Vacation Rental Websites Are Meant To Be Skimmed, Not Read

I get a lot of requests for vacation rental websites evaluations and one of the biggest mistakes owners make is writing their description for readers, not skimmers. Let me explain…

Travelers in the market for a vacation rental look at an average of 4.5 vacation rental websites before they select one to inquire about.

Which is to say, as special as your rental may be, chances are, visitors are not spending a leisurely afternoon to read through your entire description.

They’re not reading all the way down to hear about your wonderful hot tub or detailed reviews from your greatest admirers. Visitors to vacation rental websites are not readers.

They are skimmers.

Skim content is a huge part of the vacation rental website booking process.

If you are able to clearly convey what your property is about with compelling actions to a skimmer, you will inarguably increase bookings. In the words of Mark Twain, “if I had more time, I’d have written a shorter letter.”


Take your existing description and make it 10x more skimmable


1. Use Images: the old adage “pictures speak louder than words” is hugely relevant in the vacation rental website marketing realm. Good pictures could sell a property on their own. Make sure your images are prominently displayed, large enough to make an impact, and effective enough to not only show off your amenities but to highlight your strengths.

2. Keep It Concise: There’s nothing more immediately ineffective than loads and loads of paragraphs of rental descriptions. Consolidate your most noteworthy features into a paragraph or two. Chances are, even if you write it, travelers won’t read much more than that.

3. Headings: In order to convey a message quickly, copywriters always using headings that set the scene and let the visitor know exactly what’s being offered. A heading like “Beautiful Lakefront Living,” will not elicit nearly the response as “4-Bedroom Lakefront Cabin With Jacuzzi.”

4. Strong Lead-ins: It’s imperative to use strong language at the beginning of each paragraph or section. Many skimmers visiting vacation rental websites don’t look at anything more than the first line in each paragraph so craft it accordingly.

5. Lists: Always use bullets and lists when possible. It’s the most effective way to convey characteristics of your rental without being wordy or boring. Lists are a skimmers dream: quick, to the point, and effective.

6. Bold and Italics: As simple as it sounds, using bold font or italics is a great way to highlight certain features. In your main paragraphs, using bold or italics is a surefire way to draw the skimmers eye.

This list is only a few of the ways to make your vacation rental website more skimmable.

Understanding that most visitors won’t spend more than a few seconds on your page is the first step.

Improving your content so that it conveys the right message in that time period is the next.


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)

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  • Jake

    Couldn’t agree more. The problem seems particularly bad in Asia… Overzealous expat owners wanting to show off their property by writing a small novel. The end result reads more like a cheesy pamphlet from your local day spa. I can’t tell you the number of sites I have come across that require multiple re-reads just to find BASIC info… number of bedrooms, bathrooms, location.

  • hawrischuk

    A word of warning to travelers to London and rental apartments. I have rented apartments through VRBO in Barcelona, Paris, Rome and Florence without a single hitch. I always insist on paying cash on arrival. However, we just returned from London where we rented a flat through an agency. To do so we had to put down a 300 pound security deposit, as well as pay the full amount beforehand. Although I had paid a cleaning fee, the place was not clean at all when we arrived. There was also a water pump that went on and off in the bedroom, necessitating shutting it off while we slept. But that meant we couldn’t use the water until we turned it on again. In fact, the agent that met me, again for a fee, was changing the sheets himself when we arrived, which makes me believe he pocketed the cleaning fee. When I returned home, after another 3 weeks in the Baltic states, my security deposit was not yet returned. I wrote 5 times to them before it was returned, but not in full. The responder said he was on vacation, and that is why it was not returned. Believe that? They also said that I broke the bathroom lock and that they would deduct 35 pounds from my security fee. I did not break the lock, and if it was broken it should be fixed by the owner and not the renter. In addition, the agreement contract that I signed, which I did not read carefully, indicated that I could not post negative reviews about the place on a public web-site without first discussing the issue with the renting agency. Lots of luck there. My suggestion is to never rent a vacation unit through an agent. The middle man allows scams to occur. And if you go to Trip Advisor, they will not approve of a posting unless the manager of the unit agrees to it. Lots of luck there.