'Le San Diego' Nice Holiday Apartment
a Superb 3 double Bedroom Seafront Apartment in Central Nice for up to 6: click here for a description


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Holiday Rentals Owners & Agents:
Want to boost your holiday rental bookings?

Don't do as I say, do as I did!


First, look at my Current Availability Calendar.

Though I say it myself, it's pretty impressive. I can't do much more to my website so I'd like to help you get your availability chart look like mine! So here's my advice in three easyish steps.

These Steps can be read in any order, but 1, 2, 3 is probably the most logical!

Step 1 Join Rentalsystems

Step 2 Marketing your property

Step 3 Make your website customer friendly

Step 1

Join RentalSystems

RentalSystems is marketed to the general public as VillaRenters. Don't be fooled by the name - it's equally suitable for apartments and villas. Click on the link to RentalSystems above for more information and read why and how it can boost your bookings! You have to read this first!!


Step 2

Marketing your Property

So you've joined RentalSystems and your website is up and running. So now you can sit back and wait for the bookings to come flooding in. Right?

Wrong! Big Mistake!

VillaRenters will get you some bookings, but you are going to need more. And you don't want to pay 10% commission on every booking, do you?

Only about 3 of my bookings each year come directly from VillaRenters. The rest comes from people who one way or another had been enticed to visit this website. However, many of these bookings were made because of the marketing plusses I got from my RentalSystems membership.

So the moral is to use RentalSystems as a tool rather than a crutch and to regard any actual bookings as a bonus.

How do I get people to view my property on the internet?

It's a "no-brainer" that the more genuine visitors you can get to view your property, the more likely you are to get bookings.

Before I get into ways of attracting visitors to your website, you need to know where you are now.

Basically, it's a question of getting people to view your property on your own website or somebody else's. In fact, you'll use both methods, but let's start with your own website. After all, once you've got them there, there's only your property - no competition!

How do I get people to my website?

We all like a free lunch, so let's see first how you can attract visitors to your site without spending money. Although you will have to spend some time - nothing is that free.


Right, so how do I get people to my website for free?

This is where we enter the murky realms of "Search Engine Optimisation" (SEO). I say "murky" because you'll get lots of offers from dubious companies offering to "optimise" your website. Most of them are a rip-off.

I am going to give you a couple of free tips which will send you in the right direction so that search engines can find your website. By search engines I mean Google, which accounts for nearly half of all the searches carried out throughout the world. There are two other worth-while search engines - Yahoo and MSN. The rest don't count. So if anyone offers to get your website listed with a zillion search engines - it's no big deal.

In simple terms, the way a Search Engine (SE) works is to trawl your site and decide, from its content, where, if at all, it should be listed. One of the most important pieces of information the SE uses is your domain name. Put simply a domain name is the address that people use to find you or your company online; it's what you type in the browser's address bar to go to a specific website.

For example, our domain name is www.nicepromenadeapartments.net and www.nicepromenadeapartments.com and it is no coincidence that if you type Nice (France) Promenade Apartment(s) into Google, Yahoo or MSN you will find this site in #1 position. In fact, the phrase you are most likely to get a high rating for is your domain name. Be aware that most people who use a SE will not go beyond the first couple of pages of results. So if you are on page 10 of Google for any phrase you might as well not be there at all.

So the first, and most important tip is get a good relevant domain name!

But what is the right domain name? Let me give you an example. You own a villa in Marbella which you have named "Villa Dunroaming". And you have named your website after it - www.villa-dunroaming.com. That should be relevant enough, right?

Wrong! Big Mistake!

So what's wrong with www.villa-dunroaming.com and what is a "good relevant domain name"? The problem is that this particular domain name is not relevant to what a prospective customer is looking for. They've never heard of Villa Dunroaming and don't know (yet!) that they want to stay there.

What they do know is that they want to stay in Marbella (or Paris or Tuscany). Wouldn't it be nice if somebody typed "Marbella" into Google and your property came up? Don't get too excited, it's not going to happen! But if you have, say, a three word domain name then your location should be the first word of it. Why three words? Well, you want people to remember your name, and three words is about the limit. And with less than three you are unlikely to be able to find a domain name that is relevant and still available.

Let's continue with our Dunroaming example. marbella-villa.com would be nice, but it's already taken. Try it without a hyphen - MarbellaVilla.com. No, that's gone too. How about marbella-holiday-villa.com? Bingo! That's available (as of March 15). If it's relevant to you, snap it up before anyone else does! With that domain name you stand an excellent chance of being listed under "Marbella Holiday Villa" and a pretty good chance of "Marbella Holiday" and "Marbella Villa". Or would you rather be listed under "Dunroaming"?

