Choosing where to advertise your vacation rental – Do you ignore the obvious?

It is said that the difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that the successful grasp the obvious opportunities in front of their nose while the unsuccessful wait for the perfect next big thing, which never comes.

I think of this when I am asked “where should I list my property?”

The answer is not rocket science. Given that most guest searches start on Google the obvious thing to do is to think like a guest and search like a guest. Where are your guests and what are they searching for?

Local to me is a holiday town called Lorne, where “Accommodation Lorne” is a typical guest search and the top Google search result is the Stayz property listing directory, a directory based in Australia.

In fact, right across my local Great Ocean Road region, Stayz comes top of the results for town after town.

So here on the Great Ocean Road, the obvious place to advertise properties is Stayz!

Think local not global

Some owners think that they should go with the global consensus. Flipkey or Homeaway or VRBO or Airbnb.

Why would you list on a big international listing site if it is not near the top of Google locally? There will be some brand strength for the big brands but local search success is the obvious one to follow.

This was taken to the ridiculous a few years back on LinkedIn, where the owner of a villa in Portugal asked global readers, “where should I list?”

He was given all sorts of advice from people all over the world about their favourite listing sites. It was all irrelevant. What he needed to do was simply search like his guests and the answer was most likely a local European listing site.

Did you know you can ask Google to give you search results as if you are located in a different country? There is a great Google tool called the Adwords preview tool – visible only from within Google Adwords (adwords.google.com.au/d/AdPreview).

Using this tool, the Portuguese villa owner could check what a searching guest would see if they were located in London, or New York or Melbourne. The answer that came top when I checked was Ownersdirect.

The Stayz story

The Australian site Stayz made international news in December 2013. It was bought by Homeaway for $220 million after being purchased 7 years earlier by local publisher Fairfax Media for $6 million.

But why did Homeaway, the global giant in the vacation rental industry buy Stayz in distant Australia?

One reason they bought Stayz, apart from its local dominance, was to get a deeper understanding of the model, which is a commission driven revenue model based on owner honesty.

Stayz is unusual in that owners are trusted to report nights booked. Stayz also has a sensible checking system that asks enquiring guests if they did in fact complete the booking.

It also allows free communication with enquiring guests which makes the conversion to bookings very effective. In my opinion, this is a  better system than the Airbnb system, which inhibits communication between owner and enquiring guest prior to the booking.

Stayz consistently lists high in the Google search results for many holiday destination all over Australia. How?

One winning strategy has been for the parent publisher to link directly to Stayz from its online newspaper homepages, which have a monster Google PageRank of 8.

Google gives extra SEO weight to websites with very strong backlinks like this.

Google loves these Stayz backlinks and Stayz benefits accordingly.

Yes, Stayz dominates my local market. It is obvious and I use it and exploit its best features to help my three rentals. One feature in particular. I pay a modest monthly fee to list in the top eight Stayz results. This pushes me ahead of my competition and sends me 70% of my bookings!

The back end admin system is also very good. I know a very successful owner who uses the entire Stayz booking system to control all 9 rentals she manages.

My cleaner also loves the Stayz cleaners report. She does a simple search on her iPhone and checks to see when she needs to clean and how many guests are coming. No need for me to tell her. As my calendar is up to date the simple report saves both of us time and gives us both clarity of communication.

Exploiting your local market

Have you found the best listing place for your market, and do you exploit it to your advantage?

As rental owners, while we might think we have the answer today, it may not be the answer in a few months’ time. The road to rental mastery doesn’t have an end. The market keeps shifting as competitors come and go.

We need to do the work and periodically check the Google results for our local area in case the market has shifted.

It is also good practice to diversify, to advertise in several places, and to have an email marketing campaign to past guests. All subjects of future posts.

For Australian readers – do you do the obvious and check if Stayz also dominates your market?

For international readers – do you periodically check the results that your guests search for? Are you listing in the right place?

Please let me know in the comments.

Rex
Holiday Rental Mastery

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Holiday Rental Mastery provides independent advice.  Affiliate income sources, if any, are clearly stated.

