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7 Sticky Features Of The Best Vacation Rental Websites

In getting ready for this year’s VR Marketing Makeover Project, a lot of owners and managers are using this as an excuse to finally pull the trigger and start building a website. (Hooray!!!)

And in last week’s post, I revealed the best way to build that site in the shortest period of time.

But to add some additional build up to the “big reveal” I wanted to share 7 important features that I’ve been reminding our participants (and that you should be considering when developing your own website) along the way.

I have added some genius examples for each feature (which can be all be unlocked using one share button) in the case that you want some further ideas.

1. An Incredibly Clear Call To Action (CTA)

The best vacation rental website in the world is NOTHING without a clear and compelling call to action, a marketing term that instructs to the user to perform an immediate response (usually using an imperative verb such as “inquire here” or “book now” button or link.) You could have the most beautiful images, the most engaging video, and the most tech-savvy responsiveness (details on all these below), but without an obvious CTA your vacation rental website will not produce results. Think of it like a store with no cash register or place to check out.

Here’s A Great Example:

2. Embrace The “Help, Don’t Sell” Mantra

I’ve placed this pillar directly below the CTA intentionally. Just as important as persuading a primed-and-ready traveler to inquire, is the ability of a vacation rental website to softly nurture a traveler who’s not ready to inquire just yet…and we do this using the Help, Don’t Sell mantra. In fact, this demographic of visitors will account for the large majority of your web traffic. This is where your ability to blog, to tell stories, to provide helpful regional tips…etc. really comes into play and it’s where you’ll gather the greatest following.

Here’s A Great Example:

3. The Power Of Simple

There’s a tendency when getting your own website to try and include any and every feature you’ve ever dreamed about…but actually, the most effective vacation rental websites tend to be incredibly simple and predictable to browse. This theme of simplicity permeates down from the design and layout to the menu bars and even color schemes and fonts. Less is always more. If some functionality doesn’t need to be present, skip it in favor of a more streamlined look and feel.

Here’s a great example:

4. Strong Imagery

A property’s photos are the first and foremost factor a traveler will view when considering your rental, so it should be no surprise that the best vacation rental websites use those photos loudly and proudly. A proper homepage should have a gorgeous set of gigantic photos…if you don’t have gorgeous photos, take a note out of Amy Firmani’s book and buy them immediately. Consider allowing the photos to take up 50-80% of the browser window.

Here’s A Great Example:

5. It’s Gotta Be Mobile-Friendly

Travelers are increasingly viewing vacation rental websites on mobile devices and tablets, which means that a great vacation rental website needs to be responsive and have the capacity to provide an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices. If you’ve ever tried to visit a non-mobile-friendly site on your smart phone or tablet, you’ll know what I mean: navigating is like trying to grab a needle with a pair of bolt cutters.

Here’s a great example:

6. Implementation Of A Video Element

All marketing and hospitality gurus point to one thing – video – as the definitive wave of the future in how travelers consume marketing information. Video fills in all those little holes that photos and compelling text simply cannot. Get a video commissioned or make your own DIY version like this. Put it front and center or link to it in the sidebar of all pages. The goal of your video should be to convey experience and further build trust and intrigue in what you are selling.

Here’s A Great Example:

7. Full Transparency Surrounding “YOU”

The vacation rental industry is new and ridden with all kinds of identity crises…both figuratively (it’s still in the process of finding itself) and literally (there are literally tons of annoying con artists pretending to be other people). So the best vacation rental websites always have a full bio that allows the potential guest to get to know who is the owner or manager, why they chose this location, photos to boot…etc. This goes for listing site pages too: if you aren’t utilizing the “About Us” section of your listing page you’re presenting a reason why you’re not trustworthy.

Here’s A Great Example:

All of the examples in this post came from members in our Inner Circle. Thanks to them for being ROCKSTARS with their marketing.

Oh and feel free to share your website (whether it’s ready or in-progress) below in the comments section for feedback from other readers!

