“Ask Matt Anything” Question & Answer Session: Part III


Please use the comments section below to submit ANY questions…

Please also remember that anyone who joins Matt Landau’s Inner Circle is also supporting Esperanza, my gang reintegration program here in Casco Viejo.

This past month has been very exciting for us…

Our most recent graduates enjoying putting a lizard on my shoulder

Graduates enjoying lizard on gringo’s shoulder

> We were accepted for the SEID program at MIT’s Sloan Business School (which means I’ll be up in Boston more and more for those of you who wanna go for a coffee!)

> We released our first results-based report, where an independent firm surveyed our participants, police, and neighbors to better understand what changes have taken place since graduation. Inside, you’ll see that:

  • 85% of our graduates (former gangsters) are still working and the vast majority of police and community members surveyed reported a positive change in the participants’ behavior
  • Only about 20% of the residents surveyed believe there is an active gang on their street, versus over 60% prior to the start of the program.
  • Our participant’s risk factors (arrests, negative conduct, victimization and involvement with drugs) have dropped sharply, while their protection factors (social capital and participation in society) have increased.

> We are very very close to our $30,000 fundraising goal on Global Giving [link]

So thanks to everyone who has already joined and I look forward to welcoming some new members to my Inner Circle at the end of the month!

Now let’s get to some Questions & Answers!!!

About the Author Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings. Google+ | More Posts (230)

  • Amanda

    My question is: What is the best way to merge reviews when using multiple vacation rental sites? As an example, we’re just getting started and we have one great review on each site. I would rather have all of my reviews on all of my pages. Is there a good way to do this without breaching the privacy of those that left the review?

    • Matt Landau

      Hmm, short of building your own little piece of software, I don’t think this is possible. Anyone else know of a solution?

      • Brea Gratia

        I sometimes think it is easy for a guest to write in your guest book about how they are feeling during their stay – they still on their “vacation high”. The review is awesome! Then, when they get home, they mean well and want to write a review, but never quite take the time. I don’t do this all the time, but I have taken photos of the guest book page where a guest has written something funny and/or fabulous and post that as a photo in my photo gallery. That is real and was written by the guest and future guests see that. Perhaps a complete page on your VR website could have nothing but guest book page
        photos with the raving reviews handwritten by each guest.

        • LOVE that idea… maybe even including the photo on your VRBO listing too!

          I have found that a guest book in my VR is a total failure. I have to flip through every page after each rental because I’ve found “additions” to other renters postings that are “R” or “X” rated. Some kids think they’re so funny. NOT!

    • Jane

      Some sites allow owner submitted guest reviews. It doesn’t carry as much weight as a direct guest submission, but at least you can input the info for potential guests to see.

    • You could tell the guest that submitted the review that you are very happy with their review and ask them if they could copy/paste it to the other site.

    • Patricia

      I ask for email and guestbook feedback from every guest 2 days prior to checkout, I use pictures of guestbook feedback on sites where I can not input feedback myself, I also use feedback on my website as well as youtube videos.

      • Patricia please explain how you use youtube and reviews.

        • Patricia

          “Hanging my head in shame….I realized…I really need to put in my more recent professional photos.” None the less, in the spirit of sharing, please see how the reviews are in between screen shots of the property. These are actual reviews from guests that have stayed at the property and I really think it helps for future guests to see these. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhUd4tOjDMw

    • I have included in my website a page dedicated to reviews. In a sub-category page I include photos of our guest book (whenever I can get there to take them), and the links to the various website listings, including our own PM’s site.
      Re the guestbook photos: I photocopy my book’s reviews and then convert them to jpeg. I have also posted these on my other social accounts (Tumbler, FB, Twitter, Foursquare et al)
      http://www.searanchabalonebay.com/reviews.html

  • Rae

    Guests who stay frequently call or email to say now special the houses are and what a great time they had. And then say they will leave a review. However this mostly does not happen. We have happy guests but everyone leads such busy lives that writing a review after having a great holiday is not appealing. What would you suggest Matt? We would love to have those reviews!

    • Matt Landau

      Rae, I have my own little procedure that seems to work (well enough): https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/guest-reviews-eliminating-negative-feedback/

    • tdistinguishedg

      Hi Rae, I have also had a difficult time recently soliciting reviews through VRBO and I typically end up building a good relationship with my guest (I actually keep in contact with a lot of them) so what I have done recently which has worked really well is to send them a personal thank you card in the mail and I usually include a magnet (souvenir of their trip) then a few weeks later I send an email via VRBO requesting a review and if I don’t get one I will send an email direct from my email address and it usually starts like this….Hi, hope you are well, blah, blah, blah…would you mind doing me a huge favor? I have attached the link to my VRBO page and I would really appreciate it if you could take a second to write a review blah, blah, blah! This has worked the last 3 times I have sent it. Play around with different ideas until something works for you. Don’t give up, reviews are our bread and butter! Good luck!

  • Blamona

    I love giving info on my destination–I feel it shows a passion for a place. How do you stop giving recommendations when the inquiry no longer stays at your place, but emails you constantly like you’re their travel planner? What’s the fine line between helping and being used? And how do you turn them back to renting your place before answering their 17th email? I hate the hard sell, but sometimes I do feel used! Thanks!

    • Matt Landau

      Great question Blamona! I think we’ve all had this kind of guest at least once or twice. At my rentals, I simply say that we are a small operation with limited resources and that we do the activity/vacation planning immediately after the booking process triggers. All guests understand and respect this. And if they continue with annoying questions, they’re probably not your ideal guest anyway.

      • I get strong feelings or maybe you could call it gut feelings about people that inquire. I have been doing VR for a long time and maybe it’s my own personal collection of tiny experiences that have formed this gut feeling. I will say that EVERY time I’ve let the almighty dollar percolate higher than my gut, I’ve regretted it.

        I just turned away a high rental rate rental this fall because I had a feeling that no matter how perfect I made the Lodge and how seamless the rental process was for him, he was NOT going to be happy. My wallet will be thinner but I will be happier in the long run!

        • Sandra Hampton

          I echo your decision here. There are some “high maintenance” guest that you will never satisfy and just not worth the time/effort. I go by my gut as well and would rather take a hit on the rental income, sometimes its the best decision,.

  • Jo Anne

    Any feedback on Valley View Cottage VRBO #364882 would be very much appreciated!

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Jo Anne, I’ll let the Inner Circle give their feedback, but first and foremost I’d recommend professional photos. No if, ands, or buts about it. Reference Teena: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/photographers/

      • :::Hanging her head in shame::::

        Yep, 24 years of owning a vacation rental and being moderately successful even in a bad economy, I used (I’ll admit it) pictures taken by my cell phone or a $150 camera. 3 months ago I found Carol Liscovitz, an architectural photographer from Maine, and the resulting increase in inquiries has been phenomenal!

        I’d also like to mention Jessica Vozel. She is a wonderful person and copywriter!

  • Martin Smith

    I would be grateful for any comments on our three European VRBO listings – 149382, 391720, and our showcase in Prague 219283. Thanks

    • Hi Martin, what a beautiful VR’s! ….and I love Prague, been there several times. Few suggestions:
      – would change the first photo of 149382, it is a bit blurry. All other photos, also of the other listings are very nice!
      – Would try to come up with some catchy headlines, which make your listings stand out from the rest. As Teena suggests (see below), you might ask help from Jessica Vozel.
      – You may rewrite the descriptions, for instance listing 391720 says “brand new” and then finished in 2011. Also your showcase 219283 has a very short description, like you did not take the time for it.
      – May be you can say in the descriptions how far away public transport is.

    • Matt Landau

      I love Prague too and your rentals look gorgeous! I would look at getting a professional copywriter to do your description(s). Yours just kinda read like real estate listings. But if you were able to capture the travel wonders of visiting Prague (for someone who hasn’t been there) I have to believe you’d reel in more engagement. Someone like Jessica Vozel could probably do a deal for all three units.

  • Adrienne

    Hello Matt!

    Congratulations on your work with Esperanza. Thank you for your inspiration to help others!

    I am a new vacation rental owner since May 2014. VRBO is working great for us so far- my phone is like a slot machine with inquiries and bookings.

    Based upon your advice, I did build a blog for our rental house and got Jay’s help picking a domain name – thank you for the referral in one of your previous posts.

    But…my blog is still virtually hidden in web searches (half of the visits are coming from VRBO-doh!).

    I’m not sure what to do to increase the profile of the rental house blog.

    http://www.condoinoceancitymaryland.com/

    Thank you for any advice!

    Kind regards,

    Adrienne

    ps- I also followed your advice and created a seasonal insider’s guide for our location. It’s on the blog to generate interest in ‘off-season’ rentals.

    • Matt Landau

      Great question Adrienne. I think it’s important to point out that “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t necessarily apply to blogs so yes, there is some outreach and development to be done with your blog to start building traffic. A few of the ways I like to do so is reaching out to complimentary blogs and writing guest posts (with a link back to my own of course), writing interesting regional content that is worth sharing (after browsing your site, I couldn’t find much of this), and in general “Help, Don’t Sell” more…if you really analyze it, your site talks only about your own rental, which is far less attractive (traffic wise) than a site that explains or reveals unbiased information such as local restaurant reviews, insider experiences, and just in general ‘value adds’ to a vacation. Will let the Inner Circle chime in if they feel I’m missing something important…

      P.S. I like your domain selection!

      • Adrienne

        My goodness, you are like Speedy Gonzales!

        Thank you so much for your reply. Your feedback is truth. Objective and super helpful.

        A follow up question, please – what does it mean ‘if you build it, they will come’ doesn’t necessarily apply to blogs?

        • Matt Landau

          “If you build it, he will come” is from Field of Dreams (my dad’s favorite movie). The quote is the ethereal message that inspires
          Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) to construct a baseball diamond
          in the middle of his cornfield to attract the ghost of disgraced ballplayer Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), who materializes on the ballfield and plays a few games with the awestruck Ray.

          • Adrienne

            Yes! Great movie. Good for father and son bonding! (And it was before Ray Liotta got ‘husky’).

            But why doesn’t ‘if you build it..” apply to blogs?

            If I use my blog like a website, do I still need a website?

            Thank you 🙂

          • Matt Landau

            Maybe it wasn’t the best quote but I meant to say that you need to nurture a blog regularly and not just expect it to attract traffic once it’s built (Alex hits the nail on the head above).

        • Alex

          As Matt said, creating content that provides relevant and valuable information (content marketing) is what will drive the most traffic to your site. One important thing to note is that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. As Matt can attest, it will take months and years to build your audience, but it’s great that you are making that investment now.

          • Adrienne,

            Have you seen the USA Flag on the moon? Not on pictures but in person? That’s the point with the blog. Just because you stick it in the surface of the moon, doesn’t mean it will be seen, and thus means it may not actually be there in the first place.

            A blog is a great resource to help showcase your knowledge and built your reputation as the industry / content leader. But you need to take other activities to get your blog seen. As Alex said, inbound marketing or off-site SEO is equally as important. Do you have an email list so you can email each new blog post to followers? Do you post links to your blog on Facebook, Twitter? Maybe make a neat picture and post the picture on Pinterest with a link back to your blog. Post comments on other blogs and leave the URL to your blog / website. Most importantly though, you need regular, consistent and great content.

            Hope this helps! You are on the right track!

  • Guest

    Matt, could you review us at http://www.vrbo.com/509053 Rich Summit View cabin in Boone NC ? We have had a good June to August but September is lackluster which is true for the area but I need more week day bookings in general for each month and mostly we get weekend bookings. Thank you, Theresa

    • Is this the correct link? …it links to a VR in Hawaii not in NC.

    • Theresa Robertson

      I tried to delete as its the wrong vrbo #

  • Theresa Robertson

    Please review us at http://www.vrbo.com/509063
    Thank you

    • Very nice VR. Best way to improve would probably be photos made by a professional photographer. Your very first photo should be your best (I like the first photo on your website much better!). Also I would recommend photos with blue skies and may be some during the fall when the leaves get the nice colors the Blue Ridge mountains are famous for.
      I also saw you allow pets. Matt’s previous blog describes how you can market being ‘pet friendly’ better.

      • Matt Landau

        I used to go to Boone with one of my best college friends! Great memories associated with that name! To add to Linda’s acute pro photos recommendation, I am not a huge fan of ‘headline lists’ such as “Hot Tub, View, Pets, Hiking, Peaceful.” Identify what truly makes your rental unique and focus on that in your headline (in addition to your seasonal promotion).

        P.S. I’d also add a picture of yourself in the Manager Info part. People like to know who they’re dealing with, especially when attached to a great story like yours.

      • Theresa Robertson

        Thank you for the input

    • Alex

      Linda and Matt are right on the money.

      A couple other tips:

      1. Add the “book it now” button as it will help your search rank results.
      2. Add a video to your listing – it appears as a tab within the photo section of the page.
      3. Identify your target audience and optimize the content and distrubution to match. If you’re targeting outdoorsy people from the east coast, ensure that your listing is seen by the highest number of those people AND cater all of your content to entice them to book.

      • Theresa Robertson

        Alex, thank you for taking the time! We have a video in progress. We are trying to catch a few images of fall in order to finish it up. The book it now would have to be monitored and rejected as my property manager has a cheaper credit card %. But it’s doable . And how would you do #3? Thanks again!