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Mike Conroy September 12, 2015, 12:31 am

    I think it is often difficult for owners and property managers to few searched from the perspective of the renter as our minds are more strategized on what we have to offer. I found it helpful to ask someone else to search for your property on the web and watch the variosu phrases they type

    Reply
  • Phil B November 17, 2015, 4:07 pm

    This is an interesting article, though not sure when it was written. i also have a number of properties listed on Stayz (and also Airbnb and a few other sites). I am looking for articles, blogs etc commenting on recent Stayz decision to change their subscription model from the $164 annual listing fee and nightly commissions from $15.90 to the option of an annual sub ranging from$499-$1599 and no nightly commission or flat 10% commission and no sub; then their abrupt about face to ditch the $499-$1599 sub option and go with the 10% commission only. This has meant the cost of listing on Stayz has virtually doubled overnight. Most owners think it’s highway robbery and there is little that can be done but hope the Airbnb option or others such as Flipkey start performing better. Interested in your views if you see this. Cheers Phil

    Reply
    • Ann October 31, 2016, 8:58 pm

      Dear fellow Stayz owners. I too am reeling from the situation as described by Phil. To make matters even worse, I took up the most expensive option (that Phil refers to and that Stayz subsequently abandoned for the compulsory 10% commission) only to find out that my high conversion enquiry to booking property didn’t get any credit while I was on that option and subsequently dropped from the 1st to the 7th page on the area listing : ( Now I am forced to be on the 10% commission, it is infuriating to be paying 3 times what I was paying previously. My property is $900.oo for a 2 day weekend over Summer. Previously I was paying Stayz around $32.00 commission but now pay $90.00. It’s robbery for just one booking. I too have searched for alternatives and thinking of joining with local owners to start up our own website community. It is somewhat comforting to hear that others agree Stayz have overstepped the mark. From Xmas until the end of Jan. I will be paying them $450.00 per booking if I can’t think of a way out of it! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

      Reply
      • Tom January 10, 2017, 8:21 pm

        Yes last year we paid for the highest subscription $1500. This year when they played the bait and switch we dumped them.

        We tried airbnb this summer but not impressed with that either.Its all about control.

        Under the old system we collected 50% the holiday rental fees often 6 months out with the balance one month prior to occupancy and a $1000 bond a week before. Part of our agreement included us being there when tenants arrive and leave. It was a great system.

        Solution? Our website and google adwords. It may take a few years but I’d rather do that and have the house emptier until our marketing and return visitors increases.

        Reply
        • James March 29, 2017, 11:59 am

          I’m a holiday rental owner and I’m completely over the bigger holiday rental platforms taking advantage of us. I know that they’re in business to make money, but they’re trying to take too much control and lock us into their platforms. They are wanting to take the payments themselves now, rather than customers paying us direct. One day I got so frustrated with all the recent changes by Stayz, that I decided to go searching for alternatives online. I’m glad I did because I found a website called HolidayHouseDeals.com.au. I think they’re new (maybe one or two years old), but they seem to be growing pretty quickly. I decided to advertise on their website and consequently, we’ve been getting a lot of enquiries from them which I convert into bookings. They have a big Facebook community of nearly 100,000 people, and it’s a really active page with many of their posts going viral with likes, shares and comments. They’re different to the others because they help you fill your off-peak periods, which has been brilliant for us. But by default, we get just as many enquiries for peak periods. It’s a win-win. You pay to advertise, but you don’t pay commissions. They have different types of advertising available, depending on what you want to achieve. I definitely recommend this to anyone seeking an alternative.

          Reply
  • Beth January 8, 2016, 8:00 pm

    Hi Phil and other property owners who list with Stayz: similarly I’ve been v concerned about the radical changes in stayz subscriptions in recent months esp the huge lack in communication. 10% flat com is ion hugely changes the ball game for me: doubles standard booking periods and triples commission on peak bookings. I am going to remove my peak bookings from stayz and put them on Air bnb. Used to pay$112 comm on Xmas bookings now laying $350! Any thoughts on this strategy ?

    Reply
  • Adrian bond May 17, 2016, 10:17 pm

    What is needed is a simple easy method of finding b@bs in the area you are going with phone numbers. With direct bookings by phone no commissions ,so best price. What way can this be done by as i would like to set it up in my area.

    Reply
  • Richard September 21, 2016, 11:29 am

    Agree with Phil… my property is listed with Stayz, and the arrogant way they have gone about doubling my costs (and off course their income) without consultation or discussion or other options has really got well up my nose! They may have the best SEO management and search dominance, but that’s only going to be worthwhile as long as property owners like us persevere with this take it or leave it attitude of theirs. They could have at least explained this better, provided some sort of longer term incentive to property owners to make the change to this outrageous commission charge, or been a lot more subtle by grandfathering those owners already signed up with a 12-month grace period while we got used to the idea.
    Regrettably, the other choices have yet to lift their game to the same level as Stayz when it comes to market penetration, but the fact is that if history is any guide, they can be relied upon to do that sooner rather than later, at which stage I’ll be leaving Stayz in a New York minute!
    Once treated this way, most of us don’t forget or forgive.

    Reply
  • Sam December 4, 2016, 4:39 am

    I used to list with homeaway , untill they took out Stayz i was on a yearly subscription with homeaway but refused to join Stayz on a commision only basis.
    Best thing everyone could do is drop them from their advertising.

    Reply

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