The vast majority of apartment rentals in Europe are trouble-free, but scams unfortunately do exist – especially in the bigger cities. We’ve identified eight of the most common scams for travellers to watch out for.
Welcome to the holiday rental blog from Rental Tonic, all about niche marketing, running a holiday let & social media for holiday rentals
Guest Post: There are around 4 million listings on Airbnb – great news if you’re looking for a place to stay. But if you’re a host, then you’re going to have to give some serious thought as to how you will make your pad stand out from the crowd.
How Does the Airbnb Review System Work?
Reviews provide valuable information, both host and guest have 14 days to leave an appraisal. You then have 14 days to respond to say thank you for positive comments or to offer a reply to any negative ones! Be sure you check out the Airbnb content policy prior to posting a review, just to make sure you are sticking to the rules!
Why Is It Important to Get a Positive Review?
Lots of positive guest reviews will lead to a higher SEO ranking, which means more exposure and more bookings. If you’re bookings result in great reviews then you could earn you the impressive accolade of Airbnb Superhost.
How Do I Get More Rave Reviews?
Just getting reviews can be tricky, as not all guests bother to leave one. Try to counter that by always following up – leave a review for every guest. This starts the ball rolling and will hopefully prompt your guest to leave feedback for you in return.
Types of Guest Reviews
Both guest and host can leave personal and public feedback for one another. As the name suggests public feedback refers to a review that can be seen by anyone visiting the Airbnb website (the general public), and private feedback can only be seen by the guest/host.
Hosts should keep in mind that guests are also able to give star ratings based upon their stay. This relates to ease of check-in, value for money, accuracy of the description, location of a property, how clean it was, and their experience on the whole.
As a host, you should also give careful consideration before canceling a booking. If you cancel on or after your guest checks in then be prepared for a public feedback on your listing page and profile. If you cancel a reservation that you have already accepted, you will receive automated feedback on your profile. You do get the chance to explain yourself, but make it good – potential guests don’t like hosts that make a habit of canceling!
Proven Checklist to Get a Positive Review
Guests have certain expectations – the five-star guest review gives you some indication as to what matters most. Disappointed guests may neglect to leave a review or offer negative feedback. As a rule of thumb a host should always:
- Provide Excellent Communication – respond to queries promptly and accurately, always keep your guests informed.
- Ensure Check-In Is Smooth – Will you be there to greet your guests or do they need a code to access a key locker? Make sure they know what’s happening!
- Give an Accurate Description – Does your property match the photographs and description on your listing? Underplay your place rather than over exaggerate.
- Present Clean Accommodation – Guests like to feel the property they are renting is super fresh and clean.
- Supply Details on Location – You can’t move your pad closer to the beach or away from a busy road. Be honest about its location! Make sure your guests know about local attractions too, closest shop, pub, park etc.
- Avoid Cancellations – If you do have to cancel then make sure you offer an apology and try to help your guest to find an alternative place to stay.
- Offer Value for Money – Adding a few extra touches can make the experience even better for guests. A bottle of wine and a box of chocolates can go along way!
Time to Be Proactive
If you want to bag yourself more five-star reviews then you need to be proactive. Avoid negative feedback by ensuring you offer a great overall experience. Encourage guests to leave positive accolades by writing a personal review for them, and mention how you would love to welcome them back at any time. Your chirpiness should hopefully be infectious and your guest will leave a positive review in return!
Thanks to Julia Shutkevych from AirGMS Technologies for her tips and checklist on how to get your 5-Star Airbnb guest reviews.
This week we had the privilege of being interviewed by a UK hospitality magazine on basic SEO for holiday let and bed and breakfast businesses. We’ll share the article when it’s published in July.
We decided to condense the interview into an article for our Rental Tonic followers around the world, who won’t get a chance to read the published article.
How would you describe SEO to someone new to the subject?
On a very basic level SEO is a means to get noticed by your ideal guests.
I always ask clients to think about what they would type into Google to find their business? Nowadays we don’t just type a keyword to find what we want on Google, we type a question. What we refer to as a query. Your accommodation business has to answer that query to get noticed by your ideal guests.
