Amy Hinote of VRM Intel recently published an editorial that’s lighting up the vacation rental world.
In it, she discusses the top of the funnel—the way in which guests begin the booking process—and if that “intro” to vacation rentals is open to anyone but OTAs. Even when guests book directly, do they do so after finding the listing on an OTA first? Are the big listing sites where all guests begin their booking journey?
And if that’s the case, how can property managers even begin to compete with OTAs?
One way, Hinote smartly concludes, is through “destination oriented marketing and expertise.”
“Leverage destination expertise and local marketing channels to the fullest. PMs can compete fiercely with OTAs locally. It may not be realistic to be the best in the world, but you can be known as the most trusted, knowledgeable, professional vacation rental provider in your market.”
Which got us thinking: what’s the roadmap to becoming the most trusted vacation rental provider in your market?
First and foremost, your rentals and management need to be top-notch. But it goes beyond that.
We at Guest Hook have an idea on how to establish yourself as a destination authority. And, as you might have guessed, it starts with content.
1. Create content, and make it personal.
When you’re trying to become the “most trusted, knowledgeable, professional vacation rental provider in your market,” your content needs to be two-pronged.
First, it needs to inform. Every blog post, guide, or video you publish should provide potential guests with useful information that makes their trips better.
Second, it needs to have personality. You’re not just selling your destination, after all. You’re selling your vacation rental brand as the best way to experience that destination. Your readers need to understand who you are in order to believe you’re an authentic destination expert.
Why is being genuine so important? Because today, more than ever, readers are smarter and savvier about blatant ads. In fact, according to Search Engine Journal, 84% of millennials (soon to be the majority of your guests!) don’t like advertising at all.
So skip the sales pitch and make your content both informative and authentic—by sharing the destination you love, in your own voice.
Take a look at Splashy Venture’s three-day dining guide to Gulfport, for example. Owner Beth Sexworth divulges her favorite dishes and local tips in a tone that makes readers feel like they’re talking with an old friend.
Or Beside the Sea’s guide to dog-friendly beaches in Sussex. Owners Richard and Sophie’s beloved pup Oscar shares the best spots for sand-loving pups, creating an instant and playful connection with dog-owning guests.
2. Know what readers are searching for.
Googling “vacation rentals in [your destination]” may not be a method that OTA-loyal vacationers will ever take. And even if they did, the OTAs would dominate the results!
But you can bet they’ll search for other vacation-related terms (for example “best restaurants in Miami”, “ski resorts in Vail”, or “best beaches in the south”).
Don’t limit yourself to ranking only for vacation rental-specific terms. Learn what readers are interested in by researching which destination-related keywords have decent search volume. Then create content that focuses on them.
For our clients who have taken this approach, the benefits have been two-fold: they’ve established their expertise by answering the most searched-for questions, and they’ve increased their search engine rankings for topics across the spectrum. In fact, they’ve often climbed their way to the first page of Google results for an array of location-specific terms.
3. Get active on social media.
We don’t need to tell you that scrolling through Facebook is easier than seeking out information. All of us are guilty of mindless scrolling from time to time—including your potential guests.
So if you can make your vacation rental business pages follow-worthy, you can be a regular part of their daily browsing—and become their go-to expert.
Don’t just post often; post intentionally. Every post should inform or inspire; never clutter your follower’s feeds with low-quality or irrelevant content just to hit an arbitrary quota of posts per day or week.
For some inspiration, take a look at how Nancy McAleer of Anna Maria Island Beach Life built her loyal following.
Besides serving as a platform to garner guests’ attention, social media also offers a way to connect with your local community. Which brings us to our next point…
4. Collaborate with your neighbors.
Your vacation rental business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You’re surrounded by restaurants, boutiques, ski resorts, marinas, museums, theaters, markets…
Celebrate those places! They’re part of what makes your destination worth visiting.
Start with social media. Announce your local theater company’s newest production on Facebook, and tag them in the post. Share your mouth-watering breakfast at your local cafe on Instagram, and geotag it.
But then make those relationships deeper. Reach out and see how you can mutually help each other. Can you mention them in your destination guide, and will they link to it on their site? Can you write guest blog posts for each other on the topics you’re experts in?
In a world where vacation rentals are received with increasing scrutiny, being a good neighbor is crucial. Show that you’re dedicated to your community—not just profiting from it.
5. Cement yourself as a local expert.
It takes a lot of work to become the first hospitality brand that people think of—or suggest—in your destination. But if you’ve worked through the steps above, you’re on your way.
Once you’ve created enough content and formed strong enough relationships with your local community, ride that wave to cement your position as an area expert.
Put the reputation you’ve built to good use by reaching out to local publications and blogs. Can you contribute to your local tourism magazine? Will a travel blogger feature your rentals and interview you?
Think of ways to be seen and heard that wouldn’t be possible if you were simply a faceless, brandless listing on the big OTAs. Then go out and establish yourself.
Need some direction on your journey to destination expert? Reach out to Guest Hook today. We’ll ask you questions to identify your needs and goals and come up with a content strategy together.