About the Author Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings. Google+ | More Posts (230)

  • Jack Pope

    Hey Matt – I’ve been following you for years and love your practical advice. I’ve got a waterfront suite on the Sunshine Coast, which is a sweet 40 minute ferry ride from Vancouver. Here’s a link to my website http://www.coraclecove.com

    • Matt Landau

      Hey Jack, here’s some food for thought. Your waterfront location seems to be your greatest asset. And you have some amazing photos of the waterfront experience (one of the bedroom on the water, another of the table on the porch). Do you think putting those on the homepage slideshow (in place of the image of the bed or the sink or the grainy one of the hot tub) could convey that allure more effectively? You’ve also got quite a few outbound links on your homepage. I often see that reducing the “opportunity to leave” results in more CTA conversions (which I think could also be more obvious on your homepage).

      • Jack Pope

        Thanks for looking at my site. You get so used to “seeing” your own site that you often miss out on the obvious. Regarding the outgoing links, what is the overall value of the footer v/s an “opportunity to leave” Should I just get rid of it completely and go with a simplified menu bar – I’m thinking I could get rid of “Plan Your Stay” and “Specials”. I have the same question about the video – I know it has value but is it also another opportunity to leave

  • Hi Matt – Another great post. I’ve printed your comments and will be taking a fresh look at my website to see where I can improve! http://www.serenity-vacationrentals.com

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Dean, here’s a tip referencing simplicity and predictability (above): when I visit your site, I see one menu bar (Home, Meet The Owners, Contact) yet when I do what you ask and click one of the images for more information, the layout changes entirely (and so does the URL). This almost positively throws users off as, from the looks of it, they’ve switched over to an entirely new website. Consistency with web design/layout is key.

      • Great tip! I will address those changes right away!

      • Hi Matt, I just wanted to fire you an update to tell you I’ve taken your advice and made some changes to the website. http://www.serenity-vacationrentals.com I still have some things I want to add like more call to action buttons, but overall I can see a huge improvement using your advice. As always – thank you Matt!

        Dean

        • Matt Landau

          Great to hear Dean!

  • rentmoreweeks

    Hi Matt, Hi everyone,
    Great tips as always, thanks for sharing.
    I have just launched a new video course called “WordPress for vacation rental owners” which covers everything VR owners need to know in order to make a bang up to date website using WordPress.
    The course incorporates all 7 of the above features and introduces a revolutionary social media aspect too.
    You can learn more and see an overview video here, http://bookingsplus4g.com/course/wordpress-for-vacation-rental-owners-2/

    If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me via the website live chat or by email.
    Good luck with your websites, Alan

  • Pat Luftman

    Hi all, I welcome any & all comments on our website: http://www.theheronsview.com
    Thanks, Pat

    • Matt Landau

      Pat, based on the imagery item above, you don’t really have any photos or imagery on your homepage. I think the moment you do that, your Avg. Time Spent On Site will increase overnight.

    • rentmoreweeks

      Hello Pat, I agree 100% with Matt and would add that, like Cathy’s, your site is non responsive so site visitors using mobile devices (about 50% of all visitors these days) get a distorted view of your site.

    • Cathy

      I see too much text (uninviting and I’m a fast reader) and not enough pictures.

  • Cathy

    I love learning from all of you! Thanks. Here is my website for your review: http://www.lastresortvacation.com I’m always looking for new ideas.

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Cathy, I would move that wonderful slideshow of the place waaaay up to the very top of the site. It would decrease your bounce rate almost over night 🙂

      • Cathy

        Brilliant! Thanks for the idea!

    • rentmoreweeks

      Hi Cathy, I love the fact that you are marketing the destination with lots of what to do items. This will become more and more important in the next 18 months.
      The only thing of note is that your theme is not responsive so potential guests finding your site via tablet or smartphone can’t see much of your site.

      • Cathy

        I will look into that. Appreciate the feedback. Still working on mobile presentation, so needed the advice.

  • rentmoreweeks

    If anyone is in doubt as to whether their website is responsive (adjusts to look good on all devices, desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones) just go to your site, take the cursor to the far right until it becomes a horizontal arrow, then right click, hold and drag the cursor to the left.
    This way you can replicate a tablet screen and if you go further left, a smartphone screen.
    Bear in mind that around half of our site visitors are using mobile devices now and Google give websites that are responsive a higher rating than those that are not.
    If you are using WordPress you can change your theme to a responsive one fairly easily.

    • Cathy

      Thanks for teaching us how to see what shows on a mobile screen. That helps a lot.

      • rentmoreweeks

        Pleasure Cathy

  • Matt, all that is quite interesting but the key element is ranking. You can have a tremendous website but if nobody finds you it is useless. The most effective way to improve ranking is solid backlinking. This community has all it needs to start building these links between ourselves. Google’s robots give credits to sites that are recommend by other sites if possible in the same kind of business. They almost completely disregards keywords and general directories. Buying google campaigns is a poor solution because you keywords are the same than Booking.com, Home away and other giants, so they always get better placement since they invest on a scale we cannot compete with. Backlinking cost nothing and is very efficient.

    • Matt Landau

      Hey Maurice, I agree but I never like to put the cart before the horse. We’ll be going into SEO and link building in the Makeover Project, but the foundation for any sustainable ranking process is always a high converting website. I’m not much a fan of the “let’s swap links” either but we do have some ‘networking’ ideas going in the IC.

    • While your site’s rankings and visibility is very important don’t forget about Conversion Rate Optimization and Usability of your website. Matt speaks to some of these points above. It is amazing how some of the most simplest things can affect your online conversions. Be sure to A/B test – we use a 3rd party site http://www.optimizely.com to easily help us test as we get deeper into the conversion funnel. i.e. submit button verbiage, removal of top level nav items to eliminate clutter and noise, testing the effectiveness of promo codes, etc… Before you dive in too deep spending marketing dollars, make sure your website is tuned to capture the most reservations possible. Good luck!

    • rentmoreweeks

      You seem to have an issue with your site header, it’s taking up far too much real estate for some reason. It isn’t responsive either.

      • rentmoreweeks

        Sorry, just looked on the tablet and the site renders beautifully, It’s just on the laptop (Chrome on a Mac, in my case) that the header issue shows up.

        • Sorry, I don’t really understand what you mean by the header issue. Do you mean that the name is too long?

          • rentmoreweeks

            This is what I see. I have to scroll down before I see any content

          • Yes, I know. Impossible to fix, it is the Weebly template we use. Impossible to change even trying to modify the CSS. Weebly assistance useless. We have to live with that. Not too important. You see the name of the site, the different locations and you just have to scroll down. All the best to you.

    • Jonathan Murray

      I agree with the value of back-linking but as I have said before, I actually think that a website can have multiple purposes outside of ranking. I often ask owners/managers to articulate what the GOAL of their website is, and there can actually be many:

      – Improve conversion of listing site inquiries (e.g. maybe with inquiry autoresponders)
      – Establish a brand (e.g. “Sonoma Square Cottage”) to help look professional
      – Provide a memorable site, which along with your brand, aids word of mouth referrals and repeat business
      – Convert traffic from paid campaigns or email blasts to their lists (though I agree with you that SEM doesn’t make sense for most small owners/managers).
      – Register with some local registries (Yelp, Yahoo Local, YellowPages, etc) – low volume, but I have gotten a few bookings from that.
      – Provide renters with helpful information in a way that’s time-efficient for you (e.g. check out the local recommendations, deals, and events on my SonomaSquareCottage.com website).

      These are all valid and powerful uses of a website that fall outside of SEO ranking. You can still do much of the fairly quick on-page SEO configuration even if it’s not your goal, but you may choose to not invest time in the other areas of SEO. You may also choose an entirely different design if your website’s goal is SEO vs if it were converting campaigns or better converting your existing inquiry flow.

      SEO can be a huge investment of time and/or money and for some small customers in highly competitive regions, the effort may never pay off. But there may still be huge value in having a website for these other reasons.

