Did you know the first vacation rental started in the early 1800s?
At first, these were timeshares that groups of families would share.
Now that market has changed with the popularity of home-sharing platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, and others. You no longer have to buy into a timeshare just to reserve a nice vacation home for your travels.
Even with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing during most of 2020, vacation rentals recovered much quicker than hotels did.
Which really shows how resilient the business model can be.
Travelers changed their habits too. Instead of heading to popular urban areas and cities, they simply pivoted their habits and went back to the traditional vacation rental markets that they could hop in their car and drive to.
Even several centuries before that, Polynesians take dangerous days-long voyages by floating in handcrafted boats towards nearby islands. They used the stars, ocean, and wind patterns as guides and would test the waters for heat, in order to know how close they truly were to their destination.
Travel is an important and a basic human want. It is inside of all of us.
Which is why, as vacation rentals, we need to tap into these primal instincts and utilize them to attract guests to our vacation rental properties.
Today, Airbnb, VRBO and the others have a strong hold over the short-term rental business simply because they control the guest traffic.
I’m hoping this blog post today is going to help you with getting more guests and more owners.
High expectations, I know!
One inspiring story that comes to mind is New Zealand’s recovery from the 2020 pandemic. Within 10 months, they were able to bring down their cases to nearly zero cases a day and opened their economy back up.
Even though you want to create a moat for your business, you still need a river to create it…
The river, in this case, would be the flow of new guests from your channel partners, like Airbnb, VRBO, etc.
Did you know we have a Youtube channel too?
Check out this blog post in a video format as well
The 3 Pillars of Growth For Your Vacation Rentals
When we step back, there are essentially three ways for you to grow your business in general. First, you can grow with more properties.
Pillar 1: Scale With More Properties
If you know that each property that meets certain criteria will bring in an average of $5,000/mo in profit then you know that you might just need to find more properties.
Pillar 2: Get Higher Prices Per Booking
The easiest way to attract higher prices is through professional photography. Here’s an example of before and after photos… I think you can tell the difference.
Professional photos improve your SEO, by driving more clicks, and allows you to show a higher value in which you could charge more for. It does of course, depend on what your competitors are doing but low prices get absorbed faster, so you just have to expect that your lead times will be shorter.
Also, be aware of who you are attracting.
Each property should have 2-3 types of guests that would be suitable and can pay for the property at the price you think is fair.
Pillar 3: Improve Your Revenue Per Guest
Every guest that stays at your property has a dollar amount attributed to their “account.”
I’m not saying to think of your guests as dollar signs either.
Keep in mind that this means your primary guests who made the booking and the secondary guests who stayed with them.
In a sense, this also includes children. You can’t directly keep track of them in your system since there are laws around this, however, if you consider a family that always comes back to your properties each year and when those children get to an age where they are making travel plans themselves, guess what tradition they’ll want to keep going?
Also, most guests won’t ever return, but that doesn’t mean they can’t leave a review for you on Google, Facebook, or any other platform.
Fill Up Your Guest Pipeline & Build Your Moat
Your guest pipeline is the combination of everyone visiting your listings on Airbnb, VRBO, etc., then converting into their first stay, and then returning back again or referring your company to other travelers.
There’s also the opportunity to inform them of your property management services as well and you can tailor conversations around that too.
Channel Partner Optimization (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.)
Here’s a simple equation for getting more out of your channel partners:
Search Engine Optimization x Pricing x Conversions = Bookings
The more visitors you can get to your listings with better rankings, the more chances you have to convert them.
The opportunity on Airbnb isn’t just about getting the guests that saw your listing, but the guests who never saw your listing or saw your listing but still didn’t book.
In most cases, 98% of visitors to your listings don’t book!
Direct Booking Optimization
Let’s throw in another equation to help visualize your direct bookings strategy.
Awareness x Timing = Conversions
Start generating awareness to your guests about the benefits of booking directly and the properties you have for them, where they are located, plus interesting things happening in your area that would inspire them to come back.
Timing is all about stepping into and stimulating the conversation already happening in your guest’s minds.
Perhaps they visited last time because of a birthday, anniversary, or another occasion – why not tap them on the shoulder and see if they’d like to return again?
