SEO, Competition, and More Bookings: Fall 2020
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“Uncertainty” is the marketing industry’s 2020 buzzword and the vacation rental industry has been hit hard. Between an election year and the global travel industry fallout from COVID-19, it’s a seemingly tough time to be a property manager.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that all of this tumult has actually led to growth for some property managers. In particular, managers who have adjusted their marketing message and overall online strategy (SEO & SEM) are faring well in today’s new travel culture.
Below, we’ll review several online search trends we’re seeing as we approach the latter months of 2020. We’ll also provide some timeless creative marketing ideas for property managers who are interested in growing their customer bases.
When the coronavirus pandemic began in earnest in March - April 2020, the expectation within the travel industry was that vacation rentals would suffer until COVID-19 was “eliminated” or an effective vaccination was developed. Half of the original expectation has held true. As per Statista in March 2020, “U.S. travelers were 43 percent less likely to travel within the United States [at that time].”
What few, if any, vacation rental property managers initially anticipated, though, was the increase in travelers looking for rental homes as soon as people began traveling again.
Take this example of people searching for “Colorado Vacation Rentals”:
Or even more impressive is the 5 year trend for "colorado vacation rentals".
What is immediately clear here is the fact that there was an initial drop in the number of people searching for vacation rentals in the Colorado market.
On the flipside, though, we also see a spike as people look to escape the urban jungle and enjoy lockdown in an environment better suited for life outside the office. Another key trend is that with more families than ever before both working and learning from home, there is more room for flexible vacations or “flexcations.” In a survey, VRBO found that 21% of respondents said , “working from anywhere creates big opportunities for travel during the second half of 2020.”
The bottom line is that there are currently several market factors that are leading up to a different, but still profitable, vacation rental booking landscape for Fall and Winter 2020.
What Does This Mean For Vacation Rental Property Managers?
Put simply, potential guests who have never before searched for vacation rentals or are infrequent vacation rental users are looking for you! Now that there is a massive segment of the U.S. workforce working from home, there is a built-in demographic who would love nothing more than to escape from a home office to the beach or the mountains, craft beer in hand.
Remember, though, that major OTAs like Airbnb and HomeAway already know this and have, in turn, started attempting to cash-in on this new influx of prospective vacation home renters. VRBO has already had a massive turn around due to the pandemic’s changing travel trends.
With OTAs snatching up market share every day, it's even more pressing to start implementing creative SEO and content strategies to compete in your local market. The good thing is that property managers have a huge SEO advantage since their offices and property inventories are all local to their respective markets.
The typical pre-2020 property manager’s approach to SEO and content was to highlight local amenities to entice guests. If you visit just about any vacation rental website, you’ll see information about local restaurants and what guests can do upon arrival in Nags Head, Tahoe, or any other popular tourist destination.
There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, but it’s not going to net you any of the new guests we’ve been talking about in this guide. Your SEO and content strategy need to start shifting with the current market.
Include both location specific and general amenities when you create your list on “flexcation” property pages. Here are some examples to get you started:
- Pet Friendly. Furry companions are more important than ever now. As human to human contact is limited, advertising that you have units that accommodate cats or dogs is a huge plus.
- WiFi (most important amenity to American travelers)
- Housing architecture - Remember, people want to feel like they are somewhere unique and local even if they can’t enjoy all the activities they could have in a pre-COVID society.
- Flexible cancelation policy - Flexible stays might not seem attractive, but for guests who might have to make changes to go to a meeting or travel for work, flexible cancelation is key.
- Outdoor amenities - Hiking, paddle boarding, beach activities, etc. are all attractive to today’s travelers. Unless your state has not opened public areas, outdoor activities are a major draw right now. Highlight these as “COVID” safe options that allow people to enjoy the area while still protecting their loved ones.
Targeted Landing Pages for Amenities
Update property descriptions and create landing pages specifically for two or three of the amenities you listed above.
Below you’ll see the first page search results on Google for “Outer banks vacation rentals pet friendly”. What you’ll see is that the companies that do the best are the ones who have dedicated landing pages for these key amenities.
Notice the url structure and the H1 (title) descriptions of these pages. It’s not enough to just talk about wifi in your amenity and property description sections of your unit pages.
Ongoing, Holistic SEO Plan
Finally, it’s important to invest in a continuous content creation / holistic search engine optimization plan.
This should include both technical and on page SEO.
It’s not enough to do a one-time update. If you have a blog, you should be posting at least twice a month. If you are onboarding new units, they should have expert level descriptions that will rank well both on Google and when syndicated through OTAs.
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