See that vacation rental homeowner over there? Their home is in the same neighborhood as yours, they have a similar property to yours – in fact, your home even has some better features than theirs – but they seem to be doubling the amount of bookings that you’re getting. Their calendar is as full as a tick while yours sits empty.
What gives? You’ve updated your listing’s pictures with some recent shots from your iPhone, you do your best to respond to inquiries and update your calendar in a timely manner, the rates you have in place are the same ones you saw success with last year, and you’ve got a couple good reviews to encourage travelers to book your home. What else can you do to drive those guests to your home instead?
Thankfully, we’ve spent years finding the answer to that question so you don’t have to.
We’ve been in the business long enough to know that running a successful vacation rental isn’t just about being great on your own, it’s about discovering and fine-tuning every tiny detail that can give you a leg up on the other guys.
It’s time to leave that calendar envy behind and get ahead of the competition! We’ve curated the following list of marketing tips that are sure-fire ways to supercharge your bookings, boost your listing’s performance, and get some more rental income in your pocket.
1. Provide (Enough) Great Photos
If there was a set of vacation rental commandments, this would be the first on the list: photos are the most important selling tool for your vacation rental home. If your listing doesn’t provide enough photos or if the photos are low-quality, travelers won’t feel comfortable booking it.
The quality of your photos allows travelers to determine if you’re committed to your role as a vacation rental host, and nothing scares potential guests away faster than blurry images of messy living spaces. For the best results, we suggest hiring a professional (Evolve homeowners get the perk of having their professional photos paid for by us), but here are some tips on how to take high-quality photos on your own.
Photo quality isn’t the only factor; quantity plays an important role as well. A study by FlipKey found that travelers are 83% more likely to inquire about property listings that contain over 20 photos.
Providing plenty of pictures helps travelers gain a better understanding of what your home offers, what its layout is like, and you’ll spend less time answering the same questions about your rental. Better yet, properties with more photos almost always rank higher in the search results on vacation rental listing sites!
2. Respond Immediately
Put yourself in a prospective traveler’s shoes. When you reach out to a homeowner about renting their property, would you feel comfortable booking if you didn’t hear back for 2-3 days? Probably not. What would that say about their response time to issues that may arise during your stay and their overall attentiveness as a host?
Most owners take hours, if not days to respond, but travelers are often ready to confirm a reservation immediately. Responding quickly not only instills a sense of trust and reliability between you and the inquiring individual, it gives you the advantage of selling guests on your property before they hear back from other owners.
It’s simple: the faster you respond to an inquiry, the more bookings you are likely to receive.
Responses made within 24 hours will maximize your quality score, but studies show that travelers are even more likely to book when owners respond immediately. In fact, according to a study by Homeaway, 57% of travelers looking to book a vacation home will go somewhere else if they haven’t gotten a response back in 24 hours.
It’s also very important to continue providing prompt responses after a traveler books your home. Your guests will appreciate receiving fast and professional responses throughout the reservation process, and your efforts will be rewarded with repeat bookings.
3. Request Reviews
According to Tripadvisor, travelers are 80% more likely to book a vacation rental listing that includes reviews from past guests. Travelers worry that they may book a property that isn’t as advertised (especially when the listing doesn’t have high-quality pictures), and reviews help to ease these concerns.
Listings sites often send a prompt to guests to leave reviews after their stay (Evolve does, too), but here are some best practices to make sure you’re doing everything you can to get those reviews:
- Request feedback and reviews from guests within a few days of their departure
- Try mailing hand-written thank you notes and include a review request
- Personalize your requests and stress how important reviews are to the success of your vacation rental
- Always provide a link to the reviews page on your listing
Positive experiences that lead to positive reviews are incredibly valuable, but even negative experiences can be used to prove your value in a review. Often times, guests will mention a hiccup that occurred during their stay. Maybe a bed wasn’t made, a light bulb isn’t working, or it’s a little hotter than they expected and there was no fan provided. That can be a make or break moment for that guest’s whole trip and will color the way they experience the rest of their vacation.
