How To Ditch The Big Listing Sites & Generate More Revenue From Your Holiday Property With Direct Bookings
Most people who start out in the holiday rental business are usually second home owners who’ve heard how you can simply advertise your property on some well known booking site and floods of people will want to stay there, and before they can blink an eye they’re living the dream.
Quite a few years ago now, that’s how it was. You would list your rental property, pay the fees required and get regular bookings. Life was damn good!
All you really had to do was ‘meet and greet’, deal with email enquiries and arrange cleaners to tidy up the property ready for the next guests to arrive.
Now, back In those days it was a good marketing strategy. The big listing site generated the traffic and provided you with a regular stream of income, and you got to enjoy life a bit more.
But, over time things started to change, and what used to be a smooth, easy and reliable marketing strategy, now gets a bit bumpy. The fees start to go up, and there’s more competition to deal with.
So, you move onto a slightly better marketing strategy and add a few more listing sites to the mix, and a bit of social media to really get things ramped up.
And once again, even this starts to fall apart. You now pay even more fees and commissions to the booking sites, and the social media isn’t bringing in the results you expected.
You simply don’t have the time to keep up with everything each day, and neglect a few areas of your strategy.
That’s not the only issues though. Potential guests are starting to get really savvy online and are not liking the fact that they’re now paying fees every time they want to book some holiday accommodation.
They’re looking for the best deals online but have so many distractions they feel confused.
They want answers to their questions fast, they want to get the best deal as quick as possible, and they want to be able to secure their holiday accommodation right there and then.
They certainly don’t want to fill in an enquiry form and wait for someone to get back to them.
And to top it off even more, your holiday property that’s on all these listing sites is no longer getting clicked on that much because it’s now buried under 54 others in your location. Competition is getting tough.
It’s really looking grim for those of you that don’t start to adapt to a new marketing strategy. Those that do this now will benefit immensely for years to come.
It will put you in full control of your whole holiday rental business, wipe out all your booking fees and commission payouts for good and get you a constant stream of direct bookings. Here it is in a nutshell:
I want to tell you a story about Fred. He’s 61 years old and owns 7 static caravans on a well known and popular holiday park. Fred does what every other holiday rental owner does, and advertises his properties on Booking.com and gets a regular supply of guests who want to stay in his accommodation.
At the end of the season, Fred looks at his accounts and starts to think about the £8,560 that was paid out to the listing site in fee’s. Now Fred isn’t a big fan of paying hefty costs and starts to research ways to either reduce the figure down or completely remove it.
He speaks to a few friends and is given a strategy to implement over the course of the following months. The strategy involves pulling the plug on the big listing site and investing £4,000 (half of the amount he was paying out) into certain ‘key areas’ of his business.
The first key area he focuses on is having a fully responsive website with a dedicated booking system. The website is going to be the most important part of this strategy, it’s the hub for everything he does next.
Rather than the big booking site being the part that generates the traffic and a regular stream of income, his website does the job instead.
He goes through all the testimonials that previous guests have left on the big booking site and uses these to create some high converting headlines and website copy.
He then has a virtual tour created that gives any visitors a full ‘walk through’ of his holiday property. This virtual tour also produces a floor plan and high resolution images that can be implemented into his site to make it really stand out.
He wants the experience of visiting the website to lead to an instant booking decision because he only has a short amount of time to capture his visitors attention.
Old, outdated websites with poor imagery don’t cut it these days, they look bad and just give off a nasty vibe. The last thing you need right now is your site putting any feeling of doubt into your visitors head and hampering with their decision making.
If it looks a bit rubbish then that’s going to make your visitors click onto the next property listing, which is probably going to be one of your competitors.
Next, Fred installs Google Analytics so he can see where all his traffic is coming from and adds a few goals so he knows what his conversion rate is.
He then analyses this data to see what tweaks he can make to increase this rate even more over the next few weeks. By doing so he can get the most out of the content he’s producing and really find out about his perfect customer.
Then he moves onto GEO or Guest Experience Optimisation. Here’s where he looks at Pre Stay Marketing, In Stay Marketing and Post Stay Marketing.
It’s often overlooked in many holiday rental businesses but gives a fantastic return back on investment.
Pre-Stay: Fred hires someone to find out what questions people are entering into Google that could be answered by writing articles based on the search terms they find.
Such as ’Where Are The Best Beaches In Cornwall?’ and ‘The Top 10 Fish Restaurants You Absolutely Must Visit In Cornwall’. There’s a never ending supply of them.
He then gets them posted onto his website and uses them as food for the search engines, and eventually they drive highly targeted traffic to his site for free.
Links to the articles are posted on social media and other places to get even more exposure and he also packages them together to create a local holiday guide in PDF format that he gives away in return for his visitors email address.
In Stay: Fred makes sure there’s milk in the fridge for when his guests arrive, sometimes he leaves a pack of biscuits or a bottle of wine. A new set of playing cards seems to work wonders too.