  • Deb

    Congratulations on your good work and thanks for the opportunity to ask a question. I am brand new to vacation rental, buying my first property (condo) in Pointe West development in Galveston, TX. What are the first things I should do to have the greatest impaçt and hit ghe ground running? Is it 3 things, 10 things? Thanks!

    • Matt Landau

      Deb, you’re in for a treat. I just (like, literally published 2 seconds ago) did a podcast with perhaps the best person in the world to answer your question. Listen to it here and let me know what you think: http://www.vacationrentalrenegades.com/12/

  • Matt Landau

    I’m not quite understanding this question Bas, can you clarify?

    • Matt – I think he means that he owns a VR in a condo community with say 200 units. A revive goes to TripAdvisor for “Condos by the Beach Resort”. The problem is there are 200+ units and thus maybe 150+ owners (and 150+ managers) so the level of service can be drastic. I have this exact problem with my Maui properties.

      According to TripAdvisor there are over 300 reviews (mainly good) for the condominium community that I have my rentals located. However the actual reviews are not for many of my condos. My guests follow the links I send them so my reviews are posted directly on my Flipkey site. I have found that if I see an bad “general” review, I comment as an owner, but that is about all you can do. Bas– is this your issue? Does this help answer?

  • valerie mitchell

    Hi Matt,
    I’ve been reading your excellent blog for some time and I’ve decided it’s time to build my own website for my Caribbean property. I’ve read your advice re domain names but am stuck between choosing a UK/European word like ‘holiday rental’ or the USA version ‘vacation rental’ . Both
    1. stluciavacationvilla.com and 2. stluciaholidayrentals.com domain names are available. My guests are split 50/50 British and American with a sizeable minority from Europe. Which one should I go for?

    My personal preference is 2, but I’d love to know what you expert(s) think! Many thanks, Valerie.

    • Matt Landau

      Good question, Valerie. The phrase “vacation rental” traditionally has much greater search volume than “holiday rental.” So my instinct would be to go with #1. But whichever you choose, buy both and simply forward the one you are not going to use back to your homepage. This is free with most hosting services and will allow you to “own” the phrase down the road should you have made the wrong choice 🙂

      • valerie mitchell

        Thanks Matt, I didn’t know you could do that. Simples! (squeak squeak)

    • Marie-Louise

      I would buy no 1 AND #2 and point it to #1. The reason being that more Europeans use vacation than Americans holiday (outside national holidays).
      That way all will find you no matter what term they search for.

  • Matt,

    We have been renting since 2008 and now have three properties,
    We would like to get more bookings through our website http://www.stayintheheartof.com Looking at our site, what changes would you suggest that would give us the biggest boost in attracting relevant visitors and convert them into Guests.

    Thanks for the opportunity to ask…

    Best Regards

    Matt W

    • Hi Matt, check out https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/1-6/ (and the previous blogs on VR makeover session). We also have a website for our VR, and adding an ‘About us’ and call to action on the home page really had a huge impact.
      I would also suggest to increase the size of the calendar, it is hard to read.
      The Holiday Blog also has reviews, I would put those on a separate page. It also may be good to have the headline of the blog stand out more from the rest of the text.
      You may also insert special photo pages for all your rentals and use a professional photographer.

    • Matt Landau

      Matt W, have you considered putting a RAPID INQUIRY form on every single page of your entire site? I see that you offer a calendar interface and a Contact Us page. But I find that users sometimes just wanna ask a quick question. Implementing this simple form (for most of the folks I have recommended it to) increases inquiries overnight. If those inquiries are a bit too vague, then make the RAPID FIRE form a bit more detailed to weed out the window shoppers. A better “Call To Action” as Linda Lou comments below is a simple and straightforward way to convert more web visitors into inquiring guests.

    • Hi Matt – maybe Matt’s in the VR Business are good guys to know! 😉

      I’d start with looking at your URL as well. I have no idea from looking at the URL where your VR is located. You are potentially missing out on a ton of free SEO. I get a ton of hits to my website as my URL is the actual name of the city and resort .com. So when people go to Google they already know where they want to stay, so they type it in – and I’m #1 on the list. Not sure you are getting that help in this situation.

  • Renata Mazur Gozdziak

    Please review blog::
    http://www.daytona-beach-blog.com
    Thanks !!
    Renata

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Renata, have you ever been to a dinner party where someone talks about themselves a lot (or too much)? I like to look at my blog as my online identity. And if you’re sharing exclusively things about your own product, it’s not optimal. Instead, I’d start blogging about Daytona Beach’s insider hang-outs, hole in the wall restaurants, or mini celebrity personalities. Can you see how these topics would engage strangers far better than “me, me, me”?

  • Hi Matt,
    not sure this email went through, with or without Disqus but in any case:
    Congratulations on your inspiring succes!
    And many thanks for the opportunity to pose questions to the team!
    We live in Europe (speak lots of languages) and have a vacation rental in Florida. On the golf course and very close to an award-winning second cours. We do really well in the ‘snow bird’ market and all fully booked each year between mid December through to April 1. But then…
    how best to tap into the global golf market?
    We are listed on Homeaway and all their affiliated sites under number 3008223.
    All feedback welcome!
    sincere thanks,
    Cynthia

    • Marie-Louise

      You don’t say what country you live in, my I guess the UK?
      I find that my Florida rentals are booked outside of snowbird season by Europeans (as well as Americans). Have you tried Owner’s Direct or Holiday Lettings or some other national channel to find countrymen?
      Sorry I can’t help with the specifics of the golf market. Maybe there are others who can?

    • Alex

      It’s important to know your audience and what is important to them. Golfers, generally speaking, fit a certain demographic so it won’t be too difficult to optimize your listing to cater to a broad range of those people. That demographic is generally more affluent and in turn, expects a certain level of amenities and comfort.

      I took a look at your listing and came up with a couple suggestions:

      1. Invest in a professional photographer to take the photos of your rental. Matt has written posts regarding the immediate ROI of professional photos and he is right on the money. It is their first impression of the property and of you, the owner/property manager.

      2. Take a look at other listings on VRBO or HomeAway to see what appeals to you in terms of listing content, photos, etc. If it appeals to you, chances are it appeals to other people as well.

      3. Get more photos of the golf amenities to cater to the snowbirds.

      4. Add “Book it Now” to your listing as it helps with listing rank and conversion rates. This will also prevent the “tire kickers” from inquiring for less than your required minimum stay.

      5. Have a compelling thumbnail photo. Photos that display a scenic view or amenity combined with the exterior of the unit garner the best results.

      • Terrific advice Alex,
        VERY grateful and budgetting for a professional photographer as I type!
        sincerely,
        Cynthia

    • Matt Landau

      I love niche questions like this Cynthia. Here are a few ideas:

      – Contact the internet’s greatest golf blogs and offer to write an article: could be something entertaining (Biggest Mistakes Of Living On A Golf Course), something informative (Greatest Tips To Conquer X Award Winning Golf Course), or something crazy (The Time A Golfer Shot From My Living Room)…etc. Of course, link back to your website.
      – Go and buy advertising space in a Golf Magazine. I rarely promote ad buys but it’s especially tempting here because, chances are, you will be THE ONLY vacation rental in the entire magazine/newspaper.
      – Do a Golf-Oriented Facebook campaign like my friend Ben does with island living: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/facebook/

      The good news Cynthia is that the world is your oyster. Feature yourself or someone on your team as the expert vacation rental golf enthusiast. And vacationing golfers will choose you instead of less-helpful competitors at the end of the culdesak.

      • Wow Matt,
        Can’t thank you enough! Prime advice, ALL of it!
        see you at tee-off!
        Sincerely,
        Cynthia

    • First thanks Cynthia for your question- I am in a similar situation and it has spurred me on to do even more (may be following up on my own suggestions here shortly!)

      We, like you, live faraway from our home. We live in Chile while our home, Abalone Bay (www.searanchabalonebay.com), is located at The Sea Ranch, CA.

      Sea Ranch development also has a golf course, Sea Ranch Golf Links. So of course I want to hone into that marketing niche among others. I noticed our golf club had a page dedicated to Places to Stay while golfing:
      (http://www.searanchgolf.com/rates/places-to-stay).

      When I explored how I could tap into that, I noticed that our property management company already had listed a couple of homes. But rather than ask my PM about it, I contacted the General Manager directly and asked how I may have Abalone Bay included as a place to stay while golfing. He was delighted to include me. We have also discussed how we may individually work out discounts for each of our clients/guests.

      Perhaps your courses may consider a similar web-page suggestion if they already don’t (and feel free to point out that others (e.g. Sea Ranch) in the market are doing it 😉

      Some other thoughts off the top of my head (some may need further developing)- keeping in mind the Matt Mantra- “Help don’t sell” and mine- Build relationships first:

      Check with tourist agents in your home/residential area that have golf package venues and ask to have flyers of your VR bundled together of those of your nearby courses as a “hotel” location option for their clients. Provide a handful of flyers already printed and then provide them a pdf file to print out more. (And if they don’t have that as a holiday package become friendly with them and tell them how it’s ALL the rage). In exchange, offer to provide info in your welcome packet or other resources at your VR, website, blog, et al, about the travel agency…for their next golfing holiday adventure. Then mention to the FL golf course managers/owners how you would like to collaborate/ partner with them in expanding their clients globally.

      How about inviting that tourist agent who may also be a golfer a stay in your home to take it for a spin next time they are on a junket.

      And speaking of junkets- what international businesses have global connections with FL (or vice versa)? Check with their HR department for any possible employee club (my husband’s international company has this). Offer your home up as a possible golfing holiday venue…and perhaps alternative place to stay at while visiting that Master Mouse Conglomerate of activities (Disney et al).

      Search for international golfing holiday resources/online sites that include info about your location/golfing packages. Check what costs if any would be to include a small ad for your home in those websites noting its proximity.

      OR BETTER YET- write your OWN blog about VRing & golfing holidays (in multiple languages) and in invite others to co author it (your friendly travel agent). That way it gets greater distribution. Do you have a friendly renter/duffer who would like to share about what fun golfing was in the area? Invite him/her to add a few comments in the post- just about the course (then if they mention where they stayed… so much the better)

      Check twitter, instagram, FB using #golfholiday or golfvacation – then see who is there and follow their links- and following my on idea I just discovered http://golfholidays365.com/

      I discovered this site:
      http://www.golfinspain.com/eng/advertising.php
      You may wish to look for others similar and see if there is a means to
      crosspost (http://www.golfinspain.com/affiliate/login.php?lang=eng)
      Note: We have golfing relatives in Spain and a family home there and am now thinking I should take some of my own advise!

      Are there golf stores in where you live (for a starter)? Include a discount to your home, the name of your now best friend tourist agent with every purchase of a new golf bag and clubs along with a round of golf at the local clubs (or discount).

      Thanks again for allowing me to brainstorm your question! Now to see if my great ideas will also work for 😉

      • Dear Donna,
        Truly thankful for your brainstorm!!! When in Amsterdam or Burgundy or Florida: the glass of wine (indeed, a couple!) are on me! Off to do my homework. Again my sincerest thanks!
        Cynthia

  • Drew Renshaw

    Matt, I’m sure you are proud of turning boy’s lives around – you inspire us. Congrats on your success there!
    My question to you and others is which booking software works really well, currently I use the VRBO booking, payment, inquiry response system and it works so well seamlessly behind the scenes. Response templates, credit card entry by the renter, auto billing for the second payment and alerts when they complete that…. It really makes it easy to be a VR owner, but if I am to wean myself off of the big listing sites, I’ll need something that works just as good. Preferably at a low one time cost or at the very least a low monthly fee.

    • Matt Landau

      I use ReservationKey.com. Everything you need and nothing you don’t. Also run by a really amazing and customer service oriented guy named John! He once answered my questions at 4AM on a train to Austria or something!

      • Debi

        If you aren’t ready for a subscription type of format, you can always use Paypal for credit card payments. You would need to be more hands-on, creating your invoices and managing response templates from your email account. And you don’t get alerts that you are talking about, unless you set them yourself. It might be a satisfactory interim movement until you are ready to consolidate and streamline with someone like ReservationKey.

  • Lynne Harty

    Hi Matt – after my rentals site was attacked by a virus, I had to rebuild it this time by myself on Squarespace. I’d love your response to it – http://www.ashevilleurbannest.com. Andy is working on an Insider Guide for me so that link is not live yet on the home page. Thanks!

    • Alex

      Your site looks great, Lynne!

      A couple tips and questions for you:

      1. Is your site optimized for viewing on a mobile device? I’d recommend adding a “clickable” phone number at the top of the page so people using a phone can call you without manually entering the numbers.

      2. Are all of your social media profiles represented on each page? Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, etc.

      3. Make yourself a “professional” instagram profile – your personal profile is set to “private” so no one can see the photos.

      4. Add a gallery view for pictures of each of your properties so they can be easily accessed

      5. Emphasize the clickable links on your page – it was difficult to discern what was a link and what was just text

      6. Add Google Analytics to all of your website pages

      I hope this helps!