      -Jon from MyVR.com

      • I completely agree with you, we are using our site to improve the conversion of listing inquiries or sometimes to go around some barriers that companies like airbnb are establishing between us and the guests. And of course to provide a lot of helpful informations to potentilal guest using what Matt calls help rather than sell. It is out of questions of course to spend any money on improving the ranking. We receive tons of offers. They are ridiculous or shape for large on line shops. Mots of the directories are discarded by google,as well as soft links. From what I understand by reading a lot of SEO documents, after you optimise the best you can your site (there are some mistakes you can not change. For example, our name is far too long. We chose it before knowing about SEO and now it is too late to change). But you can improve the structure and hierarchy of your titles, give a legend to your photos and a lot of things that give credibility for Google robots. But the most important is back-linking, that is how the robots evaluate that you site is real and in activity and worthwhile to climb in ranking. It costs nothing but time and should be quite easy to build in a community of owners. It would nicely complement the way we use it as said above.

      • Adrienne

        Hi Jon,

        Very helpful perspective. Articulating the purpose of a web site should save lots of time spinning wheels to be everything to everyone.

        Question for you, I just learned recently that vacation rentals are not eligible (per Google) to be shown on Google Maps as local businesses. At no cost, a hotel can be shown on Google Maps and so can a vacation rental agency, but not a vacation rental property.

        I am really bummed by this and feel it is pretty discriminatory against my small business.

        Have you come across this? Any thoughts on a work-around?

        Thank you,

        Adrienne
        http://www.condoinoceancitymaryland.com/

        • Jonathan Murray

          Hi Adrienne,
          I’ve seen many accepted and many rejected. I myself have been accepted on Google, Yahoo, Yelp, and others – but I’ve seen plenty turned down. I unfortunately don’t know enough about Google’s acceptance criteria to know why some are accepted and some are not. Perhaps it matters what classification you choose when you register? Have you tried to register and were denied, or you are just hearing that you will be denied?

          Alan Egan – if you happen to see this comment, do you know?

          – Jon

          • rentmoreweeks

            Hi Adrienne, Hi Jon,
            This is a Google local issue. In short Google don’t want people looking somewhere up on Google local, driving there and finding the place empty or occupied by fee paying guests. This sort of makes sense when put like this.
            As a result VR properties are not allowed on Google local / maps unless they have a manned office at the location. Property managers and listings companies can create a page and list their office as the address.

            I have spoken at length with Google about this and there is no work around (they actually have a team of people looking for VR properties that are listed on Local and they will just take the page down, without notice, when they find one).

            You can still have a G+ page for your property under the “Brand” category.
            This page can be linked (and verified) to your VR website.
            You can build high pagerank through the proper use of this page.

            As a sidenote, you can, if you wish, add photos of your property and other destination highlights to Google Maps by using Photosphere, an app available for IOS and Android.

  • Very good stuff! Here’s my site…critique please! CooperstownLuxury.com

    • Matt Landau

      Bill, I like your sales letter style homepage. Never really thought about that approach before…but it works!!! I’d add a photo of yourself and Liz, along with an image of your signature to add to the feel of a hand-written note…to add some personalization. Have you considered a video that could do this even more effectively like Philippe: https://www.vrmb.com/video-responses/

      P.S. Will ya try ma product?

  • Adrienne

    I want to be at The Brando!

    But I’m stuck in snowy Maryland.

    Waaah!

    Thank you for your input on our website http://www.condoinoceancitymaryland.com/

    • Matt Landau

      Hey Adrienne, I think we all do 🙂 For your site, one tip from me would be related to fonts. I actually see this quite a bit: it think it can be easy to opt for a fun font but typefaces have personalities and if it’s not a) complimentary to your rental or (worse) hard to read, choosing unique fonts can have adverse affects. This may just be a very picky detail, but I’d revert back to a more common font. I’d also set the homepage of your website to be one particular page (I notice your using Blogger) instead of a feed reel of posts. Too much distraction instead of a laser focused pitch.

    • Sasquatch’s Hideaway – Winter

      Good looking site. Clean and neat. On my phone it looks great, but the drop down for the other pages is not immediately apparent. Maybe need something to point that out. I can guarantee that my parents wouldn’t find it.

  • Adrienne

    Done! Thank you, Matt.

  • cvrentals

    We are definitively missing the “About Us’ section but here’s our website.
    http://www.vacationrentalpr.com

    Best,

    -Eliezer

    • Sasquatch’s Hideaway – Winter

      Wow. I really like your site. The promotions slider is very nice, although the monthly image isn’t loading. Looks great on my phone too!

