OTA Best Practices for Vacation Rentals

February 18, 2020

Why Optimize Vacation Rental OTA Listings

The vacation property rental space is getting more crowded and more competitive every year. As more property owners and managers continue to enter the space, standing out and differentiating your brand and OTA listings from those of your competitors becomes critical to success. As potential guests seek instant gratification with online bookings, decision making and choices require that property managers “hook” those guests with dramatic images and appealing text within seconds, or they will simply move on to the next property.

In this post, we’re going to look at some best practices you can use to optimize your OTA vacation rental listings to help your properties stand out from the competition and convert more potential guests into bookings.

First, Take A Step Back

Step back and take a critical unbiased look at your current OTA vacation rental listings. Be extremely critical here! Detach yourself from any emotional connection and ask and answer the following questions completely honestly:

  • If I saw this listing and was looking for a vacation rental, would I say “I want that?”
  • Is the title unique, interesting, engaging and descriptive? Does it stand out from the competition?
  • Does the feature photo capture the emotion of your property? Does it offer “wow impact?”
  • Would a reader be just as wowed by the full listing?

If you are being completely honest, you will probably find some shortcomings. It could be the title, the featured photo, the text, the About Us section or even the amenities. Any of these areas could trigger a visitor to click off your listing and move on.

A good vacation rental listing has several critical pieces that, when optimized using best practices, can cement the “I want that” desire. Here are some ideas to consider.

OTA Best Practices

The key to a successful listing is to fine-tune each element, from choosing the right photos to creating the perfect headline. Let’s look at some best practices that can help you to supercharge your bookings and boost your listing’s performance!

Write a Killer Headline!

Your listing’s headline is extremely critical to its success. You have a limited number of characters available to differentiate your property from the hundreds of other properties travelers are browsing. If you don’t grab their attention with the headline, you might miss out on the booking! When writing your headline, stay away from the obvious and focus on what makes your property stand out from the competition. For example:

BEFORE: Gorgeous 3 BR/3 BA Townhouse – Golf/Mins to Attractions/ Patio
BECOMES: Free 18 Holes Golf – Mesmerizing Mountain Views from Cozy Home (60 characters)

BEFORE: Sea Glass Cottage-Cool, Fresh and Fun on the Mesa
BECOMES: Free Sunset Cruise-Astonishing Ocean Views from Charming Cottage (65)

Think like a guest when creating headlines. Ask, “what are my guests looking for in their rental?” Let the answer drive your writing process. Should you offer a discount? Do you offer free activities? Create a picture with words. Include the location, use the maximum word count and focus on what makes your rental stand out.

Headline Do’s

  • Keep the length around 50-70 characters
  • Include proximity to local attractions
  • Highlight special amenities or anything that makes your property stand out
  • Describe suitability for certain groups of travelers (great for families, etc.)

Headline Don’ts

  • Include property IDs or addresses
  • Use all capital letters
  • Include bedroom and bathroom count (they are listed under the headline)
  • Repeat other headlines – be unique!

Remember to Use SEO Practices

As more sites focus on user intent, using SEO techniques in your headline, body copy, and tags is more important than ever before. Write unique content for each listing and do not use the same exact copy in each one. Most readers and search engines read the first four words – if your listings are all the same, you’ll have no differentiation. Make sure each listing is unique.

Enhance Your Listing Descriptions

Take the traveler on a journey through your home and help them imagine what it will be like to be there. Include descriptions that appeal to all the fives senses. Help them see, hear, touch, taste, and feel what it will be like! Use a minimum of 300 words for the entire description.

Here’s a great description – “When they see that your listing has ‘an inviting living area with a 45′ flat-screen TV and a plush L-shaped couch, perfect for lounging with loved ones and watching your favorite movies’, they will imagine themselves on that couch, with their families, watching those movies, and will feel much more comfortable booking your property.” Source: Evolve Vacation Rental Blog

Include Awesome Photography!

Photos are the most important selling tool for your vacation rental property. If you don’t provide enough photos, or if they are of poor quality, travelers will not feel comfortable booking. Photo quality shows your commitment to your property. Nothing turns a potential renter off faster than poor quality photos. To get the best results, hire a professional! According to a FlipKey study, travelers are 83% more likely to inquire about listings that contain 20 or more photos. Remember, more photos can help you to rank higher in search results on the OTAs.

Ask For, and Include Reviews in Your Listings

According to TripAdvisor, travelers are 80% more likely to book a vacation rental that includes 20 or more reviews from past guests. Reviews offer authentication to potential renters. Request feedback from your renters within a few days of their departure. Send a handwritten thank-you note and include a review request. Personalize your requests and stress the importance of reviews. Make sure to always include a link to the reviews page on your listing.

Here’s an easy checklist to review when examining your properties:

  • Your best photo – bright and landscape-oriented
  • Highlight unique or highly sought-after amenities
  • Plays into fantasy of why people visit your area
  • High resolution photos (3840 x 2160 pixels recommended)
  • Optimized pricing for market
  • 20+ reviews
  • Clutter-free

Use best practices, make sure each listing is unique and descriptive, from the headline to the body copy, include plenty of high-quality photos and always respond to any inquiry promptly.

Marketing your vacation rental properties properly on the OTAs can help you to stand out from the crowd, differentiate your brand, and increase your bookings.