- 1 Introduction
- 2 Why Build Own Website
- 3 How to Build a Website
- 4 Increasing Bookings to your Property
A vacation rental is a peer to peer lodging facility provided to guests in a residential property. Usually being of short term nature, vacation rentals have redefined new age travel with the mushrooming of rental listing sites such as Airbnb, VBRO, Rental Trader and FlipKey which connect homeowners with vacationers.
Regulations governing the relatively new vacation rental industry are evolving. Reports by Statista point to 21.3% growth in revenue (CAGR 2020-2023) and another report in the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog touts the industry to overtake the hotel business in 2021.
Why Build Own Website
Using a Vacation Rental Website Builder is REALLY easy but unfortunately most first-time vacation rental hosts are naturally inclined to host on platforms like Airbnb, VRBO or Booking.com. With the high number of visitors to these websites, it may be a fine place to start. The marketing and booking functions are taken care of, in return for a high fee charged over every reservation. As hosts and property owners seek to expand their portfolio, building a website is the first step in standing out from clutter and competition, and assuming greater control of the business.
With a lot of website builders in the market, with ready to use templates and drag and drop features, it has become very easy for rental hosts to build their websites using a vacation rental website builder without prior coding knowledge.
Given below is a step by step guide in how to build a vacation rental website.
How to Build a Website
Select a Domain for your Website.
A domain name is essentially your website’s name. This is the identity to your website and helps a user to locate you. To those who have not heard of your vacation rental, choosing the property name for a domain is not logical.
For example, a rental host has a lakeside home on Lake Pichola, Udaipur. Lake Pichola is a prime location in Udaipur. He decides to name the home, Pichola View.
Travellers who are looking for vacation rentals use search queries like ‘Vacation home near Lake Pichola’ or ‘Vacation home with a view of Lake Pichola’. Queries of these nature involving specific and targeted phrases, otherwise called long-tail keywords, are the ones any property owner should be targeting. So the domain name for this vacation rental should ideally be something like PicholaLakeVactionHome.com or VacationHomePicholaLake.com.
This not only helps in SEO or website discoverability on search websites like Google but helps you target only the most relevant users.
Select a Vacation Rental Website Builder
Website builders as mentioned earlier are used to make your website using simple website templates. This can be done by the vacation rental owner itself. Some well-known website providers are
During website development, another functionality a vacation rental owner would want to incorporate is booking facility. Associated with this could also include, property listing, guests checking for a vacancy, integration of a payment gateway, choice of room selection among many things. For this, plugins can help. Plugins are built for specific functions. It is like an app. Website providers like WordPress have plugins for different rental owners need. One of these is the Hotel Booking WordPress Plugin by MotoPress. This is a complete tool equipped with necessary functionalities required by rental owners and hotels.
Select a Website Platform
A Website builder or provider helps you make the Website or rather design it. But to have it up and running, the website needs to be hosted on a server. First-time website owners need to host their website on a reliable platform so that it can accommodate the high traffic of users.
Some websites like GoDaddy provide both hosting and domains. Ideally one should use the same service from where the domain was purchased as its economical. Also, it’s better to pay for hosting so that ads of the provider do not get displayed on the website. Ad Spaces on websites can always be monetized with Ad networks however, the point is to pay for a hosting account and not avail for free.
Choosing a Design Theme
Website providers like open-source WordPress, have ready to use themes and website templates. The easy to use platform also allows owners to change colors, add business logo and tweak some branding elements associated with the website aesthetics such as the fonts, display etc.
While a lot of people are turning to WordPress because of the simplicity, yet all the websites look alike. A characteristic website like this sports a huge banner image at the top of the page. This banner is usually static and not in a slideshow format which is desirable by websites to showcase any updates and news or high-quality images. The remaining website is arrays of tile like formats of photos followed by a text underneath. Such a design is not good for user experience for loss of information in a clutter.
With so many themes available, a better design practise is to stick to a simple and minimalistic theme so that browsing is easier.
The 6 important Pages in a Website
Any website should have these pages. With the necessary information in each and a clean menu interface for smoother navigation, these are the following:
- About the Rental Home
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Contact Us
Each of these pages should have keyword-optimized text of 300-500 words each. This not only helps in SEO or better rankings in Google Search Engine Result Page but also removes streams on fluff a potential customer has to endlessly go through to get the information required.
Include a photo of the vacation rental home either in banner or column on the left and a piece of text. Both these pieces should be above the fold which means this is the first thing a user sees before scrolling. Another important thing is adding Alt tags to images because search engine crawlers cannot read them. By giving a context or small description, goes a long way in improving the website’s SEO.
About the Rental Home
Under this page everything about the property from the amenities, the vision and values about the business should be covered here. Instead of using the same copywriting as the rental listing website, this should be more informative and detailed.
This page should be devoted to visual imagery, be it images of the property from the interior or outside view, past guests, local attractions all visually expressed through high-quality images and videos. Panoramic views, images of the bedroom and bathroom and shared spaces are important to any guest. This must not be missed. Include floorplans for guests to get a track layout of the vacation rental home.
