region with potential (and past) guests, to keep them engaged, and to show that you have authority and expertise. Amy is currently finishing my “Information Sells” FAQ exercise which will populate the blog, her main engine for traffic to the website. We will go over blog topics, tactics, and themes in a separate session.

4. Embrace Mobile Technology: Since most people will be accessing your website (at some point during the reservation process) on a mobile device, we made sure to make the website ‘responsive’ which means the layout looks great and adapts to any type of device.

Responsive Design

5. Help, Don’t Sell: As you know from my work, I wanted Amy’s website to be heavy on helpful and resourceful information for potential guests. Help, Don’t Sell is a huge mantra of mine and we made sure to include plenty of great information (whether the traveler chooses to stay at Amy’s rental or not) including this stunning Insider’s Guide from session 1.5, which will also be a great way for Amy to start building her email marketing list (to be explained in a separate session).


Of course, these 5 items are not the only important parts of a vacation rental website.

Nor have we stopped sharing Jay and his team at Villa Marketers’ great work…

Stay tuned in future sessions where we’ll be breaking down the value and composition of things like blog posts, videos, reservations, and much much more.

About the Author

Matt Landau is the Founder of VRMB. He spends most of his time inside of VRMB Communities, one of the leading collaboration platforms helping vacation rental owners and managers build more profitable & sustainable businesses.

Matt Landau

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