• 5 Things I've Learned from My Vacation Rental Website Makeover (So Far)

    As my vacation rental friends might know, I've been working with marketing guru Matt Landau on a complete makeover of the website for my Princeville, Hawaii vacation rental.

    Once he chose me for the project, Matt assembled a team of awesome, talented people to help me create a fully functioning web presence that would decrease my reliance on listing sites (yay for more independence!). Right now, I'm fully booked, but many of those bookings are coming from sites that take a hefty cut. In my dream world, I'll cut those ties altogether and make it on my own. 

    But as Matt discusses in his latest blog post, progress has been a bit slow-going for me. Especially when compared to my fellow makeover recipient, Holly of YosemiteStay.com, who has already paid for her website makeover in new bookings! 

    So, in this post I want to share with you some of the things I've learned so far. This will keep me accountable to the changes I plan to make from here on out, and give you some food for thought when it comes to your own vacation rental website!

    1. Looks aren't everything.

    First, I'm learning that you can't just rely on a snazzy front page to generate inquiries and bookings.

    My new website is really pretty--and it pulls people in right away. It's also intuitive, easy to use, and takes into account what potential guests are looking for. The MyVR team did a great job helping to create it! 

    But to win in the end, a beautiful website does nothing if no one sees it! You have to put yourself out there and make sure the right people are finding you. Which leads to #2.

    2. Yep...blogging is important. 

    A key difference between Holly's success and my less-than-stellar performance is my lack of blogging and audience engagement. Holly has been pointing guests to specific blog posts to answer their frequently asked questions, which in turn helps boost her profile and analytics. 

    So smart! 

    On my end, I've made blogging less of a priority, mostly due to the time commitment it involves and the lack of space in my daily calendar. Plus, I already spend a lot of time tapping the keys blogging for my business.

    I did, however, take Matt's advice and write a post that follows his Best Blogging Formula Ever, and guess what? It was actually really fun following his lead.

    I wrote about Kauai weather (which some perceive to be super-wet and rainy all the time), and like Matt advises, I chose an FAQ (how's the weather?), answered it in a fun way that's easily broken into 5 items, and then slapped a compelling headline on it ("5 Things You Need to Know About Kauai Weather"). 

    In the future, I want to make time and space to blog more and start to see the rewards of my efforts. 

    3. Cultivate the right backlinks.

    I'll admit it: I'm a bit of a perfectionist.  And I've been struggling to accept that my website is ready to be backlinked and shared with the world.

    But as Matt outlines in this post, backlinks are a huge boost to website rankings and the time for me to start gathering them is now! (If you're not familiar, backlinks are simply when a website links back to your website.)

    And a huge part of that, of course, is getting the right backlinks. The website who links to you should be reputable and relevant to your vacation rental. One great place to start is with travel bloggers and small businesses (as Matt calls them, "influencers") in your area. Not only do they have credibility, you can create a reciprocal relationship that will pay off in other ways, too!

    4. Social media is more fun than I thought. 

    Along with newsletters and backlinks, social media is a great way to get more eyes on your blog and thus your site in general. Of course, this isn't news for anyone! We all know social media can make a difference. Ask anyone who had a post go viral and then saw their business explode beyond their wildest dreams.

    But as with blogging, it's good to consider the perks beyond "I really should do this" or betting on a hazy future benefit.  I've found I'm actually enjoying the process of social media, too.  I get to engage with people about a place I love (Princeville, Kauai, and my vacation rental!) and I'm also learning from others' posts, too. 

    5. Google Analytics are helpful (and addictive).

    If you haven't already, go ahead and install analytics for your website. It's a simple (and free) plugin and it will tell you a LOT about your website's performance. You'll see both who visited, how long they stayed, where they are located geographically, and how they found you. 

    As they say, information is power! The more you know about the people who visit your site, the more you can tailor the site to their needs and interests (and ideally convert in the process). 

    All in all, this has been an amazing experience and I know that with time my site will continue to generate more traction and bookings. I am loving every second of working with the MyVR software and, really, I have loved this entire process.  Thanks Matt! These are skills that I am going to take with me forever (or as long as I have my website!). Over time, I know this will be a HUGE recipe for success! :)