Airbnb is synonymous with the short-term rental sector and the boom in the space that has allowed people from all walks of life to start making more money out of their rental properties, whether it’s an individual with a spare room or a property management company looking to benefit from higher returns.
Speak to many property managers and individual owners, though, and you’ll no doubt hear about some frustrations with Airbnb’s habit of changing policies or siding with guests.
That’s why an increasing number of hosts are starting to market their properties on more booking channels, and not just other 3rd party OTAs.
Direct booking websites, where you build your own website and your own marketing funnel, are becoming increasingly popular in the short-term rental space.
Going direct gives hosts better control over their business and who they accept (no algorithm dings for denying a booking request). It also means much lower fees and the ability to really build your own brand.
But, like listing on any new channel, it can take a little time to build up your direct booking presence and the number of booking requests you’re getting. Here are a few tips to help you grow your direct website traffic, no matter where you’re at in your journey.
Build a brand
Wherever you’re promoting your property as a place to stay, you’ll know that it’s important to tailor your property and your listing to the guests you’re trying to appeal to. Whether you’re targeting families, business travelers, or adventure enthusiasts, you consider the amenities and features that would appeal to them.
You also need to consider this for your direct booking website. Consider the language you use in your listing, the look and feel of your website, and how that will appeal to them. Software like Hospitable allows you to quickly and easily build your own website from a template or add their booking tool to your existing website (along with a number of safety features such as Autohost built in to screen every booking).
These materials show you mean business but can also make your website easier to find after their stay if they booked via a 3rd party such as Airbnb before.
Start with repeat bookings
If you already have a wealth of short-term renting experience via platforms such as Airbnb or Vrbo, then it makes sense to make those guests become repeat bookers before you start investing in attracting brand-new guests.
A common statistic in consumer marketing is that it costs 5 times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. If you’re not already using a guest vetting tool such as Autohost, it also means that there’s less risk of receiving a bad guest.
Start with delivering outstanding experiences to your existing guests so that they’ll want to rebook, and work on collecting contact information for them.
A solution like StayFi, for example, allows you to gather guest email addresses when they connect to WiFi. Add those email addresses to Mailchimp, and you can mass-email all of your previous guests with offers and reasons to come and stay again.
Grow on Google
As you’ll already know, Google is a powerful search tool used for booking flights, hotels, and, yes, even short-term rental properties.
When building out your website and your brand, it’s important to be thinking about the words that your target audience would type when searching for you on search engines such as Google. Using these words on your website can increase your chances of getting discovered.
This is also a great time to think about building relationships with local businesses. If local tourism boards or vendors link to your site from theirs, this will also boost your position in Google search results.
Go one step further and get your business listed on Google Vacation Rentals. This gives you a prominent feature whenever someone searches for travel options in your area.
This isn’t an easy task to do on your own unless you have a few thousand properties being listed, but with the support of a platform such as Hospitable, you can build your own custom website and be listed directly with Google Vacation Rentals. Even if you have as little as one property to promote.
Social media is a powerful platform for marketing a short-term rental property, and it’s free to start. It can stay free forever, but if you really want to ramp up the number of eyeballs seeing your property, it can help to spend a few dollars on boosting your posts to be shared with many people beyond those following you.
Start with high-quality photos and video tours of your property. Post regular updates to share information about the amenities, location, and unique features of your properties to pique the interest of potential guests.
Encourage guests to share their experiences by featuring user-generated content and testimonials. And collaborate with local brands, such as tagging a local winery if you give your guests a bottle on arrival to encourage reshares of your content.
While Airbnb has played a significant role in the short-term rental industry, many hosts are now turning to alternative booking channels to gain more control over their business and build their own brand. Direct booking websites are becoming increasingly popular as they offer hosts better control, lower fees, and the ability to create a unique brand identity.
Like any channel, direct can take a little work to start building your bookings, but there are simple steps to follow to get the ball rolling. Start with building out a brand for your rental properties and market to existing guests to make them repeat bookers.
Concerned about the risks associated with going direct? With Autohost and Hospitable, you don’t have to do it alone. Hospitable’s Direct solution allows you to build your own website from templates or insert their booking flow into your existing website, and have built-in protection of $5M damage protection and Autohost guest screening for every booking.
Find out more about Direct at hospitable.com/direct-booking