How to Create a High-Converting Vacation Rental Listing

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December 5, 2017
Create a Great Vacation Rental Listing

Travelers have plenty of vacation rental choices, so how do you convince them to click the “book it” button for your home rather than the one up the road? You create a stellar listing.

“A great listing accomplishes three things,” says Jessica Vozel, travel copywriter and cofounder of Guest Hook, which specializes in vacation rental copywriting.

  • First, the listing must include the factual information guests seek, such as the number of bedrooms, bed sizes, exact distance to attractions, and a description of the area, she says.
  • Second, it must communicate how your property delivers what your target guests appreciate and value.
  • Third, it has to sell an experience through scene setting, sensory descriptions, and explanations of how guests can use the space.

“If you have all three of these, it’s much more likely that guests will actually read, and not just skim – or worse, click away” from your listing, Vozel says.

“Before you write anything, determine your unique selling points (USPs), which are the things you have that your neighboring rentals don’t,” Vozel says. You can find your USPs by studying the competition and reading guest reviews. “You’ll build your entire listing around these,” she says.

Now, are you ready to use good writing and photography to snag more bookings?de Here are the five components that make a perfect vacation rental ad:

1. A Standout Thumbnail Photo

“The thumbnail photo is the number one most important aspect of your listing,” says Tyann Marcink, a vacation rental photographer, industry expert and VR owner. “It’s the window into the listing.”

“A thumbnail photo should show off the aspect of your property most likely to make a guest want to click,” Marcink says. “You could show a gorgeous view, a part of the property, or even one detail within a room,” she says.

But keep in mind that the thumbnail photo should complement your headline. So, if you mention a romantic hot tub in your headline, consider a photo of that amenity so couples perusing listings can imagine themselves soaking in the steamy water as they take in the stunning mountain view.

“The headline and thumbnail work best when they work together,” Vozel says.

2. An Eye-Catching Headline

The headline, along with the thumbnail photo, serves as a first step to getting the guest in the door.

“While the image is going to be the real attention-getter, the headline gives context to that image, adding important additional info that one photo can’t capture,” Vozel says. For example, a headline can reveal whether that water view is the ocean or the bay, she points out. At TurnKey, we also incorporate the number of bedrooms in the headline, a key factor for guests when choosing a vacation rental. 

A vacation rental listing headline should be “punchy, descriptive and very appealing,” writes Heather Bayer, a vacation rental owner and expert who blogs at CottageBlogger.com.

The best way to accomplish that is to consider your ideal guests and your property’s USPs. Are your perfect guests honeymooners? Then, she writes, a good headline might be: “Hot Tub and a Heavenly Bed – a Recipe for Romance.”

3. Property Photos That Show an Experience

Once a vacation rental hunter has been drawn into your listing by your headline and thumbnail photo, the property photos will offer a visual overview of the experience of renting your home.

It’s best to hire a professional photographer but, if you can’t, consider Marcink’s VR photo tips:

  • Take a variety of images. The photos should provide a virtual walkthrough of house. Make sure you have great shots of the rooms, the outside of the property, and the views.
  • Straighten up before your photo shoot. “Remove as much clutter as possible,” says Marcink, who recommends putting away small kitchen appliances, baskets with magazines, pamphlets, guidebooks and TV remotes. It’s also important to make the bed neatly before the shoot. “A well made bed, with nice crisp linens and fluffed pillows, gives the impression of care,” she says.
  • Take photos in good lighting. When Marcink shoots photos of a vacation home, she tries to go between 9AM and 3PM to take advantage of natural light. “Well-lit photos look warm and welcoming,” she says.
  • Keep the camera straight. Avoid photos in which the walls look crooked or tilted, she recommends. “Straight walls give a feeling of security,” Marcink says.

“The whole purpose of photos is to make the viewer feel welcome,” she says. “You’re selling an experience, not a space.”

4. Body Copy That Offers Clear Details

When writing your body copy, avoid flowery language and stick with straightforward, easily searchable words and phrases.

“You want to give clear, accurate information in a really digestible way,” says Tara Hall, content manager of property listings at TurnKey.

For example, TurnKey includes headings that divide the listing by areas of the home, such as living, kitchen and dining. “Being able to easily scan a listing is super important,” she says.

When writing, try to use terms a vacationer might type into Google to find a vacation rental like yours, Hall recommends. “Pay attention to common things people search for – like ‘Tahoe rental’ – and try to include those in a realistic way,” Hall says.

Focus on specific, concrete details. For example, “it’s more helpful to give the square footage of your pool than to call it ‘expansive,’ which is a vague term,” Hall says.

However, remember that vacations are an emotional experience, and that “people save for months or years to be able to travel,” Vozel says. “While on vacation, people want to disconnect from daily stress, reconnect with friends and family, and discover a new place or return to a place they love.”

“A great listing understands this emotional component and paints a picture of what it’s like to gather around the fire pit under the stars or dip into the private pool on a hot day,” Vozel says.

Another thing we try to do is at TurnKey is not only point out special features (such as a handicap accessible home), but also gently disclose anything that a guest might object to (such as no air conditioning in the desert). This sets accurate guest expectations and heads off possible complaints.

5. More Information To Close the Deal

There are some additional items you should consider when creating your vacation rental listing. These factors can make the difference between getting and losing a booking:

  • Price. Shop the competition, and make sure your prices are in line with the local market.
  • Reviews. If your vacation rental has been available for months or years, it’s important to have as many positive reviews as possible. “Reviews matter,” Hall says, adding that you can use MailChimp or another marketing automation system to ask for a review several days after a guest checks out.
  • Availability. Make sure your availability calendar is clearly visible and frequently updated.
  • Other amenities. Make it a point to highlight amenities that appeal to your target guest, Hall recommends. For example, if you want to attract families with children, you might mention that your home has a crib.
  • Fast bookings. Take advantage of quick booking options. Using Airbnb’s Instant Book can help you reach Superhost Status, which gets you a badge on your listing and helps you gain customer trust. And HomeAway found that listings with the “Book It Now” feature get 50 percent more bookings.

Once you finish your ad, it’s a good idea to have someone else check over it to make sure it’s clear, understandable and free from grammatical or spelling errors, Hall recommends. “Run it past another set of eyes,” she says.

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TurnKey Vacation Rentals, Inc. markets and manages premier vacation rental homes in top U.S. destinations. Since its founding in 2012, TurnKey has quickly grown to 55 markets with 2,700 properties that are distributed across 55+ vacation rental sites, including Expedia, HomeAway, Airbnb, Booking.com, FlipKey and more. TurnKey is based in Austin, TX and venture-backed by Silverton Partners, Adams Street Partners, Altos Ventures and angel investors.

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