Why is a web designer telling you that? Shouldn’t I be trolling for your business?
Not at the expense of selling you something you may not need.
I love building vacation home websites. It’s almost as much fun as taking a vacation.
However, the cost of a custom website, with the quality and attention to detail that I bring to my work, is in the thousands of dollars, not in the hundreds.
Furthermore, if your budget is limited, a custom website is not the first place that you as a vacation rental owner should spend your advertising money.
The top positions in the search engines are typically occupied by large vacation rental sites that work hard to capture and maintain those positions. They have full-time search engine optimizers (“SEOs”) keeping them at the top, while competing with the other large vacation rental sites as well as with you.
You should list with one or more of them first.
An annual subscription with a large vacation rental site such as HomeAway Vacation Rentalscosts $300 or more. That price gives you an extensive listing where you can go into great detail about your property and the area, as well as a large number of photos. From the customer’s point of view, these rental sites help them compare one property to another.
HomeAway.com also has a pay-as-you-go option, with $0 down and 10% of bookings, which may work better for some people.
There are some other, more economical rental sites that you may discover doing well with search engines.
To decide which rental sites to list with, search Google for “vacation rentals [your location]” replacing [your location] with the town, region, province or state that you think people would most commonly use. “Vacation rental” has become one of the primary keywords in this business, but you can try some variations as well.
For example, there is only one Wolfville in the world, so when I search “vacation rentals Wolfville”, Google gives me the websites of a couple of my clients as well as several big vacation rental sites, including HomeAway.com.
You can set up these listings yourself. The sites ask many detailed questions that only you can answer. I have, however, helped clients who were not comfortable or capable of doing it by themselves create or edit listings over the phone.
For some properties, however, a website can be a good investment.
These vacation rental sites do not allow you to portray the unique character of your property other than through the allowed photos and descriptions. With a good website, you can do much more:
- Describe the house on your own terms, visually and verbally.
- Show as many photos as you want.
- Portray the personality of the place.
- Provide a permanent address for incoming links, which build value to the website and thus to your rental business, for example from:
- Tourism organizations;
- Setting up packages or exchanging links with other local businesses.
- Advertise web address in print media.
- Have a business card for the property with the web address.
- Provide information on the history of an interesting old property.
- Provide more extensive information about the area.
- Anything you can think of!
If you plan to own and rent out the property for many years, a website could be a very good investment.
Even if you do have a website, nowadays you must nonetheless list the property with some vacation rental sites to get the targeted traffic they can provide.
You can usually link to your website from your listing, though you should completely fill out the forms on the rental sites anyway. It takes time for a new website to get well positioned with the search engines.
I have built websites for a number of vacation rental homes over the last 11 years or so. My clients have all been very happy with my work. Their customers rave about the websites. I have even survived ownership changes!
I endeavor to build each site to reflect the colour scheme and personality of the place. Photos predominate. I figure that the people who will like the house should be attracted by the website. The two should match.
Once built, the website needs minimal maintenance from year to year. Typically, I have updated dates and prices annually by request of the owner, adding or replacing a few photos from time to time, and done a big overhaul every 5 or 6 years to bring the site more in line with the state of the house and the look of the internet.
Here are some vacation rental websites I have built:
P.S. and Disclaimer, April 2014: I published this article three years before becoming an affiliate of HomeAway.com. For three years I sent potential clients to HomeAway instead of to my own services, for no personal gain whatsoever. Hopefully that will convince you that even if you click on a link to HomeAway in this article and subsequently register your property with them, which may result in a commission for me at no cost to you, you are still getting good advice here. This article was not written in order to get commission money from HomeAway.com. Furthermore, I still stand by the opinions expressed in the article. ~ HH