Vacation Rental SEO
The vacation rental industry is cutthroat. And understanding how to use your company’s website to gain a competitive edge can be overwhelming.
At Magnetic, we understand that. That’s where this guide comes in. Our expert team has put together this clear, easy-to-understand vacation rental SEO guide to help vacation rental managers (VRMs) like you discover everything you need to know about effective search engine optimization (SEO) and why it matters for your short-term rental business.
If you’ve always left SEO to the experts before, don’t worry. (That’s what we’re here for, after all!) We’ve made every effort to explain things in a way that will make sense to you, even if you’ve never taken a look at the backend of your website before.
In this guide you’ll learn about:
- Fundamentals of Vacation Rental SEO
- Keyword Research for Vacation Rentals
- Content for Vacation Rental Sites
- Technical SEO
- On-Page SEO
- Best Vacation Rental Website Platforms for SEO
- Link Building for Vacation Rentals
- Local SEO for Property Management Firms
- How to Measure SEO Success
- Favorite SEO Tools
You might be wondering, “But why do I need to understand SEO at all?” That’s a great question that has an easy answer — the more you know, the more your vacation rental company will be able to grow and flourish.
Not into the DIY of it all? SEO work requires some in-depth knowledge. While you can read on to get a great, comprehensive treatment, you can also outsource this. If you want to hire an SEO strategist or learn more about what someone like that can do for you, contact us today.
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Drop us a line today for a free quote!
The internet has changed the way all industries, including the professionally managed vacation rental industry, operate. Two decades ago, websites like Vrbo and Airbnb didn’t even exist, let alone compete for your clients.
Now? All that has changed.
Here are some stats about the growing vacation rental industry and why it’s important to stay on top of your marketing game.
- Current growth rate for this market was valued at more than $87B. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected to track at 3.4% between 2020 and 2027.
- According to Airbnb, as many as 75% of vacation rentals will be secured by millennials or younger by the year 2025.
- Homes are dominating the market for vacation rentals, taking a massive 47.2% of the share in the year 2019.
- While offline booking continues to be popular with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, online booking numbers are increasing.
The competitive landscape is this:
- Online Travel Agencies (like Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak, Priceline and Travelocity) are holding steady and poised for growth.
- Listing sites and individual websites are the most likely way that lodgers/visitors will find a vacation rental spot.
If you want to future-proof your business, you must invest in organic website traffic.
This is accomplished through SEO.
Property managers who have an understanding of how vacation rental SEO works and why it is so crucial have a much better chance of thriving in today’s market.
No matter what questions you happen to have about SEO for your business, we sincerely believe you’ll find the answers in this guide.
Now that you know what to expect, let’s get going.
In the first section on SEO fundamentals, you'll discover what SEO is and why it should be a core element of your vacation rental marketing. You will also learn about a variety of topics related to SEO, including:
- What is SEO? (and how it pertains to vacation rental managers)
- How valuable SEO traffic is to your business
- An overview of the types of SEO
- Why you, a property manager, need SEO
- OTAs and how to become self-sufficient
- An overview of Google Ranking Factors
What Does SEO mean?
SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization.”
This is the practice of improving both the quality and quantity of web traffic to a specific site via organic search engine results.
In short, by optimizing your website using appropriate keywords, content and other details, you can boost your search rankings and, as a result, overall traffic to your short-term rental website.
Speak to a Vacation Rental SEO Strategist Today
Overview of How Search Engines Work
Now that you know that you can use search engine optimization to improve the visibility of your website, let's quickly cover the basics of search engines and how search engines work.
Here's a great video by the former Head of Web Spam at Google, Matt Cutts.
In this video Matt will cover the basics of search engines:
- How search engines discover new pages and websites on the web using spiders and links
- Where those pages are stored (their index) after discovery
- How search engines retrieve those pages from the index
- A high level explanation of how Google determines the best way to rank the search results when you enter a query
Here's a longer version (with pictures and video) of how search works, if you're interested in learning more.
Learn More About Vacation Rental SEO Today
How Much Traffic Comes From Search Engines And Organic Search
On your vacation rental website, well over 50% of your traffic could come from organic search (unpaid traffic from search engines).
This would mean that someone searched for something like, “find a vacation rental in Florida,” and your website answered that query.
The other primary way to get traffic to your site is through paid search traffic. That just means that you pay for ads that direct people to your website.
SEO vs SEM
There are two terms you’re probably going to hear when you start learning about organic search and search engine traffic. They are SEO and SEM. Here’s what they mean:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — basically, practices that optimize your website to get organic traffic by ranking higher in search engine results.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing) — SEM is an approach that gains visibility for your vacation rental website by using paid ads. Also known as PPC (pay-per-click).
