Results from a 2007 Yahoo Travel survey revealed 'that 61% of those questioned now go online for vacation recommendations. Travellers are no longer just searching for a hotel based on price, they are now mainly looking for user reviews, user ratings and photos.' Sites such as Trip Advisor have areas where visitors can leave testimonials, both good and bad, and this transparency and viral feedback is contributing to a new wave of word of mouth marketing.
Clients visiting your web site or listing want to read what you have written about your vacaction home, but they also want to hear real accounts from real people who have stayed there too. Some of the larger listing sites offer testimonials as a part of their package, however read the small print carefully. If you are happy for any of your guests to log in and have their say with no chance of you seeing it before it is published, this may be a route to go. This would be OK with me – I'm quite confident that my guests will provide honest and hopefully all-positive feedback. If this would worry you, then perhaps you should revisit your listing and make sure it is transparently open about your property and what people should expect.
If you are using a blog platform for your web site, then you'll have a comments section which can be a great place for guests to ask questions, make comments and suggestions. This makes it real for people who are jaded by all the listings saying exactly the same thing about ‘comfortable beds', and ‘well equipped kitchens'. On a blog, negative comments may be submitted but you do have the control to approve them or not and including the negative ones can work in your favour as potential guests perceive the feedback as genuine.
You could simply create a page for your testimonials that you can copy out of the guest book and contact your guests and ask them if it's OK to use their feedback. Scanning pages from your guest book is another option but on many occasions they are not legible and don't read well on a computer screen. Don't be tempted to make up your own comments – this goes into the text you use to describe your property, not an area where you are claiming it is genuine feedback from guests.
There's some good tips in Dean Rieck's article on Copy Blogger about how to use Powerful Testimonials. His advice covers whether you can edit or not; using quotation marks to attract interest, and how you can use long quotes for maximum impact.
Adding a guest book such as the one offered here is one option. It is free but the downside is that the page will show ads supplied by the software provider. You can upgrade to their Premium Service and have the ads removed, but then it becomes a payable option. Another negative aspect is that the comments are anonymous. There is a way of identifying some who has made a comment but it's not that easy. Even though you can edit and approve comments, there is no way of telling if the person has been a genuine client or is just making some mischief.
Testimonials are a powerful way of spreading the word. Use them wisely and you'll create a loyal following.