How the right vacation rental website design can increase your bookings by as much as 40%

There’s no doubt that vacation rental listing websites continue to play a very integral part of your marketing strategy and budget. As they should.

It’s highly targeted marketing that generates phenomenal ROIs. And to let go of something that’s making you good profit is never a good idea. 

But as this industry grows more popular every year, do you really think listing sites will be enough moving forward?

Today, it’s so easy for people to list their properties. You don’t even need an actual startup budget. Take a couple of pictures, jot down a quick description, throw it up on the site, and see what happens. It’s that easy. 

Needless to say, competition is growing, fast

And it's becoming harder and harder to differentiate yourself with all of the new listings popping up all over the place.

And with the help of Airbnb’s mainstream popularity and success, everyone else seems to be trying to follow in their footsteps, offering their listing services on a commission basis, and without any upfront investment.

But what about your properties? You’re not a rookie. You’ve been in the game for years now. You know what you’re doing and still, bookings off listings sites are getting harder and harder to come by.

So we ask again: Do you think listing sites alone will be enough moving forward?

Well, a recent survey showed that owners who support their listings with an independent website, a little bit of social media… and maybe some PR, have annual occupancy rates as much as 40% higher than those who only use listing sites.*

Funny enough, that same survey also showed that more than half (51%) of all vacation rental owners use listing sites as their sole marketing strategy.* ie. No personal website.

Which means half of us still haven’t got the message.

But let’s go back to that 40% for a second. That’s a HUGE number! For most owners that could mean as much $10k-15k per property, per year! For some even more…

How do we get an extra 40% with just a website and a little extra marketing?

What’s the logic is behind it? How does that even make sense?

Well, we really needed to know how that 40% was justified.

So we pooled our efforts together, did some serious research, and here’s what we found…  


Finding Number 1:
PhocusWright study shows the rise of the professional vacation rental manager

The study found that now more than half of the vacation rental’s total market revenue now goes to the industry professionals.* (And rising)

The reason the study gave is that now guests are more likely to associate standard hospitality service with pros vs the direct by owner approach.

Some of the main assumptions travellers had were that professional owners offer better amenities (flat screen TVs, wireless Internet, etc…), better safety and security, and better customer service.

So basically, travellers are more comfortable booking properties with professional management companies over individual owners, because they associate pros with with more credibility and predictability. Makes sense to us!


Finding Number 2:
Survey showing a behavioural shift in the way travellers research vacation rental properties*

Interesting enough, that same PhocusWright study hinted that travellers who prefer to go with professional vacation rental companies, who are now the majority by the way, are more likely to perform more research online before booking.

What’s even more interesting, is we actually found another survey that came to a similar conclusion.

Although a little less formal than the PhusWright study, the survey showed that before contacting or booking a property, the vast majority of travellers will do independent research about that owner or property, beyond just the listing page.

The exact number was 74%*. That means more than 70 out of 100 travellers that find your property on a listing site like VRBO or Airbnb, are actually going off into Google to do more research about you and your property.

And if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re most likely to move on.

There goes that booking!

These travellers are looking for indicators of professionalism and credibility. Something to comfort them and show them that you’re a real business that’s going to give them the experience they’re looking for. Can you blame them?

But 7 out of 10 travellers is high, right?

Absolutely! It’s very high. But when you really think about it, you have to admit that this one makes sense too.

Five or ten years ago this probably wasn’t norm. But it’s only logical that it is now.

People are smart. Word spreads fast and they’ve caught on.

They’ve been scammed by sending checks to fake listings. They’re tired of renting misrepresented subpar properties. And they don’t want to give another dollar to absentee owners/managers who refuse to accept credit cards, pick up the phone, or offer any type of actual customer service.

So now, travellers do their research. Because you can only get so much information from a listing site.

What would travellers find if they Googled you or your property right now?


OK, but what's the solution?

So we found out that people are just more comfortable booking with a pro than they are with individuals. And not just a little bit. A lot.

Over half of this entire industry’s revenue goes to professional managers, and over seventy percent of our travellers are looking for them specifically.

Despite being an individual owner, you can be a pro. 

Now, more than ever, you need to show your travellers that you ARE one.  And what better way is there to show them exactly that, other than an awesome website?

Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, there just isn’t any… Aaaand that now 40% increase in bookings we found at the beginning is starting to make a lot of sense. 

The absolute best way to show your travellers the credibility and professionalism they’re looking for, is an up to date and professionally designed website. Period.

It’s no wonder that it has the potential to increase your bookings by 40%.


So, what can you do now?

First of all that one-pager that your friend’s nephew did for you way back when just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Not with the advancements we’re seeing in web design today. 

And just to really hammer it home, we found an infographic on HubSpot that showed 94% of people cite poor design as a reason for not trusting a website.* Yeah...

Outdated sites can stick out like a sore thumb, and most often have the opposite effect. Why scare people off when you’re supposed to pull them in?

Remember, it comes down to showing credibility and professionalism. Your website needs to build trust. 

So you need a real, branded website with your own custom domain (www.yourcompany.com), and that establishes your business’ credibility as a pro. Not some mal-formatted template with a subdomain off some other company (yourcompany.othercompany.com).

Think about it; How professional does it really look if people can tell that you’re sharing some other company’s domain and that your property's pictures and content just don't seem to fit with the design?


What are your options?

Well the good news is getting your own professional website doesn’t have to be a hassle, and it doesn’t have to be expensive either.

You don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles, like online booking capability and payment processing. Because if your website’s core design and branding isn’t up to par, it’s a total waste of your time and money.

That being said, if everything is done properly, it’ll definitely help. And let’s face it; it’s pretty cool too!

But the truth is you can start small, with a simple yet professional vacation rental website design. You’ll save yourself a lot time, effort, and money in the process. And the impact it will have on your bookings will do more than pay for itself.

Keep in mind though; it’s all in the details.

If done right, your site should maximize your vacation rental’s value, command the traveller’s attention, and convert more visitors into paying renters.

There’s an extra 40%, just waiting for you out there! Go grab it!

References:
http://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/new-vacation-rental-marketing-survey-exposes-challenges-for-owners/
http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Travel-Agent-Issues/High-end-rental-clients-more-often-choosing-to-go-with-a-pro/
http://www.vrma.com/2013_02_27_pcw_travelers
http://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/building_a_brand/
http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/website-design-features-infographic
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