An attentive host (you, we presume) will take care of their issue in a timely manner, and a guest who feels cared for will surely mention that detail in their review of your property. Sure, maybe the competition has some nice reviews about their property, but a listing with a rave review of how they were treated throughout their stay will really push a traveler’s mouse towards the “book” button.
Whatever you do, do something! The more reviews you collect, the more familiar, and appealing, your listing will look to prospective travelers.
4. Maintain Rates & Calendars
Nothing frustrates travelers more than finding a great looking listing only to discover that the rates and calendar aren’t up to date. Upcharges, inaccurate rates and double bookings will not leave a good taste in the prospective traveler’s mouth.
If your listing hasn’t been updated in months, travelers will be less likely to inquire and vacation rental sites will penalize you in their search results. The last time we checked, if your calendar has not been updated in 60 days, your listing may even be removed from search results on most listing sites.
Make sure your listing provides at least one year of valid rates, and always update your calendar the moment you receive a booking. A listing with a valid calendar and consistent rates will recognize that you’re serious about renting out your property, and that will lead to an uptick in bookings.
When you’re laying out that year of rates, there’s one strategy that will help you pull ahead of the pack: ensuring your property is dynamically priced so that you’re always getting the best possible rate on any given night. Dynamic pricing determines the most competitive rates for a vacation rental based on several factors: the location and quality of the property, the price of surrounding lodging options, holidays and local events, and so on.
Even if you don’t use professional dynamic pricing (like the engine we have created exclusively for our owners), keeping an eye on market fluctuations and taking variables like holidays and slower seasons into account when you’re creating your rate structure can get you more bookings and more rental income while leaving less money on the table.
5. Improve Your Property Description
Experienced vacation rental homeowners know that the quality and length of your property description can have a huge impact on your booking performance. In an experiment by vacation rental expert Matt Landau, it was found that professionally written descriptions perform twice as well as those that are haphazardly thrown together.
You want your listing’s description to take the prospective traveler on a journey through your home, creating an image in their head of what it would be like to stay there. When the traveler sees that the other guy’s listing notes a flat screen TV and couch, they will acknowledge that fact and move on. When they see that your listing has “an inviting living area with a 45” flat-screen TV and a plush L-shaped couch, perfect for lounging with loved ones and watching your favorite movies”, they will imagine themselves on that couch, with their families, watching those movies, and will feel much more comfortable booking your property.
Most experts suggest providing a property description that’s at least 300 words long, but writing a great description can be difficult and time consuming. Consider hiring a professional copywriter, or better yet, add your home to the Evolve Network and our Product Marketing Team will write you a head-turning property description for free!
6. Accept Online Bookings
Now more than ever, consumers expect to be able to transact online. Back in 2013, a study by HomeAway found that 92% of travelers want the option to book online, and that number has only increased since then.
Allowing renters to book instantly and securely with a credit card payment has become the norm for vacation rentals. Today’s modern travelers want the convenience of confirming a booking instantly and the protection offered by a credit card transaction.
Online bookings have become such a common standard that major listing sites have started to heavily favor listings that offer it. After observing the behavior of millions of travelers and seeing what drives them to book, they found that travelers are twice as likely to book with properties that have online booking, and they built their algorithm with that in mind.
The days of mailing rental agreements and checks are coming to an end, so put yourself in a position to succeed, and surpass your competition, by accepting online bookings and credit card payments.
Marketing a vacation rental requires a lot of time and energy, especially if you are tending to the little details that your competition might have glossed over. But if you follow these tips to increase your bookings, we’re more than confident that you will out-book your competition and put more rental income in your pocket.
If you’d rather leave the task of marketing your property to Evolve’s team of experts, click here to learn more about our services.
Do you have any other vacation rental marketing best practices to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!