      • Lynne Harty

        Alex, thanks so much for taking the time to give your feedback. I will definitely add that phone number! It is optimized, or so I think, for mobile as well, but I’ll double-check. I only have a fb page for the Urban Nest (the first rental I had), but guess I should make one for the new “identity” that covers all three?
        Many thanks for all – I have my homework cut out for me.

    • Matt Landau

      Woah Lynne, I’m loving your site! Maybe the virus was a blessing in disguise 🙂 Can you get your logo in PNG format so it blends better with the brown background? It’d look more sleek that way.

    • Rick Oster

      Lynne, I like the way you’ve organized the home page to offer everything a guest wants to do: check the calendar, look at pics, discover services, then book. The home is beautiful. One questions: It is not clear to me if the rates are per week or per night? I could be missing something, but maybe others are as well.

      • Lynne Harty

        Thanks Rick – the rates page does have “weekly”, “nightly” etc at the top, but since you said that’s not obvious, I will look at making that more so. Thank you!

  • Matt, thank you – and your team – for doing this today. You already provide great info and to do this extra help is just awesome! My question is regarding blogging & your opinion of where/how to host the blog. We have our website (isabelabeachfront.com) and can link to externally hosted pages on that site, so I thought setting up a blog on wordpress or blogger or some other site might be the simplest route. I also wonder if the almighty Google will give the blog more prevalence in search result rankings (assuming content quality) if we setup on their platform as opposed to simply setting up another page on our own site. We already get a fair amount of traffic to the site from our facebook page and other martketing methods so I want to make the best of the blog option. Again, thank you!!!

    • Matt Landau

      Isabela, it’s always best to host the blog on the same site/domain for SEO purposes and simple ease of use. However, if your website platform doesn’t jive with a blog interface (warning: this is sometimes a sign that it’s outdated) I would simply create and then link to a WordPress (not Blogger) blog. The widgets and plugins available for free to WordPress users are very Google-friendly and you’d be saving yourself the headache of trying to code your blog from scratch.

  • Matt Landau

    NOTE: The best questions (to be answered) are specific and targeted. Instead of “please review my site” I’d recommend asking something like “how can I generate more inquiries?” or “what do you think of the color scheme?” or “what image should be featured first?” Full site reviews take a while 🙂

    • Theresa Robertson

      Thank you. I was so excited that I forgot to be specific 🙂

  • Philippe

    HELLO MATT. I am trying to look for investors ; persons who would be interested in buying real estate in the district where I am developping my activity. Do you have any idea how I could find theses investors ?

    • Matt Landau

      Can’t speak for all destinations, but here is a universal surefire tip: become the authority on investment in your district. Blog about it. Do radio interviews about it. Be transparent about your research and results. Investors are drawn to authority and unless your reputation proceeds you as the as the best investor/organizer in town, it’s hard to convince smart people otherwise.

  • Jamaicavilla

    Matt,
    I have tried every thing to try and draw qualified converting traffic to my site, without success. Any suggestions will be welcome. http://www.jamaicaoceanviewvilla.com

    • Beautiful website!

      Your website does come up in the top 10 when doing a search on Google.

      Do you have any back links? …..this may be a way to drive quality traffic to your website.

      One thing I noticed is that the internal link back to your ‘home’ does not work. It is impossible to go to the home page other then by clicking on the logo.

      It also may be helpful to add an availability calendar and rates to your website’s menu. The way it is set up now is kind of complicated. I would like to see the availability and rates right away when booking a VR, rather than filling in dates.

    • Matt Landau

      Cavel, try: http://moz.com/researchtools/ose

      Simply enter your website and that of your competitor(s) and you’ll see all the traffic golden nuggets they’re enjoying (that you’re not). I have to think if you go out and acquire a small handful of these “upgrades” you’ll immediately make progress.

      Also, have you looked at your Google Analytics to determine if the visitors are spending time on your site (and just not inquiring)? OR could the problem be that your traffic is not of the highest quality just yet?

      • Matt,
        My analytics show high drop off at HP, I have made some changes to the HP and add new professional video and pics.

        • Matt Landau

          What is HP?

  • Russ Schlehuber

    Hi Matt, I recently subscribed to your blog and have already found it extremely helpful, thank you for sharing your tips with everyone! I am in the process of splitting up the functions of a Real Estate company by taking their vacation rentals and starting up a new company that focuses only on property management, mainly the vacation rentals. We’re starting with about 30 properties, have enlisted the service of Streamline Vacation Rentals software (had to go with a software…) and are going live on October 1st with our new site and company name. By doing so the REALTORS will be able to start selling real estate without the inundation of all the rental inquiries. We’ll also be abler to grow our vacation rental inventory exponentially by doing so. Aside from reading all of your great blogs (which I will be doing), is there any advice that you could give me for reinventing ourselves? Our current site is http://www.MackinacProperties.com and our new company is (will be) Northern Michigan Vacation Rentals. Whatever is on top of your mind. I’ve been tasked out with an overwhelming responsibility of setting up this new company and have been strapped for time with a marketing strategy to go with it. Also, opinion on my “draft” of the new logo. Thanks Matt!

    • Matt Landau

      Woah, fun question Russ! I’d start by consolidating the VR clients of all your agents into one email list for newsletters and promotional alerts. This is equivalent to launching a new vacation rental business with a pre-loaded client base: nice!

      Perhaps get a link on your current homepage to the new rentals site. Maybe offer all the town’s influential folks a free night or two in the new rentals (to get the buzz goin)? And to get a good head start, can you offer an awesome deal to all existing Mackinac real estate buyers/inquirers? “Our thank you for being such a loyal supporter is 4 nights for the price of 2 — for you or any friends or relatives — in our new rental fleet” or something similar?

      P.S. I like the logo but would make the map part lighter — maybe even white — and color in those words to make them really pop.

      • Russ Schlehuber

        Exactly what I was looking for, thanks Matt!

  • Patricia

    Thanks for your help Matt! I would really like to get some help with bringing in additional revenue to my DC rentals. Does anyone have an add on list they can share? When do you send this out or how do you market it? — Grocery Delivery, Extra Bed Set up, Crib Set up, etc…

    • We have this listed on the amenities page of our website, but also if I get an inquiry via HomeAway or FlipKey I make suggestions depending on the group or family that inquires.
      What I also really like is the Eat With website (see as well https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/dining-out/). If you like cooking you may be able to offer that as an extra at the VR or your own home.

      • Patricia

        Thanks Linda, When I click on the link to take a look, I get an oops message…Can you please resend. Thx! Patricia

        • Matt Landau

          Try now 🙂

    • Matt Landau

      We actually don’t make much money from add ons. We try to offer them as inexpensively (at cost) as we possibly can because we find that the services (arranging airport transfer or getting groceries) just kinda takes a lot of time and energy. We’re not ultra high end rentals either so we don’t really feel good charging a premium for that sort of thing. If you are pretty well booked, I would instead consider at this idea: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/two-minutes-one-decision-10-increased-annual-revenue/

    • Rick Oster

      Patricia, I offer a range of “concierge” services to make the experience of staying in my homes first class. However, I consider them a “loss leader” and they are not producing extra profit. If your bookings are strong and you are not offering the services to have a competitive advantage, I would not start offering services. Invest your time in getting just one additional booking and it will more than compensate for multiple purchases of services.

  • Stephan

    Dear Matt,
    we are facing a vacation home ban in Berlin. Berlin government did a law which will basically prohibit vacation home in flats starting May 2016. Do you have any experience with this type of ruling on global scale. Is there any recipe to fight those kind of regulations which destroys the whole vacation home markets? Thanks Step

    • Matt Landau

      Hey Step! I really don’t consider myself qualified to advise on these kinds of matters. But the kind folks at http://www.stradvocacy.org/ have been super receptive and helpful with anyone I’ve send their way. Sending good vibes your way!

    • I am less qualified than Matt- but have worked in advocacy arena in other areas.
      Are you a local voting resident?
      Perhaps you may wish to find others in
      the same predicament and organize as these folks in New York have:
      http://protect-vacation-rentals.com/

      From their about page:
      Professionals against the legislation banning short-term rentals in New York City
      – Bed & Breakfast hosts
      – Vacation Rentals owners
      – Property managers
      – Brokers
      – Innkeepers
      – and any professionals directly working with this industry

      Please help us share the information:
      – Comment on the articles
      – Send us information and testimonials at info@protect-vacation-rentals.com

      What you can do?
      – Contact your district assembly member to let him or her know how
      this legislation negatively impact your business. If you would like to
      see who represents your district, please go to: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/

      But of course that is advocacy USA style. You would need to become familiar with the politics of Berlin.
      You may wish to check other outlets such as the forums of the
      rental agencies and social media such as
      LinkedIn as well https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Shortterm-rental-advocacy-group-hopes-118121.S.217338701

      Perhaps research in the area of tourism and rentals could be advocated (bring in your local university in the hospitality /tourism field- there may just be a doc student seeking a thesis topic- see : http://neworleanscitybusiness.com/blog/2014/09/03/uno-study-shows-economic-impact-of-vacation-rentals/).

      The over arching concern I would have is making certain that your booked guests (and you) watch the calendar closely so you don’t get caught with being outside the law at the stroke of midnight.

  • Aruna M.

    Here are my 3 rental listing on Cape Cod. What do you think of the verbiage?

    Matt, I love your site!

    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2691161

    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/421093

    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/269842

    • Tell me a story about your place. Have the conviction that I will love
      it (not that you think I will). Give me some insight about your place
      (saw Flax and immediately my mind wondered if it had to do with
      wholesome grain before I realized it was a pond)

      Allure, entice me into your home- the last abbreviations mean nothing to me as I am not from your area: 3Br/1.5 *Pet Ok* Walk to BCH & VLG

      I write a story- http://www.flipkey.com/sea-ranch-vacation-rentals/p637337/

      It may still need to be edited some.

      • Aruna M.

        Thank you! Your place looks magnificent!
        I’ll take your suggestions.

  • Sandra Hampton

    Hi Matt and congratulations on your youth outreach program. You are an inspiration to all. Thank-you also for setting up the Q&A forum.

    My question is – I do a great job in bookings for my FL VR however the majority of these are first time guest. I have a handful of repeat guest and would like to build up this side of my VR business. Your tips or suggestions on how to turn more of my first timers into repeat guests?

    • Alex

      The best way to draw people back is to make sure their stay is special. How do you do that? Well that depends on the guest!

      1. Ask Questions: talk with the guest prior to arrival to learn more about them, their likes and dislikes and what they plan to do during their stay.

      2. Provide value: make recommendations on things to do, places to go and helpful tips for the area. Remember, you’re the expert!

      3. Take care of the little things: make sure that the rental is stocked with the necessities and the details aren’t overlooked. It helps to make the renter feel special! I stayed in a VR (professionally managed) that did not have any soap, paper towels, or toilet paper. I’m not joking. No soap. No paper towels. No toilet paper. I will never stay with that company again. On the flip side, I have frequented a VR that provided a little welcome basket and bottle of wine upon arrival. The basket cost them $20-25, but it keeps me coming back.

      4. Follow up: make sure you stay in contact with the renters during their stay, immediately after they check out, and again a few months down the road. This can be done via email, text message or direct calls. For emailing, make sure you segment your email lists so not all your guests are receiving the same message. i.e. people that stayed 3 weeks aren’t getting the same email as a weekend stay, and aren’t getting the same message and someone that inquired but never booked. I’d also recommend using an email service provider, NOT just sending via gmail or outlook.

    • Matt Landau

      To echo Alex’s great feedback below: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/repeat-guests/

    • We do similar to Alex. We personalize our treatment.

      We have a special tray that welcomes our guests with a bottle of wine and glasses for all, and a small sampler bag of locally roasted coffee. It also has a hand written note card welcoming them and thanking them for selecting our home.

      In conversation with our last guest I learned she was pregnant with her second child and that mom and dad were coming along to watch their first while they were planning a special night out. I offered up a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant- informing the restaurant of their special occasion.

      Added amenities also include bathrobe (embroidered with our home’s name), water carafe with cup for each of the night stands, soaps et al. We also have high quality linens.

      Consider giving the a discount or other special certificate for their next visit.

    • tdistinguishedg

      Hi Sandra, I get a lot of repeat guests at my home in Tahoe. I have had some guests come back 3 or 4 times. If they are a low risk guest (meaning my manager calls me after they leave to tell me that my place was left spotless) then I will reach out to them individually when I have an open week and offer them a week in summer for $800 when the going rate is $1100. Its an easy decision for me to make because I know that they are going to take care of my home, they keep coming back and it keeps the loyalty. I booked 3 weeks the past summer using this method. Good Luck!

  • Bret

    We are looking into purchasing a vacation rental in Florida’s panhandle, about 12 hours from our house. I have the time and desire to run it myself, but my biggest questions is how how to deal with renters checking in and out. Do you recommend an electronic key box? And then is the cleaning company reviewing condition of the property should there be a problem?

    • Alex

      Stephan,

      Check out http://www.unikey.com

      This essentially turns a smartphone into the key. There is also a key fob option.

    • Hi Bret,

      I’ve been renting our Destin beach front property long distance since 2004 and it has worked out very well, though not without problems. Guests self check-in and out through a coded lock-box. Additional keys are supplied within the property. Guests are supplied with a check in and out list. Plus, I always call and check in on them after they have arrived to make sure everything is as expected. Our contract states that one of our staff may come by during their stay.

