You can increase your revenue and direct bookings through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in the vacation rental and property management industry. But what does it all mean and where do you start? This article will discuss the terms, the tactics, and the tips for a successful digital SEO strategy.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is a digital marketing strategy focused on improving your website’s presence through organic search results. Think of it as a way to optimize your property management site for search and increase awareness through clicks.
Why Does SEO Matter?
SEO allows guests to find your vacation rental company when they’re searching Google for vacation rentals or destination information. That is why it is critical to design your website in a way that can leverage the capabilities of search engines.
- 53% of web traffic comes from organic search across all industries.
- 60%+ among some travel/vacation rental companies
- Organic search drives over 10X more website traffic than organic social media.
It helps to think of Bing and Google as if they were answering machines, picking up information and communicating it back to you. Search engines exist to discover, understand, and organize the internet’s content and provide the results back to you. The path they use is made up of three things: crawling, indexing, and ranking.
Crawling is exactly what it suggests. Search engines move through your website content and code to understand what is on the page. From there, it seeks out as many links as can be found on that page.
Indexing is a way that search engines store and organize content that they’ve found during the crawling process. Once indexed, the webpage can display the result as an answer to relevant queries.
Rank means where a website shows up in the search. Google provides pieces of content that best answer a query by ordering the most relevant results to the least relevant. This is achieved through algorithms. Google uses more than 200 ranking factors to establish where a website will fall in the hierarchy of a search. An example of the ranking factors is the speed of page load and quality of content.
Tactics to Increase Visibility in Search Results
Understanding the big picture is critical for choosing the right tactics for your property management company. You can determine what visibility you’re getting and how people are getting to your website in the following ways:
Tracking performance can show you what keywords are bringing people to your website. SEO Keyword tracking tools (through Semrush, Moz, and Web CEO) can flag errors, and pull data from ads and other channels. Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console can help to track performance and target strategies for effective SEO tactics.
Metadata tells search engines what kind of content is on a page. Title tags and meta descriptions are visible to users on search engine results, but are not on-page elements when a user visits the page. Use keywords (known as tags) to tell Google what your page is about.
Best practices recommend that title tags are most effective when using 40-60 characters. Prioritize keywords and your site name and don’t overuse keywords. Also, use different keywords for different website pages that identify what the page content is targeting. By diversifying keywords and phrases, you can capture an audience in different ways.
Meta descriptions describe the page to help someone know if your page is what they’re looking for. They can be up to 160 characters to provide a brief overview of what the page entails. 120-160 characters would be considered best practice. Meta descriptions can be longer than meta titles to effectively summarize page content.
Search engines use the meta description to let visitors know what a page is before they click on it.
The key to meta descriptions is to focus less on SEO and more on getting users to click through to your site.
Title tags and meta descriptions are referred to as On-page SEO. As outlined above, these tags tell the search engines what content is on individual pages. To increase visibility, you need to implement on-page SEO using effective keywords on every page of your website.
Be aware that Google has extensive guidelines for SEO that must be followed. Failing to do so could ultimately result in a complete ban from Google. One rule is to avoid keyword stuffing on page content. Keyword stuffing is purposely repeating specific keywords to gain a ranking advantage.
Gain Visibility Through Code and Content
There are easy ways to make sure Google is working for you in terms of search and ranking. The way you structure your content on a page is important. Here are some tips to follow. If you are using LiveRez, we can help design a website that will work for you and with Google.
There are different HTML tags: H1-H6. Each tag indicates a website heading and the tags are code snippets telling the web browser how to display page content. H1 is the most important section/heading and H6 is the least important section/heading. A single page title (H1) will enable google to know what the page is and what it’s about.
Content on most pages should be 300+ words of high-quality content. Blogs or activity pages can be 1200 to 1500 words to effectively cover the topic or content. Additionally, include your top priority keyword somewhere in either the page title, or H1.
Make the content easy to read by using headlines, bullet lists, numbered lists, and a hierarchy of the content on the page. When Google crawls through your webpage, it likes lists and hierarchies of what is most important on the page. Breaking up the text on pages also helps content perform for you.
Image Alt tags
Always insert image alt tags on image files. An alt tag describes what the image is, this allows search engines to understand what your image is of. Add relevant terms related to where your business is located. All of this should be less than 100 characters. Alt tags give better access to the visually impaired while giving search engines a better understanding of the images.
