We all know the struggle of keeping properties filled year-round. Almost all travel destinations have a few month span where tourism dies down and a large chunk of the vacation rentals are sitting vacant. We commonly refer to this period as the “off season”. For a beach destination, this usually comes in the winter months and in ski destinations, vice versa. While there isn’t a ton you can do in terms of getting people to visit those destinations during the off season, there’s quite a few things you can be doing to help get yourself in front of those that are.
Below are some strategies you can use to increase your exposure to potential guests thinking about visiting your destination during the off season.
Before we get into how to market your short-term rentals to an off season audience, let’s talk about your long term (or seasonal) rentals.
Not every rental company offers extended-stay rentals during the off season months, but many do. These generally include rental leases ranging from one to three months. This is a commonly used and often effective way for rental companies to keep some of their properties filled for the entire off season, albeit, usually for a drastically reduced rate compared to in season months.
Now the point of this isn’t to tell you to start offering seasonal rentals. It can be effective, but depending on your market, it may be more beneficial to continue only allowing short term rentals during the off season. For those that do offer them, however, there’s some things you can do to help boost your number of seasonal tenants.
The main thing you want to do is make sure you have a page dedicated to your seasonal rentals and that it is easily accessible on the site. This could mean adding it to the navigation, using homepage or sidebar callouts, or linking to it within text content.
There are plenty of rental companies that do allow monthly or seasonal leases in the off season, but site visitors would have no idea unless they specifically asked. Make it clear to your audience that you offer off season rentals and that your page dedicated to it shows exactly which properties are available for monthly rent.
On top of making your page easily accessible on your site, you need to make sure your page meets all the minimum requirements for a good landing page. This means ensuring the page is user friendly (on mobile and tablet, not just desktop), clearly details the property price, and has compelling property photos.
Once you’ve got a good landing page, it’s just a matter of getting people that might be interested to visit it. This next step is going to lay out some tips on how to go about this.
We’ll revisit your seasonal rentals page in a moment, but for now let’s talk about your short-term rentals. That’s probably what many of you are here seeking tips for.
Very few rental companies are successful when it comes to marketing off season rentals and keeping them booked. And it’s not usually by any fault of their own. There’s typically far less search volume for rentals in a destination during its off season, and most of those that are searching are early bookers browsing for a rental for the in season months.
But with that being said, there is still usually search volume there -- it’s just a matter of locating the search terms being used and targeting them.
Now how exactly do you go about this? Keyword research and content building.
The keywords people thinking about visiting your destination in the off season are using to search can vary dramatically depending on your location. It can be hard to know exactly where to start looking for keywords, but plugging keywords such as “[your destination] off season rentals”, “[your destination] winter rentals]”, “[your destination] summer rentals”, (depending on when your off season is) etc into a keyword research tool and finding related keywords is a good place to start. A couple good keyword research tools include SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, and AnswerThePublic.
This will help you find your main “money maker” keywords. These are terms people who are specifically seeking rentals are going to be searching. Unfortunately, these are also going to be your more competitive off season terms.
You’ll need to get creative in your keyword research if you want to find keywords that your competitors aren’t targeting. This can include keywords like “rentals near [attraction]”. Let’s say your destination has an attraction that does well in the off season -- maybe something like a sports arena, convention center, or concert venue. This keyword could be a good search term to target and likely wouldn’t have much competition.
Once you’ve found keywords people are using to search for off season rentals in your area, it’s time to go about targeting them. This is where content building comes into play. You’ll want to target these keywords using search engine optimization to rank your site for those off season search terms. You can also target them with Google or Bing ads, but for this article I’m specifically referring to targeting free organic traffic through search engine optimization.
Now I’m not going to get into an entire course on SEO in this article. There are plenty of other articles and videos out there if you’re interested in learning it or vacation rental marketing companies that will handle it for you if not.
The main premise of how you’ll want to target these keywords is to create content specifically targeted towards them. For example, if you want to target the previously mentioned “rentals near [attraction]” term, a good way to go about this would be to create a page dedicated to it. You could either create a full custom results page or even just a blog post linking to all of your properties within a close proximity of the attraction you chose.
You’ll want to write text content on the page based around that attraction and make sure to include your keyword a couple of times within the text. It’s also important to include the keyword in your H1 and especially in your meta title so those searching for that keyword in Google will know that your page is specifically about that. Doing so will also help the page rank higher. This Guide to Blogging for Vacation Rental Websites should help you in your content efforts.
Going back to your main seasonal rentals page from the previous section, you’ll want to implement these same strategies to get organic traffic to the page. You want this page to get as many eyes as possible if you want to get your seasonal rentals filled. Once again, finding the keywords to target will take some research, but a good starting point could be terms like “[destination] seasonal rentals”, “[destination] monthly rentals”, or “[destination] long term rentals” (although long term could infer a full year). Implement optimized text content onto this page to help your page rank higher for your target keywords.
You may think email marketing is a thing of the past, but that’s far from the truth. Email marketing is still alive and well. Sending a monthly eblast can keep you fresh in the minds of those that stay with you during your busy months. They might not have ever considered visiting your destination in the off season, but if they see your eblast come through offering a much cheaper rate than what they pay during your in season months, you might at least get them thinking about booking in the off season.
This may come as a no-brainer, but if you want to entice guests to stay with you during the off season, offering deals and reducing your minimum night requirements will greatly improve your chances of landing off season guests.
The average family is only going to take one week-long vacation each year, and that’s usually during a destination’s busy months. Off season guests are going to be hard to come by if they’re forced to book for an entire week. This is especially true if you’re targeting a keyword such as “rentals near [attraction]” like we mentioned above. Even if you’re able to rank for that keyword, it won’t do much good if you don’t offer at the minimum a two-night stay. Most people are only looking to visit an attraction one or two days.
Bonus Tip: Hostaway is integrated to MailChimp via Zapier! Sending marketing materials and followup to your guests just got simpler.
Both you and your staff probably have more downtime during the off season. This extra time is a great opportunity not only to get started implementing the previously mentioned tips but also to start updating and fixing your website.
Use this time to take a good look at your site and browse it as if you were a potential guest. Find improvements that need to be made and update your site accordingly. Here are a couple of important things to focus on:
Spending an hour or so a day on your site in the off season can go a long way both for off season and in season bookings. There are tons of ways to improve your site, so utilize this spare time to get with your marketing team, developers, or bored reservationists and start creating content and implementing changes that will improve your site and get you more bookings. For a comprehensive list of things we recommend having on every website, check out this Website & Digital Marketing Checklist.
Author: Marshall Morrow
Marshall is a search engine optimization and pay-per-click specialist at InterCoastal Net Designs. He works with vacation rental companies throughout the United States and abroad helping to grow clients’ search presence through SEO, PPC, and other digital marketing strategies.
Hostaways latest PMS Integration is with InterCoastal Net Design (ICND) and we look forward to opening up new markets and meeting new rental managers in the very near future.
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