Archive for August, 2008

Making an Investment Decision. Where to Promote your Lodging and How much to Spend on Online Advertising

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Life is about decisions. From everyday ones that do not involve any risk, to the more meaningful ones that make us wonder if we just made the right investment. In the vacation rental industry decisions can revolve around whether or not to install the Internet or if it is a good idea to invest in a swimming pool.

Once we already invested in all the features and extras that make our vacation rental more competitive, then comes the biggest question of all: where should we advertise to get a desired return on investment? Some would say it’s a matter of trust and they would go with the companies they have been referred to or ran into on Google. But in marketing however, there is no space for guessing, it is all about facts.

We can find these facts easily on the Internet. We read testimonials, we do our research in search engines by keywords to see which directories come up; but once we have a good number of alternative scenarios to spend our marketing dollars, how do we know which way to go?

This is where we can help. We have prepared an extensive market study where we tried to answer these two core questions:

- How much to spend on advertising online?

- What are the main marketing Internet sources in the lodging industry?

For this analysis we used Hitwise, the top online measurement company that provides great insights on how Internet users interact with websites. After watching closely consumer behaviors in the lodging industry and after running several reports, we are now able to invite you to read the full marketing study. Once you follow this link you will be asked to register. If you are already our client, we will send it to you in an upcoming email.

In this marketing study you will find out about the main players in the lodging industry and about their market shares. We also provide you with a list of the top ten sites in the industry that receive the highest traffic and explain what the most prominent sources of Internet traffic for vacation rental directories are. We thought about all of you who own different kinds of lodgings, so we prepared three separate studies for vacation rental owners, bed and breakfast innkeepers and hotel managers.

We hope you will find this study useful!

Marta

The Power of Video and YouTube Community Building

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Easily accessible economic cameras and video phones have recently replaced camcorders and film roles from the last century. With these new products, entertainment and businesses stepped into the new multimedia dimension. What’s the impact? If the picture says more than a thousand words, video without doubt says more than a thousand pictures.

From movie trailers and interviews to “home-made” cooking tutorials, all this and everything else imaginable can be found on YouTube. During the past three years this powerful broadcasting website created a community of 200 million unique users and has the 6th largest audience on the Internet. With the audience that closely mirrors the demographic of the US online population and with monthly unique visitors of 71 million on YouTube, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that opportunities for advertisers are just enormous.

The best of all is that YouTube makes room for everybody, from amateurs to video gurus. You don’t need a professional footage to draw visitors to your YouTube profile. For you – property owners, it can be a pretty useful channel to target travelers. From our internal research we know that the majority of travelers that visit Rentalo are between 25 and 34 years old and over 55. Main YouTube’s audience belongs to the similar age groups as well.

Uploading a video to YouTube is simple and doesn’t require any special skills. The most important thing to remember is to assign as many tags as possible to your video (tags are keywords people use in their search). You should also include keywords in the description of your video. When writing a compelling description, you can refer to my previous post about how to create a copy that sells.

Your opportunities with YouTube, however, go far beyond uploading a video of your vacation rental. There is always a larger picture and here it’s about using YouTube as a great tool to build your own community. There are countless videos of users who share their own tutorials, travel guides or hidden talents. Some of them have built huge communities just by catering to the right audience with the right product. They encourage comments, invite subscribers, belong to certain circles and what’s the bottom line, they link to their private websites where they usually sell their products or services. Great example of a successful “you-tuber” is your fellow property owner from Amsterdam ” PhilDutch.

As YouTube says, “Online Video isn’t the future, it’s the present”. The fact that 75% of Americans watched a video online last month is enough information for you to act! At Rentalo we decided to go with this fast-growing trend last year when we introduced a video inclusion option. Since that time property owners can link a property video to their Rentalo listing for free.

We also prepared a mini tutorial for owners providing technical tips, giving advice on what to capture and finally teaching how to upload a video to YouTube and then include a link in Rentalo. If you have a video of your vacation rental, it’s about time you shared it with Rentalo’s audience. If you don’t have one yet, you definitely should think of making one. Video can be as simple as a slideshow of your finest pictures put together by a Windows Movie Maker (a program that every computer has). You can also add music and put subtitles.

