We asked our network of direct booking advocates for their one leading recommendation for property managers to generate more direct bookings. Here are the responses.
Booking Conversion • Branding • Data Benchmarking • Google Analytics • Google My Business • Guest Experience • Loyalty • Niche Marketing • Paid Advertising • Personalisation • Repeat Guests • SEO • SMS Marketing • Technology • Website Design
Personalising The Website Experience to Increase Direct Booking
Many hotels invest in traffic acquisition for their direct channel but don’t do anything to make sure that the traffic that they’ve worked so hard to receive on their direct website actually converts into bookings. Whether on the home page or rooms & rates page, hoteliers can use the data and information they have on the user to personalise their experience and display hyper-relevant content. A family looking for a staycation will see information specifically relevant to them, differing from the content a business user traveling during the week will be drawn towards, leading to an increase in direct bookings.
Clara Tourme of The Hotels Network
Turn window lookers to direct bookings
Listing on vacation rental websites will give your property great exposure. However, many guests also use these platforms to compare properties and then hop into Google to get the best deal directly on the hosts’ websites. If you want to make your vacation rental business stand out from the heavily-trafficked listing sites, having a strong online presence and a well-designed website becomes essential. Build up your brand and make sure you mention it in all your online channels. Once you’ve done that, offering great deals on your website will guarantee that you turn those “window lookers” into direct bookings!
Dennis Klett of Lodgify
The secret to converting more bookings? Be consistent across all channels
Use an easily searchable and unique brand name for your business on all your channel listing titles and profile pages. For example: “Huge Perfect for Gatherings – 8 BR en-suite, 16 beds, sleeps 30 by Donegal Manor” Savvy guests will find your listing on OTA’s then search the title on Google. If you use the same title on your direct booking website, it will appear on Google where your guest can easily book direct.
Vincent Breslin of Uplisting
Your Brand is Your Land
Steve Kopandy of Cycle Cities. Tours
Property management companies should place an increased emphasis on brand building
Property management companies should place an increased emphasis on brand building, as alternative accommodation is now well within the mainstream. Case in point: US Christmas bookings are already up 157% from 2019. Similar to loyalty towards traditional legacy hotels, travelers look to trusted brand names for their familiarity with property design, experience, service, amenities and community. If a traveler has a positive experience at one of your brand’s locations and is aware that it has multiple branches, they will search directly on your website when planning their next trip and book directly rather than via an OTA.
Nesya Gilad of Guesty
Content and Copywriting
Conventional but indispensable! Five kinds of content you NEED on your book direct website
Answers to basic questions: inspirational content will help them find you; answering their basic questions will encourage them to book with you. Make it personal: turning your team bios into your brand story is a great way to bond with your ideal guests. Calls to action everywhere! Make it easy to book with you. Make your location stand out. Seems like a no-brainer? It’s surprising how many book direct websites don’t highlight the location Reviews on every page and make them relevant. Accommodation page: what did they love about your home? Destination page: where did they have the most fun?
Louise Brace of Rental Tonic
It’s Not About You
Remember, exceptional hospitality begins long before a guest checks-in to your property. It begins the very moment they come across your brand – whether that be on digital or print. So, ensure every word that represents your STR business IS hospitable. That means, make every bit of content guest focused – even when you think you’re talking about yourself and your business. Less ‘we’ more ‘you’. It’s a mindset shift more than anything else; but it’ll transform the impact of your content and brand storytelling.
Neely Khan of Neely There
Good Copy Hooks & Books
One of the most overlooked aspects to direct bookings is the copy you use to speak to your guests. And good copy converts. You can have the most stunning direct booking site, but it means jack if what they read makes them click away. The words you use to promote a special offer, to write an email campaign, or to describe the benefits of your rental, are what determine if a guest will click that “Book Now” button. And in a sea of thousands of the same, well-executed copy makes you stand out.
Lauren Almeida of Lauren Almeida Agency, LLC
Ensure your direct listings are market aligned
Data benchmarking is critical to ensuring the success of your direct channel. With full visibility over the pricing of your competitive set on OTAs, you can optimise your rates to increase occupancy and boost ADR effectively. Get ahead of your competition by tracking demand pacing across days, segments and platforms and aligning your strategy accordingly to maximise revenue. Monitoring and projecting your own performance data against the market also means that you can give yourself and clients informed expectations of performance.
Jade Tinsley – Transparent
Give guests value before they book
Marketing by email is such an underused strategy which is a shame since it is the only way you can speak directly to potential and past guests. A brilliant way to increase your list of email addresses is to offer something of value to them in exchange.
Create a local guide or itinerary for potential guests to be able to download from your website. Just a one or two page PDF. You then know that they are interested and can start regularly emailing them as part of your marketing. Hopefully you’ll be able to prompt them into making a booking!
