The digital world moves quickly, and if you’re lucky, so does the short term rental market.
For example, in an average month, the process search engines use to evaluate your short term rental website and return it for relevant keywords will change about 50 times. In order to keep pace, and keep your rental’s website visible and relevant, SEO can provide a quantifiable and actionable path forward.
1. Adapt Your Vacation Rental Site to Search Algorithm Changes
Luckily, most search engine updates are relatively small and won’t impact your vacation rental website on a day-to-day basis. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can ignore the changing landscape online. Occasionally, updates ARE significant and DO dramatically impact the way your website can be found online.
For example, the Panda and Penguin updates negatively impacted many websites who weren’t prepared for search algorithm changes. In some cases, these updates penalized sites that weren’t up to speed with new requirements for search relevancy. You ignore changes at your peril, as many short term rental sites discovered when their properties went from page one or two of the search results to effectively buried so that their web traffic — and bookings — plummeted. Once that kind of damage is done, it can mean a long, slow road back to the kind of visibility you likely rely on to meet your rental’s ROI objectives.
2. Plan for Regular Site Updates and Maintenance
A good vacation rental website generally hasn’t gotten that way by standing still. To excel, all effective vacation rentals need websites with proper monitoring and regular maintenance. Think of it like having a pet — there’s usually always something you can be doing to check in on the health and effectiveness of your site. And one of the most important of those ‘somethings’ is paying attention to SEO landscape and how search engines are ranking sites.
Factors that are consistently evaluated, and that should make it onto your site maintenance plan as a result are:
- Site architecture
- Fresh, original content and its structure
- Recency of content updates (haven’t updated the content on your site in years? It’s probably time to change that.)
- Keyword themes and topical intent
- Inbound link profile (Do other websites link to yours? How trustworthy are they? And maybe more importantly, how OLD are they?)
- Social signals
- Domain security
- Technical soundness (redirects and link and URL handling, image optimization and multi-media utilization, mobile responsiveness, site maps, among others. If you’re not sure whether or not your site adheres to current technical guidelines, check with an SEO professional.)
- Site speed (Just about any SEO professional will be able to make recommendations about effective ways to help your site load and run faster.)
- User data like time on site, bounce rate, and CTR for relevant keywords
For short term rental sites that continually analyze their website’s performance, many of the above factors should be familiar. If not, it’s likely time to take stock of your site. And while this is a long list, it is by no means comprehensive. The best approach is always to dedicate a little time to familiarize yourself with recent updates, trends, and consider what may be coming in the future. Even a little focus on these vacation rental marketing elements can help you and your business better prepare your website to weather the winds of change online and maintain a steady stream of qualified traffic and direct bookings.
3. Follow Search and Vacation Rental Industry Trends
Chances are, if you’re staying current with your website updates, this one will be relatively intuitive to include. Where we’ve been, especially in vacation rental SEO, can teach us a lot about where we are and where we might be headed. As we see incremental algorithm updates rolled out over time, it’s almost like being fed pieces of the puzzle, so that when the big updates like Panda and Penguin come along, our websites aren’t as blindsided by changes as they might be otherwise..
A great example of this is the importance metadata has played in search ranking. In the earlier days of SEO, meta information was a critical component of websites that heavily informed search algorithms about the content and authority of a website. As the digital landscape evolved, this information came to carry less weight for rankings and more importance for users to learn about the basics of vacation rental sites, and what might set them apart from competitors. This example gives us some important clues about where to put our focus next — generally, the quality of the content on our sites, and the way guests interact with it to make choices about their stays.
4. Stay Competitive in the Short Term Rental Market
As SEO has gained popularity, there’s a good chance that competing properties or VRMs in your area have started, or at least explored, undertaking their own vacation rental SEO program for competitive advantage. In that event, they will almost certainly have an edge over you — especially if you offer similar properties, or haven’t updated your site in a while. With a finite number of keywords that can be used to describe your property and your business, the more you can proactively do to position your website to be authoritative for those, and related, keywords, the better off your site is likely to be in the long run.
And if your competitors have already gotten in the game? There’s likely still time to carve out the right niche for your short term rental website and your specific vacation rental property. It’s crucial to be thoughtful about what differentiates your business, and your properties, and then engage an SEO strategy that can leverage those qualities, while understanding the wider landscape of rental companies in the field.
5. Take a Proactive Digital Approach
If you think you’ve covered all the other bases in your vacation rental SEO strategy, there’s always something more you can do — much of it from the comfort of your home or office:
- Read up on the latest SEO trends for vacation rentals and vacation rental marketers
- Set up a Google Alert for key phrases related to your business and or properties — this way you’ll get updated news delivered to your inbox, as it happens
- Listen to SEO-related and/or short term rental industry/travel and tourism podcasts
- Bookmark your favorite SEO and industry sites and set a calendar reminder to check them regularly — if not daily, weekly
If you’re ready to dedicate more time and resources to keeping your vacation rental website well positioned for the future, consider attending a search, SEO, or digital conference or meet up. Even better if you can find one specifically geared for travel, tourism, or hospitality. These will not only provide some insightful rundowns about the state of the industry, they’ll also offer a great chance to meet search and digital professionals who can offer specialized help or advice for your short term rental goals.
By Mike Archer, Co-Founder of Magnetic Strategy
Increase your direct bookings and improve your online visibility with Magnetic Strategy’s strategic, all-in-one digital vacation rental marketing services. Our custom websites are designed to help guests book online fast while integrating seamlessly with property management software.