Just one last thought. Remember that today consumers have turned into Trysumers, people who enjoy full access to information and reviews and who like unconventional ways of “trying” new services. They want to taste and “touch” a product before they purchase it. Do you think video will influence their decision about booking your place? I think that chances are pretty high.

Marta

Madrid Plane Crash

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

On behalf of the Rentalo team we would like to express our condolences to the family of the victims involved in this tragic accident which has claimed so many innocent lives.


Surely this is a sad moment for the entire travel industry.


I find Capt Tom Bunn’s reflections and thoughts on his
blog during these difficult tragedies always assertive and helpful.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.


Rentalo
Team

Don’t hide your vacation rental prices ” Show Travelers the MONEY $$$

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

I went on a date once and I made the novice mistake of allowing my date to choose the restaurant.  Everything was going great until I opened the menu and noticed: NO PRICES!!!  I was a rookie at the dating game, but it didn’t take rocket scientist to figure out there was only one reason why the prices were not in the menu.  You guess it, the food was very expensive.

 

Turning a corner and thinking about the vacation rental market, I often find many property owners that do not post their prices.  After working for many years with vacation rental property owners, I have pretty much heard all the flavors of reasons you can think of.  I want to go ahead and look at some of those reasons and hopefully convince some of you out there that posting your prices is the best way to go.

 

The number one reason I hear from property owners is that their prices are too high and they don’t want to ‘scare” possible travelers.  Now let’s think about that for a minute.  Say I”m a traveler looking for a Breckenridge vacation rental.  After taking a few minutes to define my needs I finally have 7 properties to choose from.  They all have attractive pictures and enticing text.  I notice that 2 of the properties don’t have any prices in the ad, while the other 5 have their prices clearly defined.  The chances of that traveler clicking on the properties without prices are lower than the chances he or she may click on the vacation rental ad which has all the information they need.  Besides, think of the restaurant example; the first thing that will go through the travelers mind is “Why don’t they have their prices posted?, they surely must be expensive!”  So in trying to “not scare” the traveler you are doing just the opposite. 

 

A few things to consider if this is your case.  First of all, the most important thing to take into consideration is VALUE versus PRICE.  If your property offers better value than others in your area, then it is important that you communicate that well right from the beginning.  No one knows your property more than you, so if you have decided upon your prices and you are sure of them, then don’t be afraid to post them.  Travelers will be more enticed and may be willing to pay a bit more if they realize your vacation property offers more value.  In some cases some property owners may need to do a more in depth market analysis to compare their property and what it has to offer, with similar properties in its area.  Maybe your property is over priced and you may need to lower your prices to be more competitive.  What ever the case, post your prices, it will at least show travelers you have nothing to hide.

 

Some other property owners have expressed that their pricing structure is too complex and they rather not post it online.  If your pricing structure is so complex that you cannot post it online, you may want to consider revising it and making it simpler for travelers to understand.  If you cant explain it online, then its time to make it simpler.  Travelers should be able to see at a glance how much it will cost to stay in your property, without having to make too many calculations in their head.

 

I know, I know, it takes time to update my information, specially my prices because they change all the time.  It’s a good thing that Rentalo has a very powerful and flexible pricing table for you to use.  You have unlimited ranges that you can ad, even if you have multiple room types.  This is especially helpful to Bed and Breakfast and Hotel owners and managers, who need to display multiple room types during the same time period.

 

Whether you have a vacation rental, bed and breakfast, hotel, or any lodging posted on Rentalo or any other service, posting your prices is one of the most important pieces of information you must post.

 

The beauty of the internet is that it allows its users to gather a large amount of data in a very short period of time.  This is great when you need to make a decision, because you are able to see all your options without having to spend days gathering information.  Do us all travelers a favor, post your prices and make the decision making process smoother for the entire industry.