Image of paid search results
Image of organic search results
While some SEM approaches have a hybrid of organic and paid, for the most part it’s about using an ad budget to get clicks onto your website.
The challenge of succeeding in paid ads is that the vacation rentals market is largely dominated by OTAs with giant budgets. Think, companies who are spending tens of thousands of dollars a week to get people to their site. This is just one reason that many people who own vacation rentals use SEO as a primary means to improve traffic.
Even so, if you do go the SEO route, you really need to know what you’re doing.
Below we'll cover a few of the important parts of an SEO strategy for your property management website.
Speak to a Vacation Rental SEO Strategist Today
Are There Different Types of SEO?
Vacation rental management companies should be aware of three main types of SEO:
- On-page SEO: everything you can read or see on your website that is optimized to drive organic traffic
- Technical SEO: all of the behind-the-scenes, coded elements that contribute to organic traffic
- Off-site SEO: anything that happens outside of your website to drive organic traffic
We will take a look at each below.
1. On-Page SEO
On-page SEO is what most people immediately think of when they hear the term “search engine optimization.” It involves keyword research, content creation and adding your search terms, or keyword optimization, in both content and your meta tags (think title tag).
Keyword Research Phase
Keyword research simply refers to finding the best keywords for any given page of a website, such as “Local Guides,” “Our Vacation Properties” or specific rental house listings.
These are the search terms that you want your guests to search for on search engines like Google so that your site shows up in the search results.
Numerous websites, such as SEMrush and the free WordStream tool, can help you with vacation rental keyword research.
On-Page Optimization Phase
Utilizing the findings from the keyword research phase, you'll move onto the optimization phase.
Here you'll follow the SEO best practices (sometimes called webmaster guidelines), given to us by search engines like Google. Execute them correctly and you'll likely see your website rankings improve. It's in Google's best interest to provide great search results to their users.
Some of those best practices include the optimization of your page titles, meta description, images, image alt text, and internal linking.
Content Creation Phase
Once you have determined the target keywords for a page, you can begin the content creation phase.
This is all about writing engaging, high-quality vacation rental content that will appeal to your audience while effectively incorporating your chosen keywords.
When it comes to content, keep your demographic in mind — if your primary clients are young families, don’t focus on writing about hot nightspots in the area, for instance.
2. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is, as you probably guessed from its name, the most technical of the types of SEO.
It involves reworking a site’s backend structure to be as efficient as possible, which makes it more attractive to Google.
Although this is often the most challenging form of SEO to understand, it is crucial for success.
Generally, technical SEO for vacation rental managers focuses on these aspects of a website’s functionality:
3. Off-Site SEO
Off-site SEO is all about the relationship your vacation rental website has with other sites on the internet. Getting a link on one of these other sites that points back at your site is a positive SEO signal.
Such a link is called a backlink.
Backlinks are among the most important components of off-site SEO for vacation rental companies.
Vacation rental link building involves getting high-quality links from popular, reputable, engaging websites to establish trust online.
In other words, these links prove to prospective clients that your company is in the same league as other online services they implicitly trust with their business.
Learn More About Vacation Rental SEO Today
5 Reasons Vacation Rental Managers Need SEO
At this point, you may have a better grasp on SEO, but you may not be sold on SEO for your vacation rental company. That’s understandable — most vacation rental property managers are shrewd business people who need to see the benefits of a new venture.
But SEO is worth the time and cost and should be part of your overall marketing strategy.
Here are five reasons why.
1. Your Vacation Rental Brand Will Seem More Reputable
You know how reliable your vacation rental business is, but prospective clients who are finding you for the first time don’t.
Numerous studies have revealed that consumers find organic search results more reliable and trustworthy than paid ads.
The better your short-term rental SEO is, the higher your page will rank and the more trustworthy you will seem.
2. Your Short-Term Rental Business Will Save Money
Paying for digital ads can get expensive quickly.
By focusing on your website’s SEO, you will gain more organic traffic (and bookings!) and, ultimately, be able to stop or significantly reduce your online ad spend.
3. You Will Become More Independent
Being independent is a good feeling in most aspects of life, including small business ownership.
The better your property management website’s SEO is and the more direct bookings you are able to generate, the less you will need to rely on online travel agencies (OTAs) and other third-party booking options.
In turn, this will give your vacation rental company the future it deserves — and the ability to stand on its own two feet no matter what happens in the travel industry in the future.
4. You Can Promote Vacation Rental Marketing to Homeowners
When you are pitching your platform to homeowners who are looking to rent out their houses, effective SEO can be a hot selling point.
