December 23, 2021
7 Strategies to Drive Direct Bookings in 2022
Driving direct bookings on your website is one of the best ways to increase revenue for your vacation rental company. Booking direct means you avoid paying certain fees to OTAs (and so do your guests) and having more direct interactions with your guests. If your 2022 New Year’s resolutions include driving more direct bookings on your vacation rental website, then you’re in luck! There are some really easy ways you can get your rentals in front of an audience and get them to book directly with you rather than through an OTA.
Optimize Your Website
There’s a reason travelers gravitate towards vacation rental companies like Airbnb and Vrbo: their websites tend to offer a very positive user experience. But you don’t need millions of dollars, a dev team, and a fleet of customer service agents to make your website experience just as enjoyable. Even these simple steps will make a huge difference:
- Set the scene. Capture your properties, their amenities, and the surrounding area in well-lit photos and SEO-rich descriptions.
- Who are YOU? You are the driving force behind your business. Your about us page should tell this story and include the passionate team that is there to make guests have the best experience possible. And don’t forget the address, contact information, and how to get in touch!
- Use maps. Providing an accurate location for your guests can help them picture their vacation more clearly.
- Optimize your pricing. Dynamic pricing helps to widen your audience by adjusting the rates based on times of the year, local events, and the size or type of property in relation to its competition.
- Offer special deals. Time-based deals or returning guest discounts can help sweeten your offering.
- Include guest reviews. Reviews are today’s most trusted form of marketing and can turn lookers into bookers.
- Online booking. This should be a no-brainer in this day and age, but for the record, always offer online booking on your website.
- Make your website quick and accessible. Load speeds matter and can impact your ranking in search results, so don’t skip this step. Also make sure that you have accessibility options in place for guests of all kinds. And finally, make sure your site can transition well between desktop, mobile, and tablet.
- Add some incentivizing pop-ups. Gently apply a bit of pressure with widgets that count the number of guests currently viewing the listing, the number of bookings that month, or the number of inquiries that week—anything that encourages guests to hit that book button.
- Stay on top of communication. You’re more likely to get vacation rental direct bookings if you’re quick to respond to inquiries, whether via email, chat, or by phone. Don’t forget to include some kind of contact information in an easily accessible place for guests.
Invest in Email Marketing for Direct Bookings
Emails are an easy way to engage with guests—it’s an effective way to let guests know the latest news, offer exclusive deals, and drive direct bookings by offering direct access to your vacation rental website. Nail your email marketing campaigns with these tips.
- Build a subscriber list. This can be through your first welcome email series for first-time guests, opt-ins on in-property devices such as tablets, or even through the channels you partner with.
- Make your emails clickable. All the rules of good email marketing apply here: catchy subject lines, easily scannable body copy, a warm tone that includes the use of their name, and direct CTAs with links to important parts of your website.
- Keep an eye on engagement metrics. Model your emails after the ones that get the most engagement, whether that be style or content, or tone. Keep your email list tidy and up-to-date so your emails don’t bounce or end up in the spam folder.
- Make it easy to unsubscribe. Give your guests an easy way to change their communication preferences or opt-out of communications completely.
- Make emails mobile-friendly. Your emails need to look good and function well on smartphones and tablets and should be able to transition to dark mode with ease.
Stay Active on Social Media
Social media is another great way to drive direct bookings, especially when you use retargeting for previous guests. Many guests will check for a social media presence—in today’s world, it offers a certain amount of legitimacy, as well as another way to communicate directly with a company or access a website.
- Use social media as an additional advertising tool. Promoting your listings, special deals, and availability on your social channels opens you up to a wider audience.
- Post regularly. A good social media strategy takes consistency. Make sure that you’re posting regularly and that you plan your posts for the most “viewable” times. Use a third-party tool to make posting easy and automatic.
- Pick your platform. Go to where your audience is. If you’re targeting a slightly older crowd, Facebook might be your primary platform. Younger audiences may respond better to TikTok or YouTube.
- Variety is key. Don’t just rely on static images. GIFs, videos, and animations tend to capture more engagement.
- Respond to your followers. Guests may use social media as their platform for reviews, or may even reach out to you for customer service via direct message. Make sure that you’re regularly checking your social media accounts for messages and responding promptly and professionally.
Improve Your Paid Search
With paid search, you can pay a fee to have your website show up in search results based on specific keywords or phrases. It can be a great way to get in front of potential guests and drive them directly to your website. Here are some ideas to improve your paid search strategy.
- Define your conversion goals. How do you want people to respond to your paid search? Set a goal and build your paid search around it.
- Test and test some more. Regularly tweak and optimize your paid search to better capture an audience, retarget to returning guests, or even target a whole new audience.
- Send users to relevant landing pages. Your landing pages should align with your paid search strategy and drive conversions.
Boost Your Organic Search Rankings
Organic search is based on natural rankings as determined by search engine algorithms. By following SEO best practices, you can boost your website’s rankings, appearing in the first search results and driving direct bookings to your vacation rentals.
- Identify your top keywords. Use tools like Moz, SEMRush, and others to determine top keywords that your vacation rental business fits under. It’s best to have a handful of keywords to choose from—the more specific to your vacation rental management business, the better.
- Optimize your website with good SEO. Make sure that you’re using your selected keywords throughout your website in the most natural way possible, including on the backend in places like metadata and alt tags.
- Monitor and test regularly. Just like with paid search, adjust and optimize your organic search strategy to capture new audiences or engage with previous guests.
Create a Content Marketing Strategy
An effective content marketing strategy works in tandem with organic search to make your website appear more relevant to search algorithms. Content marketing tends to be top-of-funnel, lead-capture work and is vital to eventually convert potential customers into paying ones.
- Determine content gaps. Offering a unique perspective on your market gives you an edge, both to guests and to search algorithms.
- Set up a calendar. Like social media, content should be published on a regular cadence. You can also make it part of your email nurture series, offering users a chance to opt into more content if they wish.
- Include relevant links. Use your content as an opportunity to drive direct bookings with relevant CTAs.
- Outsource. If you have the means to do so, outsourcing your content creation can save you time and ensure that your content is top quality.
Convert Existing Guests
Even with all of the above practices in motion, you’re still likely to receive bookings for OTAs. Your job is to get those guests to return and book directly on your website. There are a few ways to do that:
- Offer a loyalty program. They aren’t just for big box stores—loyalty programs that incentivize direct bookings are a great way to keep guests returning to your rentals again and again.
- Gather as much guest information as you can. Having a profile of your guests allows you to retarget them through various marketing channels and gives the marketing a more personalized feel.
- Use remarketing tactics. There will always be visitors to your site who abandon their booking last minute for one reason or another. Using remarketing tools, you can track users who click out and target them specifically, reminding them that the listing they want is still available.
Driving direct bookings to your vacation rental website doesn’t have to be complicated. Even taking small steps to optimize your website, make your content relevant to guest searches, and engage new and previous guests will make it more likely that you’ll receive direct bookings. This post is a recap of the presentation by our VP Marketing, Debi Steigerwald, at the recent Vacation Rental Women’s Summit. You can get the WHOLE AMAZING video package here.