Last week, I taught workshops on copywriting for VR Mastered, the vacation rental “bootcamp” organized by industry powerhouses Alanna Schroeder and Tyann Marcink.
One of the topics I covered in my talk was keywords. And as I explained, there are two ways of looking at keywords: the left-brain way and the right-brain way.
As you’ve probably heard by now, keywords are a way for customers to find you through the magic of Google—they are signposts to help the search engine’s crawlers find and deliver relevant content to us all. That’s the left-brained way of looking at keywords.
Then, on the right-brained, less-technical side, keywords are a way of conveying concepts to your audience in a digestible, bite-sized way. For example, “Our home is the pinnacle of relaxation for you and your family to make lifetime memories together” can be succinctly summed up with a word or phrase like “restful,” “memorable,” or “family-friendly.”
Both types of keywords are absolutely essential to your vacation rental business marketing. Once you find your keywords, they should become the cornerstone of your vacation rental marketing copy.
It wasn’t until after I gave my talk on keywords (of course) that I began to notice that very same keywords-for-branding concept in full display at the VR Mastered event venue, the delightful Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, California.
Hotel Paradox’s branding is a thing of beauty. Taking inspiration from the towering redwoods that surround the property (including the ones that shade the pool) and its retro, roadside motel vibe, Hotel Paradox’s brand includes a giant, raw wood front desk, wood-paneled walls in the guest rooms, and interesting vintage objects tucked away in the corridors and beside the elevators.
But, as a word nerd, I’m most interested in their well-placed keywords—their branded copywriting.
Once I started paying attention, words were everywhere at Hotel Paradox. On welcome mats. On glass feature walls. On the room keycards. I began collecting these little nuggets.
Boldly going nowhere.
It feels good to be lost in the right direction.
Exactly like nothing else.
Wander with direction.
I started to imagine the brand strategy meeting (yes, I’m a dork) where the copywriters sat (probably in a sleek, glass-walled room with an espresso machine) brainstorming ways to convey the hotel’s brand through a few well-chosen phrases.
I quickly realized there were two organizing principles behind their keyword choices. One is the theme of “exploration.” The other is “paradox.”
It’s really quite brilliant once you start unpacking it!
“Paradox”—as in Hotel Paradox, of course—means “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.”
Imperfectly perfect. Wander with direction.
Ah ha! It is true that something’s imperfections can make them even more perfect. And that wandering doesn’t have to mean you have no clue where you’re going.
Two bite-sized paradoxes—one on a postcard left on the bed and another on the room’s keycard.
They’ve also seized on another important message in their brand: exploration. And, perhaps more importantly, exploring in a way that feels safe.
“Let’s try to capture the whimsy of travel,” I can imagine them saying in that brand strategy meaning, “while also showing that guests have a comfy, secure place to come home to when they’re done exploring.”
I also poked around their website a bit to uncover even more keywords that fit the theme. And there were lots!
Hotel Paradox’s keywords:
And their tagline sums it all up quite nicely: “Expect the unexpected.”
See how all the above words revolve around a solid concept?
If you’re up for it, try taking the “keywords challenge” for your own vacation rental rental business.
Don’t think too hard—just pull out a piece of paper (or open a Google doc, if you’re modern) and start collecting down some words and phrases that remind you of your vacation rental and the vibe you hope to capture there for your guests. Then, incorporate these keywords in your listing site description, your tagline, your newsletters and other content marketing… social media… I could go on.
Remember, these are different from Google/search engine keywords, which require a bit of technical research to determine which will perform best. We’re talking about creative keywords that package up who you are and what your business stands for.
If you’re extra-bold, share your vacation rental branding keywords in the comments. Or shoot us an email with you came up with. I’d love to see them!