Roger Timbrook is a freelance web designer who focuses on improving people’s websites. When not staring at his screen fixing websites you can find him traveling the world and writing about it on his travel blog.
Having your own vacation rental website is a great start to reach a wide audience and book more guests. It’s also a great way to skip paying those hefty commission fees charged by Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. But if you want to get ahead of the game and get more bookings, you’ll have to optimize your vacation rental website. While that may sound intimidating and unachievable for a non-techy, there are a bunch of simple and powerful things you can do. Let’s take a look:
Make it easy to get in touch
You may already have your contact details somewhere on your website, but how easy is it to find that information for someone new to the site? If you’re not keen on leaving contact information on the internet and choose to use a contact form, you’ll have to make sure the form is easily accessible.
When it comes to vacation rental websites and contact information, the rule of thumb is to make it as easy as , and then easier again. How does that translate to real life? Simple. Make sure your contact details (or a link to a contact form) are in the header and/or footer. That’ll publish the information (or link) on every page of your site. So no matter which page they arrived on your site through, or where they end up navigating, your contact information is never more than one click away.
You’ll also want to make sure potential guests can reach you in as many ways as . In today’s day and age, that means:
- phone, email, and physical address (the basics)
- Instagram, Facebook, and Facebook Messenger (of the property, not your personal accounts)
When it comes to modern communication channels (like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), you have to remember that some traveling guests may not have cellular plans. They travel with their smartphones but won’t be able to communicate via phone calls. So when they’re on wifi, they’ll use data-only messaging apps. By giving the option of messaging apps, you’re increasing your potential customer base.
Finally, all your contact information (if not using a form) should be clickable. Why? If your guests are using a smartphone, it takes just one tap and the device will open the right app to get in touch. You just made it easy for the guest and removed one extra step that might cause them to think twice, or get distracted, and not book.
Tell them what to do
When it comes to websites you will generate a lot more results if you “tell people what to do” instead of expecting them to know or figure out what the next steps are. In the marketing world, that’s a “call to action”. If you want someone to make a booking, for example, then add a “Booking” button in the appropriate place(s) on your site. And don’t be shy about adding more than one on a single page, just don’t plaster them everywhere.
So what’s the advantage of a booking button on most marketing pages of your vacation rental website? Again, you’re broadening your potential customer base. Remember that everyone is different and is ready to take action (ie. book) at different stages of the process. For some, it may be when they see the amenities of the property.
For others, it’s after they’ve gone through every picture of the vacation rental, checked out your reviews, and looked at the location on the map. With that button conveniently placed on each of those pages, you increase the odds of a booking.
Find and optimize images
Images are one of the biggest sellers for a property online, so you want to make sure that you highlight the best features of your property using top-notch pictures. Not only that, you will also want to show off any surrounding attractions to help entice visitors.
Rather than relying on hasty snapshots, you might have taken of the local main street or water park I recommend you use professional images where you can. Sometimes you can even find them for free online using sites like Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay.
All of the above means lots and lots of images. That is also where the problem begins. Oversized images can kill your website’s load speed, especially on a mobile phone. So, don’t just upload the images straight from your camera. Instead, here are the main steps I recommend you take:
- Rename the image (not IMG_2333.jpg) to something like kitchen-seating.jpg, using short, descriptive wording with hyphens (-) between the words.
- Resize the image to the width you need for your site. This is probably a maximum of around 1080 pixels, but check with your web developer for the various areas of your site.
- Compress the image, but check that it still looks great on a screen. There is a balance and it depends on the image, camera and program you use. So test it first.
These three steps ensure your images are the perfect size for your website and are not slowing your visitors down. Trust me, if your site is slow, they won’t wait.
Images can also be found in Google image search, so if you want to take it to the next level, you can read this detailed article on Image SEO. Afterwards, you can apply a few of the tips to your images and get even more visitors from Mr Google.
Preparing for mobile
People are spending more and more time on their phones. In fact, it was back in October of 2016 that mobile use overtook desktop.
What does that mean for you?
Your website needs to look great on a desktop, laptop, tablet and phone. Have you already checked?
If not, I would check your site on as many devices as you have available. If you don’t have that many, head down to your local electronics or Apple store and try it on theirs. You might be surprised what does not work on a phone or even appear.
Alternatively, you can also try a mobile responsive testing tool like this one. Just keep in mind that nothing beats a live test on an actual device.
Lastly, run your website through the Google Mobile Test to see if your website passes that. This is important because Google is slowly focusing on mobile over desktop so you want them to be happy with your website too. This will result in better search rankings and more visitors as well.
Owning a website is a little more complex than it used to be, but with a few simple tweaks and changes you can turn it into a strong part of your marketing team.
Focus on the things that will bring you the biggest gains first like strong calls to action (aka Booking Buttons), and easy to find contact details. Then take a close look at your images and mobile-readiness of your website.
Then, before you know it, you will start to see stronger results on your bottom line!