VRM Intel Magazine Summer 2021

Page 74

The Truth

about Vacation Rental SEO

Sifting through Website Audits to Get to the Important Stuff By Jill Highsmith McGee


This website, with all its “errors” and issues, is one of the highest-ranking websites in our arsenal for a very highly competitive area. It not only ranks in the top three positions for the destination itself (many number-one rankings), but it also ranks for individual communities, condo complexes, and other areas—aka the money keywords, as we call them.

With over 3.5 billion Google searches per day, we know SEO is important. We know it drives traffic to your website “naturally.” However, the mystery is the how. SEO is not an exact science. It’s a compilation of experience, algorithms, and adapting to feed Google the right information so it favors your website. There are many misconceptions about SEO, and I'm here to answer the how (and how not) for vacation rental companies to help you evaluate your marketing efforts, both internally and externally.

The Old Tactics Still Work

hen I tell people I’m a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist, I see their eyes glaze over. I often resort to a short response of, “I get companies to show up at the top of Google.” We all know SEO is a vital part of every vacation rental company’s marketing strategy, but due to its technical nature, it is often left out of the water cooler conversations. Cut down to its basics, SEO is the discipline that increases your website's visibility in search engines for terms that are relevant to your product. When executed properly, it will increase qualified organic traffic, which will contribute to a higher click-through rate and more conversions.

You Can’t Rely on Tools to Do Your SEO The vacation rental industry is a unique niche when it comes to proper SEO practices. It does not follow the same road map as, say, a clothing company or restaurant, because the product being purchased is more of an experience than a tangible good, and its value is more heavily reliant on the demand of the consumer rather than the value of the product itself.

However, no matter what type of product you have, we consistently see PMs and other agencies rely on “scores” scores for page speed, scores for site audits, and scores from Google Search Console. These scores are guides. That’s all they are. They won’t make you rank better. Site auditing tools are extremely valuable to help you pinpoint your website’s strengths and weaknesses. However, fixing errors alone cannot make your site rank better. They should be used as a helpful guide, nothing more. It’s the interpretation of that data by a seasoned SEO specialist and the application of those methods to your website that increases your rankings.

Think of it this way: you are improving your “score” in order to pass a test. However, that “score” may only constitute 20 percent of your overall “grade” with Google. There are many important items to work on to rank.

 Action Item: Challenge your agency when they are solely working on “getting you a better audit score.” These are vanity metrics. Solely increasing your score is a waste of time and money. While audits are important, chances are, SEO pros should be working on something else to better your ranking unless they can specifically tell you why that particular item is important. For more info, check out http://www.icnd.net/scaretactics.

When optimizing a vacation rental website, there are three key factors: content, links, and accessibility but it all starts with keywords.

Define a Goal, and Start with Keywords

The first question to ask yourself is this: What is the intent behind my website? For vacation rental companies, it is to see conversions through bookings. The second question is this: How do I achieve this goal? The answer is by defining your audience, developing a strategy to attract them, and making sure your site is set up to allow for a seamless booking transaction when they do find you.

Although “rentals” or “vacation rentals” may be the biggest terms, they are market-dependent. For example, if you have a rental property with a water view on the Gulf Coast, it’s a “beachfront rental.” If it’s on the east coast or west coast, it’s an “oceanfront rental.” What about finding a rental in the mountains? That term is “lodging.” More quaint mountain town? “Cottage.” Let’s not forget about “cabin.” Are you Australian or trying to appeal to the Australian market? You use “accommodation” as opposed to “vacation rental.” Each of those terms has a different intent behind it, and each term has a different conversion rate. Finding the right one for your niche is vital.

These seem like small changes, but if your primary audience is searching for an “Oceanfront Beach Condo,” and you’re optimizing for “Beachfront Villa,” you will miss out on that traffic because you have it labeled differently. Yes, these terms all mean “vacation rental,” but keep in mind that the way travelers search largely depends on both the destination and where THEY are from.

Finding the perfect group of keywords to optimize your site for is potentially the most important component in your SEO strategy. 72

VRM Intel Magazine | Summer 2021

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