The true power of local search marketing, and why you should never underestimate it
One of the biggest reasons vacation rental owners overlook local search marketing, is because of its perceived lack of value. The vacation rental business is inherently global, which is the opposite of local. So most people just don’t think it’s necessary.
The fact of the matter is; underestimating its value is a huge mistake.
The truth is, local search marketing is the foundation of any online marketing campaign. And this goes double for vacation rental businesses. It's as simple as listing your business on local online directories, and it's probably the most important marketing tool a vacation rental owner can have. Here’s why:
1. It’s free!
Except for a few of the bigger ones, most online directories and citation sites are free for you to list your vacation rental business. Considering a lot vacation rental businesses market their properties on a shoestring budget, free part should sound pretty good. And, regardless of how much or how little traffic it might help to generate, it’s visibility you aren’t getting otherwise.
2. Real traffic and visibility
Which brings us to our next point. Despite what most people think of online directories, the good ones actually get a ton of traffic and visibility. Take Yelp for instance; according to Quantcast.com's traffic stats, they get over 100 million hits a month! There’s no denying that that’s a huge number.
Now, not all of them get that kind of traffic, but if you can grow your portfolio to ten of the top directories (including Yelp), your looking at close to a half a billion visitors, if not more. And having those kinds of traffic stats on your side is never a bad thing.
3. Local search results
The effect business listings have on local search results is the most important reason every vacation rental business should have them. Hands down.
Yes, each new business listing you create increases your chances of being found by potential renters online. More listings, more traffic, more visibility. Logically this makes perfect sense, but it isn’t just people searching these directories.
The real value of getting your vacation rental business listed in top online directories, is that it actually helps search engines recognize and find your business faster. Online directories give search engines information about your business that makes it easier for them to incorporate it in their local search results.
The more places you are listed and the more visible you become. The more visible you are, the more search engines trust the accuracy of your business information and increase your chances of ranking well in local search results.
Why this really matters
Like most people, you might still be wondering why you should care about local search results.
Well, it’s because local search results on sites like Google, aren’t just for “local” traffic. Rather, they’re specific results related to a location.
For example, if you search for “bakeries in Orlando” on Google, you’ll get a list of local results, right there on the first page. And the same goes for vacation rentals. (see picture on the right)
And yes, it’s true that people often just use the top vacation rental websites to do their research. But there’s also a ton of people searching for vacation rentals directly on Google. To continue using the example with Orlando, the term “vacation rentals in Orlando” is actually searched about 1,600 times per month on average (taken from Google Adwords Keyword Planner).
So the idea is that if you can get your vacation rental business in those local results, on the first page, you’re looking at a significant increase in visibility. And even if there aren’t that many people searching for vacation rentals in your area, wouldn’t it be nice to be on the first page of Google when they actually do?
A few things to keep in mind when creating your online business directories:
Only list your business on credible directories.
Some bad directories have been crushed by Google in recent years. If your business is on one of those bad ones, then Google thinks you’re associated with it, potentially hurting your rankings. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s best to do a little bit of research. And if you can’t find any professionals mentioning it’s value, then it’s not worth the risk.
To get the best results, make sure your business meets all four of the following criteria (most vacation rental business do):
1) You must have a business name or DBA.
2) You must have a local phone number that matches your city of location, and not a shared phone number, toll-free number, or call tracking number.
3) You must have a real physical work address. And it absolutely cannot be the address of your vacation rental property. It needs to be the address of your actual place of business. So no PO boxes, no virtual offices, and no shared addresses. If you absolutely have to, it’s not the end of the world, just make sure it’s not the address of the actual property because that’s a huge no-no.
4) You must be able to make face-to-face contact with your customers. In other words your business can’t be conducted 100% virtually.
Keep your information accurate and consistent
Your information needs to be accurate and consistent throughout all of your listings. If it isn’t, there’s a chance your business won’t get accepted to some directories and could potentially hurt your rankings.
Always leave a link to your website if you have one
Although you don’t necessarily need a website to register for local business directories, if you do have one, it’s best that you include a link to it so travelers find it.
Always choose the the most accurate business category
It goes without saying, but always choose "vacation rentals" as your business category. And if it isn't an option, pick the closest thing to it.
Today, 20% of searches on Google are related to a location. So if you can get your business in the local results on that first page, you can realistically expect a decent amount of qualified visibility. But the truth is, not everyone can get there right away, if at all.
Obviously the more listings you’ve got and the more accurate they are, the better it’s going to be for your business. More listings mean more visibility, and a better chance of showing up in the local results on the first page. But nothing is certain.