Vacation rental listings are a property manager’s most powerful marketing tool.
These days, though, listing rental properties on Expedia, Booking.com, Airbnb, Tripadvisor, and Vrbo can be daunting: short-term rentals are booming on all the top travel sites, so how do you make your rentals stand out?
The good news is that even though each OTA has its own unique standards, some tenets of success are universal. And really, it starts with property managers knowing how to create the perfect vacation rental listing—that wisdom translates across all travel sites.
When you think about it, the math is pretty simple.
Good vacation rental listings earn more bookings, and more bookings lead to more reviews, enhanced visibility, and ultimately, more guests. Your listings are more than advertisements: they’re essentially the wind in your business’s sails.
To create the perfect vacation rental listing, the first thing you should do is put yourself in the shoes of travel shoppers. What do you want to learn from a vacation rental listing, and what do you need to learn? When you’re scrolling through listings, which ones stand out to you?
This is a great example of a strong listing—and we haven’t even clicked through to view the whole thing yet.
Look closely, though. In this small amount of space, travel shoppers learn that this is an Orlando townhouse (from the listing headline) with ample living space (from the hero image). This listing also sheds light on the property’s excellent rating, as well as its…
These visual queues represent many of the little pieces that comprise a complete and perfect vacation rental listing. Indeed, knowing how to list vacation rentals is much more nuanced than simply posting them on travel sites and hoping shoppers click the “Book” button. That’s not to say, though, that constructing effective listings needs to be an overly complicated process. Here are 5 easy steps to help you create perfect vacation rental listings.
Research shows that nearly 85% of travelers believe photos are helpful, and more than 25% believe photos are the most important factor when deciding whether or not to book a property.
A perfect vacation rental listing has somewhere between 20 and 30 photos total.
It starts with the “hero” image (or “thumbnail” image), which is the most important piece of visual content attached to your listing. That single image—the one travel shoppers see as they sift through search results—is either an invitation to click your listing or scroll right past it. Make it count!
The rest of your photos should be of high quality, organized in a coherent order, and tagged properly so potential guests don’t have to do any guesswork. Videos and virtual tours have also become popular in recent years, and the response to those has been overwhelmingly positive. Still, photos remain the best piece of visual content for property managers trying to make their rentals stand out.
Visual content grabs the attention of travel shoppers, but oftentimes, it’s the written content that keeps them hanging around a listing. It starts at the very top with the listing headline: this small but mighty piece of content works hand-in-hand with the listing’s hero image to not only catch a shopper’s eye, but to draw them into your listing. With everything else that goes into vacation rental listings, headlines are easy to overlook—but knowing how to write them effectively is a skill all property managers should master.
Once you’ve earned that all-important click that pulls a travel shopper away from the endless search results and into your listing, it’s critical that you deliver the goods. And sure, photos will always be a big part of that, but so is your written description.
A vacation rental listing’s written description is where the conversation starts between a property manager and prospective guests: it’s where you greet them, invite them to check out your rental, and share with them why your property is so special. It’s also where you can infuse listings with some personal insights, local knowledge, and buzzwords that travelers might be looking for. And let’s be honest: a listing description with that type of color is wayyy more interesting—and way more memorable—than just a canned list of amenities.
Cleanliness and hygiene protocols have never been more important than they are right now. Since the start of the pandemic, data has shown upwards of 90% of travelers are making purchase decisions based on cleaning protocols. Obviously, that number is bound to fluctuate in the months and years ahead, but the point remains: travelers are gravitating to clean getaways, and travel websites are rewarding top performers in cleanliness with special badges and other perks (as illustrated in the images above).
A perfect vacation rental listing in 2022 not only checks all the necessary health and hygiene boxes, but also places that information front-and-center. Special badging from OTAs certainly helps, but you can go the extra mile by using your written description and other messaging to reassure travel shoppers that your rental is clean, safe, and ready for their visit.
Guest reviews are a cornerstone of the hospitality industry: they impact your reputation, of course, but they also affect your listing’s ranking and where it appears in search results on major OTAs.
Positive guest reviews have the power to turn a good listing into a perfect listing, and believe it or not, your responses to guest reviews pack a similar punch. Research shows more than 75% of travelers read reviews before clicking the “Book” button, so property managers should always prioritize collecting them—and responding thoughtfully to them, too.
Finally, the pricing of short-term vacation rentals isn’t static—in fact, dynamic (but sensible) pricing actually helps property managers maximize their production. Throughout the year, you can adjust the pricing on your listings based on market demand, local events, seasonality, competitor activity, and much more.
Dynamic pricing models can be taken to the next level with promotions. In the screenshots at the beginning of this article, you can see how promotions help vacation rentals stand out: travel websites like Vrbo, Booking.com, and Airbnb bolster participating listings with price slashes, campaign badging, and other eye-catching elements that appeal to travel shoppers. Likewise, OTAs are also showcasing listings with flexible cancellation and length-of-stay policies since that’s exactly what travelers are looking for these days.