The Reservation Recession

CHAPTER 7

Essential Vacation Rental Marketing Strategies to Entice Guests and Owners

See how you can bring in more bookings and property management clients

Listen to this chapter on SoundCloud.

Recent research* has shown that direct bookings will rise to 31% of the total short-term rental bookings across 2022 (up 4% year-on-year), and it’s true that no savvy vacation rental property marketing strategy should be without a focus on direct bookings.

 

But, while encouraging previous guests to book directly is relatively straightforward—by building on a guest relationship you’ve already established, enticing new customers is a whole other challenge.

 

Yet, a thriving short-term rental business needs new guests, and getting them to book direct is the most cost-effective way of capturing them.

 

Marketing to guests, though, is only half the battle. If you want to expand your portfolio and recession-proof your business, you need to have the right strategies in place to entice new vacation rental owners onto your books, too.

 

That’s why we’re showing you how to attract new direct bookings by looking at three key tactics:

  1. Optimizing local SEO (search engine optimization)
  2. Differentiating your listings so they stand out from competitors
  3. Using social media to create a strong brand voice

This also covers marketing to property owners, including how to: 

  1. Create a clear and effective business plan presentation
  2. Build at tech stack to boost revenue, save time, and delight owners and guests

 

*Research by Rentals United and Transparent, 2022.

Engage guests in their stay before it even begins, create a digital check-in your guests will love, and significantly reduce time-consuming manual guest communication.

Use Operto Guest for digital guidebooks, online check-in, and streamlined two-way chat.

All with a branded mobile-first web app.

Marketing to vacation rental guests

A photo of a woman looking at laptop to show listing standing out
Using these tactics can help your vacation rentals stand out from the competition

We recommend these tactics because they’re long-term, sustainable, and affordable ways to appeal to new audiences, build a trusted brand, and consistently drive new direct guest bookings.

 

Here’s how.

 

  • Optimizing local SEO (search engine optimization) – Optimizing your website and brand name with keywords so you rank on Google search results pages when your ideal guests look for a vacation rental.
  • Differentiating your listings so they stand out – Appealing to a specific niche to speak directly to your ideal guest and show them your rentals are the perfect place for them to book, over and above any competing alternatives.
  • Making the most of social media – Using social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to showcase your rentals, personality, brand, and expertise.

 

Optimize local SEO

A screenshot of a Google results page showing Sante Fe rentals keyword
Incorporating keywords into your vacation rental name can help you rank better in search engine results pages

Applying local SEO strategies to your website content and setup helps it become more visible to your target audience when they start researching their next vacation (a 2021 study of 13,000 direct bookings found that 62% of vacation rental stays were booked after finding the property on Google).

 

The process of making sure your website is found easily includes registering for a Google Business Profile, which boosts your website’s visibility, and enables people to leave public reviews (see why that’s important below). 

 

Try the following tips to maximize local SEO for increased visibility and trust in seconds.

 

Optimize your website with the right keywords 

Optimizing your website with the right keywords is one of the most powerful ways to attract new customers and take your share of that 62% of bookings that come via Google.

 

Keywords can appear all over your website, but tips to boost them include: 

 

Placing your ideal keywords in your business or website name. For example, the top two results for this search term, “sante fe vacation rentals” have Santa Fe and “vacation rentals” in their business name, not only on their website page. Another way to do this would be to put the keyword in your page titles, such as “Stays by Lucy | Santa Fe Vacation Rentals”.

 

Updating a regular blog. Posting content consistently on your blog, and focusing on a single keyword per page, slowly but surely enables Google to see you as an expert, which can also impact where you appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs). 

 

Identifying the best keywords for your business can be a time-consuming process, but you can quickly start your research by using the Google autocomplete feature (see what comes up when you search), or search for an obvious keyword and see what “related terms” Google suggests. Google even has its own keyword planner, which is a great place to start.

 

Boost reviews and direct bookings

One 2022 US study found that Google Reviews are still among the most-seen reviews among customers, that customers are still highly engaged with reviews, and that customers don’t trust companies with ratings lower than four stars (and sometimes completely filter out all companies with fewer than four stars).

 

So responding to any new reviews or comments within a short period of time can help position you as friendly, attentive hosts, and gives you the chance to highlight the best reviews.

 

This instills yet more trust in potential guests, which brings more clicks and bookings.

 

Advertise Google reviews on your website

Don’t just rely on ideal guests seeing Google reviews during their early research. Ensure that these markers of success are highly-visible on your own pages too.

 

Either include screenshots of your best reviews, or insert a widget onto your website that displays your most recent reviews as and when they come in, ensuring that your expertise and success are always front and center.

 

Encouraging guests to leave Google reviews that highlight your most searched-for or niche-centric features (such as fast WiFi or amazing coffee machine) is an even better way to stand out to your ideal guest.

 

Build local citations

Building local citations on Google can help you to boost direct bookings even further. 

 

“Local citations” simply means any online mention of your business’s name, address, and phone number.

 

Your NAP

Increasing your  NAP (name, address, phone number) mentions helps to push up your ranking locally, because it helps prove that your business is real, legitimate, and trustworthy. 

 

It also means that when people use a search term plus a location—such as “vacation rentals nashville tennessee”—your business is more likely to appear higher in results.

 

Your NAP can show up in a variety of places, including your Google Business Profile, Apple Maps, Yelp, Facebook, or on review websites, blog posts, or local directories. 

 

You can either submit your business to be listed yourself (or sites such as local directories or business networks), or use data aggregator services such as Data Axle.

 

Differentiate your listings

A photo of a couple on vacation with a suitcase to show listing differentiation
Speaking to specific audiences like romantic couples can help your listings stand out

It’s digital marketing 101: If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one—and vacation rentals are no exception.

 

Getting super-clear on your ideal guest and ensuring that your rental homes offer a unique experience tailored to their needs increases the chance that your listings will stand out from the crowd, boost direct bookings, and build loyal fans.

 

Market to an ideal guest 

Your listing should appeal to a niche target audience (even if you believe it could be a great option for a range of guests). So be clear on your ideal guest and ensure your listings speak directly to them. 

 

This reassures them that booking directly through you will ultimately deliver what they’re looking for.

 

For example: 

 

  • Families – Show how your rental is child-proofed and safe, highlight high-chairs and child-friendly tableware, and show a map of how close your property is to family-friendly attractions.
  • Digital nomads – Highlight your great coffee machine, show a screenshot of your super-fast Wi-Fi speed test, and focus on your well-lit dedicated workspace with USB ports and plug outlets.
  • Romantic couples – Spotlight your high-quality sheets and towels, comfortable bed, privacy, luxurious hot tub, proximity to restaurants, and offer glasses of Champagne or welcome hamper on arrival.

Offer unique experiences 

Offering “unique” experiences is a major buzzword in the vacation rental industry right now, especially after Airbnb rolled out its 2022 Summer Release with 55 new categories designed to help guests “discover millions of unique vacation homes you never knew existed”.

 

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be unique. 

 

Instead, see this as a chance to make your rental even more special for your ideal guests, by investing in amenities geared toward creating memorable vacation experiences that will delight.

 

If your property has any particularly unusual or special touches, such as conversation-starting design, or a fantastic sea view—make sure you shout about it on your listings and vacation rental website.

 

Get the most out of social media

A photo of a smartphone user looking at photos on social media
Using social media effectively can help build a trusted brand

When used effectively, social media can pay dividends for your vacation rental business and help ensure consistent bookings and loyal fans.

 

Direct bookings are unlikely to come from social media alone (this same study found that only 2% of bookings came from browsing only).

 

However, using social media marketing is a powerful way to build your brand, create an online presence, generate interest, and set your brand apart so guests are more likely to book when they’re ready.

 

Use the platforms your ideal guest visits

Where does your ideal guest hang out? Go there and make content just for them. 

 

For example, take a look at the main demographics: 

 

  • Facebook: 56% male, largest group aged 25-35. 82% college graduates. 75% earn $75k+.
  • Twitter: 70.4% male, largest group aged 25-49. 42% college graduates. 85% earn $30k+.
  • TikTok: 60% female, largest group aged 10-29. 19% college graduates (many too young to have been to college yet).
  • Instagram: 50.7% male, largest group aged 25-34. 43% college graduates. 60% earn $100,000+.
  • Pinterest: 77% female, largest group aged 50-65. 45% earn $100k+, 34% earn $50k-75k.
  • LinkedIn: 57% male, largest group aged 25-34. 56% college graduates. Average income $47k.

Depending on the platform, you may find different ways to connect with your ideal guest. 

 

For example, Facebook has a huge number of groups and pages set up for very specific purposes or audiences, while Reddit has “subreddits”, which are forums where people ask questions and share information on very specific topics. 

 

By joining these groups and communities you not only get the chance to talk about your services and experience, but you also “spend time” with your ideal guest or competitors to learn about their experiences, expertise, and preferences.

 

The right platform for you may be influenced by a wide range of factors, such as who the decision-maker is or what the major concerns are for your ideal guest (the parent, the kids’ holiday, the digital nomad, the romantic partner).

 

Choose 1-3 platforms and focus on making content that works best for that type. This will help you get in front of the right people, build a trusted “home” for your brand online, and secure direct bookings.

 

Work with local businesses

Collaborating with other local business accounts can be a masterstroke in putting your rentals in front of new audiences, capitalizing on the existing rapport and loyalty they have already built.

 

Depending on your ideal guest, you might seek out collaborations with local bakeries, child-friendly attractions, or artisan producers who make the locally-sourced dish soap you have in all of your rentals.

 

“Collaborating” online can mean everything from taking over their page for a day, doing a Q&A or videos together, offering a tour or behind-the-scenes look, or giving out a joint discount code or partnership for guests (and shouting about it online!).

