Last year 53% of all travel in the US was booked online, and that percentage is only anticipated to increase (iPropertyManagement). Additionally, close to 70% of those potential guests preferred to book their travel on a brand site rather than a 3rd-party booking site (VRMA).

According to recent predictions, just millennials will spend $1.4 trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a ‘t’) dollars on travel each year. Considering this, millenials are more likely than any other demographic to choose a vacation rental when they travel, and they’re using mobile options to research and book their trips.

If you’re a vacation rental property manager, that’s a segment of your market that should be just about impossible to overlook. Here are 5 major reasons to pay attention to your digital marketing efforts in the coming year.

To Stand Out From the Crowd

Just in the United States, there are over 23,000 property management companies. And when you’re up against that kind of competition, you need a targeted, quantifiable marketing strategy. Digital efforts can provide some of the most measurable marketing results for your dollar. So whether you’re looking to build out your content, improve your website experience, or run paid advertising, you’ll have more visibility into how your efforts are performing, as well as actionable information about how you can improve those tactics.

When it comes to differentiating your properties online, understanding and leveraging search engine optimization (SEO) is key. With so many players in the game, finding those unique search terms and opportunities for your individual property to shine can enhance the likelihood that your property is returned for relevant, highly-qualified search queries.

In addition to leveraging SEO practices, investing in quality content for your site can help build your brand authority, trust, and support SEO efforts to differentiate your offerings.

To Step Up Your Social Media

More than many industries, vacation and property rentals rely on the word-of-mouth recommendation and referral of real people — in the real world and online. Statistics show that over 52% of travelers “seek out recommendations from friends on social media when planning their trip. They browse Facebook pages, search hashtags and stalk their friends’ vacation photos as part of their planning process (Vroomres).”

And if you want to be where conversations are happening online related to your property offerings, having an intentional social media strategy is a critical step.  Not only can the right social presence improve the chances that your guests will recommend you, it can also support the differentiation of your property and overall brand trust.

That said, social can be a tricky game to play, and there are some important considerations to make in order to begin, or optimize your social presence:

  • Do your research - learn where your audience engages the most and target efforts accordingly and platform-specifically
  • Create and use a content plan - this should include things like your voice, tone, and style on social as well as how that may change across platforms. It should also have contingency plans as well as response protocol and expectations for followers.
  • Connect in the real world - Work with local businesses and organizations in person to establish relationships that can then be transferred online (whether that’s guest features on their sites, links, or other social referrals). Use properties as opportunities to reach out to guests and let them know where they can find you online, as well as where and how they can post reviews and details of their stay. Make this as easy as possible and consider incentivizing guests as well.

To Meet Guests Where They Are

Do you know where your preferred guests spend their time online? Understanding user behavior, and how it correlates to demographics can help you create messaging for your most qualified guests on the most relevant platforms — in ways that fit into their established digital patterns and behaviors. And with such a large volume of competition in the marketplace, you can’t afford to wait for guests to come to you.

Half of mobile search is done with local intent — that means you’re probably missing opportunities if you don’t have your local SEO properly optimized. Proactive marketing for property management also means that your digital efforts need to be platform specific and relevant so guests can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

  • Take the time to make sure your Google My Business listing is complete and up to date, and spend the time to find out how your VRM and individual properties are represented online so you can see exactly what a potential guest sees in order to streamline their experience.
  • If you’re running paid ads this means they shouldn’t be intrusive.
  • If you’re using Pinterest or other social platforms, make sure content aligns with channel norms and best practices.

To Better Understand How Guests Use Your Site

A robust analytics approach is another cornerstone to an effective digital marketing strategy for vacation rentals. Using an analytics platform like Google Analytics can provide valuable insight into your audience and how they interact with your website. Google Analytics in particular provides detailed information about how much time users spend on your site, how many pages they visit, how many users are new versus returning, what platforms users are accessing your site from (mobile, desktop, or tablet), conversion statistics, and much, much more. If you’re a vacation rental property manager, this is a gold mine of valuable information that you can use to optimize your ideal audience’s experience on your site, leading us to our final and most important point — converting users.

To Secure More Valuable Leads

All of these strategies will help improve the amount of qualified, organic traffic to your website, and by extension, the amount of qualified leads your properties will see. And while getting the traffic to your website is a big piece of the puzzle, what happens after guests get to your site can make all the difference.

For example, is your site responsive enough to cater to all those mobile users? How easy is it to book online from your site? Is there useful, high-quality content that helps vacationers answer their most important questions? The reality is that every time a guest has to pinch and drag or spend an extra few seconds looking for key information, the chances of them converting on your site plummet. So if you’re ready to start setting your properties and your brand apart from the competition, and looking to position your site for success, understanding digital marketing is the first - and best - step you can take.