      • cvrentals

        Thank you so much! I think it’s working now. Thank you for notifying me.

        Best,

        -Eliezer

    • Beautiful, loving your website design 🙂 Quick notice, it seems to be missing details at http://www.vacationrentalpr.com/rooms/rio-grande/astounding-villa-within-rio-mar-beach-golf-club.htm
      I’ve also tried to find your rates and availability but could not go through, I always got unavailable even after choosing available dates on the availability calendar, could not select more than 1 adult and never seen a price 🙁
      Did I miss something?

      • cvrentals

        Thank you for all those notifications. We will work on every single detail. We are trying to customize a booking software for vrentals.

        Best,

        -Eliezer

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Eliezer, I would love to see your blog built out further (which I’m sure is on your To-Do list). A good way to load your blog up with 20 super relevant pieces of content that take little time to write and HELP guests almost like X-Ray Vision, can be seen here: https://www.vrmb.com/blogging-ideas/

      • cvrentals

        Hi Matt,

        Thank you so much for taking time to visit our website. We are currently cooking our blog with a really modern taste and great imagery. Thank you for sharing that great piece.

        Best,

        -Eliezer

  • Sasquatch’s Hideaway – Winter

    I will definitely be implementing a few of these tips, and would love to get some feedback on my site, which is new this year: http://sasquatch.rentals

    • Hi,

      I like your clean design, nothing comes to disturb the eye which I think is great. Only direct access to information.

      There’s a few things I missed or confuses me though:

      * Reservations: You embed your VRBO listing here, to me this is a huge NO-NO. Doing so is really confusing, you do actually expose the entire VRBO site in your own site, travelers can go back and browse your competitors as well. Once you get a visitor on your site, I would really try to prevent her/him to go out, specially to a site listing your concurrents and giving many reasons to simply forget your own rental. If this person is not really techy as well, he might actually end-up booking an other property believing that you owned it as well as it was presented through your own website.
      As an alternative, I would display on this page your availability calendar, rates and inquiry form. If you are willing to accept online payment, I would seek for a vacation rental booking engine to help you doing this nicely.

      * Where can I see your photos, amenities, …? To me, complete details about your property is the single most important thing. Travelers need to know your property details to be able to reserve or even see if they are interested. I could see more in the “reservations” but as mentioned, I would redo this part.

      * About Us: this page is your property description, to me this is confusing as I would expect your personal and property history here, who you are, why you rent your vacation rental, … Also if looking for your property details, I would not be looking for this page.

      * Location: I do really miss a map here 🙁 I love the description but believe a map to speak really loud.

      Their’s a lot of things though that I found really good and often forgotten elsewhere:

      * Reviews: This is really important, I’ve myself underestimated their value before but I’ve been proven wrong. Really nice to see them 🙂

      * Blog: Flicked through quickly but looks perfect, you give continuous feedback about your property evolution and local events, services, … Loving it.

      * Navigation: While I missed some information, your site is really easy to navigate. Congrats!

      I hope this comments won’t be to hard to listen, I’m sure you spent a lot of energy on making it, and really hope will help you and other vacation renters improve their websites to better generate booking.

      – Seb from BookingSync.com

    • Matt Landau

      I agree with Seb (below). Referring to the imagery item above, you do use big photos…but they’re not pretty (wine bottle rack, blurry barren landscape, a train) and there are none of the rental itself. Guests want to see what the rental looks like inside and out. So maybe hire the closest architectural photographer and see what they can do? This is a good read on the subject: https://www.vrmb.com/1-4/

  • Great tips Matt thanks. Our website is here http://www.MauiIris.com, one of the links there goes to our WordPress blog that we are using for blog posts, but we were thinking of maybe just switching the whole site over to only the WordPress one, switching the main page to the Welcome instead of the blog list as it is now. What do you think?

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Duane, one thing I would recommend to you would refer to the imagery note above. You need to have professional photos hands down. In my eyes, it’s not analogous to be promoting hotel-style rates ($130+ per night) with amateur photography.