That wasn't too difficult. Play around with the location first and then the description. Think of a combination of words like villa, apartment, flat, house, home, cottage, accommodation, lodging plus holiday, vacation (particularly if you want to attract Americans) rental, leisure; try with hyphens and without hyphens; try with plurals - villas as well as villa. Be creative. If all else fails try the words in a different order, e.g. www.HolidayVillaMarbella.com.

But if at all possible , put your location first, because that's what your customer thinks of first!

A word of warning: if your rental property is in a place nobody's heard of, it doesn't matter how high a Google ranking you get, nobody's going to look for it! So don't be afraid to go a little further afield than your local village!

With half an hour's thought I've come up with the following domain names that are still currently available:

www.dordogne-holiday-villa.com

www.venice-holiday-apartment.com

www.paris-holiday-apartment.com

www.RomeVacationApartment.com

www.tuscany-holiday-house.com

You can do the same.

How do I find out if a domain name is available and how do I register it?

This is the easy bit! There are any number of companies that will register domain names for you. I use 1and1.com which will register you a .com domain for $7.99 per year. I personally prefer a .com and / or a .net domain - somehow it seems more international.

The procedure is the same whichever registrar you use: you enter your preferred domain name, it tells you if it's free and you can register it in your name immediately. if it's not free you keep on trying new names until you find one that is free.

I can't emphasise too much the importance of a good, relevant domain name. Wouldn't you rather be swimming with the tide than against it?

I would go as far as to suggest that, if you want traffic from the SEs and you have a website with an irrelevant domain name and you don't have an Alexa or a google page rank (PR) rating yet, change the name now! You don't have any traffic of note to lose, and the benefits for the future could be significant.

Do I need to do anything else to get my site listed by the major SE's?

Yes, I'm afraid, but if you use common sense it's not too difficult. The correct domain name is an important start, but the SEs want "relevant content". They love "content". At a basic level this means that if your domain name is marbella-holiday-villa.com the your website should be about a Marbella holiday villa. Sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people miss the point.

All you need to do is bear this in mind when writing the copy for your front page. Try to mention your relevant domain name 3 - 4 times. Instead of saying "Our villa...." write "Our Marbella Holiday Villa.....". Try to mention "Marbella Villa" and "Marbella Holiday" the same way - naturally. Don't overdo it; too much is as bad as too little. Remember you are writing for your customers, not the SEs.

Of course, you could always spend a few hundred pounds or dollars to get an "expert" - but try it yourself first.


Any other ways of getting free traffic to my site?

If you've got plenty of time to spare, try exchanging links with other travel sites of a similar nature to yours. They'll send you a small amount of traffic, you'll send them a small amount of traffic. It won't be much, but every little helps.
There are also other advantages associated with link exchange that can help improve your Google Page Rank (PR) and thus your listings in Google. Please keep in mind that the quality of the 'back' links counts.



What about listing on other people's websites?

Get as many Free listings as you can. These should include "Pay by Results" sites like VillaRenters where you only pay if they get you bookings. But try not to pay more than 10% commission. If you think 10% is a lot, bear in mind that many agents charge 15% - 20%! Look at it this way - would you rather have a definite 90% of your price or a possible empty week?

Take advantage of Free Introductory Offers from the numerous companies trying to get into the booming Vacation Rental Online business; if they don't perform, drop them when your free trial period is over.

Do a Google search for phrases like "Travel Directories", "Free Holiday Rental Advertising" and "Free Vacation Rental Advertising". Sign up with as many of them as you can. It doesn't matter how little traffic they have - free is free!


Here's a great freebie for you, which brings us a lot of business. Register your site for free with www.travel-library.com. There's no reason why you can't benefit too.

The message is clear; get your website listed wherever you can; it is a good idea to leave some business cards or postcards for your guests to take with them. Make sure your website address is prominent for when they give them to their friends. And, last but not least, make sure your website address is on every email you send out.

What about paying for listings on other people's websites?

First, a small word of warning. As you try to sign up for "free" Travel Directories, you may find that some of them suddenly ask for a fee. How do you know if it's worth paying?

Here's where your Alexa Toolbar is invaluable.

As a rule of thumb, don't pay to be on any site that has an Alexa rating over 25,000.

