20 MISTAKES MADE ON HOLIDAY RENTAL WEBSITES
Think of your website as your online show window. It is there to entice potential guests to book with you.
Your holiday rental website needs to show confidence and trust. You have a great property with a bunch of glowing reviews – it should be easy, shouldn’t it?
But many people get their holiday rental website so wrong. Here are 20 mistakes the I often see made.
1. Spreading your content out over too many pages
Guests do not want to have to search through several pages on your site for the information they need. Make a note about how Airbnb lays out their listings. Make it easy for the guests and have all the top level information on the first (home) page. You can use anchor tags at the top so guests can jump right to the information they are looking for. Use the other pages in your site for more detailed information of your property or blog posts.
2. No direct booking engine
The ultimate goal for your website is for guests to book with you, right? So why do so many websites ask guests to ring them or book through an OTA (online travel agent like Airbnb)? There are two main reasons why this is a huge mistake.
The first is that you are making it harder for the guest to book with you. They are already on your website. They want to stay at your property. If they can’t book the dates they want right there and then… they’ll move on.
The second is why are you promoting another business instead of your own? By asking guests to book through an OTA, you are telling them that you don’t have confidence in your business.
This will also cost you money – you have to pay commission and the guest has to be pay booking fees.
You can offer incentives for potential guests to book with you for example no booking fees, early check in or late check out or even a special welcome basket.
Having a direct booking engine saves you money. It saves the guest money. It allows the guest to book right away.
3. Only one ‘book now’ button
Top right-hand corner of your homepage is where the ‘book now’ button goes, right? Yes but that is not just where it goes. Pepper your website with ‘book now’ buttons. You never know where your potential guest will be on your site when they decide to book. Plus it is a great reminder for them to keep seeing on your site to prompt them into making a booking.
And make sure you have your contact information on every page of your site. Make it easy for potential guests to get in touch if they have a question or need help.
4. No ‘About’ section
Did you know that the ‘About’ section is the most important on your site?
Because those guests looking to book your property need to have a connection with you. They need to feel like they know a bit about you. Your story builds trust with potential guests.
The ‘About’ section of your website is one of the first places people look for on your site. They want to know about you first and then about your property.
You don’t have to share personal secrets. You don’t have to share any personal information at all. But sharing why you do what you do; what the property means to you or what you love about it will help create that connect with those looking at your website.
Craft a story. Add photos. Add a video. Create an area on your website where you can create a personal connection with those looking to book your property.
5. Using the same description that you have on the OTAs/Listing sites
If you are using the same description in multiple places online then your SEO will suffer. Google likes original content-rich copy. If the same thing is seen over and over again – Google will punish you.
You may think that by keeping the text the same that you are being consistent in your branding. But that isn’t correct. You keep your branding consistent through your tone of voice and the words you use not by using the exact copy on multiple sites.
6. Images that are too small
There is nothing worse than not being able to see where you are going to be staying. Use the space you have online and show off your property. There is no reason to have tiny image thumbnails on your site.
I actually had a property owner say to me ‘you can click on the image to make it bigger’. My immediate thought was – why are you making your potential guest do all the work? They aren’t going to click on every image. There is nothing there to lead them through the property visually. This will not help your ideal guest picture themselves in your property.
7. Images with huge file sizes
There are two ways to think of images. The first is above where your images are too small on the page for your potential guests to see the detail. The second is having images with huge file sizes. This will only slow down your site. You need large images on the site but with file sizes as small as you can. If your website takes too long to load then the guest won’t stick around. You need your site up quickly to capture their interest.
8. Unprofessional photos
Yes, hiring a photographer is another expense but it is essential in showing your property off at its best. You want them to be able to picture themselves enjoying their holiday and staying in your property. A professional photographer will help you do this. With the right staging and professional photographer, you will wow your ideal guest.
9. Too many plugins
Another thing which will slow you down if you are creating your own site is having too many plugins. You may think you need all the shiny tools but you don’t. Only have the ones you are using loaded on your site and delete the rest.
10. Too many choices in your menu
Keep your website simple. Don’t overload it with multiple pages that you don’t need. You want to guide the guest through your site from the home page to booking your property. Think about their viewing journey. What do they need to see, read or hear to book with you. A lot of information can go together. You don’t need an entire ‘about’ page – it can be a section. You don’t need an entire ‘booking’ page – booking buttons should be throughout your entire site.
11. Not designed for mobile
Think about how often you use your mobile to look at the internet then think of your ideal guest. They will be doing the same. Most people will be looking at your site on their mobile. It needs to be perfect for the screen size. This is called using a responsive design where no matter what screen your website is being viewed on, the design changes to fit. This is not without issues. Sometimes it goes wrong and the only way you will know is if you test your site on different screens.
