Holiday Cottage and Let Marketing

locationpicThere are several routes you can choose:  go it alone with website and your own direct marketing activity; advertising (listing) web sites; employ an agent; use a combination of two or more of these. Depending on the holiday let, a choice of any one could be the best decision.  However, we strongly advise that you establish a web site.  Do not make the common error of spending more on the IT than on the content.

We will be featuring advertising for local and national holiday cottage and home booking agencies shortly.  There is a very useful piece of advice about seeking out listing sites provided by Lay My Hat.  Do not be put off by the name, this is the premier source of unbiased information about holiday letting that we know of and we  recommend that you take some time to benefit from its advice and contents (August 2013).

Cottages depend on Location, Quality, the number they sleep, good holiday let management with a flexible marketing strategy.  Some national booking agencies restrict this preferring exclusivity and, in some cases, may charge commission on private lettings.  Depending on requirements many are happy with this arrangement as long as the bookings roll in.

Content and photographs are everything, the expenditure on these should be far more than the vehicle which presents them.  Good photographs and good text make the sale.  You should constantly refresh the presentation on your site to improve bookings;  it does work.  This cannot be stressed enough.  Show the photos to friends and ask their opinions.  Remember, however, that friends do not always want to criticise so be careful when you use this approach and always keep an eye to what the market wants.

DSC_0025If a room does not look good in a photograph, either take another or improve the room.  Do not make excuses not to do things because people have left positive remarks in the visitors’ book; note the remarks and improve further, trying not to detract from the aspects that they particularly liked.  A small note:  make sure any pictures are in sharp focus.  It is well worth looking at forums such as www.laymyhat.com

The internet is changing fast. The future of marketing is uncertain, but you do need to keep abreast of development of an increasing visual element.  A simple video on Youtube is worth an experiment.  Remember to use the tags carefully.  At the very least, you can use a link to the video on the signatures to your e-mails.  See useful suppliers, national agencies & regional agencies

Websites and web URL or address

084Choosing how to start your web site can be daunting.  For experienced people they may use something called WordPress to create a professional site with considerable functionality.  For less experienced people a two stage approach is, sometimes a good idea.

The first stage is to use one of the many low cost three or four page web site templates with content management systems.  They are very commonly offered by those who will sell you your URL.  After you have got over any initial fear these content management systems (cms) are usually very easy to use.

Construct your first web site with a home page, a contact page, a prices page and a page with as many quality pictures as you can supply.  Good pictures of the inside, outside and of the area are absolutely essential.  Although many people prefer not to supply an e-mail, this is a good idea as you will lose bookings by relying on a form that has to be filled in.

The home page needs to have two or three photos one of the outside and all three should be of the highest quality you can muster.  Bright sunshine and blue skies are worth many bookings.  It is worth looking at web sites such as our sister site, www.countryholidaylets.co.uk to see the subject matter of photographs that can get you the best results.

When business has settled down it is then worth considering a more sophisticated and impressive web site.  However it is absolutely essential to always remain in control. Never put your web site into the hands of an IT supplier who will attempt to charge you whenever you wish to make an alteration.  This practice is still around and it should be avoided whenever possible because it is usually unnecessary, it is nearly always expensive and it can create damaging inflexibility and an inability to constantly improve and develop your web site in response to demand, experience and changing conditions.

It is a common marketing error to use the name of the holiday cottage in a web address.  People do not know the name of your let until they have found it on the Internet.  It is true that there will be a small brand effect relevant to return visits, but using a web address such as mylittlecottagenook.co.uk does nothing for searches or to generate new business.  Far better to use the name of an area.  One operation does well with shropshirecottages.com but they were lucky to get that web address.

It is surprising how some quite useful web addresses are still available but you do need to be careful as search engines may not take kindly to something as obvious as shropshirecottages.com in new web addresses for cottages, only because the name may contain a key word: ‘cottage’.  There was, until recently, a distinct advantage to using ‘cottage’ in the web address; now the situation is not so clear.  It does seem strange that a web address (URL) that describes what you do might have a negative effect… but the way search engines work is strange indeed.

Anyone who claims to know exactly how they work is either mistaken, unaware that they are mistaken or indulging in less than honest sales techniques.  The vast majority of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services should be avoided; only a very few are worth speaking to and the rest could end up being a costly mistake to employ.  Search engines use a rigid logic to trawl through web sites picking up information which is then makes their search engines work.  The art of SEO is to make it easy for the search engine to understand and value what you are offering.   There are some very useful systems, programs and approaches that will enhance organic results for many web sites.

Do not, at any cost, imagine you can fool Google or any major search engine.  Some very large companys have paid dearly trying to be too clever by half.  When a pressure SEO sales person promises to get you on page one of Google… they are trying to play on assumed ignorance.  It is relatively easy to do this depending on your URL.  Being on page one for Cosy Little Nook Cottage with a URL of www.cosylittlenookcottage.com is virtually useless because who searches for a cottage when they do not yet know its name?  Pressure SEO sales people should be avoided like the plague.  It can be an idea to employ a neutral computer expert to advise you on which SEO service to employ if you are determined to go down this route.

Over the last six years, starting up a new business on the Internet has become significantly more costly and difficult .  The trends are continuing in the same direction.

List of some different ways to get bookings:

Exclusive booking agent service

Non exclusive booking agent service

Listing site (General or focused)

Not for profit listing sites (Eg. Visit Wales, South Shropshire Tourism)

Free listing sites

Mutual / exchange marketing arrangements or referrals

Pay Per Click (ppc)   [Top tip for ppc: always employ 'negative key words', always use a geographical word in any positive key word.  E.G.: Goodrich Cottages.  Negative key words eliminate a vast number of those who you do not want to click on your ads.  If inland, for example, a good negative key word would be 'beach'.  Another trick is to list all the towns, villages and areas not near-by and put them in the negative key word list; these can run into the many hundreds, so saving you a huge sum and thousands of wasted, expensive clicks.

If you always use the geographical element in positive key words, the cost for your clicks will racially reduce per click, and, here's the good thing, the conversion per click will rise steeply.  This assumes, of course, that you have a cottage in or near Goodrich, as in the above example.  Just using a positive key word like 'cottage' with no negative key words, you might as well burn your money.]

Internet display advertising

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook advertising [Not apparently suitable as of August 2013]

Own website organic results

Return business

Word of mouth (reputation)

It is well worth the time to focus and think about holiday cottage and let marketing.  A thorough approach can make half successful enterprise into something to be proud of.

This information is provided by way of contrast and to prompt further investigation before acting.  As ever, seek relevant professional or competent people to check before taking any decisions.  Where applicable, all contents of this website are copyright Country Holiday Lets Ltd.  See useful suppliers, national agencies & regional agencies