On a more defined level I would describe SEO as one of the most important tools for marketing your holiday lettings or bed and breakfast business online. And the most important tool if you want your business to grow organically, and rely less on paid-for marketing channels, such as listings sites. Ultimately using SEO will help improve your ROI and attract repeat guests.
What are the benefits of developing an SEO strategy?
The most important benefit of SEO is how it can help you become less dependent on listings sites, directories and other paid-for channels.
To understand why SEO works the way it does, it’s important to understand the cycle of a holiday, and where you, as an accommodation provider, fit into that cycle.
Google identified the five stages that travellers go through in a holiday cycle:
Dream Stage: Every holiday starts with a dream
Planning Stage: Before long travellers are on to the planning stage. Statistics show at this point they may visit 20 or more sites, shopping around before booking
Booking Stage: Hopefully with you!
Experience Stage: This is where you have to ensure you haven’t oversold and that their expectations are fulfilled
Sharing Stage: If you’ve done your job well, then they’ll be sharing a happy experience – reviews, social conversation, word-of-mouth
When you are reliant on paid-for listings or advertising, you are only ever going to be found at stage 3 – the Booking Stage. At this stage you are always going to be competing for a share of enquiries and bookings with competitors. And we start to compete on price, something we want to avoid at all costs, because there will always be someone prepared to offer accommodation cheaper than you.
Ideally you want to stand out before the booking stage and you want to attract guests who are looking for exactly what you have. At the planning stage, travellers are researching a destination, and the type of holiday they want to enjoy. If you identify your niche and create an SEO strategy around that niche you can create experiences that your ideal guests will buy into.
Travel businesses rank higher when they create experiences. Think destination and experience, over accommodation.
Always remember: Nobody dreams of accommodation. They dream of a holiday, of an experience. And that is what you have to deliver in your marketing. And that’s how we use SEO. As a means to deliver a holiday experience, not just accommodation.
What are the fundamentals of good SEO?
Finding the right keywords: A small accommodation provider is never going to be able to compete on top level keywords, such as ‘Holiday cottages Devon’, or ‘Bed and Breakfast Dordogne’ for example. Just take a look on the first 2-3 pages on Google, they are maxed out with listings sites and directories.
When you are developing an SEO strategy you have to bring it down a level, you have to think about your ideal guest, your niche market and those queries, or long-tail keywords as they are known, which pinpoint exactly your experience.
To break this down:
Example of a search query: What are the best hiking routes around Harrogate?
Answer it in your website copy: A guide to the best hiking routes in Harrogate.
Answer it in your listing: Our bed and breakfast is situated next to some of the best hiking routes in Harrogate. Free guide for guests available!
No OTA (listings site) is ever going to answer that query, but you can. And that is what your absolute ideal guests are searching for at the planning stage, when they determine what type of holiday experience they want to enjoy.
Keyword implementation: In your website and advertising copy: Keep it organic and authentic.
TALK TO HUMANS FIRST: Don’t overuse keywords and phrases. Be expansive and warm, not repetitive in your content.
In Metadata: Use a plug-in such as Yoast to write targeted titles and descriptions that appear on Google. They highlight the correct length of a title and description, so your Google listing appears in full and isn’t cut off mid-sentence. Just don’t get too hung-up on getting a green light for every aspect of your content with Yoast. Stay authentic and organic, be the local expert, and don’t worry if you have a few orange lights along the way.
Link building and internal links:
- Don’t set up a useful links page
- Do keep your links relevant and contextualised within your organic content. Linking to local businesses is an excellent way of Google understanding that you are a local expert.
- Do build meaningful relationships with local businesses and work on building links between each other.
How important is social outreach to SEO?
When it comes to SEO, content is always king: textual, visual and video. But unless you want to play the long-game and wait for your amazing content to rise up through Google’s rankings, you’ll need to find another outlet to share your amazing content.
So where content is king. Distribution is queen. And that’s where social outreach comes into play.
Social outreach can come in many different forms and definitely needs a good strategy behind it. Blogging on other platforms, your social media profiles, user generated content and getting influencers involved. But that’s a whole other article! Have a read of our article on the power of User Generated Content for your social media strategy.
What pitfalls should people look out for with SEO?
Not investing in enough time to make it work. SEO is all about keeping content fresh and answering those queries. If you don’t keep it up, then expect your rankings to fall or disappear.
