Vacation rental News
9 Smart Direct Booking Strategies Property Managers Are Using This Year
Property managers know how important it is to list properties on a wide range of vacation rental sites. But if you only rely on OTAs, you could be missing out on revenue.
When guests book direct, you don’t have to pay the fees and commissions imposed by booking sites. This means you can offer better prices and still earn more revenue for every booking.
In this article, we’ll give you actionable strategies for direct bookings that you can use to increase your profits and occupancy.
The key to maximizing revenue is to get bookings from a wide variety of distribution channels. Distributing your listings is a strategy, not a task. Take our free 5-day email course for property managers who want new, creative strategies for distributing their vacation rental.
Table of contents
- What is a direct booking?
- Smart direct booking strategies that property managers are using this year
- Minimize the number of clicks on your direct booking website
- Make your website trustworthy
- Improve your SEO
- Using video for more than just virtual tours
- Give incentives for booking direct
- Use billboarding to capture OTA traffic
- Set up a Google My Business listing
- Aggregate reviews on your website
- Offer discounts to repeat guests
- Use direct booking strategies alongside OTA listings to maximize bookings and revenue
What is a direct booking?
Direct booking is when guests make their booking with the property manager and there are no third parties involved.
The property manager has full access to guest data and control over the whole booking process. They can communicate with guests however they choose and have the freedom to set their prices and payment terms and apply discounts as they wish.
Smart direct booking strategies that property managers are using this year
Direct booking is a trend that will continue to grow in 2021, as more and more property managers realize it can increase their profits. In fact, as we reported recently, direct bookings accounted for over 50% of bookings made in 2020.
There are many strategies you can use to increase direct bookings. We’ve put together a list of tactics that you can implement today.
Lots of these tips come from our webinar with direct bookings expert and creator of The Book Direct Show, Damian Sheridan. You can watch the recording below.
The best way to manage bookings from a wide variety of different sources is with a vacation rental channel manager like Avantio that can sync all your direct and OTA bookings.
Now let’s get into the strategies that will help you increase your direct bookings in 2021!
Minimize the number of clicks on your direct booking website
To get more direct bookings, your website must be easy to navigate and user-friendly.
If the booking process is confusing and long-winded, people will navigate away from your site and bounce back to Google.
Reduce the number of steps people need to go through to book your vacation rentals. Test the booking journey by going through it yourself and asking friends or family to do the same. Take note of any friction points that exist, and try to eliminate them.
An on-site booking engine can make for a smoother user experience and means potential guests won’t have to go to an external site to complete their booking. Create a “Book Now” button that’s clearly visible on your homepage.
Another tip? Don’t ask guests to enter lots of personal data before booking. Focus on closing the sale first, and you can capture their details later.
“Don’t be upselling anything before they actually buy. You don’t need to register them before they buy – get that sale in first of all.” Damian Sheridan
Make your website trustworthy
Large OTAs and hotel brands have the advantage of being widely used and trusted by travelers. To convince people to book through your site instead, your website must be trustworthy.
People won’t want to hand over payment information if your website is not secure, so it’s essential to get an SSL certificate. This proves your website is secure and will display a padlock and HTTPS in the web address bar.
Another way to inspire trust is to make sure your website is mobile-friendly and responsive on a variety of mobile devices. Many people browse the web on phones and iPads and if the booking experience is not responsive, it won’t look professional and they will not stick around to book.
If you need help designing your website, Avantio has a team dedicated to vacation rental website design who can help you create a bespoke website that’s secure and responsive.
Finally, display any industry accreditations or certifications on your site. You can verify your agency and properties with an association such as I-PRAC, which lets potential customers know there is no risk of fraud when booking your property.
Improve your SEO
Your ranking position in Google is vital. Most people don’t venture past the first page of search results, and a recent study found that 28.5% of Google searchers will click on the first organic result.
There are plenty of tactics to improve your website’s SEO and rank higher in search engines, for example:
- Use relevant keywords throughout your site that are specific to the type of rentals you offer.
- Optimize your images with file names and alt text that describe the content of the image.
- Write a meta-description. This is a brief description of your site that will appear in Google search. It should be no more than 160 characters and encourage people to click on your page.
- Start a blog and publish content that’s useful to your target customer and rich in keywords.
At Avantio, we know that SEO is key to getting more direct bookings. We’re one of the few vacation rental management systems that has an SEO module built into the software.
Using our SEO and blogging tools you can optimize your settings to get your website ranking higher in search.
Avantio’s SEO tool
Use video for more than just virtual tours
Images are an important aspect of your marketing, but why not go one step further and use videos on your site?
Videos are a great way to display your properties and allow guests to imagine what it would be like to stay in your rental.
Virtual property tours are an excellent way to show prospective guests around. But there are more ways to use video.
A video interview with you or your hosts can remove anonymity and add a face to the business. This will also inspire trust.
If you can get your guests to leave a video review that will serve as great social proof that your properties are worth booking.
As Damian said in our webinar:
“Video is an amazing tool and so underutilized… It’s a great way of keeping people on your site for longer, but also really engages people.
I would suggest you have interviews, walk them through your property, walk them through your local area, and let them know what you’re all about.”
Give incentives for booking direct
Pricing is likely the main reason why guests choose to book directly. To increase your conversion rate, make sure it’s clear immediately that guests will get the best price when they book directly.
“Make sure you have “Best Price Guaranteed” upfront and center on your homepage, so when people get there, they know they’re not going to get a better deal elsewhere.” Damian Sheridan
You can also offer exclusive discounts and special offers on your site, stating that guests cannot get these offers on booking sites.
Promote perks and special offers like premium welcome packs, early or late check-in, or discounts on popular upsells.
Use billboarding to capture OTA traffic
You can use your OTA listings to increase the chances of potential guests going to your site to book with you. However, you do need to be careful not to break any OTA rules and put your listing at risk.
While you can’t use your listing to ask people to book directly on your own website, you can make it easier for people to find you.
One way to do this is through “billboarding,” which means using a brand name in your listing. If you use your company or property name in the listing, people can search on Google to find your direct booking website.
Set up a Google My Business listing
One of the best things you can do for your agency is set up Google My Business.
A Google My Business insights study found that the average business receives 59 actions from their Google My Business listing each month, and on average, 56% of these actions are website visits.
To claim your Google My Business listing, you have to certify your physical address and complete the verification process online, filling out all the details and services that your business provides. You can find a full explanation of how to do this on Google’s support page.
Remember to include lots of high-resolution images in your Google listing. According to Google, businesses that have photos receive 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites.
Not only can Google My Business listing inspire trust, but it also makes it easy for people to find your business and get to your website.
Aggregate reviews on your website
Before booking, guests want to see lots of positive reviews and read about amazing guest experiences.
One way to get more reviews on your website is to ask guests to write a review on your site after their stay. However, if you have lots of good reviews on booking sites and social media, there’s no reason not to share these on your own website as well.
Aggregating reviews from OTAs on your site will boost credibility. It’s harder to fake OTA reviews and people can see that guests who’ve booked through well-known channels have had a positive experience.
Aim to get Google reviews as well. Try to get as many guest reviews as possible from diverse sources, and display them proudly on your site.
If you do receive the odd negative review, replying politely and addressing people’s concerns can help to lessen the impact.
Offer discounts to repeat guests
Try to convert OTA guests into future direct bookings.
At the end of their stay, offer a discount on a repeat booking if they book direct with you. You can even leave business cards with exclusive offers, or other branded items in the property to familiarize guests with your brand.
Capturing data means you can send marketing materials and encourage guests to book with you again. Incentivize people to follow you on social media, and opt-in for email marketing.
Don’t just focus on the lead guest – try to capture information from all the guests.
Email is a great channel for messaging your guests with exclusive offers occasionally.
You can also run a loyalty program or referral discount for guests who introduce a friend or family member who books directly.
Avantio has a range of marketing tools to help you capture more business, such as abandoned cart recovery, email and push notifications.
Use direct booking strategies alongside OTA listings to maximize bookings and revenue
Direct bookings are a great way to increase your revenue. When you keep a higher percentage of the profit, you can afford to offer better prices to potential customers.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should neglect OTAs. We recognize that online booking sites are still highly valuable for the exposure and volume of bookings they bring your business.
The key to a successful marketing strategy is to focus on all channels and diversify your listings to capture as many bookings as you can.
Distributing your listings is a strategy, not a task. Take our free 5-day email course for property managers who want new, creative strategies for distributing their vacation rentals.