Vacation Rental SEO: What’s it all About?
Aside from “Can you recommend a good web designer?”, the most popular question Guest Hook gets is “Can you use keywords to improve my SEO?”
In answer to that, we thought we’d put together this vacation rental SEO series to help vacation rental owners and managers navigate the choppy (and changing) waters of SEO.
What’s SEO all about, and how can good copywriting and content play a part?
To add some extra weight and insight, we’ve brought some friends into this discussion…two vacation rental industry gurus with deep SEO know-how:
Together we’ll help you to understand the basics of SEO for vacation rentals, and then show you ways to approach the subject confidently.
Vacation Rental SEO: The Basics
Let’s start slowly! Once you’ve grasped the basics you can move to the next level.
Your Domain Name
When Guest Hook first started out, we had to make an early (and important) business decision: should our domain be vacationrentalcopywriting.com or guesthook.com?
To figure it out, we did our own research and asked the pros.
The resounding response: Literal domain names (i.e. vacationrentalcopywriting.com) carry some importance, but it’s minor. Your energy is better spent looking for domain names that capture your brand, are easy to remember, and roll off the tongue (i.e. guesthook.com, our eventual choice).
Here’s what the pros say:
In my opinion, despite my SEO preferences, Google is preferring branding your domain over keyword stuffing a domain. Typically, it’s easier to get a “branded” domain nowadays as opposed to getting a “keyword heavy domain” like areanamerentals.com.
If I have a client starting a brand new website, I am recommending that we work with a partial EMD (exact match domain). This may mean that they have a brand that incorporates the area name into the domain name like “thevillamyrtlebeach.com” or similar branded domains that still cover the area they are located in.
Today, Google still ranks totally branded domains high in search after they’ve built authority and trustworthiness. Now, if you have a larger rental business and want to work with a more keyword-heavy domain, I think it can be a minor benefit, but often-times great domains are not cheap. If you’re just starting out, stick to branded domains that are open to register and focus on building your content and links.
Your Title Tag
Put simply, this is the blue heading that appears when someone looks at search results, like the below picture:
Title tags are regarded as one of the most important parts of your page structure, both from an SEO perspective and from a common sense perspective.
Think of title tags as signs in a grocery store. Whilst you know roughly where to find cereal, it saves you time (and aimless wandering) when easy-to-read signs clearly identify the “Breakfast Foods” aisle. Title tags help your target audience find what they’re looking for.
And search engines, like humans, favor that kind of clear guidance.
Here’s what the pros say:
Title tags are what I like to refer as “the title of the book”. You’re writing to both your potential guest and to the Google crawler. They should be descriptive, include your target keyword up front and also cover your brand as well.
Typically I will have a title tag like “Area Name Vacation Rentals – Brand Name” on my clients homepage, while custom search pages (like pet friendly rentals or similar) may have more specific titles like “Area Name Pet Friendly Rentals – Brand Name”. Auditing your title tags is the quickest and easiest way to SEO success if you’ve already built some links and domain authority on your website.
Your Header Tags
Perhaps you’ve heard people refer to H1, H2, H3, etc. These are shorthand for headings and sub-headings, designed to give your page some structure and add to overall readability.
For example, the H1 tag on this post is “Vacation Rental SEO Part 1: Understanding the Basics,” followed by an H2 tag “Vacation Rental SEO: What’s it all About?”
Then there are H3 sub-headings, like the “Your Header Tags” above.
From a readability perspective, this is great. A good header structure gives the reader breaks to refocus (and yes, skim) and helps to hold their attention.
From an SEO perspective, title tags are essential. After the title tag, your H1 tag is most important. As such, you should be trying to include your keywords in the H1 tag.
However, as writers we have to urge you to keep it sensible. No 15-word long pile-up of keywords! It still needs to read well.
Here’s what the pros say:
David covered this in the video above!
If the title tag is the title of the book, then the H1 tag is like the subheading: important and helpful for Google to understand what your page is about. H1 tags should also cover the target keyword and typically match your title tag style without a brand name. Andy’s example for this blog post is right on with his target keyword.
Some Factors That Don’t Impact SEO
Here’s a couple more buzzwords you may have heard: meta keywords and meta descriptions. We haven’t covered those yet, and for a good reason… they don’t have any relevance for pure SEO!
Meta keywords are not used by Google. They were used in the distant past and, as a result, you’ll sometimes see a meta keyword tag. Ignore it. Keywords that you use within your content is a different subject…but we’ll get to that.
Your meta description is the part of the search results underneath the blue header. In the picture above (“Your Title Tag”) it’s the part that begins “Copywriting for vacation rental property managers can be overwhelming…”
Whilst meta descriptions have no effect on ranking, they do have an important part to play on the click through rate. That is, the number of browsers (in this case, potential guests) who click your link to engage with your content.
If your meta description bears no relevance to the search term, then guests are less likely to click on it.
A great meta description will complement the page title, summarizing the content of your post in a clear and engaging way.
(Conrad didn’t have anything to add to this particular topic, so we gave him a break on this one.)
Thanks for reading our primer on SEO for vacation rentals, and thanks to David and Conrad for their expert contributions!
Stay tuned for our next post in this series, in which we’ll dig a bit deeper into how you can use SEO to help your rentals get noticed.