He even goes as far as leaving a tub of Sudocrem on the table for families that have a baby. Just those few little touches increases his repeat bookings by 15-20%.
Whatever he thinks he can do to make his guests visit as enjoyable and memorable as possible, he does.
Fred also tells guests that his website provides a ton of resources, guides and exclusive discounts off various attractions so they can get the best out of their holiday.
The aim here is to provide a higher level of customer service than your competitors. So when your guests leave and go back home, they talk about you to their friends and family. Word of mouth referrals are always the best right?
Post Stay: Once his guests leave and go back home, then that’s when Fred’s post stay marketing comes into play. By collecting his guests email addresses and telephone numbers he can send out a newsletter to them once a week telling them about last minute deals, discounted breaks and upcoming events in his area.
They then get redirected back to his website, so he gets traffic that’s pre-qualified based on the fact they’ve already experienced what he has to offer,and they convert into repeat customers.
The third part of Fred’s online marketing strategy involves social media platforms. I’m talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.
He uses all these platforms to really get his message out there, and as mentioned earlier, all these are going to be pointing back to his website.
Fred knows that YouTube is one of the most underused of these social media platforms and is also the second biggest search engine online.
So he uses his mobile phone to capture short videos giving out tips and advice and uploads them instantly to the site and includes a short description.
He signs up for a free business account with Pinterest and creates ‘boards’ for his location. Then fills these boards with the pictures he takes and calls the boards ‘Things To Do’ and ‘Places To See’.
Fred also looks for people who are doing the same thing in his area, such as local businesses, food establishments and attractions and likes their boards.
He registers a Facebook page for his holiday rental business where he can post links to the articles he creates on his website, and gets as many of his previous guests (and friends and family) to like it so it has plenty of followers.
He has a far better chance of getting likes from other people if he has a large number of fans and posts with plenty of engagement, than if he had a few likes and outdated posts from 6-12 months ago that have no likes, comments or shares.
What he’s doing in effect is creating social proof for his holiday accommodation business, and social proof is a great conversion tool to have in your kit.
If the feedback you’re getting on all these social media platforms from guests is good, then you’re going to attract more people who want to stay in your property.
And, all this work can be automated with software and tools, or if you’re coming off the big booking sites, then you can use some of the money you’re saving to pay a friend or family member to do the work for you.
It’s really not that hard to keep things updated and it’s going to bring you plenty of qualified traffic. You’ll also rank higher in Google because of this social proof.
If I was to give you one single bit of good advice today, I would tell you to get yourself off the big listing sites as soon as you possibly can. Those over saturated fees and cancellation policies are going to do more harm than good. And, they bring no traffic to your website do they?
Yes you get the bookings, but they’re in control of it all. Local listing sites are better for you. Simply because most of them are free to add a listing and you can at least include a link back to your website.
And, if you do this strategy right, you’ll have the ability to take direct bookings online using your own availability calendar and payment processor. And you never have to pay commissions on any of the bookings. All payments can be taken from your website using a free payment processor such as Stripe.
(I’d avoid using PayPal as their fees are rather high and they can hold your money for up to 90 days if there’s any issues).
Another great thing about listing on local accommodation directories is that there’s less competition. So the odds of getting bookings from them are dramatically increased.
Now, you don’t have to follow this online marketing strategy. At the end of the day you can do what you want. But, if you’re still relying on big booking sites to fill your holiday property then eventually you’re going to suffer.
And you’re never going to have full control of your business. I mean, who wants to be tied to just one thing? So, think about this before you decide what your next step is.
There are more and more holiday rental businesses now than there was 15 years ago. According to figures, there’s at least a 20 fold increase in some of the most popular travel destinations.
And that’s going to keep on increasing, especially now AirBnB is on the scene and people have started to realise that they can go away for a few weeks in the Summer months and rent out their family home to make some serious cash.
For those of you that don’t have a website yet you need to get one built. And for those that already have one, you need to start making it the hub of your business.
Make it your goal to point every single thing you do online back to it. Optimise it and make it really stand out.
Without traffic you won’t get many direct bookings, so starting an online marketing campaign will get you that traffic on a regular basis.
Focus on getting quality content out there and you’ll soon be on your way to being in full control of your business.
To make the most out of this online marketing strategy for holiday accommodation owners I highly suggest that you sign up to our Newsletter and follow us on Facebook & Twitter so you get to see all the other extra bits that make this work.
That’s where the real juice of this is explained in more detail. There’s even video tutorials and numerous guides that you can access which show you other methods you can use to get more direct bookings for your holiday property.
And as for Fred? He sold his holiday rental business for twice as much as he would have sold it for if he didn’t have all these online assets, and it sold fast because the new buyer knew that they were able to fill each property and take direct bookings without the help of any lousy big booking site.
All of Fred’s hard work had paid off and he’s now retired from the game and enjoys the life he wants due to the extra profit he’s made from his friends online marketing strategy. (and the cash he got from selling the business of course).