      I can only handle my property this way because I have an outstanding cleaning crew and local handyman. I have all the best local services, electrican, plumbing, A/C Company etc. on speed dial and always pay them the day of service. The handyman goes in every change day to see about anything that might need fixing or replaced and then my excellant cleaning crew makes sure the property is immaculately clean and ready to go. Guests also have my number and the handyman’s number in case anything comes up. Renting long distance can be done, but you’ve got to have a strong team behind you. Also, you have to accept that you’ll get calls at 11:00 on a Saturday night when something goes wrong, and it will.

      I use to have a local manager, but found that I ended up having to take care of the problems anyway, along with the handyman. So I eliminated that cost and pay top rates to my handyman and cleaning crew. This may not work for everyone in this situation, but so far it is working great for me.

  • Jane

    I handle several vacation rentals and find that the inquiries for one particular home are sadly lacking, though it is a beautiful home. I just don’t have the stunning imagery as for my other rentals. Would love feedback on what image you think I should highlight on the listing sites. http://www.papagayoluxury.com/puma-estate-house-portfolio/ Thank you!!

    • Beautiful! I really like number 4 of the Puma Estate outdoor areas. The other VR’s seem to have better images of the home with more of the surroundings on one image.

    • Matt Landau

      Do a blog post or press release called “The Ugliest, Most Beautiful Vacation Rental In Costa Rica” and inside, explain how this particular unit (while beautiful) doesn’t show well in photos. Make the association to a talented young musician who doesn’t speak well in public or a genius like Einstein who has few social skills. Make this analogy to get them to start rooting for “the little guy” and then explain why you’re offering a really nice discount on staying there. Honesty is the best policy!

      • Jane

        Awesome! Love this idea! Thank you!

    • Rick Oster

      I just had to chime in that Matt’s idea is brilliant 🙂

    • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

      Love Matt’s idea!

      I recently changed my cover photo and was pleasantly surprised at the increase in inquiries. I love the first picture for the ‘Puma Estate Outdoors’ with the evening pool picture. I instantly envision myself on a romantic vacation or social vacation with friends. It triggered a desire to be there.
      Is there a way to make that photo/link bigger then have the other two right below it? The three side by side are coming up crooked due to the two lines of text. If you could change that you would appeal to a person’s desire first then they will look at the rest.

    • The thing that jumps out to me is the decor of the estates home seems rather subdued (boring?): Brown with beige on beige. It does lend itself to a more tranquil sense…but it doesn’t excite so much.

      I absolutely love punch of red in the kitchen but everything else is rather dull. The photo with the TV and the outside view has potential. But there needs to be something that takes my eye from the red flowers out to the beautiful water scene.

      For staging the next set of photos I might suggest moving the outdoor table and chairs that blocks the view- set them off to the left of the doors. I see a pot of red flowers off to the right- bring them in to draw the eye out to the vistas.

      Your black and green pillows are appropriately tropical and offer great contrast to your beige sofa on the beige floor next to the beige walls.

      Maybe put a bright tropical floral piece of art on the wall above the light switches…that would bring the eye up and out of the beige.

      Dining table- very elegant..but needs something that jumps up to grab the eye. Maybe a different angle for that shot is needed….more of an angle than straight on. Perhaps from the lower stairs of the staircase above it.

      The fish on the table is lost among the flowers which then fade into the red wood of the kitchen. It’s cute… put it in the great room for a color punch.

      Over all photo of the great room- my eye again is drawn to the dark red of the kitchen and it jumps over the sofa which has disappeared into the floor and the walls.

      How about picking up a bright colorful throw for the back of the sofa to help keep the eye where it should be and provide nice contrast/added color and interest?

      The great room & view is lost with the outdoor dining set blocking it. For staging purposes, move it out of the way completely. Can you squeeze behind the chase part of the sofa to get a more inclusive view of the water (without the dining set)? But be care full that the chase doesn’t inadvertently elongate the shot.

      To show you have a wonderful outdoor dining area come up close to the set laid out with a lunch setting, tropical drink of some sort…ready to welcome and party as you all view the water beyond.

      I think in the end new pillow covers, a throw, some floral arrangement that has punches of color will make the social rooms more interesting/provocative.

      The last bed and pillows are lovely and love-love your nightstand. The view is spectacular here- the color of blue is gorgeous. See if you can locate another pillow that includes the chartreuse and the blues outside. Or perhaps a piece of art (thinking a tropical Plein air style a la Gauguin) over the bed that can tie the colors and the scene together

      There is either a TV with an outdoor scene on it or painting- can’t tell. But that offers a stark contrast to the brown outside. Looks like day after a storm and the water is muddy.
      The orchid if EXCELLENT! And like the contrast in the pillows that harmonizes with the red of the table. Its the Blueness of the picture that contrasts with what is outside.

      Make your bathroom sexy! Put a colorful (not red as wood is already red) orchid there too (at least for the photo). Set up candles along the edge…make me want to wait forever to fill up that humongus tub so I can slip into it and fade away. If you don’t allow fire in your home (I don’t) provide battery operated ones. Fill the tub with bubbles (is it a jacuzzi? show that). Angle your shot at tub-eye level.

      Bring the outside in with art- tropical something for the end of the runway and over the tub (tub art would need to be water resistant/protected)

      Bedroom with shells. Love your pillows! Pick up their hue of blue and repeat it in the decor- a throw blanket perhaps (note again the beautiful blue outside…repeat it inside.

      What would make that room sexy? Yes..I’m told that does happen there on occasion. Your covers are fresh out of the cabinets… I can see their creases. Too rigid. Put a romance novel open on the bed, a flower, toss in a candle. How about a tray with coffee, nah– champagne! In fact tell a sexy romance story with each of your bedrooms in your next photo shoot.

  • iberoguy01 .

    Hola Matt-Have been an avid reader of your newsletter/blog for the last 2 years. Lots of tips. Thank you so much. Unfortunately have not been able to implements some of your suggestion as blog, web site etc. Now that I have more disposable time, would like to dedicate more attention to my VR in Puerto Vallarta. Please check it out at http://www.HomeAway.com/357430. Don’t know if the language is adequate.
    Would like to increase my bookings also. Any suggestion will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
    Joseph Villalona

    • Matt Landau

      The English is great Joseph (some small grammatical errors only). But I’d work on the headline. Nobody knows what “LA IGUANA DEL MOLINO” is unless they’ve stayed there. So maybe go with something more visual like “Iguana Spotting Villa” or “Open Air Rainforest Villa.” Also, I might use photo 12 or 13 as your featured image?

      • iberoguy01 .

        Thank you so much Matt. Will heed your suggestion.

  • Jane

    Another question. I handle another home that is spectacular… but the homeowner doesn’t want it promoted publicly. So I have it on a hidden page on my site… and send info directly to people that have inquired regarding my other rentals (if the other homes aren’t going to work). Any ideas on how to market a home that I can’t really market??

    • Alex

      If it were up to me, I would give some push back to the property owner – respectfully of course.

      What about publicly marketing your home makes you feel unnerved?
      My properties x, y and z that I’m promoting in these ways are seeing $x,xxx in return. Would that be of interest?

      Aside from trying to talk them into publicly listing, adding that listing to specific marketing campaigns you run is the best way to do it. Maybe a special promo email to past guests or previous inquirers could help drive traffic.

      • Jane

        Thanks, Alex. Good questions for the homeowner. I think he is quite private and doesn’t want just anybody seeing his home. And he is not motivated to maximize the rentals (doesn’t “need” the revenue).

        However, I like the idea of a targeted push toward past guests/inquirers (so not “public”). Maybe build on the intrigue that Matt alluded to, above, and get people to inquire specifically about this home. In reflection, I should be able to publicly list the details…. just not the photos. Hmmmm.

    • Matt Landau

      Use intrigue. Market it as “the best vacation rental no one knows about” and explain (on the hidden page) why. People will link to it in a highly targeted way that makes it’s “unmarketability” the allure.

      • Jane

        Another awesome idea. Thanks Matt!

  • Zahara

    I’m an American who just purchased my first vacation rental in Tulum. How do I attract Canadians and Europeans to my blog and website?

    • Matt Landau

      Good question Zahara, you can a) pay per click via Facebook or Google Adwords, b) write content such as “The Great Canadian Escape To Tulum” aimed specifically at one demographic explaining how “winter” in Tulum is actually summer, or c) do something airplane oriented…I say this because I know a few Canadian and European airlines have direct flights to Cancun at VERY cheap prices. You could use the “Travel Hack” angle and promote your rental with discounted flight offers. A good discounted flight would make staying in your rental practically “Free.” Actually, all of these in tandem is a good idea too 🙂

      P.S. Tulum is one of my favorite destinations in the world.

  • Nicholas Vandervelde

    Hi Matt. I started managing a few properties last year and things have gone great. My clients are happy and we exceeded expectations in days booked. I would like to expand and start representing more properties but I’m note sure the best way to market my services to property owners. Any suggestions?

    • Matt Landau

      In my opinion, focus on the current properties’ growth. The best way to acquire new properties is to succeed in renting out your existing properties (which it sounds like you are doing well). The word will spread (Nicholas is the guy who books rentals out solid) and owners will be drawn to your service. Word-of-mouth referrals amongst owners is powerful. And if you don’t already, maybe have a landing page on your site designed specifically for new owners?

  • Beth

    Thanks so much for all your information and encouragement!! I have 9 properties in the Branson, MO area. I have all these extra things I want to do, but feel my time is taken up with answering emails and taking payments, emailing directions, and things like that. To help me out I was thinking of going with something like Bookerville, but I really am scared to get away from the personal, answer each inquiry myself, deal with each payment myself, and things like that. I don’t even do the “book it now through Homeaway”, because I want to deal with the customers myself on a more personal level. Do you think something like Bookerville would be the most helpful thing for my time, or do you have other suggestions?

    • Alex

      The “Book it Now” feature is a great option and doesn’t necessarily have to diminish your personal touch with your clients. When someone clicks Book it Now and enters their credit card information you are notified of that booking request – and that’s exactly what it is, a booking request. From there you would be able to reach out to that individual to speak with them, but adding that functionality to your listings will help the listing rank as well as help save you time.

    • Bret

      We are looking into the Branson area as well. Since you have so many properties there, can you tell me what type of properties seem to get the most traffic. Is it the properties associated more with Table Rock Lake or Downtown Branson? Do you have a website with all your properties in one place?

  • tracy

    Where do you ask guests to leave their reviews after a stay? Your website, VRBO, FlipKey?

    • Alex

      I’d get them to leave the review in the place they did the booking and it’s what the guest is most familiar with. It’d be great if they could leave a review on every site where you are represented, but you don’t want to ask too much of your guests as it could leave a sour taste in their mouth.

    • violet

      I send guests links to review on all the web sites I am listed on and a large proportion do post. I also take an image of the review they left in the guest book and post this on my web site as it gives guests confidence the reviews are real.

  • Leanne

    We just launched a new web site at sirenettabvi.com. I am still making some corrections for typos but I wanted to know what you thought of the organization and content. Is it too much info?

    Thanks leanne

    • Matt Landau

      I think it’s coming along great! I might make the homepage simpler with perhaps the slideshow and some simple text? The 4 columns (Order, Gallery, Availability, Services) are actually wasting space and redundant since you basically feature them in the top menu, no? Homepage real estate should be cherished.

  • Rick Oster

    Matt, I am working on “5 Reasons NOT to stay in an Oster Golf House” and will use it on my new website. I don’t have a social media presence, so I’m wondering specific steps I could take (where to send it?) to get exposure?

    • Matt Landau

      Rick, check out the Trailblazing document in the Vault. It might be worth trying some paid Facebook clicks (they’re super cheap) for this project. Make sure to have a inquiry form for the rental on the same page to capture interested parties.

      • Rick Oster

        Sounds good, thanks!

  • tim

    Hello Mark,

    I am really enjoying your blog and appreciate you hosting this Q& A. I just started hosting in July and am really enjoying it and am excited to try and make my place more appealing to travelers. Those who have stayed have commented on how lovely and query it is inside, but that the photos do not do it justice. I had a photographer come in recently but it still doesn’t pop. I am considering hiring an interior decorator to come in and do a evaluation. However, I was wondering get if you wouldn’t mind looking at my site and giving me an idea how I can make it more inviting, either through better photography or by making alterations to the decorations. Thanks so much in advance. PS. Your cookie recipe is stunningly awesome.

    Airbnb.com/rooms/2721492

    • Yolanda

      I think your kitchen is too cluttered with appliances. And I personally don’t like the animals that seem to pop up on some of the pictures. It was distracting.

      • tim

        Yolanda,
        Thank you for the input. I though having the giraffe pop up would make try site memorable. However, I will reconsider that strategy. Also i will clear out the clutter in the kitchen. Thanks again!

        • Rick Oster

          Tim, I agree with the previous comments and would re-take the photos that have the same little flower vase in them. It shows up in 3 or 4 photos in a row and I don’t think it adds any “allure”. The apartment is attractive without it.

