Do's and Don'ts for Vacation Rental Listing Websites
By William May
Published: 02/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0
We are revisiting how Vacation Rental Listing Directory Websites operate. In the last issue, their successes and failures were outlined. (Go to the Newsletter Directory to read the first part in this two part series).
You were promised a list of do's and don'ts that we would like to see them all adopt.
So here is that list but let's not hold our breath. Change comes slow no matter how obvious the need.
ALLOW TWO EMAILS: Advertisers need to have one email to receive notice of administrative matters from the website and a second email that guests use to make inquiries. Even small companies segregate bookkeeping from sales. Forwarding both types of messages to the single allowable email address is just plain dumb.
SILLY PHOTO EDITING: VRBO's faded borders were out of date 10 years ago. Holding on to that look makes them look stodgy and outdated. And now we see websites prohibiting the user of brands.
DO NOT HIDE ADVERTISERS: In some states it is against the law to run ads that do not disclose the name of the real estate broker. And yet most of these sites do it as a matter of course. Guests want to know who they are dealing with. If they presume it’s the website, that gums up the world for all involved.
KILL THOSE SCHEMES: Have you seen how websites are limiting direct communication between guest and advertiser? Can you imagine a radio station running ads for a car dealer, extolling the virtues of each auto but refusing to name the dealership? Preposterous.
The latest trick is that some websites now assign each advertiser a new phone number which transfers to the advertiser's phone. They do this to measure results so they can prove their worth to advertisers. But it further distances the guest from the lodging provider. Prior to the Internet, advertiser's were forced to measure their own results. It was a better system and more honest too.
DO NOT LIMIT LINKING: What makes the Internet work (and is absolutely required to gain good Google page rank) is links into the advertiser's website. Yet many directories forbid links back from listings to the lister. They do it for purely selfish reasons of course, but it’s a disservice to advertiser and guest alike. It proves they know that we need them more than they need any single one of us.
IS RE-DISTRIBUTION GOOD? Frequently managers are noticing that ads submitted to one site appear on scores of others. The websites and software companies are becoming incestuous in their polygamous relationships. Distribution is good, very good, but after awhile no one knows who really produced the results.
DISCLOSE DUPLICATION: Re-distribution has resulted in a good number of websites that accept submissions from multiple websites and software companies. It is not uncommon for an advertiser to open a new website and see multiple listings for each of his properties. This is certainly confusing to guests and serves no constructive purpose. Websites need to disclose where they are re-distributing their content.
WAKE UP GOOGLE: Today, the major vacation rental directories get the lion's share of their traffic from Pay-Per-Click advertising. They employ PPC Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts to run their ads higher up in the rankings than owner and manager can achieve. There is no good purpose for Google to allow large directories to usurp top position from people who actually provide a product. Guests want to talk to the operators. They don't want to be shuttled through other websites to find what should be listed first on Google: local vacation rental providers.
PROFIT MOTIVE: Of course, the only reason software companies and websites have created this convoluted heavily proprietary system is to make profit. They should be congratulated. But they should be condemned for making the industry less competitive than it could be.
LIMIT THE DATA SET: Having key features be searchable is a fine idea. But it takes so long to upload listings to some of these sites, even the free ones that many advertisers simply opt out. As an industry can we agree to a standard set of information and then make it uniform.
That doesn't leave much room for competing sites to build a better mouse-trap, but comprehensive yet, restricted data sets have been the norm in Real Estate Multiple Listing Services for decades. It works well there and serves everyone equally.
EMBRACE A MULTIPLE LISTING SYSTEM: This point may sound selfish because VRA has already created the world's first Multiple Listing Service for Vacation Rentals. We did so because advertising is too expensive, administrative time is far too great and the for-profit companies have wrested control of the industry from those who actually perform the work: property managers and owners.
For-profit entities are so proprietary that they have refused to establish a cooperative database. That means the only way this will be done is just how it was done in Real Estate Brokerage: by not-for-profit organizations owned and managed by Managers and Owners.
MLS's are the backbone of the entire real estate brokerage industry. They could not exist without them. They are effective and affordable in ways that Vacation Rental websites are not. A single central database of rentals is desperately needed in the vacation Rental business.
Until that happens industry participants are going to spend their time competing with each other instead of working together to grow the industry, take business from conventional lodging and provide a superior product to guests. In case you were wondering, VRA is not asking to be the center of that database Universe.
We are ready to deed control of the database to an open-membership of those who are the foundation of this industry: Owners and Managers. That can be done under the auspices of VRA or any other forum that gets the job done. If you would like to participates, please call today. Time is short.
Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0135 – 02/01/10