SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for Vacation Rental Websites
Do you know how to influence the SEO for your holiday rental website? You have your property listed on a few listings sites and your own rental website. But you keep hearing about this ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO). What is it all about?
Here is a summary on how essential SEO is for your holiday rental website marketing and what basic steps you can do to optimise your site.
What is ‘Search Engine Optimisation’?
Search Engine Optimisation is the process of developing your vacation rental website in accordance with the constantly changing ‘algorithms’ of search engines (e.g. Google and Bing) and improve your natural position in search engine results pages (SERPS). In layman’s terms – making Google et al happy with your site and (hopefully) appearing high enough in results pages so guests find you.
Be warned: SEO for vacation rental websites is a never-ending task that is constantly evolving. Search engines like Google become ever sophisticated in trawling the billions of website out there.
It’s vital that you try your hand at it otherwise your website will remain stagnant and will unlikely be found online by guests.
There are so many factors to consider for your vacation rental website SEO however we have highlighted just some of the most important ones below.
“Content is King”
You will have probably heard the phrase “Content is King” and this is very much true. Without lots of fresh content on your site there is not enough information for the search engine ‘spiders’ to trawl and pick out as being relevant in terms of what guests are searching for. You should ideally look at adding content every week and refreshing existing pages every few months.
Write your content in short easy-to-read paragraphs and use headings and sub-headings.
Content must unique and not posted anywhere else online. However tempting it can be, do not copy and paste your website content into your listings or elsewhere on line. Search engines do not like this and will penalise your site for duplication.
Each page should ideally have a minimum of 300 words and include a sprinkling of your targeted key words (see below).
Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird updates…what are they?
As Google has become more sophisticated over the years it has introduced many updates to the way it trawls websites. The Panda update hit what Google called the ‘low quality sites’ with a ‘poor user experience’ (e.g. those with large amounts of pop up advertising).
The Penguin update mainly focused upon penalising websites that used artificial or paid link-building practices.
Hummingbird is a newer update aimed at rewarding site content that would naturally answer a human question and not stuffed with key words.
If you are not trying to manipulate the system and employ quick fixes to appear higher up on SERPS you should have little to worry about.
Submitting the Site to Search Engines
Once you have completed and published your initial website (don’t rest on your laurels, it will constantly need to change and expand) you will need to submit it to the leading search engines. In case you weren’t aware, the most popular are:
There are thousands of other search engines but as Google, Bing and Yahoo account for around 95% of internet searches there is little point in taking much time out to submit to others at this time
Your site may actually become automatically indexed by search engines if you have created several pages of unique content, engaged in lots of social media sharing of your pages or if the site has a few quality inbound links* from relevant and high quality websites (e.g. blogs/forums).
Don’t waste your time using search engine submission tools as you will be inevitably inundated with SEO product emails thereafter.
*not ‘no-follow’ links as these don’t influence SEO for major search engines.
Key Word Research
It’s very important to identify the key words that your potential rental guests are using in search engines. Using tools like Google’s free Keyword Planner can greatly help you note how many monthly searches are made for specific holiday rental search terms in specific countries or worldwide.
Your key words should be sprinkled into your page content – but not stuffed. A density of between 2-4% should suffice. Read the page content out aloud – if it doesn’t sound natural, change it, especially given where Google is going with Hummingbird.
Appearing ahead of established competition for the most popular key words can take time and be extremely difficult – especially as large booking portals like HomeAway, Booking.com and TripAdvisor with huge teams of specialists are standing in your way.
Identifying ‘long tailed’ keyword phrases of 3-5 words may be your best course of action. Your competitors may have overlooked or ignored these terms due to the relatively low number of searches per month however this can most definitely work to your advantage as you may be able to more quickly appear close to the top of the SERPs for a phrase that generates up to 20 searches per month.
For maximum reward try to include your key words phrase into your page title, meta description, url, heading, first paragraph and image descriptions.
Describing Your Website Pages
It’s imperative that you can do the following:
- Make sure all pages are titled in a short phrase that includes your key words
- Make sure all page URLs include your key words
- Make sure all page meta descriptions are complete and include your key words
- Make sure all photos are described (title and alternative text) and include your key words
- Make sure all pages include links to others around your site and that the linked text is varied.
If possible, spending a few hours a week on building links can go a long way to helping your rental website SEO. While link building does not carry as much sway as it used to with Google it’s still important.
The more quality links you can get from similar and well-respected sites to yours will reward your online presence and page rank. Avoid link exchange programmes as using these are picked up by Google and you will be punished accordingly. Many SEO experts have fallen foul of Google updates over the last couple of years.
As everyone is generally in the same boat, manual requests for reciprocal linking to a ‘Links’ or ‘Partners’ page are normal (but time-consuming). If you are doing this be sure to mix up the ‘anchor text’ from the external site to yours and make sure the inbound links are not ‘no-follow’ links as these will not assist your SEO at all.
Don’t expect any new visitors to your site via reciprocal links. Website visitors rarely view ‘Links’ pages.
Probably the best way to get links to your site is to share your insightful unique content/blog or by conducting some interviews. The easiest way to share your website is via social media.
Try to be active on social media streams such as Google+, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Despite the fact that they will probably not even bring you in much, if any, new business, it will definitely help your SEO. Sharing your rental website links with your followers and friends (and subsequent shares from them) will help search engines recognise the quality of specific pages and should bring more visitors to your site.
Using Google and Bing Webmaster tools is important in getting your holiday rental website indexed by these leading search engines. The very least you should be doing is verifying your site and submitting a sitemap.
Products such as Google Places and Google Analytics are essential for your SEO and visitor analysis.