          • tim

            Thank you Rick! I am going to hire another photographer to come in and help me stage it better. She says she will create a series of vignettes.

          • tim

            Hi,

            Does any of you think that having maybe just one close up of the giraffe is ok and would help my listing be more memorable, or is it just plain distracting?

          • Hi Tim, It’s a beautiful apartment and you don’t need to redecorate! I agree, with the other comments about the photos being too focused on the decorations and don’t use the same flower arrangement in each room.

          • tim

            Hello Amy,

            Thank you for your feedback. Sounds like I need to focus on better photography and not so much on new decorations.

            Really appreciate everyone’ comments!

          • No problem. Can you take the photos? Or at least play around with different shots and test them before hiring a professional?

          • Sounds like the giraffe has special meaning /place in your heart.

            In your living room, actually I would not have noticed it right off without you mentioning it ahead of time I probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all, especially as it is tucked in the corner and not well lighted. Your bright and colorful art was what captured my eye and will remain with me.

            Was not too thrilled to have it stare back at me in the bedroom photo…In fact honestly, I probably would have just logged off at that point.

            But if you are aiming for the crowd who would love to mess with it (create some sort of beer /ring toss game with it) then maybe.

            Say does your catus light up? That may be fun.

            Re Kitchen clutter- I agree with Yolanda- I can understand it as a quick way of showing what you have. Just include that in your amenities listing. Here’s a photo of mine. You’d think I had NOTHING in the kitchen. But you read my list of goodies it goes on and on…and I’m still adding stuff.

            http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-G-9d9yTq7Bc/U4f0dY1bYFI/AAAAAAAAKfA/DX_JU21MAYQ/s1600/kitchen+view.jpg

          • tim

            Hello Donna

            Thank you for your detailed response. I am going to forget the giraffe. Your kitchen looks amazing!! When guests arrive do you have more on the counter, or is it always kept hidden?

    • Tim, it looks like a beautiful apartment! I don’t think you need to redecorate. The photos seem to focus a bit too much on the decorations and the animals. Do you also have a photo that shows the whole bedroom and bathroom?
      Also the photos seem a bit blurry, were you able to upload them at a high resolution?
      Airbnb also have their own photographers, I am not sure when you are eligible for that, but they photograph your place for free and make beautiful photographs.

      • tim

        Linda,

        Thank you for your feedback! Unfortunately in Kelowna, BC, the free photos are not available. Perhaps they do not have a participating local pro.

        Thanks for the other comments

        • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

          Hey! My VR is just south of you by about 5 hours 🙂 Mine is located in Spokane, WA.

          • tim

            Hello Bird,

            If you are ever interested in coming up to Kelowna let me know. Maybe we can arrange a swap, as I like to get down to do some shopping now and then.

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            Sounds good! You do the same.

    • Tim, I just saw that you also posted a link to your VRBO listing earlier. The photos on VRBO are the same as on Airbnb, but the resolution is much better! ….I wonder why this is the case. May be you can re-upload them at Airbnb at a higher resolution?

      • tim

        I will try that. Thanks.

    • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

      Hi Tim

      Great apartment! It looks very nice. As for the giraffe….IF you keep it in I would only use the picture with it in the the living room. I’m not sure you want memorable if the memory is not good or cheesy, which some guests might love it and others turned off by it.
      Here are some tips, if I may suggest, as I am into details.
      * Bedroom: very nice and neat so I would carry it out even more with the bedding by doing a “hospital corner tuck”. Take the two long edges and smoothly tuck under mattress in a straight line. Then take the short end of bed and tuck smoothly under making sure the corners are neat with straight lines. Can do opposite as well…begin with short end of the bed. (Sample below from one of my bedrooms) Gives the appearance that no one has used the bed as crinkles can portray, even if subconsciously.
      * Bedroom has a cool modern feel to it so you may want to consider laying the pillows instead of propping them. Looks very cool to have four pillows and stack two’s on each side. Maybe even have 2 with white covers and two with a contrasting color to add some ‘pop’. Even if you have only one set of pillows displayed this way continues the nice straight ‘clean’ lines.
      * LOVE the crisp white bathrobe in the bathroom background! I would carry the white to all the bath towels as well. White symbolizes clean and fresh as well as looks classy.
      * Remove the bathroom spray…place it in the cabinet or someplace else a guest can find it but don’t leave it sitting out, especially for the picture as it communicates a bad odor.
      These appeal to a person’s psychology, which is way more powerful than a giraffe 😉

      • tim

        Hello Texas Mockingbird,

        I am going to cut and paste your directions so i can make my bed into something more crisp like yours, which looks amazing, by the way. I switched out my bathroom photos for some others i had with white towels. I am learning a lot today. Thank you!

    • I am wondering if just a bit of staging would help rather than full out redecorating

  • Micki McNie

    I just bought a condo next door to a major hospital here in Denver and was told they keep a list of accommodation. Any tips on marketing/renting properties to hospitals or travel nurses?

    • Matt Landau

      Tricky one. Short of posting on the hospital bulletin board, I’d find the HR person at the hospital and butter him/her up. We have good relationships like that with a few big firms and as long as you take good care of their clients, they ask for very little in return.

    • Debi

      Is there a Dougie Center in the area? You might see if they keep a referral list. Also, go to the larger clinics at the hospital – especially there is a specialty the hospital is known for, and ask if you can leave cards or have information in some way available to patients and patients’ families. If the hospital is associated with a teaching facility, also talk to them. Most will have some kind of housing referral system.

    • Check out this blog I found… http://blog.bluepipes.com/travel-nurse-housing-tips-for-securing-your-own-lodging/
      Do you have a blog? Work up a post on why your place is great option.
      I would also check out the articles at the bottom of this post for further ideas.
      And then in the same way that rental ad sites have their forums jump into the Nursing forums especially where they are seeking advice on housing (and don’t forget your link in your signature!)
      http://allnurses.com/travel-nursing/extended-stay-hotels-791140.html

      Also – medical staff are always going to conferences… check with the hospital to learn when/where is the next one THEY are hosting and submit your home as an option for their visiting staff.

  • Kelli Christoferson

    Love that you are doing this! Thank you…. my question is with Web presence in Google searching. We tend to be on the second page of Google searching when people look for Lake Chelan vacation rentals. What are your thoughts on Google Adwords, Ads…etc… worth the money? Any other Best practices? http://www.sagerentals.com located in Lake Chelan Washington.

  • tim

    Hi Mark,

    Basee on your recommendation, I am now on VRBO, Homeaway. Here is my site there.
    http://www.vrbo.com/568316#

    Thanks Tim

  • Love that you are doing this! Thank you…. my question is with Web presence in Google searching. We tend to be on the second page of Google searching when people look for Lake Chelan vacation rentals. What are your thoughts on Google Adwords, Ads…etc… worth the money? Any other Best practices? http://www.sagerentals.com located in Lake Chelan Washington.

    • Matt Landau

      Adwords doesn’t officially help your organic rank (although some argue otherwise). My tip would be to realize SEO is a long game and it’s not going to happen over night. If you’re choosing the right keywords (or perhaps, to start off, a long-tail keyword like “Lake Chelan Washington Vacation Home” or somethin) you should be able to slowly improve your rank by adding new content, optimizing your homepage (you should do this), and acquiring quality backlinks. Adwords shouldn’t be viewed as a savior. But it can be integrated into a comprehensive marketing strategy.

      • I feel like I have been doing a ton of that particular work but seems like our biggest competitors on Web search is VRBO, Homeaway etc.. , we just overhauled our website through Blue tent .. they are offering a SEO service for $1000 a month! Seems steep…but worth it??

        • Matt Landau

          SEO requires a long term vision and consistency. If you are not able/willing to commit, be very cautious. If you are going to use a service like Blue Tent, be sure to measure as much as you can and set specific performance goals.

        • Also… is all the comments and responses available to look at later after the discussion closes? I would like to read through all the great information provided!

          • Matt Landau

            Yep!

    • HI Kelli – I like your website, clean and easy to see what you are trying to. Matt may disagree, but I think that Google Ad words are sometimes a necessary evil. As much as we all want to be off “Big Dog” listing sites, you may need to spend a little to get some placement. Are there keywords you are not being found for? Are they highly competitive and not overly expensive?

      Are you blogging about good info in the Lake Chelan area? You can can spend some $$ to get visitors to your site, but then start a blog and get the content to become the reason people find your site. Be helpful for the reason. Also, I like the name Sage Rentals, but how does that help from an SEO point of view for your area? Maybe SageRentalsofLakeChelan.com helps to get the name of your area in the URL. I am a big fan of this (if you haven’t seen from some of my other posts).

      Best Practice – set a budget. You don’t want to unknowingly wake up to a Google Adworks bill of $1000s per day. It can happen if you do not set a budget. You can see what it costs on a per click basis so you know how many impressions you’ll get – is it worth it or not? That is what you have to answer.

      Hope this helps!

      • Thank you!! I appreciate the info! There is a Blog space on our site…I’m lacking in adding content. Is that good or should I have a separate Blog site?

        • Have the blog as part of your website. I’d put a link to it in the green bar you have at the top with “specials” and “property management”. You can write a blog post about info on your website and then link to that content too. It’s much easier said then done, but set a publish schedule and stick to it. Try to get a weekly new post, 300 words min (that’s not too many) and go for it!

      • In regards to our name. We just added. Sage Vacation Rentals ….new logo etc. Is that better? Or do you suggest adding Chelan somewhere in the name? I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants! Trying to figure out the best marketing strategies for our area has been tough! We have a large area competitor name My Chelan Vacations. 🙂 they have spent a ton of money in Adwords… they are always on top when searching….however they are not listed on VRBO and the like sites…. that has been 75% of our biz… which I would love to move OUT of that umbrella!

        • Good that you are getting inquires. As @loscuatrotulipanes:disqus preaches it is best to get out from the Big Dogs as you understand.

          Put yourself in the shoes of your renters. What do you think they are putting into Google to find their rental? A name and URL is not the end all, but it helps start the slow steady climb to the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

    • I have relatives whose home is on the golf course there in Chelan. You may also wish to include that as one of your niche markets by your vacationing googlers

  • Patrice

    Hi Matt,
    Have learned so much from your posts!
    We have been renting 2 cabins near our home in the mountains of Oklahoma for over twenty years now.
    Now that i’m getting old and forgetful 🙂 i would like a more full service booking and payment software. The one I use is good, but it does not track whether i took all payments, send out emails to guests, or alert me to checkins. I have never needed this before but I now take bookings from several sources, not just my website, phone and email. I need something that will track payments from those plus Flipkey and Homeaway, etc. Then again, there are only two units and our income from them is limited. We do all the work ourselves and can only keep up with booking on weekends and a few during the week reservations. Would like to simplify the office work.
    Any suggestions of what software is best for a small business like ours?

    • Catarina

      Hello Patrice,

      If you don’t have the budget and as you only have 2 properties there are some free tools you can use like https://www.skoobr.com you will see a tape chart of all your bookings sync calendars, have all the guest details and you can also add notes, but this is it.

      If you want a complete software that will allow this functionalities and many more I would recommend to check Intamanager or Kigo – the only ones I have see the demos but there are more Matt for example uses Reservation Key and many of the inner circle uses web chalet. I currently use Intamanager they also offer the website so all the info you have in the system is linked and updated on the website they provide which I like.

      You have a screen for the daily check ins/outs just like in a hotel and also a tape chart – the most useful tool for me, the reports are also great the only limitation for me is that I have to run a software parallel to Instamanager to create invoices as the ones from Instamanger are not “official” but this is in Portugal maybe in USA they are 🙂

  • Okay, I know I need professional photos but we’ve held off for the last month since we are putting a new roof on our the Cottage this week.
    That being said, what could I do that would make my title stand out better and draw people in?
    http://www.vrbo.com/510374

    • Matt Landau

      I think you could do a better job with your Owner Info section. What you’re telling me (by not saying more than a sentence) is that you want my business but you’re not interested in revealing anything about yourself. VR guests want to know the owners (that’s the beauty of VRs) and the better the story, the more engaged prospective guests will become.

    • Debi

      Cottagemom, who is your target market? Make your headline reflect who you want to stay. “Secluded” is great for couples – do want to build up the romantic getaway idea? You have toys, so do you want more families with youngsters? “Bring The Kiddo’s” – and discuss why kids will love your place and how safe the parents feel there. Make your header stand out based on who you want to stay. I would also take out the verbiage about cost of the rooms. People do their own math, depending on your rates. It’s more important to give a feel of the property than potentially bore them with figures.

      • Sounds good. Verbage removed.
        Our target mainly is families but we do get lots couples, groups of couples and ladies groups.

        • Just a side note here…there is a reason there are all those kiddos! Mom and Dad may want to be able to get away from them and rekindle that reason…so don’t forget that opportunity in your home too 😉

  • Zahara

    How do I determine the optimal “minimum nights stay” to maximize rental days and minimize vacancy gaps?

    • Matt Landau

      Martin, this really depends on location and property type: there’s no universal rule. I’d take into account your occupancy (if you’re not very booked, this may not be the best option), the min stay requirements of your competitors, the costs of turnaround (housekeeping/checkin processes) and lastly the average stay length of your guests. We have a 3-night min but occasionally break it for last minute one- or two-night bookings.