 

Pro tip: Rather than choosing direct competitors, focus on businesses that complement yours and have similar ideal guests or audiences. For example, you might team up with a local restaurant to offer 2-for-1 romantic dinner nights for honeymooning couples, or with nearby coffee shops to offer just-roasted beans for digital-nomad, caffeine-loving guests.

 

Showcase behind the scenes

As the marketing saying goes: People buy from people (not businesses). Showing the behind-the-scenes of your rentals helps build rapport and interest. People love to see what goes on behind the “perfect façade” or curated feed.

 

Sure, stay professional, but using Instagram Reels and TikTok videos to demonstrate your methods, struggles, expertise, polarizing beliefs—not forgetting your personality and humor—can build a real community of ideal guests who love you and what you do, maximizing your appeal and bookings.

 

Marketing to property owners

A photo of a woman using a laptop and tablet to show the perfect tech stack
Building the perfect tech stack is a great way to show your professionalism to owners

Your vacation rental marketing efforts aren’t all about attracting guests to your property—as a property manager, you should also be focused on marketing to property homeowners whose rentals could become part of your portfolio.

 

Create a clear business plan presentation 

Attracting new owners requires showing them exactly how you plan to secure bookings and offer them the maximum income and return on investment. 

 

Owners want to be reassured that handing you the keys to their property is safe, and that your expertise will bring in much more income (with much less stress) than would be possible by working alone.

 

This means showing them your path to success, and how you plan to attract direct bookings (including everything already mentioned on this list) and how each will increase their ROI.

 

Boosting direct bookings also means more revenue for them (and you), because it sidesteps OTA fees (on listing sites like Airbnb or Vrbo) and makes you less dependent on any algorithm or platform changes.

 

You also need to show them proof of your previous or existing success, such as occupancy rates, profit margins, guest reviews, and other homeowner testimonials. 

 

Owners want to know your property management methods ensure high returns and satisfied guests. That means using technology to streamline the guest experience and simplify your workload, so you can focus on offering successful vacations, achieving great reviews, and maximizing income.

 

Build an excellent management tech stack 

Running a successful, modern and forward-thinking vacation rental business today demands using tech to ensure efficiency and scalability (without piling on the workload).

 

A successful property management tech stack includes the following tools and features:

 

  • A PMS whose functions include gathering guest data, and sending automatic confirmation emails and messages that build rapport
  • Digital security verification for safe booking and frictionless stays
  • Custom-branded web app for guest check-in and stay management that doesn’t require a frustrating separate download to use
  • Digital check-in and check-out for seamless arrivals and remote management
  • Unique smart lock access keypad codes that change with each guest for high security
  • Guidebooks and house manuals to offer local recommendations and reduce repetitive questions
  • In-app messaging for happy guests and fast responses from vacation rental managers
  • In-property noise monitoring for safe stays and happier neighbors  
  • In-property smart device control for energy savings and a more personalized guest stay
  • Auto-translation to communicate effectively with international guests
  • Task management for coordination of housekeeping staff and regular maintenance

Hyper-connected systems reduce manual admin, time, and stress; and offer an easier, more consistent and personalized stay for guests. 

 

Tools such as Operto Guest and Operto Teams provide these features within a single platform.

 

Operto also offers integrations with: 

 

  • Major PMS tools such as Hostaway, Mews, and Hostfully
  • Smart thermostat devices such as Tado and Netatmo
  • Noise monitoring with NoiseAware
  • Guest screening with Autohost

More tech solutions mean you spend less time on the day-to-day of STR management, and more time ensuring your rentals work as efficiently as possible, while offering guests a brilliant experience they can’t stop talking about.

Save time and stress on logistics for your vacation rental business.

Coordinate team members, turnarounds, and maintenance with Operto Teams: No more missed cleans or time-consuming manual management.

Vacation Rental Marketing in 2022: Slow, sustainable, and steady wins the direct booking race

Recession-proofing your vacation rental marketing business means increasing your direct bookings. 

 

And you can boost your number of direct bookings with local SEO for your website and by highlighting Google reviews.

 

Also, differentiating your listings and services by targeting specific guest profiles, offering unique experiences, and using social media, are other ways to build a solid brand that appeals to guests and owners.

 

Meanwhile, creating a clear business plan, providing concrete proof of your results, and building a tech stack that’s focused on operational efficiency and a better guest experience, demonstrates your level of professionalism and ability to deliver on expectations.

Connect all your vacation rental tech via a single dashboard.

Streamline your rentals and enable sustainable growth and amazing guest experiences with Operto.

FAQs about vacation rental marketing

How do I get a vacation rental to rank on Google?

You can get your vacation rental to rank on Google by using a combination of strategies including leveraging local SEO, being responsive to your Google reviews, and building local citations.

 

Where can I advertise my vacation rental?

Vacation rental advertising is available in a wide variety of spaces, including on your own website (optimized for keywords), on Google Reviews, on any site that lists your name, address, and phone number (NAP), and on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

How do I get more bookings for a vacation rental?

Get more bookings for a vacation rental by leveraging local SEO to boost visibility on Google, by differentiating your listings so they stand out on online travel agencies, and by targeting a specific audience.