  • Sachelle

    Spot on article. Our website has just been redesigned and Still work in progress. Would love to know what you think! https://www.holidaytots.co.uk

    • Matt Landau

      I really like this niche, Sachelle! I would love to see somewhere on your site that “Helps, Not Sells” with useful information about traveling with children. The ‘NEWS’ section might be a good fit, no?

  • I am always trying to add new ideas to my website. Your recommendations will be appreciated

    http://www.legacydisneycondo.com

    If you can, please report on the response time and page load time. I am not very happy with my provider and consider switching.

    Thanks!
    Jorge Martelanz
    Proud Owner
    http://www.legacydisneycondo.com

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Jorge, really thoughtful site! However in trying to navigate around today, I keep hitting a

      Internal Server Error. Can you have a look and see if it’s just me or if, while exploring the site, you hit that problem too?

      • Thanks for the feedback. This is something I have too sometimes, but as Sébastien says above, a reload solves the problem (not really solves) I have to check the system log in the site to investigate the details.
        I tried to include all the good recommendations I got from your site and other VR sites as well. I plan to include some videos, but the trials up to now did not score for the oscars (yes, in lowercase letters).
        Take care!

    • As well as the great pingdom recommendation from Richard, I’m often using WebPageTest.org, Example: http://www.webpagetest.org/result/150126_P3_A66/
      So as Matt, I’ve also had couple Internal Server Error but reloading works after sometimes, I would recommend contacting your hosting company to get a look into this.

    • Another good one is GTMetrix: http://gtmetrix.com/ I’ve been using it in conjunction with WebPageTest and Pingdom. They all give slightly different results but you get a fairly good idea of how your site is performing.
      If you’re in for some serious speed performance optimization look for Stavros Papadakis on Elance,com! While he’s not cheap, he delivers really professional results and in my opinion if you’re running a WP site he’s regarded as one of ‘the’ go to people.
      Hope that helps, Jorge…and thanks for the video you sent me a while ago. I never really thanked you for that!

      • Thanks Antonio. And thanks for thanking me for the video, but I really think it is good only for forcing the kids to taking la minestra. (or I will show you THAT video again!)
        I will really appreciate your comments on my site content and design.
        Cheers
        Jorge

        • Aha Jorge! I appreciated your effort in taking the video and you can only get better with practice 🙂

          As for your site, Like Matt said, I can tell that you put a lot of effort in what you’ve done. You chose a boxed rather than a stretched layout and on my 21′ Mac I see that the menu is on two rows, with the ‘Ask us’ tab being directly under the home page. If you haven’t done it on purpose, I would try and get the menu on one row, maybe by shortening some of your menu labels, such as the ‘Rental rates and terms’ which could become ‘Rates & Terms’ and the ‘Check availability’ which could become ‘Availability’. That would make room for the ‘Ask us’ on the same row. I may also rethink the menu tabs structure, making it maybe simpler. I would probably also change the default menu links color to white, so they stand out more and maybe grey them on hover.

          I’m a strong advocate of the power of reviews and I would consider adding a photo of the reviewer to go with their comment (of course with their permission). I don’t know whether Lamoon Theme allows for that option, but if you look at this site I did, you may get an idea of what I mean: http://paradisefoundflorida.com/

          While your photos are good, I would also consider the option to have a pro take the shots of your condo.
          This is the original site of another owner I’m currently working with:

          http://cortijolahoya.com/

          And ‘this’ is the actual revamp I’m doing at the moment:

          http://cortijolahoya.vacationrentalsecrets.com/

          They had a pro retaking all the images and as you see, the difference is quite impactful! The property is exactly the same, but on the original site you definitely get a different feel for it.

          Other than that, I think you’ve done a pretty good job with your site and I hope it’s helping you convert lookers into bookers 🙂

          • Hi Antonio
            Thanks for your comments. I was on vacations and with little time to get into the forums. I will check what you detected regarding the 2 line menu. I think probably is related with the mac fonts or something like that, because in all my (Win) PCs it displays in a single line, but in any case, I will shorten the long ones as you suggested.
            I have planned to add a “guest photos” page, I will try to include a thumbnail photo on the comments as well.

          • Checked with my son (He has a Mac) and he had the same problem with the menus. I shortened the menu labels as you suggested. I will see what colors can I use for the fonts. Thanks!