    • Debi

      You can experiment. Lots of owners change their minimum stay depending on the season. It doesn’t make much sense to pay a cleaning fee for a 1 night stay, so your minimum might be 2 nights. Make it longer during your high season, lower during the low season, if you have one.

  • S Ross

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for this opportunity, and for including your Inner Circle. My rental is a bit of a niche that I don’t read much about in your communications: a furnished rental in a non-vacation destination. That’s not to say people don’t vacation in Boise, Idaho — it’s just that far more of our guests are visiting family, here on business, relocating, etc. There are thousands of us out there whose guests aren’t usually on vacation (though we still strive to give them a vacation experience!).

    I’d like feedback on two things: (1) My choice of featured/first photo on my website (www.BoiseFurnishedRentals.com) and listings, and (2) my property description on VRBO (http://www.vrbo.com/487609) versus my website. You may notice I followed your advice when formatting my VRBO description. Any other website feedback is welcome!

    • Matt Landau

      I actually like your last photo (the yard) the most (even though it doesn’t shout “furnished rental”). Your text is well laid out but I’d chop it up into more paragraphs (think one sentence per). Will let others chime in on the listing itself…

      • Rick Oster

        Its unanimous, I like the yard best!

    • The photos show a lot of ceiling. My first thought was the rooms are a kind of empty and that may be you had nothing on the wall, but looking at different photos I see you do. I had the same thing with photos taken of our VR. Although taken by a professional photographer half of a photo showed ceiling. I cropped the potos, and think the look better now.
      I agree with Matt, I also like the photo of the yard best!

    • Debi

      I also like the yard, and prefer the photo of the closeup of the outside sitting area. Do you also list with Airbnb?

    • Yup the yard has my vote too…but based on that small survey have you considered bringing in flowers, fruit, greenery of some sort for staging purposes in your next shoot? There is one small poise on the kitchen table but nothing else. The home has a profuse amount of brown… can you spruce it up with a throw with bright colors?

  • VRBO’s website is down. Do you think they’re going to refund us for the day? 🙂

    I’m going to take this respite to reflect on how the heck I am going to prepare to kick them and the other 2 (of the big 3) to the curb.

    New photos – check
    New copywrite – check
    Renovations complete – check
    Insider’s Guide – check
    Blog started – check
    Way to sync all my technology – check (thanks Donna Martinez!)
    New website design – work on it today
    SEO for website – HELP!

    Thanks everyone!

    • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

      I second Teena on the SEO help! Working on my site now as well.

      I have added the plug-in “SEO Friendly Images” so people can find me by image as well. I will have two images and a video all with same title that also matches the page title. That’s it…so far.

      Kat

  • What metrics should all vacation rental owners be vigilant of? How critical is it to understand how my property is performing compared to those surrounding me?

  • Erica

    Hi Matt,

    I really enjoy reading your blog. We just bought a condo in Destin and are very new to the rental game, so all your information has been helpful.

    Two questions for you. I’m looking for feedback on our VRBO site. It’s only been up since Friday and we’ve had two bookings already, but wanted your feedback as well to generate more inquiries. http://www.vrbo.com/618522

    Then also what are some ways to advertise to snowbirds. I think the winter months will be the hardest to rent so I was wondering if there were any websites or tips and tricks to get the snowbirds.

    Thanks so much!

    • Matt Landau

      Hey Erica, first things first: professional photos. You’re not running a proper business without them. I’d take “Jetty East 212a” out of your name as no one will know what that means unless it’s a famous building or something. Use the headline to display your unique selling point. Do you know your unique selling point? The advantage your rental offers over all other competitors?

      • Erica

        Thanks so much! The professional photos are in the works 🙂 Right now our unique selling point is that it has just been renovated. But that selling point will change in a few months. I’ll start thinking about it.

        • Matt Landau

          If you can fit your unique point into the headline, you’ve got a winning formula. Check this out: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/vrbo_listings/

          • Erica

            Thanks! What about other avenues to get snowbirds? Any suggestions?

          • Debi

            Erica, you might want to refer to snowbirds in your heading. “Snowbirds Welcome!” or something like that. Also, spend some time thinking about the experience of staying there. Work up a brief dialog that allows your target perfect guest to picture himself staying in your property and take them through some experiences… making it more personal.

  • Sara Notley

    Hi, I’m Sara from Uruguay. I’m the joint owner of LAS BOSSAS Beach Cabins in Punta del Diablo:
    http://www.bossaspuntadeldiablo.com.uy

    Our website is pretty well positioned as my husband Leo has done some great SEO work. We are planning to create an english and portuguese version soon but I think we could still generate more enquiries from the web. What would the best way to do this be?

    In airbnb we are well positioned and have great reviews and this site works really well for us. Unfortunately due to a couple of (unfair!) reviews in Booking we are not very well positioned in booking.com – do you have any suggestions of how to improve this?

    http://www.booking.com/hotel/uy/cabaa-as-las-bossas.es.html?sid=e2cc9d03f2d5515cc10b350b9d84ea78;dcid=4;no_rooms=1;req_adults=2;req_children=0

    We also advertise on Flipkey but don’t get many enquiries. Are there any other sites or advertising methods/strategies you would recommend?

    We find that facebook is good for local and low season. We havn’t tried instagram yet. Could that be any good?

    Thanks!!!

    • Matt Landau

      I personally wouldn’t jump for instagram for the same reasons as here: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/social_media/

      Your cabins are super cool (PRECISELY the kind of place I like to stay when I travel). However to me as a traveler, you’re not serious unless you have pro photos. You’re a hobbyist. This is one simple and straightforward suggestion that will probably increase your inquiries by double digits.

      • Rick Oster

        Try getting a dramatic, gorgeous photo of your view at sunrise or sunset.

        • Good idea. We’ll have to get up early 😉

      • Hi Matt, thanks for the quick reply! You are welcome to come and visit us whenever you can. Re photos, what do you suggest? Using a more wide-angle lense? More production, eg. flowers, wine, etc or professional lighting? The thing is we don’t want the camera to lie (what you see is what you get!)

        • Matt Landau

          Hire a pro photographer. Don’t try to do it yourself. The cost will be less than one or two nights booked and will pay for itself over and over again. See here: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/photographers/

          • Ok. Any thought re booking.com? And do you think that VRBO pack would be worthwhile for us as a small cabin, small unknown town in Uruguay ?

          • Matt Landau

            In my experience with clients, VRBO packs always return 10x+ on the investment, so yes for sure. I don’t use or like Booking.com for reasons in another full post.

        • JUST had someone ask if my photos were real or fake. His concern was more were they current and showed what was actually in the home. You want a photo that is enticing and truthful showing everything but with good lighting, and angled to capture the vision that you know will sell.

          I’m a big fan of photos that tell a story.

  • Allen Doumit

    Hi Matt, I am seriously thinking of buying the domain extension ‘.villas’ – for our upcoming new website. I am torn between a pretty cool new extension and a plain vanilla .com extension. What do you guys think? Cheers!

  • gary

    Hi Matt, Do you think I should have my own vacation apartment website like with Villa Marketers or stay with the Homeaway website. I have problems with Homeaway’s review process which I think is unfair to the owner’s. Thanks, gary

    • Matt Landau

      All owners who want to run a professional and sustainable VR business need their own website. Hands down. Check MyVR.com or WebChalet.com for another easier option.

  • Rick Oster

    Almost all of the owners posting today are in need of professional photos. Can anyone remind us of the website where photographers can trade their services for stays in your home?

    • Matt Landau

      https://shootstay.com/

      However consult the conversation in the Inner Circle about them (use the magnifying glass and search shootstay.com). Some less than thrilled folks.

    • Matt Landau

      Here’s another good photographer solution path we used via Google searches with Amy Firmani: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/1-4/

    • Rick Oster

      Those are two good options: there’s definitely an element of risk that comes with trading for services. It could be great, but it might be very disappointing. If you don’t want to invest $1,500 – $2,000, give that a try first. If it doesn’t work out, then bite the bullet and spend the money!

    • Amy T. Firmani

      Rick – I was very nervous the entire time that Matt asked me to share my home – for free – and hopes of exchanging for amazing photos. I trusted his instinct and could not be happier! He explains how to do the research. Do it! You will find someone who matches what you are looking for and ask. People will surprise you!

    • Check with your local real estate agencies in your VR’s area. Compare their photos for the properties they are selling- which ones jump out at you and compel you to place an offer on the house? Ask them if they could photo shoot yours too. They know the area and what actually sells….even if it’s only for a weekend or a couple of weeks. We use our real estate’s photog.

  • Heather Davis

    What is best way to generate more leads post updates with best result. Use personal Google+, with link to blog http://www.cozymoose.com – Facebook does not seem to index well

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Heather, what does “more leads post updates” mean?

      • Heather Davis

        content updates converting to sales – rental income

        • Matt Landau

          Can someone else jump in here? I’m not really understanding Heather’s question…

          • Heather Davis

            What social platform do you feel works best for vacation rental marketing Google+, Pinterest, Blogging, Facebook, Trip Advisor or another? . Long gone from Flip Key .. Did paid listing on trip advisor years ago, dropped poor performance.

          • For me sending out newsletters, blogging and participating on TripAdvisors forum for the location where our VR is located.

          • Heather Davis

            Thank you Linda, do all but lax on the newsletters.
            Newsletter marketing, for vacation rentals, What is the best one to use as a guideline?

          • I use Mailchimp, it is easy to work with and free. If you like to have a look at the newsletters I sent out see: http://www.villaseashell.com/#!newsletters/cwa
            ……just to get a flavor :). I also have a lot to learn as I am quite new to writing newsletters. In addition, English not being my first language makes writing a little more difficult.

          • I forgot to mention that Matt wrote a very good e-book on Email Marketing, which is part of The Vault.

          • Matt Landau

            Ah OK, understood. I agree that very few of the social media platforms work to directly generate bookings. Fostering repeat guests, yes. Perhaps via their ads platform to purchase clicks, also possible. But when it comes to pound-for-pound daily commitments, I don’t spend my limited resources on these mediums. See: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/sharecropping/

          • Hi Heather, I don’t feel the focus of social media is to convert bookings per say. It’s more of a ‘help don’t sell’ approach – you’re building trust first then the bookings will come. I’m very active on Google + and my focus is to share content about my area. It’s a long the same lines of an insider’s guide. Of course you want to be present on all the major platforms but you automate that. I focus on G+ because it’s Google and your posts get indexed in Google search. I highly recommend you check out Alan Egan’s website for more info: http://bookingsplus4g.com

            I started Alan’s course in April and my booking have doubled and many of my inquires are coming from my website as opposed to the listing sites. There are people in the course who are ranking 3rd or 4th on page 1 of Google! They are above the ‘big boy’ listing sites! It’s pretty amazing. Sorry, if I sound like I’m a infomercial but it’s really changed the game for me.

          • Heather Davis

            Thank you Amy..

          • OK… I’ll jump in. I have not had much response from any of those platforms (although I am new to blogging).

  • Sharon Vaughan

    Hi Matt, love your suggestions! Increased by repeat business twofold with newsletters.
    My question is this – last year no snow in Tahoe. This year no booking for Christmas week. Look at my site and/or suggest techniques. http://Www.vrbo.com/56320.
    Sharonvaughan246@yahoo.com

    • Heather Davis

      Christmas week can be tricky with no snow, nobody wants to book ahead. Try other Christmas events, or winter – activities not dependent on snow

    • I agree with Heather…especially as I’d be that one who would rejoice for lack of snow – I don’t do cold well. But I do love the Tahoe area! You may wish to check here: http://www.tahoe.com/ for ideas…and btw… are you listed here too?

      I actually have our home listed in our Sonoma County website and get promos of what’s happening ahead of time to entice guests to come up to The Sea Ranch area.

  • Leona

    What a great opportunity! Thank you!

    I own a large Oceanfront home (7 BR 7 Ba) on Topsail Island in NC.
    Website: http://www.moondanceontopsail.com
    VRBO listing: http://www.vrbo.com/432144
    Flipkey: http://www.flipkey.com/north-topsail-beach-vacation-rentals/p374263/

    Like the others I would welcome any feedback on my current sites, but my specific question would be:

    How do I target my marketing efforts to Family Reunions? They are my best guests – they (mostly) take great care of my home.
    I have Googled “family reunion planning” which comes up with a few sites for planners, but none of them look like a place to market my home.

    Any ideas?

    Cheers!

    Leona

    • Maybe this will help?
      http://familyreunionhouses.com/

      • Matt Landau

        Wow, nice one Donna! Someone should make a bunch of micro-sites EXACTLY like this one geared towards different marketing niches!

      • Leona

        Excellent! I will have my listing there by end of day today. Any other advice is greatly appreciated.

  • Marilyn

    Hi Matt – Thank you so much for your offer to assist us with our marketing. I enjoy reading your posts and have put your advice into place many times. With the limited amount of space available for my headings on the listing sites, I have a hard time coming up with something that will draw more potential guests to it. Can you please take a look at them on VRBO (#143853 & 306921) and let me know what you think? Also, if you notice anything else that needs tweaking, please let me know. I respect your opinion greatly. And congratulations on the good work with the kids! You are a great example a business leader and someone who truly cares about his community.

