This guest post is by Conrad O'Connell of 91Digital, a digital marketing consultant with a focus on SEO, PPC, and email marketing. Conrad's post below is for anyone who wants to stay relevant in search results -- not with big broad competitive keywords...but for keywords around your own name.
When you think of travel brands, what is top of mind? Four Seasons? Expedia? Hilton Hotels?
Branding is the most effective way to stay in the top of mind of your guests when they think of your area. But branding isn't just for big organizations. Well-branded vacation rental properties and management companies have a very unique advantage.
While the various elements that go into a well-branded vacation rental may be too big of a topic to tackle with just one post, no matter the size of your vacation rental business, we can all focus on one element: search.
On-Page SEO Basics To Help Google Understand Your Brand
Ranking well for either the name of your property or management company is a critical element of any independent portfolio and it starts with the basics -- what we call on-page search engine optimization (SEO).
Here are some helpful tips for making sure your website structure is setup for success.
1. Add your brand name to the end of each title tag. For example, if your brand was
"Conrad's Classy Vacations” and you were located in Myrtle Beach, you might have titles tags like this:
`<title>Search 50 Myrtle Beach Vacation Rentals - Conrad's Classy Vacations</title>
The point here is that you should be including your brand name at the end of every title tag, on every page of your site. `
2. Include the brand name on the homepage and other areas on the website.
This is pretty simple, but it’s alarming how often I see it missed - if you want to rank for your property brand or management company name, you need to have that name on the website. This can be in the footer of the website along with name/address or in the header/other areas of the website.
3. Use Schema.org markup code to give Google a small nudge
Schema.org acts like a helpful guiding signal to tell Google basic information about content on your page. While this has less of a benefit that some suggest, it’s a very quick install that can pay dividends. Using a tool like JSON-LD Schema Markup Generator, you can easily generate a code snippet that can be installed on your website.
These three steps are quite simply low-time investment ways to let Google know who you are, and where you are located. Without these steps, even a unique vacation rental business name might not get discovered.
Setting Up Google Business
Verifying a Google Business account is an excellent way to help get a Knowledge Graph entry for your vacation rental business. Put simply, a Knoweldge Graph entry is the additional information that Google displays on the right hand column on the search results page. Here's what one of those Knowledge Graph cards looks like:
The good news is that Google Business is free to use and setup.
The bad news is that Google makes the rules for verifying vacation rental businesses somewhat challenging for property owners, because it requires you to have an official office.
From Google’s Support documentation:
> The following businesses aren’t eligible for a business listing: Rental or for-sale properties, such as **vacation homes**, model homes or vacant apartments. Sales or leasing offices, however, are eligible for verification.
This means you’ll need to have an ‘office’ to allow for Business verification to work in the most official Google-approved way.
In theory, in order to make sure you are legitimate, Google sends you a postcard through the mail. You could use your property address for that postcard to verify your Google Business Listing at your property, however you are at risk for your listing being shut down in the future.
Other options for an address include virtual offices (UPS Store, Regus, Allied). However, you cannot use a PO Box.
For property managers with offices, this should be a simple three step process:
1. Add your business here - [google.com/business]
2. Send a postcard to your office address
3. Verify that postcard once it arrives
4. Add in all related Google Business Listing data (hours, contact phone number, photos, text-messaging number, category)
Once this is setup, you can help your ability to rank well for your brand by signing up for [Moz Local] and also getting reviews on your listing.
Quick tip: send your happy guests a post-departure review link using the following link:
Simply replace the xxxxxx with your placeid as found with Google’s placeid search tool.
Lastly, make this link easy to remember and use by shortening it with bit.ly or a similar link shortening service. Getting good reviews on your Google business account boosts your exposure and helps you rank when travelers are searching your company name.
Tips For Memorable Property Names
Property owners and managers are faced with two challenges: branding both the property and the overall management company. In a way, there are two branded search buckets to tackle: guests searching the exact name of a property as well as guests searching for the brand of the PM.
Ranking well for property names is made a lot easier with many of the same principles above:
* The name of the property in the <title> tag of the property detail page
* The name of the property in the URL of the property detail page: www.ConradsClassyVacations.com/properties/JuliansHideout
* Creating internal links to the property detail page with both a HTML sitemap and easy-to-crawl results page
I’ll be honest: none of the above matters if your property names are too common. If the name of your property is ‘Sea Beach Home’, ranking in Google for that is going to be fairly difficult. Unique names like Ona's Perch make it far easier.
A useful tip here is to run a Google search with the name of your business with quotation marks. If Google returns thousands of results, this may be a sign that your name is too generic. However, if it only returns a small handful (and none of the results are vacation rental properties or travel-related content) that's probably a good sign.
Owners: Memorable Names… Or Else
Much of the same rules apply to single owner-managed properties as well. The same branded search issues can surface here as well — without a memorable brand name, ranking well can be difficult. While changing your brand may not be possible, you can adjust the brand some to make it easier to rank for in search.
For example: Sea Beach House could be renamed to The Fort Myers Sea Beach House in a quick solution to rank better in your destination.
A full on re-brand may be required if you’re struggling to rank even after the above steps have been taken.
Search Volume Correlates With Stronger Brands
One metric is pretty clear — the stronger a brand becomes in the eyes of guests, the more often they search that brand on Google.
Just look at Airbnb over the past 5 years:
As more people search for Airbnb, the more bookings they get from this branded traffic and the more money they make.
This can be seen at the smaller scales as well. When branded search volume increases over time for property managers or rental by owners with 1, 10, 100 or 1,000 rentals, they too get more bookings and drive addition website traffic.
The key to converting that traffic is setting up a solid strategy between Google Business, proper on-page SEO and driving more bookings!
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.