Unrealistic goal setting. If you are aiming to target a mass audience then forget it. Don’t waste your time. It’s never going to happen because there are the likes of Booking.com and Airbnb, etc. that spends millions every year on reaching the masses. Be realistic. Understand your niche. Set realistic goals to attract your ideal guests.
The great thing about understanding your niche and not targeting a mass audience is those clients who find you via a very niche search are looking for exactly what you have. They are going to love your holiday experience and these are prime clients who will become your repeat guests.
What about measuring your results? What tools exist.
Setting up Google analytics and a search console is all you need to measure and analyse website traffic. There are paid-for tools such as Moz and SEMRush, but Google will deliver what you need in terms of analysing where your traffic comes from, what query makes it arrive at your site, and how it reacts to your content.
Is it really so important to be number one on Google?
Number one is to achieve the nearly unachievable. But yes, it’s important for Google to know you exist. And for your future guests to find you.
At Booking Stage – especially for small hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation – travellers tend to search through listings, make a shortlist and then go over to Google to find you directly.
It’s all about authenticity and making a personal connection before they book. Something that the OTAs have taken away. If you don’t have your own marketing channels they will find someone else who does. For this reason, it’s essential to have a presence on Google.
There are other ways of getting your business on to Google in the short-term, such as Google My Business and a PPC (pay per click) or AdWord campaign.
Where does PPC or SEM advertising come into the picture?
SEO is about the long-game. A long-game worth playing, as organic traffic ultimately costs nothing and delivers a higher conversion rate. But organic SEO doesn’t happen overnight. For example an article you write today, might not get ranked on Google for three to six months. You need to plan your content well for it to be visible at exactly the right moment that a client is looking for that type of content or information.
If you have just launched your business and want to get instant exposure then use PPC. Otherwise use it when you have specific promotions, seasonal messages, or when you find that your organically ranked pages have for some reason dropped down the page rankings.
Can a business really do it on their own? Or is SEO always a job for the professionals?
It depends on what you already developed in terms of your own marketing channels and how much time you have to dedicate to the project.
If you already have your own website, with a little bit of coaching, or research, and putting aside time on a regular basis, you can manage your own SEO. It’s about being constant and consistent. Keeping content fresh, analysing your queries and being able to answer them.
If you have time to spend a couple of hours a week on staying fresh and keeping your social channels fresh then the answer is yes. But as soon as you let it go, then expect to see your business disappear down the rankings.
And if we choose to work with a holiday lettings marketing agency like Rental Tonic?
We’ll start by analysing what channels you are currently utilising. What generates enquiries and what channels convert best to bookings. We then look at your ideal scenario within 18 months to 5 years and together we set goals on how to achieve that.
We always work together with the client to set goals, identify your ideal guest and niche market, and from there we create the channels and the content to entice your ideal guests to book.
I have written a course on copywriting for holiday lets and small accommodation providers, which takes you through four steps for creating content for your accommodation listings, social media and website, totally focused on organic SEO and targeting ideal guests. You can sign up to the course for $70 in the Vacation Soup Learn Centre.
Five good tips for getting started on the right track with SEO
- Understand your ideal guests and what they want from a holiday experience
- Don’t try to compete on top level keywords
- Instead focus on search queries/phrases and answer them in your content
- Be authentic, not repetitive in your message and content
- It’s all about creating a destination and experience channel. Remember.You have to sell more than just a bed to sleep in
Need help getting started with a website and SEO? Contact us for a free virtual assessment and let us help you conquer Google!
So you own a Spanish villa that spends a large part of its life sitting empty? I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you how lucrative it could be for you to rent it to holiday makers while you are not using it, or even while you wait for a suitable buyer.
We’ve seen some amazing good news stories from owners who have turned around their fortunes by embracing holiday rentals as a source of income. For example, one of our owners was on the verge of losing his townhouse to the bank, but with a clever niche-marketing strategy he now consistently gets 30+ bookings each year, bringing in an important income of £25,000 to £30,000 every season. Not only did he save his house from being repossessed, he also paid off his debts, and is now looking for another rental property to buy.