 

Frank

Writing a Copy that Sells – How to Create a Good Property Description

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

In the online industry it is all about content. High quality and relevant content that entices readers and makes them visit our website and buy our product. This simple rule also applies to the vacation rental industry where the more captivating description of your property you provide, the more attention you will get.

As Frank pointed out in the previous post, the first step to get visitors to your property listing is by uploading high quality and professional pictures. We all judge by the cover, so you should make sure your “cover” sells. After viewing your photo gallery, travelers usually want to find out more about your place by reading your description.

How to make them read it all and how to convince them to book your property? It all starts with a powerful title that just cannot be missed. Take some time to look at the competition in your location and make sure your title is original and stands out. Try to avoid generic titles and think of features that distinguish your vacation rental from others (For ex.: Affordable Beachfront Italy Villa Ideal for Family Getaways).

Now comes the toughest part, writing a compelling description. I gathered some tips that might be useful for you during the process. Remember to aim for 400 words or more, it’s the optimal length for a description.

1. Think of unique features of your place and use them as your most powerful weapon. Is your villa waterfront and offers gorgeous sunsets? Is it spacious and sleeps large parties? Write down all the attributes and elaborate on them in separate paragraphs.

2. Use details. Travelers like to picture their future vacation house and plan what to pack and what to leave behind, so be specific and provide a short description of each bedroom, amenities and extras (ex.: beach towels, bikes, linens).

3. Write about nearby attractions as well. Most travelers like to plan their vacation activities and they greatly appreciate such information. Provide them with a mini guide of things to do in the area. How close it is to the beach/hiking trail? What other great attractions can be found nearby? (Ex.: Amusement Parks, nature trails, museums and art galleries).

4. Add a personal touch to your description. Don’t be afraid to show emotion and inject a little feeling to your text. Let travelers know who you are and how long you own the house. Also, relate to the experience of your previous guests, for ex. “Our guests love watching sunsets from our lakefront deck and watching movies from our wide DVD collection”. Emotion sells.

5. Last but definitely not least. Keywords, keywords, keywords! Think of the keywords that travelers use to search for vacation home in your area. What would you put in search box when looking for a vacation rental? You can also use numerous keyword research tools that are available on the internet for free. Make your list and try to insert keywords to every paragraph of your description. This will help travelers find your property better in search engines. Examples of keywords are: Orlando vacation rentals, Orlando condos, Orlando accommodations.

I hope that you found my mini guide useful. Remember that the bottom line is to convince travelers that your place is the one they are looking for. With this in mind, the creativity will follow.

Marta Olszewska

Below you can see our friendly and easy to use Edition Page.

A picture is worth a thousand dollars $$$

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

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Example of a great vacation rental picture gallery

You”ve heard the old proverb “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Simply put, you can communicate in 1 picture what it would take pages to describe. A picture has the power to communicate large amounts of information in a very short period of time through visualization.

According to online research, the average Google user takes about 7 seconds to decide were to click. Google displays mostly text in its search result. Now lets think about a traveler that searches for vacation rentals in lets say Orlando Florida through Rentalo.com. They are going to be presented with a list of properties to choose from. What do you think it’s the first thing that catches their eyes? Your picture of course.

Too often I speak with property owners that complain that their listing is not getting enough attention. In researching most cases, I find that the problem is not traffic to their location, but traffic to their specific property. 9 out 10 times I”m able to determine the culprit by simply going to their location and comparing their ad to the others they are competing against. Usually the pictures are not too appealing.

Now being married to a professional photographer, I can tell you that not most of us know what it takes to get a great picture taken; however, most of us are sure able to stand in awe when we see a great photograph. Pictures sell. Period!

Great pictures of your property are worth their weight in bookings. Some property owners want to get bookings with scanned pictures taken from a brochure. This is just not going to work for savvy travelers that are accustomed to high resolution images of the products they are about to purchase. This is even more true now that we offer high resolution slide shows to every property owner. The time is now, update your pictures and make sure they are high quality and crisp.

