Direct Booking Websites & Marketing

16 Replies

Hello-

We run some vacation rentals in a few markets and I wanted to see if anyone had any recommendations for folks that do website design & marketing through add maybe ad words, instagram, facebook or some combination I have no idea about; which seems more likely in this realm. 

Essentially we are realizing the need to diversify and encourage guests to book through us directly instead of the VRBOs and Airbnb but still incorporate those calendars through html links or whatever to prevent double bookings. 

I'd also like to see if it might be possible to set up a smaller marketing campaign through some of those previously mentioned channels to help encourage bookings; but this is an area I know very little about so hoping you all might have some suggestions.

Thanks in advance for any and all input. 

If you want some great information for marketing on social media, check out Jodi Tidwell Bourne on facebook, Vacation Renatal Rescue.  

Also, are there any local rental sites in your area that you can put your listing on? 

Check out Houfy.com , its a free site to put your listing on and it is growing. 

I get alot of inquiries and bookings through Zillow/Hot pads/Trulia, they changed there platform in a few states. Now in Florida you only get one free listing and then you have to pay $9.99/week for additonal listings( It is not meant for short term rentals and there is an issue with the site updating current information) but that is where I received most of my inquiries. I now only have one of my listings on there. I do have a facebook page, instagram and twitter but have never gotten a reservation through them. Good Luck!

Is entirely unrealistic to expect to get much traffic outside of the major listing sites.

why are you unhappy with them? You should be on Airbnb, VRBO, FlipKey, and booking.com. you should have your own website.  But they market heavily and bring a lot of traffic to your site. you will need to sync them to avoid double bookings.

if you're worried about their commission, just tack it on as an admin fee or whatever. Booking.com is 15% to the owner and I charge a 15% admin fee that most people pay.

social media and other sites will bring you very little for the most part.

Originally posted by @Lisa Graesser :

If you want some great information for marketing on social media, check out Jodi Tidwell Bourne on facebook, Vacation Renatal Rescue.  

https://www.facebook.com/group...

Also, are there any local rental sites in your area that you can put your listing on? 

Check out Houfy.com , its a free site to put your listing on and it is growing. 

I get alot of inquiries and bookings through Zillow/Hot pads/Trulia, they changed there platform in a few states. Now in Florida you only get one free listing and then you have to pay $9.99/week for additonal listings( It is not meant for short term rentals and there is an issue with the site updating current information) but that is where I received most of my inquiries. I now only have one of my listings on there. I do have a facebook page, instagram and twitter but have never gotten a reservation through them. Good Luck!

I tried using Zillow.com to advertise our STR. It clearly said this was a vacation rental, but everyone that contacted us via this ad didn't read it and inquired about a long term rental.

I get some offsite bookings from a free google business page and also Craigslist ads. I have several repeat customers that I take direct bookings from.

My calendar stays pretty full due to the VRBO/HA platform so I haven't made a push to do much more. They make their money I make my money. This saves me from needing a PM.

Thanks everyone for your input I do appreciate it thus far greatly. We are not looking to move away from Airbnb or VRBO as we realize their marketing pockets is deeper than ours and we have about 250 cobined reviews on our listings for Homeaway.

Looking to give the option to travelers because we've had a lot more folks ask for direct booking to avoid the fees these sites charge; which is sometimes hundred of dollars for our units in peak season. Furthermore, we have been having copious amounts of issues with Homeaway and getting paid this year as well as increased competition in our ski markets with many new owners charging rates that in my mind are way to low so they can get a booking.


So, while I do not expect take a massive percentage of our bookings this way I do think it would be helpful and professional to offer this service to the more budget minded or savvy traveler.

Thanks again I appreciate everyone's input and will give some of this a whirl or at least a look now that you've all so graciously offered a few thoughts to get me thinking. Happy booking everyone!
 

Originally posted by @Lisa Graesser :

Also, after my VRBO guests have departed, I always follow up with a message that they can contact me directly if they would prefer to book that way in the furture.

 How does that process work? They shoot you an email and then you go and manually block off the dates in VRBO and others? What percentage of guests rent again this way? 

Originally posted by @Nick VanDer Sluis :

Thanks everyone for your input I do appreciate it thus far greatly. We are not looking to move away from Airbnb or VRBO as we realize their marketing pockets is deeper than ours and we have about 250 cobined reviews on our listings for Homeaway.

Looking to give the option to travelers because we've had a lot more folks ask for direct booking to avoid the fees these sites charge; which is sometimes hundred of dollars for our units in peak season. Furthermore, we have been having copious amounts of issues with Homeaway and getting paid this year as well as increased competition in our ski markets with many new owners charging rates that in my mind are way to low so they can get a booking.


So, while I do not expect take a massive percentage of our bookings this way I do think it would be helpful and professional to offer this service to the more budget minded or savvy traveler. 

Thanks again I appreciate everyone's input and will give some of this a whirl or at least a look now that you've all so graciously offered a few thoughts to get me thinking. Happy booking everyone!
 

 Out of curiosity, how will your travelers know about this option? Do you get a lot of potential guests reaching out to you directly? I've (briefly) checked out Homeaway and VRBO, it doesn't appear that either offer an API to create/update bookings, so it's unlikely that there's a 3rd party app or website that allows you automatically manage your properties' availability. 

