THEY’VE GOT TO VOTE FOR YOUR WEBSITE FOUR TIMES BEFORE THEY BOOK
And the odds are against each vote.
This piece has been written with the holiday home owners in Scotland in mind. But it can apply to any vacation rental owner, hotel owner, bed and breakfast owner, even caravan park and camp site owner.
You can see this and more features on the subject at www.holidayhomewebsupport.blogspot.com
Your site gets many hundreds of visitors, thousands, each year. The vast majority are not prospects, they just clicked on it out of passing interest, and a lot of the “visitors” are the search engines finding your site regularly each week.
We get probably about 3,000 genuine visitors to our site out of total 20,000 or more site visitors each year. So why don’t more of them book? Sometimes we are booked for the date they want, but most of them book with someone else. We lose their vote somewhere along the way. Yet we have one of the most successful vacation rental web sites in the country.
Every visitor is looking for something different.
We’ve just had a booking for two weeks for October. He found us through keying in “Kentallen” our local hamlet, into Google. Virtually no one searches for that term, but he did and he found us as the only self-caterer on page one. Why? Because he and his wife have just bought a house up the road and they want somewhere to stay while they move in.
Luck, sheer luck. We can’t base a marketing strategy on luck. But in a funny way each of our bookings are “lucky” in some way in that each guest is looking for something different from the next guest.
We’ve got to get them to vote for our site four times when they search. How, is the question.
The 1st vote is for the “description” of our site on page one of Google (or any other search engine but Google is overwhelmingly the most important). The “description” also carries our site name, our “url”
Our url is http://www.bayviewkentallen.co.uk and it is a poor one. If we were doing it all again we would have registered a better url name such as www.lochsidecottagescotland.com This might have helped us get up to page 1 or 2 of a bigger search term such as “Scotland”. The following is a new site and the url is a good one. http://www.loch-lomond-waterfront.co.uk. It registers the place which very high on search terms and offers a distinct benefit about the property – a waterfront location.
You’ve probably got your site set up already, but you may care to consider doing a new one for the long term. No reason why you can’t have two sites for the one property so long as they are different from each other. You may use a web designer or do it yourself, no matter, you need to know as much as he/she does. Web designers do not usually know much about marketing. Half of the problem is technical and the other half is your marketing approach.
1.Think hard about the Url you are going to use and relate it to the search terms people will use to find you. Don’t go for little search terms such as “Kentallen” but bigger ones such as “Scottishhighlands” More on this in a later piece.
2.Write and re-write your description of your site many times to make sure it fits the search terms they will use. The description goes into the html code used by the web designer, but the text should go also into the opening paragraph at the top of page one, because this is what Google uses. More about finding the best search terms in a later piece.
3.The search engines do not see your complete site, they see each page separately. So for the most critical pages in your site not all of them you need to get the right url, I mean the small extension at the end of the url which identifies each page and ends in .html such as www.yoursite.co.uk/tariffs.html You also need to get the right description for each separate page just as you do for the opening page.
This might win you the first vote. You have a fleeting instant to do this before they move on to another site or choose another search term. You need them to click on your site because it is high up on the pages they search and the description makes it look good.
Using a directory to list you.
If you are using a directory, such as Assc, then the same issue applies but in a slightly different form. You must, you absolutely must appeal to people with the finest looking photograph on the page they are looking at. This might mean not using a close up photo of your property, but rather to go for the surrounding scenery. We show our little bay. The property is there in the distance what they want from us is the beauty and the surroundings. They want a memorable holiday.
You might object to this and say they want to see your property, but what is the point of taking a moral stance if they are not going to click on your entry in the directory. You’ve lost them without even trying. Someone who does try hard to present their finest features will win them.
Now we have a click on our site and we are into the 2nd vote when they look at our opening page. They click on many different sites most of which at not at all suitable for their purpose. Now they decide either to move on in 5 seconds – or to examine our site a little further. Most move on. We can tell from our “bounce” stats on the web analyzer. (Analyzer explained later.). When they see our opening page they must be impressed straight away.