While making videos, it is important to complement it with music.
Again adding descriptions to images is a must for better results.
Frequently Asked Questions
A FAQ’s Page not only saves time on customer service costs but also helps the customer choose your vacation rental properties. It helps potential guests if they can easily find answers to pertinent questions on the check-in and check-out hours, the nearest restaurant, nearby local attractions, whether smoking and liquor are permitted in the premises, bringing pets are some of many queries guests may have.
An updated Blog is key for any rental owner. There are a lot of things through content which a property owner can engage his audience. Be it the location, fun activities in the area, informative posts on travelling and during off-seasons to build anticipation through behind the scenes posts. It can also be an opportunity for the owners of the property to have a heart to heart with their guests on their values, the story behind the property etc. The more updated this is, the more it helps in SEO. In addition, having a channel manager give insight about marketing topics will boost your blog and value to potential renters.
An official page which includes all the information for guests and prospective business partners to reach the owner. It’s a good practice to also include your social media network handles here, but also include google map images so that people can locate the place.
A form to capture any leads could also be included here so that even if the user doesn’t make a booking, can be used for retargeting purposes.
Above we have covered the basics of creating a website. In the event, that a vacation rental requires a customized developed website, the process is more expensive and takes a little longer, but is a long term effort in better customer experience.
Skilled resources like web designers, developers, project managers testers, and business analysts are required for the team. In this, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) is required so that the infrastructure and other middleware requirements are taken care of. The team resources can focus on the development and functionalities on the PaaS using Application Programming Interfaces (API’s).
This entire exercise can be outsourced to business and involves more budget. Basis of the scale and budget of your vacation rental and its marketing, the website can be developed accordingly.
Increasing Bookings to your Property
With a website in order, a rental owner is in control of the property’s display and can have a one to one contact with prospective guests. But the story doesn’t end there, increasing bookings is subject to a lot of other things. In this section, we cover some tips to wow the audience.
A travel market research by Criteo has revealed how 80% of bookings made at the last minute are done through a mobile device. The customer journey from search as per a survey by Skift has shown, begins on mobile. It, therefore, makes it necessary for websites to be mobile responsive. Consider adding an Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) WordPress plugin which is free and will make a big difference on your page load speed. (Google really likes it too since it is their protocol)
To test this, changing the corner sizes of the browser and looking for changes in content being displayed shows whether this is true. If one needs to scroll to view the same information, then it is a sign of not being mobile-friendly. In such situations, expect high bounce rates and short session durations for lack of poor device compatibility.
Before we delve into the Booking option, it is necessary to have this facility embedded in a website. To reduce paying fees to bookings receive from another platform, having a booking engine ensures direct website bookings.
Design experts have revealed how people expect important information like the Book Now option to be within the line of sight. To add to that, it should be in the direction of how the nature eye reads or sight progresses.
For Desktop versions, this is the top right-hand corner. For mobile, this should be in the middle for the thumb to click.
The About Us Page
This page which includes details about the property, logo, name and tagline, goes a long way in building a favourable review with your audience. One must connect with the guest as a human and not just as someone trying to sell their rental home for money. One of the reasons why short term rentals are a huge success is because they support small owners, humans, as opposed to mega-corporate chain brands.
The Power of Reviews and Testimonials
Word of mouth helps! Reviews and testimonials are a step in exactly accomplishing that. It is a badge of social evidence which helps in guests deciding with going ahead with booking a property. Again, include the images of those giving their reviews and testimonials to keep it real.
Amenities and More
This section where vacation rental owners share their facilities can be tweaked to a visual mosaic of storytelling with quality photos. Instead of listing guided tours as one of amenities, vacation rental owners can put picturesque images which would motivate people to avail this facility. The more visual it is, the more it clicks. On the other hand, you can increase your customer by digital handshake.
Websites are challenging. Not only should you have all the information a customer might need, but it should also be readable. Scrolling through long texts of information can be difficult. Again, customer experience is key. In such a case, breaking nuggets of text into readable pieces through icons is a good practice. Brands like Booking.com, Airbnb make use of icons. A lot of free vector icons on websites are available and can be used for your page too.
Discounts, Offers and promotions
Some rental owners may rely solely on their website. Others might have listings also on other platforms. To drive more traffic to the website, and needless to say, more business, exclusive discounts on bookings made on the website sells. First-time Guests and first-time website booking guests can be offered free breakfasts, room upgrades, or flat discount using this tactic.
Miscellaneous trade secrets
Some basics that a website must be built for, a short load time. The longer the time a page takes to load, the more the bounces. Any payments being accepted on the website must be secured. For this an SSL certificate is necessary. Guests would be wary of sharing their bank and card details unless a Green padlock or a high secure HTTPs encryption is in place.
The article covered the step by step guide for building a rental vacation business and website along with some great tips on increasing bookings. Website creation can be complex, which is why all the above can be outsourced to a business. As a owner, this is one of the first steps to stand out from the overwhelming information on the internet and carving a unique space in your prospective customer’s mind share while keeping a steady bottom line for the business.