Keyword Research Can Set You Apart
At this point, it should be clear how important keywords are for your property management business, but you might not be clear on what your keywords are. Understanding which organic keywords and phrases are most relevant to your business is not always apparent. Proper research will tell you what words your visitors are using or might be using when searching for a vacation rental. Consider the following topics when building your keyword list:
- Vacation rental
- Management specific
- Realty specific
- Your location
- Areas you serve
- Unique aspects of your business that drive revenue
You should also look at your competitor’s ranking and how they are achieving higher ranks. And make sure to record what guests are asking and use those keywords accordingly. For every one guest question, six people are wondering the same thing.
Your reservationist will have insight into what specific aspects of your business guests ask about. They may ask about pet-friendly rentals, local activities in the area, and amenities. Consider all phases of the Buyer’s Journey from location searches and planning to check-in, stay, payment and departure.
Tools For Success
If you are a LiveRez associate or partner, you already know how helpful that technology can be in your marketing and targeting efforts. Google also offers tools that can optimize your digital performance.
- Google Ads and Analytics will tell you what people are searching for and where they are. Google Analytics data will show how people are interacting with your site. You’ll get an overview of trends for positioning with SEO.
- Keyword Planner will show you what people are looking for and convey relevance to your offering.
- Google Trends will help you to understand how your area is performing overall.
- “People also ask” feature located at bottom of SERPs will also provide keyword insights.
- SEMrush and MOZ will also help with SEO in ways that are efficient and productive.
Tips and tricks for Website Structure
Internal links can lead to other pages and content on your website such as pet-friendly rentals, hot tubs, pools, etc. If you add links, Google will add the pages to its index quicker. Again, make a pet-friendly dedicated page, a ski-in, ski-out page, and then link other content to these pages. In Google’s eyes, it makes the content legitimate. Make a local area guide page. Describe local restaurants, outdoor activities, arts and culture, annual events, and more. This will improve visibility because the wider variety of content will allow Google to hit the pages more often from search results.
- Category Pages: Using keyword search tools, identify terms and create dedicated pages optimized and focused on that term.
- Rental Details: Oceanfront, Pet friendly, mountain view, ski-in, ski-out, walk to the beach, hot tub, pool, etc.
- Local Area Details: Restaurants, outdoor activities, arts and culture, annual events, blogs.
The more links you have, the more often Google will hit, index and rank.
Off-page SEO Improves SEO beyond your website.
Off-page SEO means linking your property management website to external sites creating positive referrals for your site. This helps search engines see your website as credible and vouched for by the sites that link to you, and the sites you link to. Creating partnerships with community and government entities will help to reach a broader audience that you might not otherwise find.
Link building is an important ranking factor and affects visibility. If high-quality websites are linking to your website, Google will recognize your website as higher quality. Ask activity vendors to link to your site in return for you linking to their site. There are many common site errors (think broken links, error 404s) that will reduce your domain authority. However, fixing this can be technical. Reach out to the LiveRez team if you encounter problems with the website display.
Linked on the CVB (convention visitor bureau). Elevate the brand through Domain authority which will show Google you are a reputable business. The fundamental mission of a convention and visitor bureau is the promotion of visitor and business travel, which generates overnight lodging for a destination. They are directly responsible for travel and tourism “product awareness” to visitors.
Make sure you have a Google My Business Page set up. People searching off Google Maps and other locations information will find you here. Make sure your profile is detailed and specific and make sure to choose the right category. Do not choose lodging or accommodations as it will limit what you can do. A vacation rental agency or property management company will allow for activities and blog posts where lodging and accommodations will not. Make sure to claim your Google My Business page and your address to accept mail.
Lastly, be sure your website’s mobile version loads quickly. Most people will research mobile, so a fast page load is critical.
Note: Photo optimization can improve page feed speed exponentially. Resize and compress images so that the resolution is 72dpi or 1920×1180 pixels. Tinypng.com compresses photos for free
Common Site Errors will Impact Rank
Website errors will certainly impact your Google ranking if they are not remedied quickly. Some common errors include the following:
- Broken internal links/error 404s
- Server errors
- Duplicate title/content/meta description
- Don’t take content from other sites (event pages etc.)
- Toxic links & disavowed files
- Expired SSL certs
- Mixed Content
- Thin Content
Most Important Factors to Successful SEO Performance
High-Quality Content (Keyword and optimized metadata)
Page Feed (loads fast and seamless)
SEO Is always evolving and updated. Algorithms are updated every couple of months and sometimes weeks. Fresh content is important to maintain ranking – try creating one new page monthly (activity page or blog post or property category). Updating content shows Google new content. A healthy site is not something to take for granted. It takes consistency and governance and if done well, can improve your bookings and increase your revenue in unimaginable ways.
Visit us at LiveRez and we will help set you up for success with best practices.
For more information on SEO, check out our SEO class session from Partner Conference 2021.