This post by Conrad O'Connell is continuing the series of VRMB guest blog posts designed to help you build a more sustainable VR business. If have comments or questions, Conrad will be listening to feedback in the comments below.
Let’s face it: creating compelling content for your vacation rental website isn’t easy, cheap or quick. To make something that’s worthy of being published on your website, you need to invest lots of time, effort and energy into creating really compelling content.
But if that’s the case, then why promote it only once?
Are you stuck in the cycle of writing a blog post, sending it out once and then just rushing in to write another post?
Marketers have long talked about the benefits of the 80-20 rule of promotion: spend 80% of your time promoting your content and 20% creating new content. With online marketing, that’s never been more true.
Promoting your content should touch every facet of your online marketing: email, social media, SEO and even paid promotion. In fact, if it doesn't, you're doing a disservice to the content you create...simply because too few people are privy to see it.
In this post, we’re going to cover how to promote your content and website in general through long-lasting strategies like link building, press outreach and email marketing. Strap in and let’s do this.
For more on this, you’ll want to check out Matt’s great post on his content marketing philosophy for vacation rental companies. In short, creating great content is easier than ever before with the gluttony of tools, services, companies and consultants ready to help your website host the most useful information about your destination. In my experience, any company or individual is able to create highly engaging content about their destination if they’re willing to take a new angle, invest more or provide local insight.
And the options are diverse: for destination and travel marketing, the format that you choose could be video content: video content can be used on every single marketing platform and it provides a more human element to your rentals that sets you apart from the competition. You could also choose to write blog posts that share your local insight into your destination. No matter the format, you’ve got something to say to the world about your market — so let’s make sure that lots of people can hear about it!
Once you establish a content format that’s working well, many other elements fall in place. One of my favorite marketers is Seth Godin, who is a author and speaker who writes blog posts every day.
Every. Single. Day.
Seth Godin rarely misses a day without a new post — and because of that fact (and the quality of the posts), the content he produces is high in value. Not because he’s spent proportionally more money to create his posts, but instead because he’s committed dramatically more time to creating his consistent content.
Now that you are convinced — creating content for your vacation rental website is key to a high-converting website that provides real value to your guests — we’re going to move forward with the most overlooked area of effective content marketing in the vacation rental companies I work with: promotion.
Performing content outreach to journalists will, when successful, get your content in front of more people than any other promotion method. For an example of this, just look at Inner Circle colleague David Angotti's Smoky Mountain’s Fall Foliage Map, which through mentions on websites like Mashable has gained over 86,000 shares on Facebook.
However, with the massive reach comes a downside: content that’s shared as much as this may be less relevant to your vacation rentals. Most content that is broadly interesting or worth writing is not sales-oriented...it's brand-oriented. But, don’t let that turn you away — we’ll go over later the tangible benefits that being covered in major websites will bring to your brand. First up, before you go sending emails to every single @wsj.com email address you can find, let’s find how to make your pitches more successful.
Reaching out to a blogger in your area, newspaper writer or large-site writer is a ton easier when you already have a relationship with them. Journalists get anywhere from 25-100 cold email pitches per day: what are the chances that your writing stands out against 100 other people they’ve never heard from before? I recommend you follow the most relevant bloggers in your destination market on Twitter: comment on their articles and truly read their content to learn what they write about most.
Create a Twitter list of bloggers or writers in your area and use Nuzzel to see what they're sharing and reading most often. Matching your content with the style and type of content they share will help you get better press coverage.
Making sure that you’re writing short, concise emails when you do pitch is key! Again, when each writer is getting 100 emails per day, you are likely going to solicit nothing but a groan if you write a 1000-word essay while trying to get a website to cover your content piece. Think of your email like your elevator pitch: short, professional, and straight to the point.
