Andy and I faced a challenge this past week at the Vacation Rental World Summit in Barcelona (our lives are so tough, aren’t they?):
Speak about copy and content before a crowd of 100 vacation rental owners, managers and vendors.
Immediately following a two-hour lunch.
That included paella, wine, and cheesecake.
I joked that it was a familiar scenario for me, a former college writing instructor who had to learn how to keep a tough audience awake.
But our worries were unfounded: we underestimated this crowd of engaged, motivated, and in fact, very awake people. (Aside from one sleeper in the back row. You know who you are. And we forgive you.)
In particular, our slide called “Words to Use and Avoid in Your Vacation Rental Description” got a reaction. I suspect because many people realized they’d made some mistakes in their listing descriptions – particularly when it comes to words we should avoid.
Think you might have included the same “no-no” words as the super-smart crew we met in Barcelona?
Check out our list of words to avoid below. We’ll explain what they are and why they simply don’t work in vacation rental marketing.
I can feel the resistance to this one already. Before you protest, know that you can use modifiers like “best” and “most” in your description.
But under one very important condition – you have to have the proof to back up that claim.
“This is the best vacation rental on Florida’s Gulf Coast” is a no go. Just don’t do it!
Your guests will see right past the hyperbole, making the words completely meaningless. And when you have just a few lines to capture a guest’s interest, every word counts.
Here’s a better way:
“75% of our guest reviews mention that this is one of the best-located condos at Seashell Breeze Resort – right beside beach access on the ground floor.”
That improved sentence uses the word “best,” but also offers concrete proof of your claim.
(Dust off your college writing textbooks because this is just like creating a thesis, then offering support for that thesis. It’s the structure of nearly every successful argument ever written.)
If you have third party, unbiased support for your claims of best/most/award-winning, shout it from the rooftops. Otherwise, skip these words in favor of more concrete details.
This word is a double-whammy. It’s both hyperbolic AND a cliché. It’s used so often that it’s like a political ad in a Facebook feed: your guests’ eyes will skip right past it.
Instead of using “awesome” and adjectives like it (“incredible,” “phenomenal,” “amazing”), focus instead on punchy, descriptive words that call to mind a specific image or feeling.
Contemporary (or other architectural terms as applicable – Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco, etc.)
Of course, these aren’t one-size-fits-all words – it depends on what you have to offer at your rental. But you’ll notice each of these calls to mind some sort of actual image.
When you hear “awesome” – there’s no stock imagery for that, so it becomes meaningless. These phrases, on the other hand, will stick in your guests’ minds in a way that awesome never will.
3. Excellent customer service. (Bonus: “Great guest experiences.”)
This phrase gets a spot on the AVOID list because everyone thinks they have great customer service and provide “top-notch experiences for guests.”
And they probably do, actually. As we learned at the VRWS, today’s hosts and managers care more about the guest experience than ever before.
But if everyone offers great customer service, guess what happens? It ceases to be a unique selling point. It’s an expectation.
So I’ll make this point again: It’s not enough to say your guest services are great. You have to prove it. Maybe you offer a welcome basket for each set of guests. Maybe you have a concierge staff at your management company who is on call 24/7.
And so on.
Think about it in terms of what guests want: they want a person they can trust. They want to know that if the garage door gets stuck, someone will come out to get it open. They want to know the place is clean, well-stocked, and as represented in the photos and description when they booked.
Simply saying “We have great customer service” does nothing to assuage the common fears your guests experience. Strike this from your vocab and get specific about what sets you apart.
OK – it’s true that some guests really are keen to find the best deal. But no one wants to feel like they’re actually making a cheap-o decision. Especially not when it comes to vacations, which are many people’s once-a-year splurge investment.
On a listing site results page, guests will see your nightly rate and compare it with your competition. Shouting about “BEST DEAL OF THE YEAR!” Or “YOU WON’T BELIEVE THESE RATES!” just screams to your guest that your rental is sub-par. And a cheap nightly rate isn’t enough to combat the worry that they’ll end up with a not-well-maintained rental and a hearty dose of buyer’s remorse.
And there you have it. Now get over to your listing to see which of these “sins” you’ve committed!