You could get an app developed that will log into these sites as you and block off the bookings whenever someone books through your site but: A. it may be against the VRBO and Homeaway terms of use to do so. B. It could be cumbersome, and therefore expensive, to maintain. 

Originally posted by @Kyle Shankin :
Originally posted by @Lisa Graesser:

Also, after my VRBO guests have departed, I always follow up with a message that they can contact me directly if they would prefer to book that way in the furture.

 How does that process work? They shoot you an email and then you go and manually block off the dates in VRBO and others? What percentage of guests rent again this way? 

I have recieved several return guests and they wil contact me  with requested dates, I will manually block these dates on VRBO and I will email them a rental agreement which they will return with payment or I can direct them to my listing on Houfy.com where they can reserve and pay via Stripe.  I do not have instant booking so I am never worried about double booking. 

Have you thought about Instagram?  IGTV is pretty hot and unlike other media - IG appeals to travelers and vacationers, having great mini vids with direct links to your booking page along with good hashtag discovery might be well worth it for you. 

@Lisa Graesser @Kyle Shankin

We have some guest's who reach out but we do not actively promote it on our listings due to T&C of sites like Aribnb and Homeaway which I believe prevent that. 

In terms of calendars and double bookings there is a super simple way to do it with Airbnb & Homeaway; which I imagine would be the same sort of thing for any website booking calendar you would have. Essentially you just import/export HTML links to each site for the other sites you list on and they auto update versus you having to manually update them. Here's the steps through Homeaway if you are interested in trying it: 


  1. In your reservation calendar, click the Import/Export arrows icon
  2. Click Import Calendar
  3. Give the calendar a name
  4. Select a color to represent the calendar
  5. In the URL field, paste the calendar address.
  6. Change webcal:// to http:// in the URL
  7. Select whether the calendar will block availability
  8. Click Import Calendar

I dont really intend to dump money into advertising the site as we'll obviously never compete with the big dog budgets; but will find ways to post signs in properties and let people know they can book directly through email signature and what not as well next time to save a few bucks. 

I also feel that having one of these sites makes you appear more professional because all successful business have an online presence...just my opinion though. 


Homeaway/VRBO allows you to share personal info so you can secure the booking off-platform. I send an agreement that is executed, and take payment via paypal/venmo/cash/check. You then block the dates on VRBO, which syncs with your other linked calendars. 

Originally posted by @Nick VanDer Sluis :

@Lisa Graesser @Kyle Shankin

We have some guest's who reach out but we do not actively promote it on our listings due to T&C of sites like Aribnb and Homeaway which I believe prevent that. 

In terms of calendars and double bookings there is a super simple way to do it with Airbnb & Homeaway; which I imagine would be the same sort of thing for any website booking calendar you would have. Essentially you just import/export HTML links to each site for the other sites you list on and they auto update versus you having to manually update them. Here's the steps through Homeaway if you are interested in trying it: 

  1. In your reservation calendar, click the Import/Export arrows icon
  2. Click Import Calendar
  3. Give the calendar a name
  4. Select a color to represent the calendar
  5. In the URL field, paste the calendar address.
  6. Change webcal:// to http:// in the URL
  7. Select whether the calendar will block availability
  8. Click Import Calendar

I dont really intend to dump money into advertising the site as we'll obviously never compete with the big dog budgets; but will find ways to post signs in properties and let people know they can book directly through email signature and what not as well next time to save a few bucks. 

I also feel that having one of these sites makes you appear more professional because all successful business have an online presence...just my opinion though. 

 Very cool! So then, it sounds like @Anand S has a pretty good suggestion. Or you could set yourself up with a cheap wordpress site and buy this plugin: https://motopress.com/products... which manages rental bookings. It can be setup to handle payment, process the booking and then push out bookings to calendars that you've setup with your other services.

@Kyle Shankin Do you successfully use that plugin, motopress? And what plugin or app do you collect payment with? Then there’s the rental agreement too....do you email it? A few moving parts but it might be worth it if you expect a lot of repeat customers. I would not risk someone feeling uncomfortable off-site and calling Airbnb or platforms to report you.

Originally posted by @Nancy Bachety :

@Kyle Shankin Do you successfully use that plugin, motopress? And what plugin or app do you collect payment with? Then there’s the rental agreement too....do you email it? A few moving parts but it might be worth it if you expect a lot of repeat customers. I would not risk someone feeling uncomfortable off-site and calling Airbnb or platforms to report you.

 Hi Nancy! No, I don't use Motopress. I actually don't have any short-term rental investments and responded to this thread initially because it mentions a few musings of mine (websites, marketing and short-term rentals).  

My day job is as a mobile app developer and I have 8 years of web development experience as well, which is why I brought up using Wordpress with motopress. I'm sure there are other short-term rental booking plugins out there, I just picked one that looked full-featured and would provide the functionality that @Nick VanDer Sluis seemed to be looking for.

As for some of your other questions, the motopress documentation says it supports paypal and stripe payments (among others), those I have personal experience with and would configure the plugin to use one or both. For the rental agreement, you can add that to the booking page. When a user goes to checkout and complete the booking, they'll need to check a box where they agree to the terms and conditions before they can finish the booking process.

Personally, I wouldn't worry about someone booking through my own website (if that's what you mean by offsite), and then maybe calling AirBnb to report me. It's the same risk as if someone booked off of VRBO and then went to AirBnb and complained, why would one care about the other?