The better your SEO strategy is, the higher search engines’ algorithms will rank your website and, ultimately, the more prospective clients will see your homeowners’ properties.
You can add this point to your existing homeowner marketing plan.
Highlighting your high rankings and high conversion rate for bookings can impress prospective homeowners and will help close the deal for you to manage their property.
5. You Are Investing in Vacation Rental SEO, Not Paying Per Ad
Paid media channels, such as online banner ads, television commercials and even radio spots, don’t do much for your brand in the long run.
As soon as you stop paying for ad placements, traffic from that source disappears.
They will keep your name in people’s minds for a brief time but won’t enhance your booking success over time.
Vacation rental SEO is different.
When you invest in SEO, you are investing in the long-term success of your business as a vacation rental manager.
Speak to a Vacation Rental SEO Strategist Today
The Problem with OTAs and How VRMs Can Be Self-Sufficient
OTAs, including traditional options like Expedia (which owns Vrbo) and Booking.com, and newer players like Airbnb, have become extremely popular among travelers.
While they do provide some benefits like exposure to a wide audience of travelers via the "billboard effect" they also have a tenuous and rocky relationship with vacation rental companies.
This is primarily because the OTAs have final say in booking protocols, cancellations and fees.
Over time, vacation rental managers who rely solely or largely on OTAs are likely to lose significant sums of money to various fees. The best way to combat this is to become self-sufficient.
The best way to become self-sufficient?
Gain an understanding of SEO for property managers and how it can work for you while building a recognizable brand.
Outside of traditional short-term rental SEO, there are a few other ways in which vacation rental property managers can break away from OTAs.
Let’s take a look at some of those below.
Other Marketing Tactics & Disciplines
Social Media for Vacation Rental Companies
As social media continues to grow and become integrated into daily life, it will be increasingly crucial for vacation rental property managers to understand what types of social media work best in your industry.
Research what your direct competitors are doing to know where to focus your attention on social. Because aesthetically appealing imagery is key to getting clients to book, visual platforms like YouTube and Instagram tend to be most effective for professionally managed vacation rentals.
SEO Vacation Rental Content
It is also crucial to note the importance of content creation in this day and age. This is not only for SEO purposes; it is also for the customer’s journey through your website.
More than ever, travelers want a personalized experience they can count on time and time again.
Great vacation rental content allows clients to go on a meaningful journey through your website, proving to them that you understand their unique needs and showing them exactly what to expect if they book with you.
Finally, focusing on local SEO initiatives is critically important right now, as COVID-19 continues to spread. Staycations have become popular as people try to avoid cross-country or international travel.
Local content (such as destination guides that include recommendations for shopping, dining and attractions), coupled with a functioning Google My Business (GMB) page to collect reviews, will help you appeal to vacationers in your region.
Learn More About Vacation Rental SEO Today
Google Ranking Factors
While a property manager doesn't need to understand the nitty gritty aspects of ranking factors, it is important to know they exist.
Google Ranking Factors are a set of guidelines that algorithms follow to ensure they're returning the most relevant webpages when you use a search engine.
"These ranking systems are made up of not one, but a whole series of algorithms. To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings.
The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query—for example, the freshness of the content plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions."
How Search Works, Google
There are a few different broad categories that relate to how well your page will rank on Google search engine results. Those include:
- Off-page ranking factors, such as how many other sites backlink to your site.
- On-page ranking factors, which include how relevant the keywords on your pages are, how they are used and how much quality information is on your site.
- Technical ranking factors: these account for the holistic performance of your site and can be improved with technical SEO.
These are categories that don’t, and probably won’t, change.
However, you should know that the Google algorithm gets updates at least twice a year.
Each time it does, certain parts of those updates can impact your rankings.
The Google Algorithm
If you were to take a cash course in “how the Google algorithm works,” these are the three things you would take away info about.
At a minimum, knowing these terms can help you get your head around the ongoing, strategic improvements you can make to your vacation rental webpage and vacation rental content strategy.
Rankbrain is a core part of Google’s algorithm. It uses machine learning to rank websites for relevance. Essentially, it determines how well your website answers the questions people are asking.
Bert is the totality of the Google algorithm that uses natural language processing (NLP).
Bert has made it easier for websites that craft meaningful, relevant content to outrank keyword stuffers.
And if you're curious, it stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.
Core Web Vitals update (in May, 2021)
The upcoming Core Web Vitals update is going to measure a user's experience of your website which includes speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of pages. This will allow for user experience (UX) related metrics to impact search ranking.
Other factors that will be included are:
- Core Web Vitals
- Security & HTTPS
- Safe Browsing
- Non-Intrusive Interstitials