How to Get Your First Booking on Your Vacation Rental Website

Getting your first direct booking is a significant milestone for every vacation rental owner. But closing the deal on your first reservation usually takes time and focus. With hundreds of channels and ways to market your vacation rental business, choosing the ones that make the most sense for your business and produce fruitful results can be challenging.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly tweaking your website or listing in search of excellence, rather than putting the energy in the most important task: bringing direct bookings.

Try this challenge: get vacation rental software that comes with a vacation rental website builder (and preferably, a channel manager) and invest time in the next 30 days on getting targeted traffic to your website to get your first booking. 

What is targeted traffic?

Targeted traffic refers to the users that visit a website to satisfy a specific need. This may be a response to a query or a solution to a problem through your services. 

The main difference between targeted traffic and regular traffic is that targeted visitors already have a goal in mind, while regular users are just browsing through. In other words, targeted traffic refers to all of the potential guests that are visiting your website with the intention of booking a stay with you. 

targeted traffic

For example, people who google “book vacation rental in Florida” are more likely to convert (i.e. book their stay) than people who randomly find your website because they’re just daydreaming about traveling or want to see if you’ve got any offers. 

Why targeted traffic is important for your vacation rental website

As a vacation rental owner or property manager, it’s easy to get caught up in the minor details as you build a business behind closed doors; deciding what brand colors to use, choosing between one font or the other, uploading different kinds of pictures or second-guessing your pricing. 

But you can’t really know whether your vacation rental brand, website or listing is good enough until you expose it to the world. You can’t improve unless you establish a quantifiable benchmark. That’s why it’s so important to have traffic.

You won’t know if your rental properties are appealing, if your prices are too high or if your brand resonates with your target audience if you don’t drive traffic. 

drive targeted traffic to your website

That’s why we’d like to propose the following challenge: Whatever stage your business is in, spend the next 30 days focusing on driving targeted traffic to your website above anything else. 

But don’t fret. We’ve listed down below the most widely applicable marketing tactics you can use to achieve this goal. We’ll start with free, easy traffic sources and move on to more highly targeted tactics that require more time and financial resources. 

What to know before you begin

You don’t have to execute all of the tactics listed below and if one of them doesn’t apply to your business, skip it. If you’ve got a small marketing budget, for example, Influencers won’t be your first pick. 

Before anything, make sure you’ve published your vacation rental website and have got a channel manager to sync all of your listings. Remember to submit your sitemap to Google, verify ownership of your website on Google Search Console  and set up your Google Analytics account so you can keep track of traffic as you implement each marketing tactic. Not everything’s going to work right away but this will hopefully help you find what works best for your business. 

Not everything’s going to work. With that said, get ready to test and learn quickly the next 30 days while you strive towards your first direct booking.

1. Ask your inner circle to share your website

There’s nothing wrong with promoting your business with your connections. Share your properties on your social accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and let everyone know that you’re open for business!

Consider emailing your closest connections to get the word out. Ask them explicitly to share your website — they don’t have to book from you to show you their support.

share your website

Although reservations you get in this manner would not be as rewarding as earning the trust and getting a booking from a total stranger, this is a great way to request early feedback and reviews. 

But if you don’t get any reservations from this tactic, don’t get too frustrated as this is the least-qualified traffic source on this list.

Recommended for: Anyone and everyone since we all have friends/family/coworkers, but especially for those that are active online or have a large following on social media. 

2. Join online communities

Don’t underestimate the value of placing your website URL in the right place. Join Facebook groups, post on Airbnb or listing site forums and find online niche communities within your industry. Each of these channels represents an opportunity to reach people who may be interested in your properties. 

Look for Facebook groups around your area and share your website. “For sale” groups are a great place to start. For example, if your business is located in Florida, some groups you could consider joining to share your promotions or content are: 

This user (the post has been censored for privacy reasons) shared his vacation rental on one of these Facebook groups and shared both his website and Vrbo listing. 

 You can even offer discounts to entice people to click!

You can even participate in groups to get help and support from other vacation rental professionals. You can use these blog posts as reference: 

Don’t just share your link everywhere and spam everyone with it. Instead, look to provide value and make authentic connections.

Recommended for: Vacation rental businesses that target specific target audiences (i.e. domestic travelers). But anyone can take advantage of support groups to get feedback from other professionals.

3. Paid advertising

paid advertising

If you want to get targeted traffic quickly, you can do it through paid advertising. It sounds very expensive but there are a lot of channels that allow you to pay per click and in some cases, you can start with a budget as low as $10.

Every advertising platform is different and you should invest in those where your target audience can be found. For example, if you’re targeting millennials, you may want to consider investing exclusively on Instagram ads. If you’re targeting specific countries, you might even want to check out which social networks are popular in certain markets.

But if you’re going to invest in social media paid ads, make sure to populate your profiles with organic posts so users don’t think it’s a scam when they click on your profile. 

Facebook advertising

According to Pew Research, Facebook is one of the most popular social networks with the most diverse user base in terms of age, income, gender and ethnicity. There are many targeting options to reach your ideal customers including age, gender, job title, location and interest. Pages people liked on Facebook can be used as the basis for building the audiences who your ads reach.

Recommended for: Owners or property managers that know who their ideal guests are and what they like. 

Instagram advertising

Although Instagram is mostly known for its visual formats and for its predominantly millennial audience, according to Smart Insights, it also has one of the most engaged user bases among all the other social networks. You can also post organically and reach a good number of people with relevant hashtags.

With Instagram marketing, you can display your visual ad in others’ feeds to drive traffic. 

Recommended for: Vacation rental businesses that have high-quality and enticing photos and want to market to millennials

Google Ads

Whenever users want to look anything up, they usually search on Google. So by investing in Google Ads, previously Google AdWords, you’ll have the opportunity to appear at the top of the page as users search for relevant keywords.

Check out our Google ads tutorial to learn more about creating search ads.

Recommended for: Anyone can invest in Google Ads, however, we recommend it in locations that don’t have too much competition because it can get a bit expensive to compete with big listing sites. 

4. Connect with existing audiences

Promoting your vacation rental business isn’t going to be very effective if it comes only from you. Fortunately, the internet has enabled anyone to build a platform, and as a result, you can partner with them.

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