Your vacation rental is ready. You’ve set up your accounting. You’ve furnished it from the kitchen to the bedroom and found great people to help you clean, maintain, and manage the property when you’re not there.
Now it’s time to get yourself some guests!
To help travelers find you, you will need to market your property to them. We’ve written a pretty extensive post on what experienced owners can do to more effectively market their properties here, but this is our Vacation Rental 101 Series, so today: let’s talk the basics of how to market a vacation rental to potential guests.
Why Do I Need Marketing?
Simply put: you need to let travelers know that your vacation rental exists so that they can book it for their vacations. If they don’t know about you, they won’t book your property. Marketing is how you make sure travelers coming to your destination have heard of your rental.
There are many different types of marketing, but for the first-time vacation rental owner trying to get their very first bookings, we highly recommend the simplest and easiest option: marketing your property on a vacation rental listing site.
(Well, okay, that’s not quite the simplest way. If you work with Evolve, we will create a professional, fully optimized listing for you and promote it on the major listing sites for free. But we’ll pretend you haven’t heard of Evolve yet and show you how to create a listing yourself.)
What Are Listing Sites?
Listing sites aggregate lots of vacation rentals into one easy-to-shop online marketplace for travelers, organized by location. You’ve probably heard of a few of them: VRBO, HomeAway, Airbnb, and FlipKey are the best known, although larger travel sites like Booking.com and TripAdvisor also feature vacation rental listings among their larger set of travel-related offerings.
Major listing sites like these spend millions in marketing to travelers, and if you ask the average person where they’d look for a good vacation rental, they’re likely to give you one of the above names as their go-to.
Since listing sites have already earned the recognition as the best places to shop for a vacation rental, it’s easiest and simplest to market your property on these sites – particularly when you’re starting out.
Listing sites do have an associated cost. We’ve broken down the various listing site fees here, but in general you’ll wind up paying around $1,000 for a property making the average of approximately $30,000.
Those fees are a little less than 3% of your total earnings (less, if your property earns more income than average), and in exchange you’ll get to market your property to thousands of travelers. That’s a tiny marketing budget for any small business, which is why we recommend starting with this strategy to first-time owners. Your risk is low, and your return is substantial.
How Listing Sites Work
Every listing site makes the decision about which property will appear first based on a search algorithm.
Search algorithms are how any search engine decides which results you’re most likely looking for. If you type a word or phrase into Google, Google will present you with the 10 results it thinks you’re most likely to click on based on your query.
Similarly, sites like VRBO and Airbnb want to present travelers with the properties they’re most likely to book. If the traveler finds what they want quickly, they’ll be more likely to make a booking.
Travelers narrow down their searches to find properties that offer the specific features they want. For example, if the traveler wants 3 bedrooms for their party, they’ll do a search for properties with 3 or more bedrooms. If your property has 2 bedrooms, you won’t appear in that search.
That’s good news for you! You want travelers who are specifically looking for properties like yours. Your goal is to be the best property of that specific type in your area.
If a traveler is searching for a 2-bedroom property with air conditioning and free Wifi, and your property matches that description, you want to be the first result they see.
Thankfully, that’s fairly easy to do, as long as you have a little time to invest in creating an above-average listing.
How to Create a Great Listing
Signing up for a listing on any of the major sites is very simple. Here are the links for each of the major players:
Each of those sites will walk you through the creation of a basic listing by asking a few questions about the type of property you have, as well as getting your contact information and setting up payments.
Now for the harder part: how do you create a listing that will appear at the top of search results?
We’ve gone in-depth on how to create a stellar vacation rental listing, but for our 101 readers, we’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version: your listing should look professional and show that you are an engaged owner.
You can do this by:
- Uploading professional-quality photos of all the rooms and areas of your property
- Writing an engaging and in-depth description of what it’s like to stay in your property
- Responding promptly to all inquiries about your property, whether you accept them or not
- Keeping your calendar updated so potential guests know it’s accurate
- Pricing competitively for properties similar to yours in your area
- Providing online booking, which the vast majority of travelers prefer
Seems pretty basic, right? If you were a traveler, you’d want a good-looking listing with lots of information and an engaged owner who made it easy for you to book online.
Unfortunately, many owners don’t provide all of these services. A great many don’t provide even one of them.
Which gives you an advantage when you’re just starting out: you can become one of the best options available just by offering the type of listing travelers are looking for. Listing sites will prioritize your property over others because it’s the type of property they know travelers like to book.
Please do read this post on how to create a great vacation rental listing, which will give you much more in-depth information about how to make sure your listing has all of the above, and why it’s worth doing.
By the time you’re done, you’ll have one of the best listings in your area – which will lead quickly to your first bookings.
Don’t Want to Go the Listing Site Route?
If you’re feeling ambitious, we have a post that goes into how to take a more DIY approach to marketing your vacation rental here. It includes options for doing all your online marketing yourself and how to find qualified professionals to provide the services you can’t do yourself (you may not have website design chops, for example).
If you’re looking for great results without having to go to a huge amount of effort, come check out what Evolve has to offer. We make vacation rental easy with fantastic marketing and booking services and tons of customer support on every level – and if you’d like to turn a profit without working around the clock, we could be just what you’re looking for.
You can learn more about Evolve by clicking here or calling our Homeowner Consultants at 877.818.1014 (press 2). We’re always happy to help out new owners!
This post is part of Evolve’s Vacation Rental 101: The Expanded Ultimate Guide to Success series, where we discuss the ins and outs of vacation rental ownership for newcomers and experienced veterans alike.
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