Here are a few tips that we highly recommend:

‘?¢ Hire a professional photographer to take excellent photographs of your property. This may not be the cheapest solution, but you may recuperate the investment in just a few bookings. Look at options before you commit to a photographer. Look at their portfolio and go with the one that has the pictures that impress you the most.

‘?¢ If your budget is restricted at the moment then get a digital camera if you don’t have one already, besides it’s the year 2008! You don’t need to get a fancy and expensive camera. Any camera with a resolution of 3.0 mega pixels or more would be great for the job. With this option you have no time restrictions; you can take as many pictures of the property as you want. Remember Rentalo gives you unlimited space for images and you can upload them yourself.

‘?¢ Look at other properties in your area or in other cities and see which ones catch your eyes first. Try to emulate that in your pictures. Look at the angles from which the pictures were taken, look at the lighting, etc. Small details go a long way.

‘?¢ Use free software to enhance your picture. Nowadays you don’t need to be an expert at Photoshop to retouch your pictures. There is a great free program by Google called Picasa which allows you quickly organize and make simple changes to your images. You can download it at http://picasa.google.com/

‘?¢ Ask other people you trust to tell you what they think of your pictures.

I would recommend to all our property owners to take a few minutes to look at their images and determine if they need to be changed or modified. If you need help with this and are not sure what to do, remember that you can contact us via our help page and we will gladly arrange a time to speak with you and go over the listing with you at no extra cost.

Until next time’?¦ say chee$$e

Frank Suarez

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Upload Special Offers and Be Featured on our Home Page!

Friday, August 8th, 2008

It has been two weeks since our new Rentalo pages were launched. Have you noticed how your property listing has changed? It’s the best time for you to show off with all the wonderful extras of your vacation rental. Why not to upload even more pictures or add a link to your property video? You can also locate your rental on the map which will make it easier for travelers to find you and plan their vacation better.

As you can see after logging on to our Home Page, there are many different tools that we designed to make traveler’s search for accommodations easier and more fun. Some of the most powerful features we added are New Special Offers. Thanks to those offers travelers looking for the hottest deals on vacation rentals can find affordable lodgings right after they log on to our home page.

The best news for you is that you can now be featured on our Home Page by adding Special Offers to your property listing! This will give your property a whole new dimension of exposure and help you draw more visitors to your listing. It’s pretty simple to add a Special Offer as all you have to do is to show a minimum of 10% discount from your regular price. Another benefit of having a Special Offer is the inclusion in our bimonthly newsletter for travelers called “Best Value Accommodations Newsletter”.

Also, once you add a Special Offer it will be highlighted in your property listing as well as the SmartSearch results bringing you high quality leads. It’s definitely worth a try. More exposure never hurts! It’s also a unique chance to appeal to the large group of travelers who look for discounted rates and last minute hot offers. As we are approaching the end of the summer season, the timing couldn’t be more perfect!

If you are not sure how to add Special Offers, visit our Knowledge Base or contact us, we are here to help you get the best performance.

Below you can see where travelers will see your offer:

Marta Olszewska

New Rentalo 3.0 – Already has many loyal fans

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

I wanted to personally thank all the property owners that have emailed and called to thank us and praise us for the new Rentalo 3.0 release.  Thank you.

 

In making such powerful changes to Rentalo we took into account many factors that have emerged in the past few years in the behavior of online users.  Content is King.  Today’s online travelers are not the travelers of 10 or even 5 years ago.  Travelers are demanding more relevant content.

 

Relevant content is not just text or description.  Online users are becoming accustomed to watching videos and high resolution images of the products they are going to purchase.  With this in mind we wanted to give the property owners the power to display more content and include new technologies like videos, high resolution picture galleries and maps in their property listing.  That is what is at the heart of all these changes, empowering property owners and travelers and make the lodging market a better place for everyone.

 

I use every opportunity when I talk to property owners to encourage them to update their information right away.  Have you updated yours yet?

 

Stay tuned for even more changes to come!

 

Frank Suarez