    • Matt Landau

      Thanks for the kind words, Marilyn. You have great photos, reviews, descriptions…etc.Your headline could use some work: tell me, what does your rental offer that none of the others in the region can?

      • Marilyn

        Well, Maggie Valley and Waynesville are pretty saturated with rentals and most offer about the same amenities. However, I feel that our two homes are more spacious and are a great value when you take into account everything that is included. I’ve checked our rates compared to other similar properties and try to stay below average, so that if anyone is deciding between a few, ours will stand out as a better deal. But I also don’t want to stress “budget” too much because then I fear I won’t attract guests who are willing to spend more if they believe they will be in a quality setting. It’s like when I need to stay at a hotel for a night or two. I know I can get a better deal at the Ramada Inn, but with Marriott, I know I won’t be disappointed. Our guests reviews usually mention how clean and spacious the home is and of course, the mountain views. I can’t really say that there is something that I offer that others don’t have as well. ???

  • We are working on getting a blog going – I have one but so far only 2 posts (started it last week), I’ve got a free website with wix (I contacted the guy you suggested for free domain name help and never got contacted back). How can I get my name out there. Hotel names are EVERYWHERE. I’d like to do more than just online. Any suggestions?

  • Nanette Bulebosh

    Hi Matt,

    I love your blog and all your tips. They’ve been enormously helpful as I enter my 4th year of hosting in a small Midwest resort community. I just have the one property, but it’s done well for me. I’m currently listed on Homeaway, TripAdvisor and Airbnb, and – though I hate paying their listing fees – I have to admit they’ve been useful to me.

    Today’s Q&A session is a wonderful thing! Here’s my listing: http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p3723450. I’d appreciate any suggestions you have time to share. This past summer was my most successful yet. I think this is because of the growing interest in vacation rentals. A short video I posted about the house may have also helped.

    Here are my specific questions:

    Only about 20% of my guests this past summer posted reviews, despite my repeated requests. Some guests were families who left private, complimentary notes, so I know they enjoyed their stay. But most of my guests are racing teams (I live near a track) whose stays were booked by managers. They are probably least likely to leave reviews. They travel year-round, and the last thing I want to do is bother them. Any ideas?

    I’d also appreciate more detailed suggestions for publishing my own vacation home website & blog … and finally ditching the travel websites. They do cut into my profits. I think I’m ready to do this, but what I can’t figure out is how to get this website noticed by my potential customers. The travel sites work because people go there specifically to find a place where they’re traveling. Going off on my own just seems scary to me. Your thoughts?

    Thanks, in advance, for everything you do!

    • Amy T. Firmani

      Nanette – you sound just like me! I have the same issues … from hating to pay those fees to not having guests say much (to me yes, but writing a review… 20% is a good number, if you are getting that!)!! I would suggest going back over the details / blogging completed by Matt on my house. Pick one thing to do a week or a month and focus on it. He has wonderful ideas, but they do take effort. The team that worked on my house – from Jay, to Andrew, Justin and Cameron (and so many others!!), are all great contacts and very easy to work with. They have really been an inspiration to me and the point of it all was to give you a play by play on how to do this yourself! GO for it and keep us posted! (Within a few weeks of my website launching – my house filled up completed.. ask Jay how he did that)!!

    • Debi

      Nanette, if it’s a team manager that books your home for your guests, could you make arrangements for him/her to submit the review? Perhaps at the time of booking you could mention it. If you take a damage deposit, you could send a reminder and site link with the refund.

  • ***THE PERFECT VACATION RENTAL EMAIL TEMPLATE***

    Matt, first off, congrats on the awesome progress with Esperanza…. absolutely amazing and inspiring.

    Secondly, we all know that email marketing is important. We also know we want to “help not sell,” but at the end of the day, the goal IS to increase bookings through your efforts.

    That said, what is the best email marketing template/layout you’ve seen?

    Is it something super simple like what VRBO does: http://www.screencast.com/t/b4SGaTxE9Rb
    How bout this clever little morsel from Luxpads: http://www.screencast.com/t/QX73IkJtx25B
    Here’s an initial one we did (but have since revamped): http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=b5fafb9057a911a953c25dd61&id=58a8c1ea2e&e=%5BUNIQID%5D

    I would love to hear, and more importantly SEE what you consider to be just the right amount of content and the right balance of helpful education combined with self promotion.

    Fight on!

    Danny

    • Matt Landau

      Danny, I’ve done a lot of thinking on this subject and honestly, I don’t like colors or too many pictures or graphics or logos. And frankly, that’s the stuff that takes the most time to set up (and something I don’t have patience for). I stick with plain white html text (just like my VRMB newsletters) whenever possible. I also try to stick with one call to action per email (posting tons of different article links may seem smart, but it gets far less targeted engagement in my experience). Get them back onto your website where you can share options, links, images…etc.

  • Jennifer Libby

    Hi Matt!
    Love your suggestions and inputs on what we all need to work on!
    Couple questions here…
    1- Do you think we will receive more bookings if we offer a $50 gift card to a highly ranked restaurant in town or by offering a promo code to save $50 by booking online? Just curious if any one in the group had any experience on this part.
    2- Email Marketing: I want to be serious about doing an email campaign on a regular basis. How often would you suggest we send our mass emails? Monthly, quarterly, etc.. Do you have a template or an example of an effective newsletter or email that have been working well?
    Thanks so much!

    • Matt Landau

      1 – No, not really. Discounted freebies like that also attract a “cheaper” crowd.
      2 – We try to send ours out monthly but bi-monthly is usually more realistic. Ours are, quite simply, the same as my VRMB newsletters: simple white background, basic html text, and maybe an image or two. We update with some recent post on our blog or a blog from the neighborhood and rarely try to SELL the recipients. Instead, we try to stay connected like pen pals.

      • I send out a mass email about once a month with topics such as; Safe Rental Tips, Insider’s Guide to North Conway, 9 Reasons NOT to Vacation in North Conway, Discounts and Announcing “White Mountain Stay and Stable.

        Interestingly I get tons more unsubscribes to the “help not sell” emails.

        Go figure.

        • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

          Do you use an email company, such as Constant Contact?

          • YES!

            For 23 years I painfully sent out 99 emails at a time with a max of 300 a day from 4 different email addresses so I wouldn’t get blackmarked. In March my husband convinced me to use CC and I LOVE IT!

            The staff is grrrreat, the templates are pretty varied, you can customize the look and colors of the emails and it’s affordable if you keep your contact numbers under 10,000.

            I have about 14,000 current contacts and switch it up which 10,000 get the email every month.

  • Stephanie Davidson

    Hi Matt. I have an ongoing problem. We get a lot of inquiries for 2-3 night weekend stays that are up to 6 months or more in advance. We do not like to accept these bookings unless they fit snugly in between other longer bookings, or it is within a month of arrival and we just want to fill the calendar. As I am sure you know a short booking like this can ruin the opportunity to book the weekdays before or after, since it makes the full week unavailable. My question is – how do I turn down these guests in a polite way, without having to go into a big explanation on how their booking would ruin other bookings… I also always get the comment, “but your website shows the dates are available.”

    • Rick Oster

      Stephanie, have you considered setting a policy that clearly defines when you are willing to accept a booking of less than 7 nights? Perhaps there are certain months of the year where your minimum stay is 7 nights, but other months where it is 3 or 4 nights. Also, during your “peak months” perhaps you can accept a stay for less than 7 nights if it is relatively “last minute”, within 60 days or arrival? That way you don’t have to explain anything and everyone will be aware f your policy. At your discretion, you can always accept a shorter stay when it benefits you or fits snugly between longer bookings.

      • Stephanie Davidson

        Hi Rick. I do have these policies in all my listing settings across various websites. Although most people just look at photos and the calendar and send an inquiry. People don’t actually dig down into the rules and policies and actually read them. So I still feel I have to send a response to their inquiries. Should I just refer to these policies in my response? I guess I need to get over my fear of feeling “mean” by basically saying “your booking is not important to us since it is so short” LOL.

        • Matt Landau

          What are your chances of enticing them into longer stays by leveraging events or other day trips? “We do have a min stay requirement, and during that time of the year, it’s designed to take advantage of X, Y, Z. Could we interest you by helping coordinate some of these activities to fit into our nightly requirements?”

          • Stephanie

            Interesting approach Matt. I can’t believe it has never occurred to me to ask them or entice them to stay longer. This is definitely something I will try. At least there will be some positive angles in the response, and it won’t just feel like I am emailing them a “no”.

        • Rick Oster

          I think we all face the same issue in one way or another. My average stay is 3 – 4 nights, but I have people who want to rent a single Saturday night, and that ruins my weekends. There’s nothing wrong with being “firm but polite”. I let them know the circumstances under which I WILL allow a single Saturday night stay, as opposed to dwelling on why I won’t. Matt’s advice is good too, ask them if they can possibly expand the number of days.

  • Junglemama

    Hi Matt. I love all your advice. I have a bit of a dilemma..I paid the
    big bucks for platinum status on VRBO and all of a sudden I am getting
    less than one inquiry per week! Until now we have had a steady stream
    of inquires for the last 3 years. I am feeling cheated by the Fancy
    listing at this point. Perhaps you guys can take a look and see if there
    is anything overtly wrong with the listing? I have taken all the
    wonderful advice to heart and now.. I am at a virtual stand still with
    my Costa Rica Rental. vrbo # 365601 Any and all constructive comments are welcome.

    • Matt Landau

      There’s nothing wrong with your listing. It’s the trend all around: the amount of supply has closed the gap on demand. I’d recommend you start with your own website and blog now and get a head start on everyone else as things will not go “back to normal” with the listing sites.

      • Thanks Matt! Oh Oh! I wonder if I can downgrade on VRBO and get a refund? I have been working on a website, still working out the kinks, not really satisfied with the template. I will keep pluggin away at it. I appreciate your insight.
        http://www.discovermycostarica.com

        • Matt Landau

          Always best to keep your listing site leads flowing while you’re building an online reputation towards sustainable organic inquiries (which will not happen overnight).

    • Don’t know about other owners’ experiences, but for us (located in the Caribbean) September is a particularly slow month; every one just got back from their summer vacations and it is not yet cold enough to think about a next vacation. I hope the steady stream of inquiries will start soon again!

  • Matt Landau

    I always recommend doing a paid submit to Yahoo’s directory here: https://ecom.yahoo.com/dir/submit/intro/originals/

    Further, it doesn’t appear you’re really practicing any content marketing techniques to draw more traffic and stay relevant. Are you sharing new content on the site on a regular basis?

    • I have Yext.com listings that includes Yahoo (https://local.yahoo.com/info-167584933). Would that be any different from one purchased directly from them?

      • Matt Landau

        Hmmm, never heard of Yext. But Yahoo! is just a quick $200 or $300 paid submit to inject your site into several of the web’s larger databases. That being said, it will probably be an extinct service in a few years.

        • They aren’t that cheap (about $450/year.. but I’m seeing prices elsewhere for). I like that you post once and it filters through to a wide variety of sites (some really random ones…but thinking getting my link out there one way or another is the goal). I have purchased their “Complete Package: Top 40+ PowerListing sites at one low price!” I did as “power boost” to get me up on google. Have no idea if it actually worked- checking metrics has not been my strong suit (especially since my site is governed by a property management company right now).

          Found this article about posting a law firm on it and their review:
          http://lawyerist.com/69499/yext-powerlistings-review/

          But.. there may be consequences too- still studying
          http://www.katandmouse.com/local-search/yext/

  • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

    Thank you! Has it worked really well for you by following the guide? Have you found some more effective than others?

    • What worked best for me is first finding the right keywords people search for on Google. You can get a pretty good idea by experimenting with Tools on Google Adwords. Use those keywords in the website’s titles and meta description, and making sure those words appear sufficiently in the text and alt text of images.

      Depending on where you host your website, there are tools available as well. I recently read Yoast is a great plugin for WordPress website.

      I use WIX for my website, and they also have a good SEO tool.

      There are also many SEO checks available on the web. One of them is http://www.seobility.net/en/

      Matt also wrote some good stuff about SEO, see https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/seo/ and https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/seo_vs_ppc/. Also check the comments.

      • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

        Big Thanks!

        I am doing WordPress so I will check out Yoast as well as spend some time on Google Adwords 🙂

  • Jane

    Buying our first vacation rental property, a beach condo and we are planning on using a vacation rental management company. What are the key things we need to look for when hiring the management company?

    • Matt Landau

      Jane, I’ve written a bit about this here: https://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/property-manager/ Needs vary from person to person, but I’d primarily look at the trust factor and their ability to fill your rental up solid!

      • Jane

        many thanks

    • tdistinguishedg

      Hi Jane, Here are a few thoughts based on my experience: 1) Interview at least 3 property management companies in person. 2) Ask for a contract up front before the meeting 3) Ask questions on all fees (this will be in the contract you requested) 4) Make sure you have a connection with your property management contact (you will want to meet that person because they will have to share your values, after all, they are watching out for your investment) 5) AND MOST IMPORTANT – make sure the PROPERTY MANAGER and not the CLEANER is inspecting your property before each guest check in and after each departure. Good luck!