    • Hi
      I came back from vacations with the idea of solving the 500 error you (and I) got when accessing my website (http://www.legacydisneycondo.com), but I am not getting it any more.
      Can you please do a quick check again and tell me if you still get it?
      Thanks!!

      • Matt Landau

        All good!

  • Some great content and advice on here and always worth focusing on direct. we are in a big change across all sites for many of the reasons below, but some highlighters for us so far for new roll out:

    – The large companies have invested in look to book, so worth reviewing how they address calls to action and presentation.

    – Matt – quite interesting on the “Examples on this post are locked”. I was always taught not to add a negative connotation to a marketing line. Examples on this post can be “unlocked”? But calls to action without pop ups and my bug bear, those pop ups that happen when you start to leave a site with an offer.

    – Much of the industry has de-personalized rentals and this is (we think) a negative trend in our business, so owners will have their own websites with free to edit bio and local favorites.

    – The VRBO iFrame or any hook into a mainstream listing site can be convenient for payments but dilutes opportunity and takes people off track.

    – SEO and being seen. Its goes without saying that if nobody goes into a shop, you won’t sell anything! There is so much said about this and all is true, how much of what however is the question (links, blogs, tags, code, social, fresh content etc). We have been through several Google re-rounds, but as we market in several places its very hard and run many sites, but I spotted Alan on here with G+. We are testing this with his advice and has made a big difference to our new round of rankings since we started a rethink. Very early days, and we are walking carefully, but Google seems to love the digital “sound/text/image bytes or snippets”. A focus on a single place does without doubt work and for a single home owner could revolutionize the rankings.

    – Name your property very distinctly, so the percentage of people searching directly find you. The actual domain name is still important, but we notice that this technique is not as powerful, its needs other SEO support.

    – So many people don’t bother to check calendars or price and we spend a lot of time on this. When enquirers are asked they say, “we are never sure if they are correct”! That’s an industry problem, but if telling your customer yours are correct, it shows attention to detail and care.

    – All in all its coming down to ensuring the traffic you do get and hard work to arrive at this place, then converts. To counter the industry giants, this has to be highlighting local knowledge and service, underlined with payment security and value for money. These are the highlight points for us.

    – Lastly of course great photos -floor plans – videos even.

    • rentmoreweeks

      Hi Richard, thanks for the mention, it’s good to hear that you are seeing positive search results from using the social marketing method. The “help, don’t sell” mantra is very powerful when done correctly.

      I was talking to Matt about putting some numbers on social marketing and it’s not easy but I have been working with one owner for a nearly year and in that time she has amassed over 15,000 plus ones, neary 2,000 followers and had over 2.3 million Google page views.
      She has now stopped advertising with the listings companies completely and is fully booked through social media alone.

      Individual owners that adopt these methods can wrest control from the listings companies.

      The irony is that the more you help, the more you sell. I can’t stress this enough.

  • Marie-Louise

    Our website http://www.annamariabeachcondo.com is newly done, but we have already tweaked it for faster loading and we are awaiting some really amazing photos that should have been finished some time ago.
    Any feed-back is greatly appreciated!
    Maarie-Louise Dahlgren

    • Matt Landau

      Beautiful site Marie-Louise, this may seem nitpicky (because your site is so great) but I’d do a better job of promoting your Insider’s Guide. The little link on the right could use some images and maybe a better explanation of what the guide is, what they will learn…etc.

      • Marie-Louise

        Thanks Matt, It does make sense, but I will have to figure out how to do this.
        I’ve been using the lure of the insider’s guide as a way of getting people to sign up for our newsletter, but maybe it would be better to just give it away?

        • Matt Landau

          I actually don’t think the action (whether they get it for free or sign up for your newsletter) is as relevant as the way you promote it. Add a few bullet points (highlights from the guide) along with a graphic of the cover. Would probably increase your conversions pretty quickly.

        • Matt Landau

          Also, get an account with Vimeo for your video hosting. Youtube provides a page leak.

