It’s the dream of owners like Holly and Alanna to put themselves in the shoes of potential guests, to search Google for vacation rental options in the area – using phrases such as “Yosemite vacation rental” or “Kauai vacation rental” – and have their website appear at the top of the organic results.
This is when you really know you’ve made it!
But there are a few very important things you need to know about a) desiring such an SEO feat from your website and b) how to actually go about achieving it.
The term “keyword” should really be called keyphrase because it means any word or group of words that are typed into a search browser.
For a new website I always recommend choosing ONE keyword to focus on. Because putting all your effort into one smart keyword is far more impactful than trying to compete for several (to start at least). When you do “win” or start ranking for that one keyword, you can begin to expand your work and rank for more popular terms.
So in choosing the right keyword, put yourself in the shoes of your potential guests and think about what they might be searching with the final outcome in mind.
Beforehand, please keep the following mistakes, which I see frequently, in mind:
In Holly’s case, someone searching the phrase “Yosemite National Park” could be looking for any vast variety of information online. They could be doing a high school report, for all we care. Drilling down a bit further, a phrase like “Yosemite rentals” could mean car rentals, boat rentals, scooter rentals, tent rentals…etc. So when selecting your keyword, specificity always trumps ambiguity. In this example, a phrase like “Yosemite cabin rentals” would be much more specific.
On the other hand, don’t get so specific that nobody searches the darn phrase! For instance, Alanna would be smart to notice that the phrase “vacation rental in Princeville Kauai available with 2 bedrooms” probably receives little to no search volume. The beauty of online marketing is that you can see precisely how many people are actually searching your relevant keywords. And now that you’ve set up Google Analytics, you can track all of your results. Use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to start jotting down ideas. And while you’re not looking for tens of thousands of searches, you’d be wasting your time aiming to rank for a keyword that doesn’t generate any traffic (500-1000 searches is a good goal).
Your keyword is specific and it’s got search volume. But as new website owners, it’s overly ambitious to try and rank for a phrase that already has too much competition. So use a tool like the Keyword Planner (above) and SEMRush to evaluate the competition levels. Your ideal keyword has a small but substantial bit of search volume and Low-Medium search competition. In Holly’s case (as in the case of most major destinations), the keyword “Yosemite vacation rental” is being dominated by large websites. And so it’s smarter for her to look at a variation that’s got less competition such as “Yosemite vacation rental home.”
Great! You’ve found one without too much competition! Like in Alanna’s case, the keyword “Kauai beaches” has high search volume and low competition…but it’s not relevant enough to her product (these searchers could be looking for information about global warming for all we know). Please note how I did not use the word “irrelevant” because “Kauai beaches” are indeed semi-relevant to her vacation rental. But they’re not nearly as relevant as “Kauai beach vacation rental.”
In the end, there’s no right or wrong keyword to choose for your homepage. And your variables really vary based on your location: a more developed destination is bound to have competition challenges whereas an unknown destination is bound to have prohibitively low search volumes.
For beginners, I like to recommend “long tail keywords” or phrases that are so specific they are less-often searched…an example of this would be “Panama rentals” (bad) versus “Panama City Panama vacation rentals” (good). While “long tail” isn’t always synonymous with easy, it is a way to pick out niches in competitive keyword landscapes.
When integrated properly on your homepage, the right keyword allows Google to read the relevance of your site as it relates to searches. Without this implementation, Google is in the dark and therefore unlike to include you high in the organic results.
The actual process of integrating a keyword to your homepage (note: we’re addressing merely the homepage during this session, please stay tuned for more elaborate whole-site SEO) has several different pillars:
> Usage of keyword in text: this one is pretty self-explanatory: basically you want to sprinkle the keyword in the text. Don’t make it annoyingly obvious. Just include it a few times.
> Usage of keywords in tagged images: when you upload an image or a logo to your website, you have the opportunity to give it a title, a description, and what’s called “alt text” – these are just little legends that Google uses to read your images. Simply go through and ‘optimize’ your images and logos using your designated keyword. Just paste the keyword in there alone. That’s it!
> Title/Description Tags: You’ll want to focus these two tags — the technical backend of your website — around said keyword. Check below for Conrad’s foolproof way to implement.
> Backlinks: Assuming you’ve read Makeover Session 2.5 and you know the value and origin of the most valuable metric in the SEO game, you can begin integrating your keyword into backlink acquisition. Having a great backlink is one thing. But having a backlink that actually uses your keyword as the link text is even better. For Google, the text of the actual link that appears on other websites is hype-relevant to your site. So if I linked to Holly’s website like this – A home to stay in the park – it wouldn’t be nearly as powerful (with regards to your organic SEO rankings) as if I linked to it like this – Yosemite vacation rental home.
It’s important to note that as a new website, you’re kinda in the “doghouse” until you’ve proven that you produce regular content and are an authority in your niche. For this reason, I don’t like people to get too excited about ranking for phrases off the bat. But if you’ve selected a reasonably ‘win-able’ keyword, in as little as a few months you should be able to start seeing the fruits of your labor.
All of this mumbo-jumbo would be useless if we didn’t give you some real life examples.
Using all the criteria above, here are the keywords he chose for Alanna and Holly, along with the title and description tags we came up with together. I’m asking that individuals share this post using a button below to help compensate for our research…a tiny “price to pay” considering Conrad’s simple yet innovative Title Tag formula ( Keyword | Brand Name Of Your Vacation Rental ) can be replicated by pretty much anyone.[wpsharely id=”13367″]
Alanna’s Keyword: “Princeville Kauai vacation rentals” (see live site)
Alanna’s Title Tag: Princeville Kauai Vacation Rentals | Paradise at the Plantation
Alanna’s Description Tag*: Looking for a sensational Princeville, Kauai vacation rental? Our 3-bedroom villa evokes sandy Hawaiian beaches, tropical rainforests, and island spirit.
Holly’s Keyword: “Yosemite vacation home rentals” (see live site)
Holly’s Title Tag: Yosemite Vacation Home Rentals | Serenity Retreat and Royal Retreat
Holly’s Description Tag*: Looking for Yosemite vacation home rentals? Located inside park gates, come enjoy majestic cliffs, roaring waterfalls and refined elegance.
*Conrad recommends this post on Power Words to juice up his Meta Descriptions and make them as intriguing as possible.
**And if you haven’t yet, be sure to read Conrad O’Connel’s SEO 101 For Vacation Rentals to get a really good idea of anything that’s not already clear above).[/wpsharely]
Matt Landau is the Founder of the VRMB and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings.
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