Top 10 Tips from Google Boot Camp for Vacation Rentals - Vacation Rental Formula

Top 10 Tips from Google Boot Camp for Vacation Rentals

google_lego So, was it worth leaving the frozen north to battle through TSA checks, 4 flights, 2 kilometres of walking the concourse at Dulles International, and two days of really bad coffee, just for a taste of Florida sunshine and a course on Google Analytics and all things related to SEO and vacation rentals?

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes!

I had heard of Blizzard Internet before, and had attended a seminar delivered by company owner and President, Trent Blizzard, at the VRMA conference last year in San Antonio. That experience, plus a good look through their website and a motivation to learn more about web site traffic, was enough to fire me off on a last minute trip to Pensacola last week. I wasn’t disappointed – in fact the content and the delivery of it added up to the best course I’ve ever attended, and I don’t give that accolade lightly. As a management trainer for 20 years before getting involved in the vacation rental management field, I have a pretty jaded perspective and low tolerance for what I’ve experienced as ‘training’ in the past. To keep attention, it must be dynamic; reach the target audience at the appropriate level, and generate energy and engagement. A good trainer reflects the energy and dynamics of the group and Trent really delivered. Kudos to him and his team for an excellent course – it was well worth the time, money…. and the coffee.

Yes, I enjoyed the course and got a ton out of it. After a day back I’m still sorting through notes and evaluating what was important to me as a vacation rental manager and what would work for individual vacation rental owners. Here are my 10 key takeaways as I think they would relate to owners, and I’ll be expanding on them for a series of articles on Renting for Profit. Sign up for the newsletter and I will let you know when they are published.

1. Google Analytics is a great tool

If you haven’t got GA on your site do it today. It’s a fantastic tool that will give you a load of information on who is visiting your site; which pages works the best and which doesn’t; what keywords are finding you and much more. If you are serious about tracking visitors to you site and improving the traffic this is a must. And, it’s free – what more can you ask for? Lots more information here

2. Don’t pollute your Google Analytics data with your own visits

I visit my web site a dozen times a day as do the staff in our office, and this can be a very effective way to skew the data you are trying to collect. Here’s a quick method to tell Google to filter out those visits. Just be aware that if your visitor stats are fairly low, they will drop lower after you do this, so filtering yourself out might send you into a state of depression. Alternatively, you’ll realize this is a great opportunity to do some SEO work on your site.

3. Fear is the biggest emotion

With so many scams and media attention to them, it’s not surprising that potential guests are freaked out by the sheer volume of rental listings and websites featuring vacation rentals, cottages and homes. As owners we need to address the fear by creating trust and credibility – also known as social proof. Professional looking web sites backed by solid testimonials and linked to by relevant sites can help achieve that.

4. Make your call to action a simple one

Your site should have a call to action – something that tells your visitors what to do next, but it needs to be simple. If they can’t find it easily, they may just move on to the next listing. You may be surprised at what works on a site and what doesn’t, so take a look at Which Test Won for some examples of testing the impact of different aspects of a web site

5. People going to Facebook tend to be less engaged

Do Facebook users have more ADD tendencies than other web surfers? Perhaps, since they show less general engagement than those less committed to checking their FB page every five minutes. So, if your web site has an FB badge prominently displayed at the top of the page, you run the risk of sending those visitors off to Facebook where they may immediately lose attention and go off on another tangent, thereby lost to you forever.

6.  Google personalises results

Surprise, surprise….Google knows who you are and may be personalizing results of your searches to bring you what it thinks you want based on previous searches, your online surfing habits, and the contents of your cat’s litter tray. Well, not so much the last, but you get my drift. The point of this is when you are diligently searching for your web site on Google using every keyword phrase you can think of, the results you get may not be the same as your target audience searching for the same phrase.

7.  Improving user experience may improve Google ranking

Google isn’t just looking for the skillful use of meta titles, descriptions and keywords – see next point about keywords – it looks for content relevant to those metatags. It also gives preference to sites that have good internal links and smooth navigation through the site.

8.  Keywords are not important 

Keywords are just not that important any more so keep them simple and don’t stuff the meta keyword tag with every keyword you can think of. It’s better to use keyword phrases that target the ‘long tail’ search. Research from SEOMOZ shows that conversion rates are higher from 3 or 4-word key word phrases than shorter or longer ones. For example, a phrase such as “beach rental northern france” may yield more conversions than “normandy”.

9.  Google Places is where you should be

maine coast
Have your registered your business with Google Places? This could stand you out from the competition and give you the opportunity to list more than once on the Google page – once with your text listing and also with a Google Placemark. It just gives you more clout and makes your listing more visible. Check it out – it’s way more than just a map – you can list events and offers that will appear alongside your business listing. Google Places doesn’t work for everyone but it is worth checking out.

10.  Put a customer testimonial on every section of your site

This goes back to social proofing. People who buy products, or look for products online, read reviews, and having a good quantity of reviews on your listing or site will increase your conversion rate. However, there is a secondary benefit to showing testimonials. They add to your credibility and create confidence in your site visitors. The testimonials must be genuine and you must have the means of backing them up or giving proof of their authenticity. If you use Flipkey or are registered with Trip Advisor, use the badges they provide.

There was so much more and I’ll be sorting through it and delivering more of the Blizzard wisdom over the next weeks. These guys know what they are talking about so take a look around their site and sign up for their newsletter. I would sign up for another course in a heartbeat so if you have the chance to attend a seminar, I strongly recommend it.

Google Lego Image by Keso on Flickr

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