·Does our opening page present visitors with an instant, wow! reaction? A picture of the property’s front door is not going to do it. I take it all back if you are offering them a castle or a mill, but for most of us the property itself, the building, is not what turns them on.
·Does the first page draw them into the site? Remember they are looking for a very memorable holiday, does your site tell them they are going to get this? This is where lovely design comes into play.
Our site visitors who stay with us for a bit longer are those who find the answers to their immediate questions within a couple of our site pages. Is the property available when they want it, how many will it sleep, does it accept dogs/smoking, does it look clean, is it in a nice situation, what about price?
They want fast answers to these questions. Later they’ll look again at the details, But for the moment we want to get on to their short list of properties. But they are more likely to stay on our site because they can see, for example, a wonderful view from the bedroom window which they will wake up to every morning. That’s the Wow! factor. See http://www.achnaskiacroft.co.uk/Acc.html
Grading is re-assuring to them but only half the properties in Scotland offer it. (Early results from a survey of Dmoz directory entries). It is not really powerful unless it is five star, although four stars get good bookings.
We’ve just had a honeymoon couple stay with us and they went diving in Oban harbour. That is our second pair of divers this year. The 3rd vote (5 minutes to make up their mind?) is more about “Is this area, this view, this situation going to give my family a holiday we’ll remember for a long time to come? We have this one big break a year, I’m determined that the whole family will love it” Does the area offer the kind of things my family is looking for? Is the property suitable for the family, is the kitchen equipment good, do the owners sound friendly and so on. Tricky this one, because each person is actually looking for something different to the next person and we have to meet everyone’s needs in our web site. At the end of this vote they might bookmark our site for their final short list and show it to someone else in the family perhaps. Relief.
At this stage they might e-mail us with an enquiry that’s one reason why I don’t like booking forms, I like the easy exchange offered by e-mails. I’d like to have them contact us before they’ve made up their mind.
·Have we got deep content in our web site, answering all their questions about the area? This is also important for the search engines. Does it cover every kind of guest interest adults, touring, small children, teenagers, special interests such as wild life, activities such as walking, cycling, fishing.
·Is every page well written, simple to read and contain its own wow! factor.
·Does the site sell the area, as much as the property. We are all competing with other areas of Scotland they could choose. Their alternative might be a short break in Spain – we’ve got to win them to us.
The final 4th vote is between their final short list of 3 or 4 properties. Notice it is still odds against us winning and this is an easy place to lose it with the small print or with poor photographs. How many enquiries do you get which do not turn into business? (Is the road outside the house safe for my children? Is there enough to do if it rains all the time? How far and how good is the local shop?)
For example, I’ve seen the most ghastly Terms of Business in s/catering web sites, written out as if the guests will be treated as potential scoundrels. There is absolutely no need for it, owners ought to relax and trust the guests. They can tie in Terms later in e-mails if they must. If we put them in the web site in a heavy-handed fashion, when people are comparing properties on their short list then we’ll lose the final vote. Pity.
·Take a lot of care with pages such as the booking form. I personally don’t use a booking form because as an internet user I absolutely hate and detest filling in forms. If I’m booking somewhere myself, I want to send sites an e-mail with the odd question and I want a reply quickly. If I don’t get a quick reply I move on fast. Not offering a booking form is what I call customer care. But then I haven’t got seven properties to fill.
·Get a friend to send your terms of business to half a dozen people who do not know you and ask them what they think of it and do they understand it, and does it put them off.
·Take care about putting unnecessary negatives and turn-offs prominently into your site, which you can reveal later, such as the need for a bond. In a nice way we do say “no smoking” and “no pets” up front because these are mandatory requirements for us but we also explain why, rather gently. Our terms of business are very gently expressed and are never needed.
The odds of winning each one of these four votes are against us. The odds of winning them all are very low indeed. That is why our site needs a huge number of visitors. We are each competing with Fife, Skye and the Highlands as well as with Southern Spain and other properties in our area.
There will be more detail on all of the topics later. The dark autumn nights are looming. Good time to review the web approach.
You can see the way things have been sorted out if you look at the following site. I wish we had develop a better url site address.