Somewhere between “huge wall of text” and “one sentence” is the sweet spot for the length your vacation rental listing description.
A great target is to aim for roughly 300 or 400 words, especially if those words are broken up into clear sections with sub-headers to help the busy travel planner easily digest your info.
As you can imagine, those 300 words are valuable! How do you make the most of them?
There are the obvious elements to include:
- Your unique selling points
- Breakdown of bed arrangements and number of bathrooms
- How close you are to your destination’s most-visited attractions
Then there’s the not-always obvious elements to include:
- The potential drawbacks at your vacation rental (worth mentioning if they appear in your reviews—or you suspect they might)
- A few well-placed personal details (guests will appreciate a quick story of your favorite memory or activity at the rental)
But what about the elements that you should not include in your listing?
Here are a few elements we recommend leaving out altogether.
Vague, feel-good copy about vacations.
You know what we mean. Overly flowery language that doesn’t do anything to differentiate you from your competition or offer any information about the property itself. For example:
“When’s the last time you had a vacation? You deserve a chance to relax, decompress, and feel the stress melt from your shoulders. Like those innocent days of your childhood when vacations were planned for you and all you had to do was be there. What are you waiting for?”
Sure, this is solid sales writing…and it does create a nice feeling. It has a perfect place in, say, a blog post about how we’ve forgotten what vacations are really all about.
But it’s not right for your listing. Here’s why:
Your vacation rental listing description must be informative, first and foremost. Your potential guests are looking for proof of what your photographs show, and are searching for details that the photographs miss: kid-friendly amenities, bed configurations, is there a gas grill?, would your group feel at home at this rental? etc.
If you don’t give them the concrete information they’re after, impatience will kick-in and they will and click away.
But don’t worry. While you’re busy laying out the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and other somewhat dry details, you can include a few subtle, emotional “hooks” that conjure up a carefree, childhood vacation feeling, if that’s what you’re going for.
“Feel like a kid again at our countryside vacation retreat with a 9-foot, in-ground pool (great for cannonballs!) and 4 acres of grounds to explore.”
Same message, but tightened—and packed with info that guests can actually use. There’s a pool; it’s deep enough for cannonballs; there’s acreage, etc.
Location details that sell your destination, not your place.
There are two kinds of location info we see in listing descriptions:
1. Information about how close rentals are to the major attractions in their area (the sights and activities that draw people to the destination in the first place).
2. Information about your surrounding area, in general (i.e. who visits, why they visit, what’s awesome about your city).
We are huge advocates for showcasing your destination expertise. But with only 300 words, your listing description must focus on #1 instead of #2.
There’s no need to sell potential guests on Ft. Lauderdale. If they’re searching for Ft. Lauderdale rentals, they probably already know why it’s great. That’s why they’re visiting!
Instead, when you talk about location, mention specifics about your place in relation to the town or city’s highlights, like how far you are to the beach, and your favorite restaurant within walking distance.
The key difference? If you have a rental in Ft. Lauderdale, your direct competitors are also located in Ft. Lauderdale. But they’re not all beachfront/oceanfront/canal-front. And they don’t all know that Sammy’s Seafood down the street has a great all-you-can-eat shrimp on Tuesdays.
Specificity (and setting yourself apart) wins again.
An explanation of why vacation rentals are better than hotels.
It’s a good impulse: hotels are still the accommodation of choice for many travelers. Why not use the listing to explain why vacation rentals are better?
Because, same as above, these are wasted words: most likely, your target guest is searching VRBO/HomeAway/Airbnb because they’ve already seen the light and are planning to book a VR instead of a hotel. No need to sell them on it.
Sure, there may be a straggler who stumbles onto HomeAway and has no idea what vacation rentals are. But, even then, they’ll quickly learn, if you’ve used informative words to describe your home!
Deals Deals Deals!
This one is a little controversial. Many will disagree. But, in our experience, spending your valuable listing real estate on GREAT FALL DEALS and SPECTACULAR WINTERTIME SAVINGS! 10% OFF NOW! is not a good choice.
In truth, the only thing your potential guests care about is the nightly rate that shows up on the listing site in the moment of their search. They don’t care if it’s 10% less than what you were charging last week…because they didn’t know what your rates were a week ago.
The only context they have is how your rates stack up–right now, at this exact moment–against other similar rentals in the same market. And the proof is in the pudding: everyone’s rates are displayed right next to each other in the search results. No winter deal in the world will help if your rates are higher than your closest competitor.
Even worse, advertising could hurt, because it looks gimmicky. Your best bet is to explain why your rental is a great option, and then wow them with a price that stacks up against your neighboring rentals. No ALL CAPS YELLING!! needed.
This is not to say that you should never offer or advertise deals. But they are going to be much more effective when shared with guests who have already stayed with you.
Go ahead and send a newsletter or e-card to past guests and let them know you’ve discounted your rates for the season, and show the “old” average nightly rate crossed out and replaced with the “new” average nightly rate. Make it clear it’s a deal you’re only offering to past guests–an exclusive. A newsletter works because you’re a known quantity to your past guests, and they understand the value they’re getting because they have context for the experience.
Case in point: I just bought a new pair of New Balance running shoes. I’ve been wearing New Balance on my jogs for the last decade; I know exactly what they cost (usually between $90 – $110) and the comfort/performance I can expect. When I found a pair going for $80, discounted from $90, I knew it was a great deal and I snapped them up right away. I had context for the purchase.
But if faced with an entire wall of new running shoes I’d never worn before, I wouldn’t rely on sales prices alone to make my decision. It’s too important to me. Instead I’d read reviews, learn about the product, then choose my pair.
Most guests will treat vacation rentals the same way. Deals work if your guests have already stayed with you and know the context. New guests will need something a little more.
In short? To create a great vacation rental listing description, you have to value your potential guest’s time and get straight to the point: what do you have to offer that your neighbor’s don’t?
Keep that question in mind as you write, and the engaged guests will follow.