Even if you have a compelling pitch in mind, understand first how your content is helping the writer. What’s in it for them? Does linking to this piece help their website look better? Does it make them appear smarter? Cutting edge? How does it show the benefits of your destination or tell a story that makes people interested? If you’re not helping the journalist, your chances to establish that relationship are reduced. Here's a template I like to use:
While the technical element of SEO is an important piece of the ranking puzzle for your website, links remains the most impactful SEO ranking factor. Here, I should stress that link building is a very misunderstood process — in general, the higher quality the link, the harder it is to obtain (but the more valuable that link is for your rankings). Earning or outreaching to get a link on travel section of the New York Times is vastly higher in impact to your websites rankings than 25 links from "free directories." And in truth, any link that you can submit and get for free is much more likely to be a bad or harmful link than ones that are difficult to get (I don't typically recommend it).
The above example of outreaching to gain links from journalists will lead you to very high quality links in general — but it’s not the only way that you can get links to your vacation rental content. There are other more niche websites that can also earn you links from high-quality local websites that will help boost your rankings too.
The easiest, quickest way to get more links is to copycat the links of top-ranking content. With this method, search the websites that have linked to your local competitors content and then go through replicating their links (cherry picking only the good ones). This process, while the most straightforward, does have a budget typically associated with it. If your competitor has links from websites like the local chamber of commerce, tourism information website, or other blog about your area, there’s a decent chance that many of these links are not completely free. Joining the Chamber Of Commerce will often net you a high-quality local link to your website, but often at the expense of a $100+/year fee. Similarly, advertising on a local informational website about your destination is often paid too. Keep this in mind when budgeting for your promotion process. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t buy links only for the SEO benefit. In fact, Google is strictly against paid links that pass PageRank (or, SEO ranking benefit) to your website.
The first step in this process is to find a similar piece of content to your own. Once you've done that, here's how to find the list of websites linking and get to outreaching.
Many tools have been created on the web to crawl, index, and organize the link structure of every website on the internet. Google has the most in-depth web crawlers ever built, but they do not share that crawl information with just anyone — only website owners and admins can see what links Google can see pointing to their website. Instead, we use tools to research the links that are pointing to our competitors website. My favorite tool for this purpose is Ahrefs — although it’s worth researching Open Site Explorer and Majestic too.
With Ahrefs you type in your competitors content URL and find their backlinks! With my clients, I organize this information into a Google Sheet and then work with the client to determine the best step forward to replicate/acquire some of these links: outreach, guest blog, sponsorship or cross-promotion. Each website may have a unique approach to it: few website owners are one-size-fits-all when it comes to successfully earning the attention of their audience. Therefore, you’ve got to be flexible when trying to earn links from local blogs and destination websites. Offer up a high-quality post about something that the website hasn’t covered yet or cross-promote their website to your Facebook fans so they can grow their page too. With the right mix, you can offer up something compelling that will earn your content more reach as it’s linked to from other websites. Here's an email template you can use (credit to Backlinko):
Even if you are able to successfully acquire many of the links of your competitors, don’t think that you’ll soon start to outrank them in Google Search for every single keyword. It’s likely that just copying their backlinks one for one means that their website will still rank higher. However, you’ve leveled the playing field in a sense and now can look at other content promotion strategies to continue to improve your website traffic.
Let’s say you just hit publish on a stellar blog post: what next? If you’re like most vacation rental marketers, you head on over to Facebook and click share. [If you don't have a Facebook Page yet, read 0-6,000 Facebook Likes For Vacation Rentals.]
Sure. But not the most effective strategy available...
If you’ve spent a lot of time to make great content, don't just hit publish once. Turbo charge your reach by promoting with Facebook's paid advertising feature?
If you don’t feel that your content is worth paying to promote, then it’s probably not good enough yet. I like to suggest creators go back and keep improving it. When forced to decide whether the content is worth spending money on, you may look at the context through a new lens.
On Facebook, there are several paid options for getting more reach on your blog article that you’ve shared:
In order of time spent, boosting is a quick and easy (although limited effectiveness) way to get more reach. Boosted posts allow you to target interest, age and location of your potential viewers. Commit a nominal $10 and you’ll get some form of traffic back out of it.
