The question is not whether or not you need a vacation rental website…
So now you have a vacation rental. The next logical step is to create a website to market your rental. Before you spend an arm and a leg contracting some computer guy, or using your blog site from blogger or WordPress as your rental website, consider what it is you need and how you can go about getting it.
Having viewed and assessed hundreds (possibly thousands) of homeowners websites, I’m adept at separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. And let me tell you, it is striking just how much chaff there is. Most sites present minimal functionality to visitors. It is evident that people too often quit website building before the basic functionality of their site is completed and usability is optimum.
Functionality and Usability
Functionality means having your site work as it’s supposed to. The links and buttons should be clickable and connect to where they’re directed to go. The FAQ link, for example, should go to the FAQ page, while the Contact link should go to the Contact page (or otherwise reveal this info), not the other way around. Usability, on the other hand, simply means making your site easy to use. This matters. Your visitors can leave you with the click of the mouse so don’t give them just any reason to. No matter how small the excuse, they’ll leave in search of greener grass. If you want travelers to fully consider your rental and your business to perform, it is critical that your website be user-friendly.
Beyond functionality, the usability of your site though not always noticed nonetheless carries a great deal of weight. Many sites, and yours may be one of them, are user-unfriendly. They need fixing, but don’t fret! Fixing usability is not as hard as it may seem. Here’s what to watch out for:
Front size and color
When Rentini was in the works, I had my dad visit the site and I observed his interactions. Where he went and what he clicked on taught me a great deal about how individuals experience websites. One thing I realized was that many people – and my old man is one of them – cannot read smaller font easily. If the font is too small there’s a risk that many people – particularly people looking for vacation rentals – won’t be able to read it or find it legible. The color of the background and of the text should be legible. The color scheme ought to have adequate contrast and not be vulgar or gaudy or otherwise offend the eyes.
Streaming blinkers, animations, moving text, marquees, sound effects
Perhaps it’s a throwback to the 1990s, but I can’t help but find websites heavy with all these special effects very tacky. Don’t make your website look like a pinball machine! Talk about sensory overload! Keep it simple. I might also add that videos and music are good, but let the visitor decide when to push the play button. I hate landing on websites and hearing noise blast through my earphones unexpectedly. Usually I try to close the tab, hit the mute button, or throw off my headset. Don’t make this mistake.
Words are powerful
As mentioned in a previous post, your heading is crucial. And your property description is critical, too! To learn more, and to improve on your search visibility, check out this post on search engine optimization (SEO): http://blog.rentini.com/2012/03/30/increasing-search-visibility-for-your-listing/.
Don’t Make ‘Em Search
When describing web pages we often use the expression “below the fold” and “above the fold”. If you were to fold a web page from top to bottom, the top half is “above the fold” and the bottom half is “below the fold”. It is recommended to have the most important information and links above the fold, i.e. at eye level. This way you won’t have to scroll down to see it. Internet users are incredibly lazy – and easily distracted. To scroll in search of information is like asking them wake up on a cold Sunday morning to run the Boston Marathon. Not likely.
Keep Links Up-to-date
As mentioned above, do not confuse links. We do not want our visitors to think. We all know what it’s like to go onto a website and click around on what should be links, but nothing works. The links lead to error messages, broken pages, or are actually links.
This will not bode well for business.
Include quality photos of your property
Imagine going to a website for a hotel and the only image you can find is the exterior of the building or a beach nearby. No images of beds, baths, and beyond. Would you book a hotel room from a website like that? Of course not! So why would you do so with a vacation rental? If you really want guests you must provide them with a visual sense of how everything looks. That means a front exterior view, terrace/balcony view, the living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, and the neighborhood including local attractions. Some of my clients go all out and post photos of their home in the changing seasons. And they’re right – the more photos means the more confident the guest is likely to be with their choice, and the more likely they are to choose your home. It is also crucial to have high-resolution photos nowadays. For more tips on good photos, go here.
That’s not all folks, but it’s a start. Share your comments on other do’s and don’ts of building a website for your vacation rental. Links to other great resources are welcome!