In terms of timing, the beginning of the year is when people start to plan out their personal goals and plans. Why not help them out and see if they’d like to return and look forward to something again?
This overview of strategies is great but let’s talk about some practical tactics.
Practical Tip #1: Squeeze More From Channel Partners
Since you’re already on Airbnb, why not get the most you can from them?
There’s a lot of ways to capture lost booking opportunities but the best would be to focus on search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization.
A quick tip would be to first optimize your titles by using search suggestions.
Here’s a video on how to do that:
A second tip would be to add photos that would be important for your avatar. For example, if you are interested in attracting longer-term guests and staycation’ers, then include a picture of your internet speed and highlight reviews about your internet speed.
Eventually, with enough SEO optimization, you’ll climb to the top of the rankings in your area and once you’re there, it’s much more difficult to knock you off since your collecting the most data.
There’s more to this but here’s some suggested reading as well: Airbnb Ranking Factors
Tip #2: Collect More Guest Emails & Details
If you haven’t started creating your guest database, you need to do that immediately.
Start collecting guest details, such as their names, emails, phone numbers, check-in dates, reasons for traveling, and everything else you can think of that would improve the quality of their stay and give you a reason to reach out to them.
In some cities and states, it’s a requirement to collect this data as well.
Collect guest data is the first step in building your direct bookings channel. Another benefit of building your guest database is that you’ll retain more value in your business because you now have an asset (your customer list) that no one can take away from you.
This list becomes more valuable based on certain metrics, such as engagement rates, but for simplicity’s sake, it’s all about how familiar they are with you.
The easiest way we have found to collect emails from every guest, not just the one booking, is through the WiFi.
StayFi makes it easy to launch branded, captive WiFi splash pages (similar to what you’ve used in hotels and coffee shops) in short-term rental properties.
Not only can you collect emails from every guest, StayFi integrates with tools like Mailchimp and Constant Contact making it easy to start marketing to every guest directly.
Tip #3: Promote Your Brand Everywhere
There are dozens of opportunities to promote your brand, not just on social media.
Think about your branding in your listing photos, titles, host profiles, inside of your units, in your emails, and everywhere else you can think of.
Beyond having a refined brand, promote your companies missions and values as well.
The more your guests know it, the more the more they’ll notice it and the more your team will live up to it.
You gain accountability from making public statements about your vacation rental’s mission.
For example, our mission at Rankbreeze is to help you build and optimize your guest pipeline. We are experts in the field of Airbnb SEO, however, we know that this is a segment in how you attract guests into your pipeline. This is why we exist for a much bigger reason and is just the tip of the iceberg.
Don’t forget to advertise your accommodations and management services on Google, Yelp, Craigslist, and other local classifieds.
Note: If you are advertising, make sure you have your numbers figured out in terms of the lifetime value of each property. This way you’ll always make a profit if your advertising spend is lower than what you’ll earn managing an owners property.
Tip #4: Create a Direct Bookings Loop
As we mentioned above, the greatest opportunity you likely have is optimizing for lost opportunities on the channel partners, like Airbnb, since the traffic is already there AND THEN bringing guests back as a direct booking later.
Provide inspiration frequently and make offers frequently
Encourage and inspire your past guests into raising their hands and letting you know when they’re interested in coming back. Then have your reservations team facilitate the sales process.
Some guests will want to do their own research and then book on your site directly, however, many will want to have hands-on help so be sure you are ready to help in that capacity too.
All your efforts going towards building a direct bookings channel can also lead to more opportunities with potential clients and owners too.
Your Vacation Rental Marketing “Sherpas”
At Rankbreeze, we’re committed to helping you make the most of your already existing channels and to grow your direct bookings as well.
Here’s how we help:
- Rankbreeze, our flagship Airbnb SEO & optimization software (get started here)
- Our FREE Guest Insights tool, called AirReview (get the Chrome extension here or Firefox extension here)
- Optimized listing description service
- Email marketing service for direct bookings
You can get started with the software right away to review your Airbnb search rankings and the optimized listing description service is available within the app as well.
For our email marketing services, reach out to us at our contact form and we will book a discovery call about the process, your business needs, and what you can expect.
Farewell and please share this article if you found it helpful!