However if you are looking to maximize your spend, Facebook's Power Editor Tool allows for dramatically more targeting than a simple Boost. Getting nitty-gritty with Facebook Power Editor Tool is for another post, but check out Facebook’s quick start guide here to get going. Another great resource is located here by the team at Buffer. Here's what the Facebook Power Editor dashboard looks like below:
If you’ve decided to get going on the paid promotion via the Power Editor, here are some compelling ad targeting choices to maximize the value of your content to former, current and future guests.
It’s likely that your guests have liked your Facebook page so it's worth showing off your content to them! Without any form of paid promotion, only about 5-10% of your Facebook audience will see your post. By promoting to fans with a paid advertising budget, it’s likely that you’ll reach 70-85% of your Facebook audience with a reasonable ad budget. This can vary depending on how many fans you have and the methods used to gain those fans, but I find that ad budgets of $15-$25 can often garner 5,000+ impressions on the average vacation rental Facebook page.
If someone has visited your website, they’ve made a little smoke signal that they are interested in your content and perhaps your vacation rentals: so I like to get the right message in front of them as well. By adding a snippet of Facebook retargeting code onto your website, you can now show your blog post link to these potential guests with Facebook Ads. Due to the fact that your post isn’t sales focused at all, you’ll see a higher click-through-rate with these ads compared to more promotional ads that you may have experimented with. Targeting your website visitors can be a great way to get lots of traffic back to your website from those who’ve visited but haven’t booked a rental (yet).
With today’s popular property management software systems, it’s typically pretty easy to export the email addresses of your past guests into a text or CSV file. You may have done this to send your current promotions via email, but you can also use Facebook’s custom audience targeting to show off your content here as well. Export your list and upload them into a custom audience, then target your Facebook ad to this list to show all of your past guests your blog post the next time they log on to Facebook.
Lastly, if you’ve been collecting emails for years from your listing site inquiries, your email newsletter is a fantastic source to show off your content. It’s likely the largest targeting source of all the above advertising options! You may even bring back a cold inquiry and turn them back onto your vacation rental brand with this technique. Use the above custom audience targeting option to upload your newsletter email list to Facebook ad target them with your content.
Last but not least in how to best promote your new content...email marketing. Using a free tool like Mailchimp below, a newsletter sent to your guests is pound-for-pound one of the best ways to generate repeat leads. This form of email marketing is the perfect place to promote your content!
What type of emails do you send your guests? While some guests love to get discount emails, most of the successful vacation rental marketers I see are turning to their bank of previously created content to integrate into their email marketing with great success. Along the sidebar of your email newsletter, you can show off your “Ultimate Guide To The Best Restaurants” or that post you wrote about the "Top Places To Park At The Beach."
Whatever content you’ve spent the time to create is worth sharing on your next newsletter — as that email makes its rounds, let your future guests see it for months and years to come. It’s still just as relevant as when you wrote it, so let everyone see it.
Beyond just your email newsletter, I love it when an owner or manager integrates their content in one-to-one emails sent to potential guests (Think: responding to inquiries you get on your website). Try adding a link in your email signature to your most popular blog post or area information content page on your website. Show off the value that you’re providing for the guest: engaging here costs you nothing and can earn you goodwill with the guest before they’ve decided where to book.
I hope that you’ve captured some great notes on how to best promote your content — it’s a continuous process that needs attention if you want to see success. If you study top performing blogs in many niches run by small teams or, in many cases, a single author, you’ll find they promote their content much more than they create new content.
To help you breathe life into your old content and set you on the path for success, I’ve put together a comprehensive checklist that you can use to get started with a current piece of content that you already have and get more traffic to it today. We are asking that you share this post below in order to download the guide for free:
[wpsharely id=”15726″]Click To Download Conrad’s Checklist
It's said that for every hour creating content, marketers should spend 4 promoting it. My hope is that this post gave you some actionable ways to begin doing that effectively and in a cost-efficient way. Looking forward to putting together my next post!
Image of Speedometer By David Castillo Dominici via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Conrad O'Connell of Buildup Bookings is a Digital Marketing Consultant specializing in the vacation rental industry. With a focus on creating campaigns spanning SEO, PPC, Email Marketing and more, Conrad strives to create winning campaigns that get results. Have a question? Email him conrad AT buildupbookings.com
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