Another of our clients who owns a luxury villa in Spain was struggling to find a buyer when the market crashed, but rather than reducing the sales price and selling for less than it cost him to build the villa, he instead decided to rent it out. He managed to achieve £140,000 worth of bookings after commission in his first year which has seriously helped towards his initial building costs and tax bills. That’s not a figure to be sniffed at!
Obviously any income you make from your holiday rental is taxable, just as your earnings from employment would be. And since 2013 the 17 autonomous regions of Spain have been introducing a licence procedure for holiday rentals, which works to ensure the industry is well-run, professional, and offers quality accommodation for tourists, which can only be a good thing!
Andalucia is the latest region to approve a very simple and free registration system, so that you can get your all-important licence number, which will allow you to use all of the online marketing channels available to you.
The law was approved on 2nd February and the law will come into effect on 12th May 2016, giving owners time to register.
Registering your Spanish villa for holiday rentals is a no-brainer, especially if you advertise your villa online to attract bookings (who doesn’t?). Many owners are too busy to set up and manage their own website and marketing strategies, so just like our clients we mentioned before they work predominantly with specialist rental agencies and listing sites to bring in bookings. But increasingly, these listing sites will only be able to advertise properties that hold a licence number, as we have seen with Airbnb and HomeAway in Catalonia, who faced big fines themselves from the Spanish authorities for continuing to advertise holiday rentals that were not registered.
If you own a holiday rental in another region of Spain, we recommend you read our article, which gives a quick run through of the latest requirements for registering a holiday rental in each region, so you can be sure that you are doing things the right way.
As sure as Benjamin Franklin was about the certainty of death and taxes, we are even more certain that villas with a licence number are going to have a massively out-perform those properties that are unregistered.
Think about it, you will have a massive advantage over clandestine rentals in terms of customer confidence, quality and legality, so you can easily take a lion’s share of the market from guests who will book your place over the unregulated villa next door – he may be trying to avoid the taxman, but that’s a false economy if he doesn’t have any income anyway!
As we mentioned before, there is no need to panic at all about the new Andalusian decree, unlike some tabloid reports it’s there to protect owners and guests alike and it’s free and simple to register.
We are going to be helping a couple of our villa owners through the paperwork as soon as the register opens to see how it all works, then we will report back with as much help and advice as we can offer to smooth the process for you.
Your holiday rental advertising listing is not performing, your bookings are down and you see other holiday homes in your destination with full calendars and happy guests. So why are you not achieving the same success?
Before you throw in the towel, take a good look at your holiday rental listing copy. Content can always be improved and optimising your content and writing copy that resonates with your ideal guest, should lead to increases enquiries and bookings.
At Rental Tonic we love it when companies share data and statistics that help owners and agents improve their holiday rental business and their communication with clients and guests: How clients book, who they are, where they find you, where they go and what they like and expect from a holiday rental. All this ‘big data’ helps you understand a client, the best places to reach that client and how to communicate with them in the future. Read more
The world of holiday rentals is changing and growing at a super fast rate. A sector was pretty much unregulated since its inception, is now subject to close scrutiny and regulation. With some regions handling their legislation roll out in a far more effective way than others. Read more
We see it all too often on the holiday rental sites; in a rush to get a new rental listing out via as many channels as possible, owners succumb to the urge to write the advertising copy as quickly as possible, rather than taking time and care to do it properly.
It’s a big mistake, and if you are guilty it could be costing you bookings.
I know many owners here in Europe are preparing to welcome their first holiday rental guests of the season as the Easter break begins. The old adage “first impressions count” is never more important than when trying to run a holiday business, so why should a holiday rental be any different to a quality hotel? Guests have the same needs; they may be stressed out from finishing up at work, tired from the journey, possibly with over excited children, and all they want is to arrive and find everything perfect so they can get straight on with the job of relaxing and having a good holiday. Read more
By now, many owners have realised that targeting your holiday rental to the family market is a good idea. Parents with preschool children in particular are one of the main groups who book their holidays in those harder to fill off peak weeks. It is no wonder that over recent years several specialist companies have appeared, like Baby Friendly Boltholes and Tots to Travel. Larger established agencies are also seeing the potential of this market and dedicating special sections of their websites to it. Mr & Mrs Smith for example, have recently unveiled a child friendly portfolio, and Sawdays now have a collection of properties perfect for families. Read more