VRS185 – Are you planning on building a new vacation rental website?

Are you planning on building a new website, or want to make some changes to your current one? If so, this episode could be for you.

The topic came about in response to a request from Sanjiv Sandhu, a member of our Vacation Rental Formula Facebook Group (VRF members only), and at the start seemed a simple list-based question:

What are the key elements for an amazing website?

That seemed easy – a great home page; amazing photos; easy to access rates and availability; an amenity list; an About Us page to help create a relationship; FAQs; a blog with consistently delivered posts; quality content; easy navigation…all with well-written copy.

Well maybe not that easy or simple, but given that list, most owners could start creating their website without too much difficulty.

Then I came across a post on the Say NO To VRBO Facebook group, and it gave a different perspective on it.

Here’s the post:

“I say this to be helpful, not critical, so please take it as such.
I made a Facebook post on one of the Facebook pages sometimes mentioned here, asking blindly for rentals over Thanksgiving. I mentioned a state I wanted to visit, but I wanted fresh ideas on locations. I did ask for NO VRBO links.

I got a few great ideas.

And I got some horrible websites.

Here are some of my complaints:

*i have no idea where this is located (no map)

After getting frustrated I asked one lady about a map. She said you click this, hover over that, scroll down, and click map. Ok…right. I should have known that.

*i have been on the website 10 minutes and I still don't know if you have a pool

*so much STUFF I can't find the basics

(All these plug-ins like weather and 10 other things make it so busy and overwhelming I just want to leave the site. I am NEVER coming to your site to check the weather. I have an app for that. That's just one example but I'm at your site to see your property. Not 50 other links about what the dolphins had for dinner last night and how he sun's ray can damage your skin).

*some links don't work

*one lady I told her NONE of her links worked from PC. She said they work from phone and mac and to try back later. Ok I did. They don't work. ?

In my opinion less is more. Within 20 seconds on your page I want to see a map, pictures, rates, a calendar, and an amenity list. If you have tons of rambling text I am not going to read any of your text

I agree with a lot of this, and some I disagree with, so thought it would be interesting to speak directly to the poster and ask her more about what she looks for in a vacation rental website.

So thanks to Danica Thornburg Connell for posting, and for joining me to talk about it in greater depth.

The remainder of the episode explores some of the issues Danica raised in our conversation and covers:

  • What is useful and what is not on a website
  • Why it’s important to know your personas and speak to them in your website content
  • Whether less is more – the arguments for and against
  • The 8 key elements of a website (my personal opinion)

Links mentioned in this episode:

Terry Whyte

Thank you Heather. Danica is going to be our guest in November. Appreciate the feedback on our website. Antonio is building us a new website which will be live in the next few weeks. We hope to address the short comings of our current site.

    Heather Bayer

    I had no idea that was your listing Danica chose! Can’t wait to see your new site too.

Erin Raub

Loved this episode, Heather! Your conclusion, in particular, really resonated with me: “You can provide a huge amount of content on your website. You just have to make it accessible for the people who want it, but not too cluttered for the people who don’t.”

The key to good copy is just what you said: You write for the planners who like to read everything, but make it scannable for the people who just want to know the most important details. Be straightforward. Use great headings, bullet points, lists, and bold text (sparingly). Write clearly.

Your website design should echo this: Embrace white space. Cut out extraneous junk. Use color to draw attention where you want it drawn. Carefully structure the layout of your menus and sub-menus. Use internal links, so those planners can easily map their own path through your site.

Remember that, at the end of the day, the goal of your site is not to impress (or overwhelm) people; it’s to get bookings. A robust yet direct route to that goal will have the best results.

    Heather Bayer

    Thank you Erin and how lovely to hear from you. You make some great points here – so many sites are built by owners who want to share everything they know but perhaps need a little help in knowing where to put it all!

      Erin Raub

      For sure. I often find it helpful to forget the screen and put pen to paper. (Old school can be the best school, at least for my brain!)

      Write out all the basic information you want to include (Home, About, Property, Amenities, etc.), and then map it to clear, minimal (yet logical) menus. For example, “The Villa” menu could drop down to show pages for Location, Amenities (villa amenities), and Floor Plan.

      There’s no one right way to structure your site. Just shoot for clear, intuitive, and uncluttered.

Bev Pomfret

Great podcast and lots of food for thought. Review of my website coming up I think.
Help though – I can’t find the show notes or the link to your cottage and 3D views. Can you point me in the right direction please


Great podcast and lots of food for thought.
Review of my website coming up I think.
though . . .
I can’t find the show notes or the link to your cottage and 3D
Can you point me in the right direction please


Great Podcast – lots of food for thought. Website review coming up I think.
But help.
I can’t find the show notes or the link to your 3D mapping.
Do I just need new specs????

    Shawn Broskoff Teasley

    I was looking for the link to the 3D mapping of her cottage as well.

        Shawn Broskoff Teasley

        Thanks Heather, what a great addition to help guests see the space in such a thorough way!!!!

    Heather Bayer

    The show notes are just above these comments….


Great Podcast Heather. It was extremely interesting to hear the thoughts and needs of a traveler. I have to say I’ve had my website for a long time and missed the mark on the most basic element…. a MAP!!! After listening to your show I was able to find a free custom map website and created one to match my brand. Thank you for all you do!

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