Ask an Expert: How Do I Write Amazing Vacation Rental Descriptions?
Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes
Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone…
On their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles took listeners on a psychedelic voyage with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”—a song about a totally, completely normal boat ride and absolutely nothing else.
Songwriter John Lennon utilized colorful, vivid imagery to lift listeners up and drop them directly into a magical scene. The power of writing is on full display here: good writing can transport you to incredible places, and not-so-good writing can transport you straight into nap-time.
Generally speaking, vacation rental descriptions aren’t going to feature towering cellophane flowers or rocking horse people eating marshmallow pies. But that doesn’t mean descriptions have to be boring, and they certainly shouldn’t be an afterthought—property managers should definitely know how to write vacation rental descriptions.
If you think of your listing like a billboard, then your property description is your business card: it’s that personalized piece of marketing collateral that you hand over to potential customers as a way to introduce yourself and your rental. It’s where you make your first impression, begin to build trust, and ultimately, convince travel shoppers to book your property—or not.
Effective vacation rental descriptions are a unique art form, which is why we asked our in-house writing guru, Content Marketing Manager Eddie Carroll, to share some best practices on how to write vacation rental descriptions. Climb aboard for a handful of groovy tips >>>
Newspaper taxis appear on the shore, waiting to take you away…
When I sit down to write a vacation rental description, where do I even begin?
Before writer’s block has the chance to grip your entire being, ask yourself this simple question: “Who is my target audience?” The answer to that question will create the framework for your description and allow you to step into the shoes of your potential guests. What will they want to know about your property? What will they need to know about it?
Try to anticipate and answer their questions in your description; don’t feel obligated to address every little detail, though, because space (and attention spans) are at a premium. Let’s say you target business professionals and your property is the perfect place for a workcation. Is there a dedicated office space? How’s the WiFi? Identify your audience—families with kids, pet owners, couples, nature lovers—and write your description with them in mind.
What tone should I use to write vacation rental descriptions?
According to Airbnb, you should write how you talk. That keeps the tone conversational, kind of like you’re describing your property to a friend. Be professional, but not overly formal—it’s totally cool to inject your personality into your vacation rental description, especially if you think about it as a way to introduce yourself to potential guests. Just be careful not to oversell. For instance, if you are renting out a cottage, don’t refer to it as an estate. There’s still plenty of value in transparency!
Can the content of my vacation rental descriptions really set my properties apart?
Absolutely. Every writing teacher since the beginning of time has told their students, “Show, don’t tell.” That’s actually great advice here: if your vacation rental descriptions are just giant walls of text that list off all your properties’ amenities, you’re really selling yourself short.
Consider this: What are the unique things about your property that travelers can’t find anywhere else?
What sets you and your rental apart?
A vacation rental description built around those unique selling points—however big or small they might be—is infinitely more memorable than an endless list of amenities, especially if your writing is geared toward a specific audience. You don’t need to be Picasso to splatter paint on a canvas, and you don’t need to be a wordsmith to craft engaging and informative vacation rental descriptions: just think about who you’re writing for, prioritize what sets you apart, and present those details in a conversational way.
How should I organize my vacation rental descriptions?
- Bullet points
You eat with your eyes first, right? That concept is certainly applicable to vacation rental descriptions: the significance of presentation cannot be overstated.
According to Booking.com and Expedia, roughly 60% of bookings are happening on mobile. Combine that crazy fact with our ever-shrinking attention spans, and what you’re left with is an infinitesimal window to hook and book a guest.
Travel shoppers are drawn to listings with great visual content. They also gravitate to listings with promotions, as well as properties owned by standout hosts (such as Premier Hosts on Vrbo and Superhosts on Airbnb).
Once they scroll down to the description, though, they shift into the dreaded SKIM mode. If what you’ve written doesn’t apply to them, or if it’s just a giant wall of text that’s impossible to read on a smartphone, they’re going to bounce and probably book elsewhere. But wait—you can prevent that from happening by formatting your description with:
- Succinct paragraphs that are only a couple of sentences long (and with proper spacing)
- Bullets (or dashes) to convey information quickly and easily, even to skimmers
- Headers and subheaders, which not only break up the text but also help you reinforce big details you want travelers to notice (Example: Outdoor Space with Firepit)
What kind of stuff should I avoid when I write vacation rental descriptions?
To keep your vacation rental descriptions at an accessible length, cut out extraneous details that are mentioned elsewhere in the listing (such as square footage, number of bedrooms, and so on). And look, marketing your vacation rentals is more important than ever, but don’t pack your description full of buzzwords like “must-see.” If something about your property truly is “must-see,” nix the clichés and paint that picture—show, don’t tell.
A few more tips for top-notch vacation rental descriptions:
- Neighborhood, town, or area: It might be nice to dedicate a sentence or two to cool things in your area. But keep in mind travelers are probably viewing your listing because they already plan on visiting your city or town—you don’t always have to sell them on proximity or local attractions, since they might already be sold on that aspect.
- Headlines and photo captions: A vacation rental description is obviously a big chunk of copy, but don’t forget to utilize other copy fields in your listings like the headline and photo captions. Both of these are great opportunities to reinforce your unique selling points and tell a story so potential guests can easily imagine what it’s like to stay at your property.
- Call to action: A quick CTA at the end of your vacation rental description can be a clever finishing touch, you just have to decide what you want it to accomplish. You can create a sense of urgency (“Our calendar is filling up quickly!”) or infuse a splash of personality (“Our family can’t wait to host yours!”). Either way, your CTA should lead travelers to that coveted destination at the end of every vacation rental description: the BOOK button.
If it was “easy” to write amazing vacation rental descriptions, every property manager would do it. The fact is, when you consider everything else that goes into a listing—and just how busy property managers are—descriptions often do become something of an afterthought.
But hey, that’s why we’re here.
The team at VacayHome Connect specializes in boosting content scores, and believe it or not, descriptions can be a big part of that equation. If you’re looking for some help with your content, or you’re just curious about what else our platform can do for you (hint: literally everything), contact us today to learn more!
And while you’re visiting, feel free to check out more articles from our “Ask an Expert” series: