Once your property is ready for paying guests, the next step is to get guests to find you and the dilemma of “where should I advertise my holiday home” raises its head.
As private holiday home owners, we don’t have endless advertising budgets in fact they are really tiny! So we have to choose wisely and carefully the best platform to advertise on, to reach our target market at the lowest possible cost.
How did it used to be?
I can remember from my childhood my mum looking at the adverts in the newspaper and sending off for a brochure in the post. The brochure would arrive, you’d then flick through, choose your favourite holiday cottage based on the location, a short description, a couple of photos (often only one) and the price. You’d send a cheque in the post and bingo, your summer holiday would be booked, as easily as that.
No surprise it’s not like this any more. You have to work much harder to attract guests as not only is there more competition, holiday makers are more fussy, more demanding and are used to having an array of possible holiday cottages to choose from.
How it is now?
In one word, advertising and marketing your holiday home is all about being online. In 3 key ways:
- Your own website
- Listing sites or Agencies
- Your social media
Your own website
Having your own website means that you are in control of how you present your holiday rental. From the copy you use, to the number of words, to the images, to how many pages – each website is unique and personal to you. It’s the window into your holiday property and your big chance to showcase this to the world, at it’s best!
Having your own website needn’t be scary or expensive. You’ll need a domain name eg www.yourholidaycottage.co.uk which cost around £10 a year and some hosting (the place where your website will sit) and this is around £60 a year. You can build your own website for free, or get it built for you for a one-off cost of a few hundred pound.
WordPress, for example, is a popular platform and is Google and mobile friendly. It’s easy to use and you’ll have an amazing website that you’re completely in control of, proud of and ready to drive traffic to. Your website should be at the centre of your online advertising presence but certainly to start with it’s not enough to ensure you’re found online.
There are 2 main types of listing sites.
Listing sites who charge an annual fee but no commission per booking. Your listing displays your website so guests are directed to your own website. Look for niche listing sites eg pet friendly, or just for your area. Monitor referrals and make a decision each year to renew depending on the number and quality of referrals eg Owners Direct and the smaller but highly recommended Elite Cottages. The fees being approx £300 and £150 per year respectively. Well worth it if they bring in just one or two bookings a year.
Listing sites who are free to list but charge a small percentage or a fee per booking (eg AirBNB and Holiday Lettings). The percentage fee varies at around 3% so isn’t much but in this instance, all bookings are done through their interface with no link to your website. So it’s a much less personal approach to liaising with guests as no email or telephone numbers are shared, to ensure the transaction takes place via the listing site.
The benefit for all listing sites is that their marketing budget and reach is greater than yours and your website. They have experts in SEO (search engine optimisation) and as a result they show up often on page 1 of Google. So you benefit from being found via their SEO work. There of course can be lots of other similar cottages on these sites so you risk blending in. But it’s then up to you to write a killer description to make sure you stand out from the crowd.
Agencies charge a commission per booking and will take the bookings for you (liaise with guests and take the payment) cutting down significantly on your workload. There is of course, no link made to your website. Like listing sites they have a larger advertising budget. It’s in an agency’s interest to find you bookings so they work hard on your behalf. But is this worth the fee you pay per booking, often as high as 22%? Only you can decide this. Again the larger agencies are often ranked high in Google.
Agency and listing websites’ contracts usually last for a year and can be worthwhile joining in the first year, while you build your online presence through your own website and social media. But be selective, don’t just list everywhere and let’s face it, you couldn’t afford to anyway!
Big advantage number one is that social media is free (apart from your time).
Being on social media is all about driving traffic back to your website. So guests then book with you via your website. To get this to happen you need to post engaging content; content that your guests will want to read and engage with. For example content about your local area. What’s on, where to visit,restaurant recommendations, posts about gardening (if one of your holiday home’s selling points is its garden) or about things to take to the beach (if you’re a coastal holiday home). The posts must be relevant to your guest and the holiday they can have with you.
Being on social media is not about constant selling, and constant advertising as this easily turns fans off as you become a bore. Remember social media is “social” by name. It’s about building relationships, sharing knowledge, answering queries and helping others. Behind each account is a real person and even online, people still do business with people!
Of course you’re ultimately on their to advertise your property and to sell your weeks. But it’s a subtle approach with initially intangible results. Post engaging content, take time and persistence and you’ll get those website clicks!
Where to advertise comes down to individual choice, budget, location and holiday home type. But I’d recommend a model where your website is the centre of your advertising. Focus your efforts to direct guests here as this is where you’ll woo them. Realistically until you build your website presence you’ll need to use listing sites, which link to your website, to help you do this. But that’s fine, as you’re still in control, still able to build relationships with your guests and importantly able to maximise the profit on each booking as no booking fees will need to be paid!