7 Steps to an Irresistible Vacation Rental Website


Cabo Rentals by Jane homepage

When guests love your website, and the booking process, they’re more likely to become repeat customers. And repeat customers equal more direct bookings for you.

Easier said than done, we realize, which is why we’ve come up with 7 of the biggest factors that can make the difference between browsing and booking for guests when it comes to searching for their next vacation rental online.

1. Keep Booking Seamless, Direct, and on Your Site

If you use a 3rd-party platform to host the actual reservations and booking process for your vacation rental site, consider this your official notice to rethink that decision.

Not only are guests more likely to be interrupted by a change in platform, which might cause them to ‘bounce,’ or exit the conversion funnel, having multiple players in the booking process is bad for user experience and presents multiple technical SEO issues.

website booking widget

If that weren’t enough incentive already, changing horses midway through the booking process makes tracking and understanding your conversion data much more complicated (and in some cases, downright impossible).

For just about any business owner, that data is far too valuable to leave sitting on the table.

When the entire process is housed on your site, you’ll keep guests happier and moving easily through the process, while maintaining full insight into how that conversion process is working for (and potentially against) you so you can repeat what’s working and improve what’s not.

At Magnetic Strategy, we created our Flux booking engine to solve this exact problem.

2. Invest in Mobile-Friendly, Responsive Design

According to recent research, between 50 and 60% of web searches are done from a mobile device or tablet.

If you figure that even half of your potential guests are coming across your properties and having a less-than-desirable experience on your site – think pinching and dragging or not being able to navigate through properties easily  – that’s a healthy percentage of bookings you may be losing out on.

We run across many vacation rental sites that don’t have a responsive design, and it’s always a headache.

tablet, laptop, and mobile prototype of website

Test your website yourself on your phone to see what it might be like for a guest who’s daydreaming about their next vacation in their doctor’s waiting room or at the DMV.

If you can’t make it through to a booking decision, the chances are slim anyone else will want to hang around to do so, either.

3. Prioritize Calendar and Feature Filtering

If guests can easily see what dates are available (without having to submit a form or send someone an email) they’re more likely to move through the booking process.

For example, if you know you have the option of a few weekends to book your vacation rental, you’re much more likely to pull the trigger if you can easily see which dates are open for the vacation rental you’re considering.

This just makes it easier for guests to plan and ultimately – book – so we can’t stress this enough.

Filtering Features & Amenities

The other side of streamlining the feature prioritization is making it simple for guests to eliminate properties that won’t work for them (properties that allow pets, have the right number of bathrooms or bedrooms, etc.).

Highlighting this functionality makes it simple for guests to see exactly what’s available (and WHEN, thanks to your focus on the calendar component) eliminating key roadblocks in their booking process.

This is also another area where you can invest in a little bit of SEO to help your features work even harder for you.

amenities filter

When you include SEO-friendly filters and sort functionality, you’ve not only improved your guest experience, you’ve increased the odds that more qualified guests will find – and book – on your site.

4. Show Guests Who You Are

When guests can see into your company (who runs it and how to contact someone if they have questions) they’ll have more confidence and trust in your brand.

And when you’re ultimately trying to convince someone to spend a not insignificant sum of money on your site, the simple inclusion of an ‘About Us’ page, and definitely a ‘Contact Us,’ page can go a long way in reassuring guests.

With these additions, they have the confidence that they’ll have someone to reach out to with questions or if something unexpected comes up along the way.

5. Prioritize Booking and Up Front Pricing

This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we find it can be difficult to actually book a rental property on a vacation rental website supposedly designed to allow us to do just that.

Take a look at your site and try to imagine what the guest will be experiencing when they look at it.

Is there a large, obvious ‘Book Now’ button or call out when you land on a property page?

Is it clear what action a guest should take once they land on your home page?

If your answer to any of these questions isn’t a definitive ‘yes,’ then chances are you still have some work to do.

Another key part of enhancing the booking process for guests is clearly displaying pricing, and noting if guests can expect to pay additional fees over and above what’s advertised on the site.

Many of the larger players in vacation rentals will charge reservation fees or service fees that can range dramatically based on the booking window (this can include both or either season/dates and the total number of nights in the reservation.)

And if you do charge additional fees for booking or servicing rentals, it’s considered best practice to list the fee, whether or not it’s fully or partially refundable, and detail what it’s allocated for (whether that’s cleaning, standard surcharges, accidental damage, or simply a service fee that covers the expense of using the platform.)

6. Site Experience

Most web users have about a 5 second attention span waiting around for sites to load or to capture their attention (and that may be a generous estimate as more and more potential guests comparison shop and swap between sites.) 

Google offers several tools to test your site speed. Click the image below and enter your website to test your site speed.

Google Pagespeed Test

This means if your site is slow or clunky in loading some features, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on attracting the attention of guests who are ready and willing to book a vacation rental with you. 

Site speed is also one of the factors Google considers when rating and returning your site in search results, and generally favors those sites with faster load times. 

7. Property Features

After site speed, the most important thing to guests will be accessing the unique information about a property they’re considering.

  • Is it close to the beach?
  • Friendly for kids?
  • What activities or attractions are nearby?
  • Can I walk to restaurants/transit options?
  • What kinds of luxury amenities can I expect (Hot tub? Deck? BBQ?)

Details and reviews are key when it comes to property descriptions – guests should be able to understand what it will be like to stay at your property, and read about the experiences other guests have had to make an informed decision about their stay.

Many guests choose vacation rentals over hotels precisely because they offer something different and unique for travelers – a chance to experience the destination more like a local, for example.

The more you can do to play these advantages up in your property descriptions, the more likely you are to capture your guests’ attention, convince them to stay, and maybe even make it a habit.

Added features can also make this more memorable for guests like:

  • Plenty of photos
  • Drone photography or videos of property
  • 3D or video property tours
  • Detailed floor plans
  • Accessibility overview
  • Clear outline of check-in/check-out process

Ready to start making improvements to your vacation rental website?

From optimizing your site for SEO to capturing more qualified guests, to redesigning an outdated website, we’re ready to help.

Mike Archer
Mike Archer

Mike has over 17 years of experience in the digital marketing field, beginning his career in-house at one of the nation’s top sporting goods manufacturers, followed by succe...

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