The first article in this three-part series advised starting your vacation-rental advertising program by developing really good content and pictures for your listings on VRBO.com, HomeAway.com, and other sites that make sense for your property. The second article recommended getting your own Internet domain name for your property and pointing it at one of your listings. In this, the final article in the series, we’re going to offer some guidance on creating a dedicated website for your property should you feel there are still opportunities you are missing.
Why Create Your Own Website?
There are at least three reasons for creating your own website:
1. Flexibility and freedom would be at the top of that list. With your own website, you can do pretty much anything you want: unlimited photos, unrestricted videos, and even off-the-wall features, like “Grandma Keller’s Famous Lobster Pot Pie” or “My Favorite Day Trips,” all of it designed to project your personality and to set your property apart from the competition.
2. There’s also the fact that someone landing on your website isn’t as likely to quickly click away to see what others are offering in the same location, as is the case on leading vacation rental advertising sites. Here’s just one example of a dedicated website for a vacation rental on Nantucket: www.canopache.com. The basic information and photos presented are very similar, if not identical, to what you might find for this home on VRBO.com, but the presentation and “look and feel” are quite different.
3. Finally, there is the “Wow!” factor. To see what we mean, take a look at www.starfishblue.com, an exceptional site created by the Web design firm Aloha Vacation Rental (www.alohavacationrental.com) for a VR located in Fiji. Another one that’s worth visiting is www.thebaysedge.com, a WordPress-based site created by a company called Dare to Think (www.daretothink.co.uk) for two waterfront apartments on California’s Bodega Bay.
What Will It Cost?
In our opinion, unless you have both graphic design and Web programming skills, you really shouldn’t go the do-it-yourself route. Instead, bite the bullet and spend the money to hire a Web design firm, preferably one with experience creating sites for other VR owners.
Prices vary widely—$500 to $3,500 or more for the initial site design. So figure out what you can afford to spend and then find a company that’s willing to work for that amount. Keep in mind, too, that you’ll have ongoing hosting costs of around $8 to $10 per month.
Web Design Firms with VR Experience
Here’s our “short list” of Web design companies whose vacation-rental work we know and admire:
- Aloha Vacation Rental (www.alohavacationrental.com)
- Blizzard Internet Marketing (www.blizzardinternet.com)
- Dare to Think (www.daretothink.co.uk)
- Relevant Arts (www.relevantarts.com)
- TK’s Web Services (www.tksvacationrental.com)
- Web Design by Robin (www.web-design-by-robin.com)
- Websites Hawaii (www.websiteshawaii.com)
Another Amazing and Affordable Website Option
The next best (and less expensive) option to a custom website is undoubtedly Drew Rudman’s VRConnection Standalone Website. In a nutshell: You sign up for a 90-day free trial at www.vrconnection.com and create a listing, following the prompts for entering descriptive text and uploading photos. It’s really just a matter of using similar information found on your VRBO.com or HomeAway.com listing. (Note: It’s important not to use the exact same content for your VRConnection site because in most cases Google is programmed not to show duplicate content on search results and to only highlight the site with a higher authority rank).
Once you’ve done that, you press a button and, Presto! Rudman’s software transforms your listing into a website for your property. If you have your own domain name, you then arrange for it to point to your VRConnection website. The entire process takes less than an hour. Click here to see the site we produced for our own vacation-rental property: www.buckscountycottage.com.
VRConnection’s prices after the 90-day trial are very reasonable: $125/year for the basic listing plus $50/year for the standalone website. (To be clear, you get both a VRBO.com /HomeAway.com-style listing and a standalone website.)
In the past few years, the cost of creating a website for your vacation rental has gone down, while the number of options for doing so has gone up. Our advice remains the same, however. Start by creating listings on VRBO.com and HomeAway.com. These sites are the only way to get the search-engine exposure you need. Register your “cocktail-party quick handle” domain name and point it at one of those listings. Then and only then should you consider creating your own website.
And when you do, be sure to take full advantage of the flexibility this option offers to project your personality and that of your property. As a final step, point your VR’s domain name at your dedicated website, and use that Internet address everywhere: business cards, brochures and promotional postcards, and email signature files.
Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner
Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner are the authors of the book/CD package How to Make Your Vacation Property Work for You! and the founders of FullyBookedRentals (www.fullybookedrentals.com), a website focused on helping new and experienced VR owners advertise, market, manage, and make money from their second homes.