I saw a property’s post a while ago talking about their new website and how they loved the video on the home page. I clicked the link. There was no video. I was confused. If I was potential guest I would probably have stopped there and moved on. But I had a look from my laptop and there was the video! They hadn’t bothered to check if the video worked on mobile screens. I wonder what else they hadn’t checked before launching their new site.
12. NOT KEEPING AN EYE ON THE ANALYTICS
Once your website is active, you need to open an account with Google Analytics. This is the only way you’ll know what is working and what isn’t on your site.
You’ll begin to see where viewers are spending their time and what they are clicking on. Are they getting to the final stage of making a booking and then stopping? Why is that? Google Analytics will help you solve the problem and help you spend your energy where it needs to be.
You will be able to see if your ideal guest is actually who is coming to your site. Or is a different ideal guest popping by that you should be focusing on?
And the best part is that Google Analytics is free.
13. NO WAY TO CAPTURE LEADS
Imagine this: Your ideal guest has found you. They love your property. They can already see themselves sitting on the patio at sunset sipping a glass of wine. They click on the book now button and the dates they want aren’t available. They are hugely disappointed. They plan to try different dates next month or next year. They have very good intentions to book your property. But life happens – they can’t remember the name or the website address so they never come back.
How could you make it easier for them to remember to come back? Get their email address. Ask them to sign up so you can send them updates and any special packages you have. Getting their email address is a way to capture that lead for a future booking. Just remember to email your list so no one forgets about your property!
15. NO SEO
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is what Google uses to rank websites when someone is searching for a particular piece of information.
You ultimately want to be on the first page of Google results when someone is searching for you. Does anyone even look past the first page?
How can you do this; by using keywords and phrases throughout your website; keywords and phrases that potential guests are already using. This takes some research and will take a while for Google to work through your site. But it will help your site get closer to the top.
16. NO BLOG OR FAQ PAGE
Two great places to use your SEO-rich content is on a blog or a FAQ (frequently answered questions) page. Both give you the opportunity to answer any questions your ideal guest has so you can handle any booking objections right away. A blog also gives you a place to add more of your personality. Show more of yourself so potential guests can know, like and trust you to book your property. It is also a place to show off the best your area has to offer. Describing the experiences your guest can enjoy when they stay with you.
17. NOT USING SECURE HOSTING (HTTPS)
Hacking happens. They are plenty of people out there looking for ways to exploit others. If you aren’t using a secure server to host your website then you are opening yourself up to the opportunity for a hacker to find you. We’ve all had friends who have had their Facebook profile hacked or maybe it has happened to you. You don’t want something to happen to your website. This is your business. Your livelihood. Protect it.
18. NOT KEEPING your SITE UP-TO-DATE
Have you ever been to a website and their last blog post was from 2017? Or the photos they are using look like they are ten years old?
It is so annoying for a potential guest to see old information on a website. They could be all ready to book with you and this could really put them off. It shows a real lack of attention. It shows a real lack of interest. Potential guests might wonder what else you don’t pay attention to.
19. THINKING THAT LAUNCHING A WEBSITE WILL BE A QUICK WIN
Picture this: You’ve been working on your new website for weeks (or even months – yikes!). You launch it online and… crickets. Where are all the bookings? If you build it, they will come… right?
Wrong. No one knows you are there so how can they book? Having a website is only part of your digital marketing strategy. You need to put the work in to drive traffic to your site.
The first step in your digital marketing strategy is to figure out your ideal guest. Who are they? Where do they hang out online (Instagram/Facebook/etc.)? How can you reach them and get them to book with you?
Once you have a clear idea who your ideal guest is and what social media platforms they use, then you need to show up there and show them why they should book your accommodation. This will take consistent posting. Not posting seven times one day and nothing the next. Think about how much time you want to commit and then do it. Every day.
It won’t happen overnight. It will take some time to build a following and gain the trust your ideal guest needs to book with you.
20. DOING IT ALL YOURSELF
You can’t do it all. None of us can. If there is a task you can outsource and you have the means to do it, then do it. Spend your time and energy on the areas of your business that need your expertise.
Anyone can pull a rotten tooth out. But wouldn’t you want a dentist to do this for you?
Just like creating a website. Anyone can create one. But will it look like it was done by just anyone?
Remember your website is your online shop window. It is how you present your property to the world.
Investing in having a graphic designer or copy writer or photographer will be just that; an investment. Hiring a professional will ensure that all the above points have been taken into consideration so mistakes aren’t made on your holiday rental website.
Hi, I’m Jenn Boyles. I have over 20 years experience as a graphic designer and over 8 years as a fellow holiday rental owner. I help owners achieve more bookings through having a direct booking website with bespoke branding. I also provide digital marketing coaching to help you get the traffic off social and onto your website to book direct with you!
Get in touch to see how we can work together to get you more bookings.