This is a guest post by Damian Sheridan, host of The Book Direct Show and a vacation rental SEO consultant
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that we are entering a brand-new era in domestic tourism. The family travel experience is unlikely to be the same for several years, resulting in reduced movement of families and more staycations.
So how can we tap into this trend of domestic travel?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one area of digital marketing that every short-term rental property management company should be aware of. SEO is the process of structuring a website and online presence resulting in a higher ranking on search engines like Google. For hosts on Airbnb, Booking.com and other online travel platforms, good SEO could result in more guest inquiries and bookings.
So, what are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to the SEO of your direct booking website?
1. Think of SEO as a quick fix. It will usually take several months to see even small incremental milestones. It is a time-heavy investment, however, when done well and methodically, SEO should be rewarded with noticeable website traffic increase and organic visitors, inquiries and bookings.
2. Assume what your prospective guests are searching for online. Thorough keyword research is paramount and will unveil popular and surprising search terms before any successful SEO campaign. Use Google tools like keyword planner, search, autocomplete, ‘searches related to’, or ‘people also search for’. Other useful free or low-cost resources include Answer the Public, Keywords Everywhere and Ubersuggest.
3. Stuff your keywords into your content. It may be tempting to try to manipulate search engines to understand your page content better by adding your keywords many times over. However, this is an outdated technique, instead, use related words to describe your content instead of repeating your keywords again and again.
4. Try to compete with large online travel agencies (OTAs) for short-tail keywords. These search terms are usually up to 3 words, for example, ‘Paris Vacation Rentals’. Focus instead on long-tail keyword phrases that include a location, demographic and facilities like ‘Pet-Friendly rentals in Brighton’, ‘Marbella villas with hot tubs’ or ‘Child-friendly cottages in the Cotswolds.”
5. Forget about mobile. The introduction of ‘Google’s ‘Mobile First’ means that we all need to be designing our websites around our mobile version. When adding content or structural changes, make sure your mobile experience is not being hindered.
6. Don’t forget about Google Analytics. There is a wealth of crucial data available to business website owners and managers – and it’s FREE. Know everything about your visitors, where they come from, how they interact and at what point they leave. Property management companies, in my opinion, should be looking at their Google Analytics every day or two.
1. Work on your Google business profile. This is essential for your chances of showing up on the map. Optimize the knowledge you share with potential guests. Claim your Google My Business listing by using Google’s postcard verification process. Choose your business categories and add your logo, lots of high res images, your business name, opening hours, amenities and services.
2. Integrate your identified keywords into your website. Add them to your page content, page title tag, meta description, url slug, image descriptions, headers and internal linking anchor text.
3. Work on your link profile. Each link from another website to yours is essentially like a vote of confidence in the eyes of search engines. Create quality comprehensive content. Share on social media. Reach out to your existing partners to see if they would be willing to link to your site. A good starting point is to focus on local businesses and similar industry organisations before moving onto higher domain authority links.
4. Use video. Start by creating a YouTube channel and begin uploading videos showcasing your property, local area and events. Not only can your video appear for search on both YouTube and Google, but they can be easily embedded on your website to increase your visitor’s ‘dwell time’ and keep people on your site – something search engines favor. Be sure to add your keywords to your YouTube video titles, tags and description to optimize for search.
5. Check out Google Search Console. By integrating Search Console, you can submit your sitemap so Google can crawl your website pages, get notified about any serious errors with your site and explore the many search queries that have resulted in both clicks and impressions across Google search.
6. Add your ‘Book Direct’ incentives on your website homepage for visitors to encourage guests to book directly with you. These can include flexible cancellation, no booking fees, discounts, early check-in, late checkout, free breakfast, complimentary upgrades, free airport pick up, personal customer support and so on. Try to place them ‘above the fold’ where the user does not need to scroll down the page.
For more strategies on navigating COVID-19 and marketing your properties to travelers during the new normal, take a look at Guesty’s Coronavirus Infocenter.