Bear in mind that, unlike your own website you are sharing with hundreds, perhaps thousands of other properties. An Alexa rating higher than 25,000 means the traffic volume simply isn't big enough to be worth while paying for.

Most probably you will have to enrol with one of the selling websites. Which one should you choose? To my mind, there is one site that is head and shoulders above the rest - Holiday Rentals or Homeaway (www.holiday-rentals.co.uk ; www.homeaway.com).


Once you have found her, never let her go!

This line from Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific sums it up. You have made great efforts to get your customer (and it is quite likely to be a "her") to your website, so now comes the crunch - how to turn her from a potential customer into a real-life booker. This leads us to:

Step 3

Make your website customer friendly!

If you've signed up with RentalSystems you are well on your way.

Your visitor can now:

·  Check your current availability online.

·  Read testimonials from other renters online.

·  Make a booking online.

·  Get instant confirmation online.

·  Pay by credit card online.

And you don't have to lift a finger!

But you've also got to make your property - and your offer - attractive

You are competing in a very crowded market. You are competing against not only other self-catering rentals, but hotels and B&Bs.

Your advantages against hotels are more space, more freedom, lower cost. Emphasise this!

Do use the best photographs you can find. Particularly for interior shots a professional photographer is a must. Get both landscape and portrait views - you can use both in your website. If your property doesn't photograph well, supplement it with pictures of local beauty spots - you should have some of those anyway. As the Duchess of Windsor didn't say, "you can't be too rich, too thin or have too many pictures on your holiday rental website"!

Do check your website for spelling mistakes or typos. If you find any here please let me know!

Do ask as many friends or relatives as you can - preferably those who don't know the property - to look at your website and tell you their impressions. Is it easy to navigate, does it leave out any essential information etc?

Do equip your property as well as you can - and let people know what is there. You'd be surprised how many rentals are lost because there's no hair dryer available! Don't forget also that by far the best advertising is word of mouth; you want your departing guests to return (well, most of them!), give you a good testimonial and recommend you to their friends. If all they remember is that there wasn't a corkscrew or not enough glasses or no toilet paper then you are not going to get any positive feedback.

Do provide bed-linen and towels - you are competing with hotels, remember? Don't ask people who may be coming halfway round the world to stay with you to lug their sheets and towels with them. I find it an incredible imposition, but a lot of people still do it. Personally, if I'm looking for a holiday rental for myself, that is an immediate disqualification.

Do provide a small selection of herbs and spices for the kitchen, plus some instant coffee and tea bags. There's nothing more infuriating than to have to go out and buy things like salt and pepper for a few days' stay. We find that once the initial supply is there, it grows without our having to do anything, because guests are happy to replace - and leave - individual items.

Don't be cheap! Don't skimp on the small things; it's not a huge investment to buy proper crockery and cutlery; odd sized plates and chipped mugs or glasses leave a terrible impression. If you have a washing machine or dishwasher, leave some detergent! Let other owners say "well it's only for rental so it doesn't matter". You want testimonials and referrals and repeat business.

Do stay in your property yourselves occasionally - it's the only way of ensuring that everything is in working order. Ask yourselves "Is this the sort of place I'd like to go to on holiday?" If it isn't, do something about it!

Do try to have a price that includes everything. Don't make surcharges for everything. I've seen villas advertised for £2,000 a week plus electricity! Do you really want to come across like Scrooge on a bad day?

Do try to give discounts rather than surcharges. Carrot rather than stick! Which sounds better to you? "The apartment costs £270 a week, but if there are more than two people there is a mandatory 10% surcharge", or, "The apartment costs £300 a week, but if there are just two of you we'll happily give you a 10% reduction".

Above all, try to make your guests feel welcome before they arrive! They are coming on holiday and they don't want to stay in a concentration camp. If you come across like a Blackpool landlady in the fifties, with a whole host of restrictions on your front page, they'll vote with their feet and go elsewhere. And you'll never know, because they didn't contact you. You'll just be sitting there, wondering why you don't have bookings!

 

Summary

In the end this long rigmarole comes down to three basic strategies:

·  Get your website and property exposed to as many potential customers as possible.

·  Once you have got your potential customers make your property and offer attractive enough so that they want to book.

·  Once they would like to book make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Today! Before they change their minds!

It's as simple as that!

If you find this all a bit daunting, remember that you don't have to do it all at once. You don't even have to do it all! But follow just some of the tips given here and your sales will improve.

I know, I've done it myself!

I hope you have found this interesting and informative. If you have any comments or enquiries send an e-mail and I will do my best to answer you.