  • Juliana R

    While I’m working to build up my brand and grow my direct bookings, I believe that distribution is key to our business. So I will try to have as many partners as possible as long as they give me good ROI. I currently work with Homeaway, VRBO, Flipkey, Airbnb and Booking.com. However, it is a constant nightmare keeping all these platforms up-to-date. I did a lot of research trying to find a channel manager that would work with all my partner sites and be reasonable for someone who only has two properties. No luck. Can anybody advise?

    • Rick Oster

      Juliana, I’m not completely sure, but I believe WebChalet can synch with most (if not all) of the sites you’ve listed. They are reasonably priced compared to the others I’m aware of.

      • Juliana R

        Thanks, Rick, I will check with them.

  • Trevi Fountain House

    Hi Matt, I live in Rome Italy and I manage 5 properties right in the city center at exactly 20 steps away the awesome Trevi Fountain. Did you ever visit Italy and Rome? I’ve started in 2009 with one flat when the market was less aggressive and just a few properties were advertised as a vacation home in the biggest home vacation rental websites HA and VRBO where I am currently advertising 2 of my apartments. I was used to advertise 4 of them but due to the very few inquiries I didn’t renew them all. Here’s the links if you have time to have a look at them
    http://www.vrbo.com/262260
    http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p231826http://www.flipkey.com/rome-condo-rentals/p618886/
    https://www.facebook.com/TreviFountainIVApartmentRomehttp://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p3753188
    http://www.housetrip.com/en/rentals/328320
    Here in rome with the unemployment increase a lot of new agencies and new vacation homes are now advertised. Everybody rent houses with a very poor professionally and no passion just business… I am therefore receiving a very few inquiries form HA and VRBO even though I am registered with a Platinum level. I also have a personal page on booking.com see the link http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/trevi-fountain-apartments.en-us.html? but still very few inquiries and high increases of expenses. I don’t have a website, I personally respond to all the inquiries with passion tailoring all the answers (my english and french is fluent and I like to chat with my guests you can see how much they love me by the reviews). The apartments are very nice and in a terrific location but no chance to generate more inquiries (nearly 2 every 2/3days). I saw the wonderful job you did with the Amy Firmani’s Vacation Rental Marketing Makeover and I really wish you were here in Rome to assist me doing the same. Your suggestion/recommendation are inspiring. I wouldn’t bother you but I think you are the only one could help me in giving me your advice on how can I increase my bookings. Should I have my own website? If so how my website will be on top of the searches? Should I have a Facebook page? I just wish I have you here in Rome. I would love to have you as a guardian angel; I will just stick to your recommendation and I am sure the results will come up. Thanks for your attention, I look forward to hearing back from you. My email address is Trevifountainhouse@gmail.com. Of course do not hesitate to contact me if ever you decide to visit my beautiful eternal city. Paola

    • Rick Oster

      Paola, you are the perfect “student” for Matt and his ideas. If you haven’t already done so, I would suggest you purchase Matt’s “Vault” of information. You have so many questions here, but I think they are all answered in his collection of advice. I am only suggesting this because of my own personal experience, living with the same issues and frustrations that you described. I am slowly, but consistently, working my way through his Vault of info and it has been invaluable. I know Matt would never use this forum to suggest that you purchase his Vault, but I have no problem doing so. It is simply the best way for you to drastically improve your situation.

      • Trevi Fountain House

        Thanks Rick I have just tried to join the inner Circle waiting list but the following error message came up Alert! There was a problem while connecting to LeadPages server! Message: Couldn’t resolve host ‘lead-pages.appspot.com’

    • Matt Landau

      Hi Paola, more than just my paid stuff that Rick has so kindly pointed out, I sort of designed my entire blog around your position: wanting to establish a reputation and sustainable marketing portfolio. If you were to start by simply following the info that I have here for free in order to get up and running (your own website, a basic email marketing campaign, best practices with content…etc.) you’ll start to pick up momentum. As with Amy, it didn’t happen over night but with some good hard work and patience 🙂

  • Max B

    Hi Matt, I’m about to launch a vacation rentals site by owners and managers targeting just one particular US vacation island, about 10,000 vacation homes / yet 2,200 listed on VRBO. Do you think a combination of small flat annual fee per listing [$199 basic/ $299 medium and $599 pro- where i come and photograph the property] plus 2% reservation fee [if owner activates instant bookings otherwise free for inquiries] would be a viable biz model?

    • Matt Landau

      It would all depend on how many leads you could supply? To give you an idea of a successful model, VRBO has something like an average of 30x ROI on their membership. So if you charge $200, just make sure you can generate sufficient leads to make it worthwhile.

  • Marie-Louise

    Hello, Matt,

    I’m located in the Vancouver BC area. Heritage home about 2600 sq ft. 4 BR 3.5 BR. I have been running it initially as a 4.5 star bed & breakfast (www.haddonhouse.ca) but over the past few years have been changing over mostly to vacation rental, particularly in summer where demand is relatively high. Our premises can accommodate up to 10 peopleI’ve been listing on only the following sites: VRBO (listing #190465), Homeaway , Flipkey (#192407), Ownerdirect.com and AirBnB. QUESTIONS: 1. Am I missing any obvious listing sites to increase my exposure?
    2. I want to get more serious about marketing our home as vacation rental, and have been following many of Matt’s blogs etc.; also thinking of creating a separate VR website. However, as full-time lawyer during the day, I have more than enough on my plate, and am feeling somewhat overwhelmed in terms of where I should start. I don’t consider myself a terribly tech-savvy person either. Is there anyone I could hire to do all the marketing for me (ie following Matt’s many suggestions & tips etc)?

    Marie-Louise

  • Floyd

    Weatherwise, September is the very best month to visit the beaches and other areas of interest in San Diego. We have one property that is 100 feet from the sand at the beach. We have another property that is 1.5 blocks from one of the best surf spots in Southern California. We get 5 star ratings from our guests consistently. How do we fill the vacancies for September (15 days) and October (15 days)?

    • What about the zoo?? I can’t begin to tell you the number of times we went to the zoo there (we use to live in Redondo- daughter was MVP on Long Board at the high school and El Torro). LOVE it and NEVER tired of it.

      And no self-respecting surfer will stop surfing just because it’s off season 😉

      Check out San Diego’s Events calendar- entice the foodies for restaurant week, Focus on the military families coming out for the air show.
      http://www.sandiego.org/events.aspx

    • Matt Landau

      Find some events during that time and hype the hell out of them! Pair that with a discounted stay during those dates. Pitch it to a demographic one city/state over using Facebook paid clicks. Boom!

    • Consider offering a last minute booking rate for those holes. The kids are back in school -now be may be the time to encourage those to who wish a less manic scene to enjoy SD

  • Hi, I follow your newsletters with great interest. My husband and I manage a number of listings and most of our bookings are through Airbnb (I’m a Superhost), Wimdu, Flipkey and most recently VRBO. We struggle to keep our calendars up to date and have created our own excel calendar monster that is totally manual. It’s totally color coded and works great for us, as long as we remember to manually add the bookings everytime we get one. I’ve fallen down on this front a few times and been caught in a double booking.

    My question for you – do you have any suggestions or know of any resources where we can synch our various bookings onto one mega online calendar, and assign different attributes for different colors – like yellow for CheckIn, red for Problem – must address, and then the different attributes send off a calendar reminder? So everyday I’d get a reminder via text or calender update that (for example) SIobahn party of two is checking in at listing XYZ, Margarent party of 4 is checking in at listing ABC, etc?

    • Matt Landau

      I don’t know of anyone that does ALL those things, Milu. But for most of the big components like the mega calendar, check out http://www.MyVR.com. Also just in general, try not to be so strict in your needs that you are limiting. I’ve found that it’s best to be flexible with needs (at this early time in the industry) and wait for the full host of benefits down the road when these start-ups are better fleshed out.

    • They all synchronize with Google Calendar. Just go to edit calendar in FlipKey or VRBO, Airbnb, etc. and click “sync with other calendars” and add your Google calendar. Or do it the other way around and use for instance your VRBO calendar as your “master calendar” and let it synchronize with Google Calendar and FlipKey, etc.

      • Matt Landau

        Nice one Linda!

      • Thanks for the idea – I tried Google calendar in the past, but it was extremely cumbersome as I have 11 listings, and the synchs never seemed to work well but I may not have been doing it correctly. I may have to give Google calendar another try.

        • I am using the VRBO calendar as my master calendar and have it sync with Airbnb, Flipkey, Wimdu, with my own website, and with Google calendar. I use Google calendar just to keep the overview. …..but then I just have one listing, not a number.
          There are many VR software programs that sync calendars for multiple rentals: Kigo, Instamanager, MyVR, Bookerville, etc. When you choose one just make sure that they sync with all the listing sites.

  • Daniel Rodrigues

    Hi Matt. First of all, I am a huge fan of your work!

    The question is:

    – I have 3 apartments that I use for vacation rental at Lisbon (Portugal). In your opinion which are the 3 listing sites that give greater visibility and return to the owner ? (Right now they are listed only on Airbnb).

    Thank you so much for your help and keep up the great work!

    Cheers.

    Daniel.

    • Matt Landau

      Hey Daniel, really hard to say because this is such a geo-specific topic. I’ll cross my fingers that someone here is based in Portugal and can share their experience. Otherwise, you’ll just have to sign up for all of them and then track what delivers leads and what doesn’t. Sorry I couldn’t be more definitive here.

      • Daniel, you may want to look at Wimdu, Roomorama, and FlipKey, they are all free to list. You have to pay them a certain percentage like Airbnb. The first two are really more European oriented. You may have a look at them.
        Also I heard good things about booking.com for VR’s located in European cities. The disadvantage is that people book without inquiring; this means a chance of double bookings if you do not stay on top of it and keep your calendar up to date. Another disadvantage is that they ask 15% commission.

      • Daniel Rodrigues

        Hi Matt. You are right…It is hard to tell from a very different part of the globe…I agree with you. Thanks any way. Cheers. Daniel.

    • Hi Daniel, we operate niche by country holiday rental portals. We are free to advertise and deliver good results for our advertisers. How and why are we free? We’ve been going since 2011 and make money from the web traffic along with donations from our happy owners. Please visit our website PortugalAgain.co.uk to take a look and see if this would be of interest to you.

      • Daniel Rodrigues

        Hi Elliott. I will take a look at your site to check if we can work together. Thank you.

        • If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask Daniel. Just to note we don’t take commissions on bookings either, we truly are free and all enquiries would come directly to your email inbox.

  • Frances von Aesch

    I am in the process of building a small but luxurious rental suite in my house. I live in Victoria B.C.which is a holiday destination in the summer but not as much in the winter. I am wondering if you would advise going for longer rental in the winter (sabbaticals etc.) or simply just go for the vacation market right away and try to build my business attracting snowbirds from the rest of Canada.

    • Matt Landau

      The best way to learn your own market is to kinda wing it the first season, Frances. Unless you can consult another owner in the area, it’s really hard for those of us not familiar with the region to make educated guesses. I would probably suggest aiming to do short-term rentals first, that way you can keep a file of potential long term guests should the short term rentals prove too difficult. Sorry, but this is one of the beginning “costs” all of us had to go through at one point or another.

  • Brenda

    How do you bury a bad review. I have only sought reviews for vrbo/homeaway and then use them also on my web site. I was make aware of a bad review on Yahoo that I had never seen (the ONLY review for me on Yahoo and the only bad review I have ever had) and it’s a year old. How do I solicit people to write reviews on Yahoo to bury it who may not be using Yahoo? Or do I just forget it?

  • Brenda

    I would LOVE to have a review of either my listing content on vrbo or my website http://magnoliacourtsuites.com!

  • @JGreenProperty

    I am looking to setup a Vacation rental business and am hoping to do so via renting and then subletting. I want to do so with the full support of my landlords to ensure it is all done right and minimise chances of unwanted headaches.

    Do you have any experience or can you direct me to some resources around this? I am thinking I will need to incentivise the landlord to allow me to do this, perhaps by taking over the landlord responsibilities in terms of repairs/maintenance (I will insure and also be covered by security deposits from my guests). I could also pay overs in terms of rent or provide bank guarantees around future rent payment, double deposits, etc. Any other suggestions to get this off the ground?

    Also, do you have any tips around assessing demand for certain types of properties in certain areas? e.g. 1 bedroom vs 2 bedroom or this suburb vs that suburb?

    • Matt Landau

      These rules all vary state/city to state/city. So best to check with your local city council. Check out this podcast for a good intro there: http://www.vacationrentalrenegades.com/12/

      As for determining the ideal floorplan/layout, I recommend browsing 20 listings in your area for a decent enough sample size with each bedroom type (1-bedrooms, 2-bedrooms, 3-bedrooms…etc.) and canvassing their price per night as well as occupancy (can be seen on most listing site calendars). Here’s a good service for the Airbnb segment submitted by a subscriber recently (I haven’t used the service): http://rentingyourplace.com/states/airbnb_nationalmap.html

  • Theresa Casey Robertson

    What title would you choose for http://www.vrbo.com/509063 please.

    • Matt Landau

      Theresa, as the lucky last question of the day, I am going to pose this to the Inner Circle and get back to you tomorrow morning with a united and definitive answer 🙂