  • Julie Nielsen

    We would be thrilled with any feedback you could provide us. Please keep up the good work!
    http://www.capecodvacationrentals.us

    • Matt Landau

      Julie, referencing the CTA above, I’d recommend you put a Rapid Inquiry Form on the homepage. Something quick and easy for comments or questions…would immediately increase your leads over night.

  • Matt, I really appreciate all your newest posts and all the GREAT advice! Right now, I’m focusing on a dispute with Flipkey. Do you have any tips on how to get in touch with the most useful person that can actually make a decision and do something useful? I’ve reported them to the BBB and so far, it is working better than me calling in. To quote the representatives, “Supervisors are not forward facing.”

    I know this doesn’t necessarily apply to what you are writing about…thought in a way, I suppose it does because when I make a change to my blog and site, I make sure it’s right before I publish it…why is Flipkey having such a HUGE problem with this? Shouldn’t they have the best in the business?

  • Thanks for the post Matt, some great tips there, and thanks also for your recent help in fine tuning our own website, as always you lead by example with the “help don’t sell” mantra!

  • Hello everyone, thanks Matt as always, been very busy and didn’t manage to write anything since.
    Nice post, following the list we are quite aligned, and among all the points I think that our result could be that we love too much the power of simple.. it’s seems to me it’s too simple now, would love any of your feedback: http://www.purple-home.com
    Ciao! Alessandro

    • Matt Landau

      Ciao Alessandro! In references to the Help, Don’t Sell mantra above, I would focus your site less on selling and more on helping people that come to Italy. Share great experiences to be had, local tips, travel hacks…etc. That way, those not exclusively interested in Purple Home rentals visit the site anyway and the brand stays front of mind.

      • Thanks! Yes, true, this means a blog, a guide, etc, it’s already on the to do list, but as you know perfectly, this erquires plenty of time and need to organize! Ciao!

      • Speaking of video…Have you seen the Matteport 3D technology? This is really cutting edge and quite fantastic. I am curious though what you and others in IC think about its application for rentals before I add it to my rental websites.

        Here is a link to my first deployment on my sales site…

        http://www.catskillpremier.com/upstate-new-york-real-estate.php?sku_prd=34430

        I became interested in it as a sales tool for selling homes and have done 2 shoots at a couple of homes to try it out. It allows a user to completely immerse themselves in the home providing the ability to explore every detail in every room of the house. My concern…does it provide TOO MUCH info?

        Thoughts? Bill

  • Ashore Realty

    Great article Matt! Dennis Allen – http://www.ShoreHomes.com

  • Jille

    I know I have been relying too heavily on VRBO and HomeAway, and need to update my website, and work towards independance. All input welcome. I am at the bottom of the learning curve!
    Thank you
    http://www.cabinrentalvermont.com

  • Paula

    Hi Guys,

    Would love your feedback on my website – http://www.buenavistaholidays.com

    Thanks
    Paula

  • Thanks a lot for helpful post.

  • Stephan

    Matt – nice post. All great tips.

    Since we’re into best practices for websites, I’d suggest you implement the HTML “alternate” tag in your blog, that way you will tell content syndication engines where to find your RSS feed,. This will help your content be more easily found and distributed by content technologies like Feedly or Postplanner.

    The tag format for your page should be:

    • Matt Landau

      Thanks Stephan!

  • Shray bronze

    hey Mat, i just wanted to send you a heads up, prt of the blog is acting funning… when i try to go up to the menu bar, the black header comes down and hides the menu. you have to play tag and catch real fast. i have a mac, laptop and am using safari. looks great. wish i had the brain power to make my own website… but love the idea. will keep looking for that perfect template ..lol that i can make my own as always enjoy all your wisdom.do check out the header though
    best,
    shray,
    suiteoaks

  • Elinor Hale

    The most important thing it should have is a good vacation rental website design and then comes advertising. I’m not that friendly with coding, so I used one of rental website builders, bookingready. It’s great because it’s free (really there’s no catch), it’s drag and drop solution, it offers free hosting, it’s mobile friendly and it has excellent set of templates.

  • What kind of code/widget are you using for “this sample is hidden”? I’d like to use it for mine too 🙂

    Appreciate for your answer.

    • Matt Landau

      It’s called WPSharely