In the first article in this three-part series about the most effective way to advertise your vacation rental, we strongly urged owners to start by creating really great listings on VRBO.com and HomeAway.com. These are the two biggest and most popular vacation-rental advertising sites and the ones that will help you get the most exposure for your property in the shortest amount of time.
We are all in favor of VR owners creating Web sites for their properties. We just don’t think it should be the first step in a marketing program. It’s not even the second step. The second step is to create what we call the “cocktail party quick handle.”
Consider: You’re at a party and someone is interested in learning more about your property. In our case, we could say, “Well, go to HomeAway.com and search for listing number 212757.”
But that’s simply a non-starter. No one is going to remember that address. So what we say instead is “Go to Bucks County Cottage dot com.” This is something people are much more likely to remember.
And where do our cocktail-party acquaintances end up when they key in that Web address? They can end up at any Web page we want them to visit. It could be our vacation-rental listing on HomeAway.com, or our listing on VRBO.com, or our own dedicated Web site if we have one. (We do, so that's where www.buckscountycottage.com now takes you, as you'll see in the nearby screenshot.) This is the magic of “domain forwarding.”
It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Here are the steps to follow to create your own “cocktail party quick handle”:
- Come up with a catchy, descriptive, or otherwise memorable name. Something like StoweSkiChalet or MauiParadise or ProvenceFarmhouse would fill the bill. This, followed by “.com” or “.net” or some other extension, will be your domain name—your “cocktail party quick handle.” (It’s a good idea to think of several names in case the one you want has already been taken.)
- Next, go to a domain-registrar site to search for and buy your domain name. We use GoDaddy.com because of its low prices and great customer service, but there are many others to choose from. The cost will typically be about $7 to $12 a year. Some domains may cost more. And some will definitely not be available. But in general, domain names can be very inexpensive. We suggest opting for a “.com” domain name—even if it costs a bit more—because it is what most people expect and may even assume when you’re at a party. Non-“.com” domain names (.net, .info, .org, etc.) may be less expensive, but it’s just one more detail you have to communicate.
- After purchasing your domain name, the final step is to tell the registrar the Web address you want to use as your forwarding address. (On GoDaddy.com, be sure you’re logged in and then click on My Products and then Domain Manager.) If you want your domain name to take people to your listing on VRBO.com, for example, just copy and paste the URL for your VRBO.com listing into the domain-forwarding box.
You’ll need to allow a day or two for the new domain name and its forwarding address to propagate through the Domain Name Server (DNS) system that serves as the address book for the Internet. Then, all that remains is to test it using your browser.
Once you’ve got a working “cocktail party quick handle” Web address, you’ll be amazed at how many opportunities exist to make use of it: business cards, postcards, email signature files…. The list goes on and on. (We’ve started a forum topic so that Community members can share examples of marketing materials they’ve created to leverage their online listings.)
So until you’re good and ready to invest the time and mental energy to create an effective Web site for your vacation-rental property, your “cocktail party quick handle” and domain forwarding will give you a quick and easy way to spread the word about your place and begin generating inquiries and bookings.
Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner
This is the second article in a three-part series. In the next post, we’ll explore the various options available to you for creating a Web site devoted to your vacation rental. And of course, once you do that, you can easily change your domain forwarding so that it points to your new site.
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.