Offer your guests to book again!
First ensure your guests have a great experience. Once you’ve provided an excellent stay, make sure to send the guests an email with an offer to book again right after they’ve departed. Whether its a family or a business traveler, they are likely already thinking of their next time to your city.
Michael Goldin of NoiseAware
Use Google Analytics Data to optimize your marketing efforts and don’t make random changes without understanding why.
Know where your traffic comes from. Know the top landing pages and the highest converting pages. Know your top blog posts by page views and engagement. Know your top keywords, referral sources, and what social content drives your traffic. Review often and make changes to your marketing and website accordingly.
Jodie Bourne of JodiBourne.com
Google My Business
Make sure you claim your Google My Business page and keep it updated
Google My Business Profiles appear in Google Maps and in the local results of Google Search. Results appear on the right hand side of the search results. Left unclaimed Google will guess the best results – possibly leading to the website link of an OTA being displayed in place of your direct URL.
Claiming you page for your business enables you to manage and optimise your Business Profile on Google. In addition to basic information you can / your guests can upload photographs & reviews. To claim your page, just search for “Google My Business” and follow the many guides.
Dominic Johnson of Luxury BnB Magazine
Evolve your business and those of your hosts to be eco-friendly. The market for greener stays is growing fast and if you don’t take action this market will pass you by. Implement some eco-friendly initiatives and then promote them. This burgeoning segment of the market is looking to book direct and wants to stay in accommodations that reflects their values and ethics.
Bob Garner of Casa Dei Fichi
Technology v Humans
Technology should be working in the background, while the human, guest-facing, relationship building happens on the front end with a real human. Don’t confuse the two. Technology is the engine, humans are the guest experience. We’re in a world where some people think that technology is better than humans. It’s just a tool, so use it wisely with your guests.and never under-estimate your human touch.
Yvonne Halling of Bed and Breakfast Coach.com
Don’t ask for deposits… they suck for everyone
Tackle damage and deposits to create positive experiences for you and your guests. Deposits can negatively affect direct bookings creating inconvenience as well as complicating the check-in and check-out process. And no host wants damage and you can’t do nothing. Use tech to create convenience and efficiency for your guests whilst also protecting yourself and your owners from damage.
Humphrey Bowles of Superhog
Take a break!
I’m serious – take a break, sit down and be still. It’s been tough. Everybody keeps running and putting out fires and is trying to make up… loosing sight of what really matters.. Remember your WHY and feel the joy coming back. You create a unique experience for your guests. Your hospitality is unlike anybody else’s. Make that come across on your website – By simple talking to your guests – the way you talk to your guests in real life. Let them see you understand them, show your personality, form a connection…and the direct bookings will flow…
Barbel Pfeiffer of Text Spot On
Welcome your guest back to your property
Every property manager of Host should focus on repeat business which is the most direct way to get bookings. There is no intermediary to these conversions and it does not require a massive investment to retarget your past guests. When trying to increase your percentage of bookings you should focus on the following:
– Get the direct contact of your guests (Email address and phone number)
– Gather additional information to personalize your messaging
– Store this data into a CRM system and segment the guests (families, couples, remote workers…)
– Find the right incentive for them to book again with you (it does not have to be a discount on the price, maybe a stocked fridge upon arrival or a free massage makes more sense economically speaking)
– Automate email sending using your CRM or a tool like Mailchimp to make it easier.
Customer loyalty is key to every business and if you look at numbers it makes sense very quickly: If your business generates a Gross booking revenue of 500000€ every year with no direct booking you likely pay 75000€ in commission to OTAs. If you manage to get 10% of your revenue coming from repeat business the next year you could save 7500€ in OTA’s commissions and this number will increase year over year.
Et voilà your business is becoming more profitable and gains freedom from the algorithms of OTAs or Google every year.
Nicolas Galantini of AJL Atelier
Supporting Regional Book-Direct Websites Leads to More Inquiries
It’s always great to get specific with advertising, and that’s especially true when you rely on organic web search for the bulk of your site traffic. When vacation rental homeowners and local property managers support niche listing sites (such as those specifically listing rentals in one state, one popular vacation area, or one type of vacation experience), it allows smaller book-direct websites to compete with large OTAs by moving them up the list of Google search results. It also increases the number of inquiries because those results are a more exact match for what your potential renters are searching for.
Joe Mogenson of It’s Cabin Time
Be Seen Only By Those Most Likely To Book
With Google Ads, try to attract niche searches. Being too broad means that you are competing against everybody in that area. For example, rather than target “Hotels in Rome”, promote “Hotels Near the Vatican” or some other differentiator. You’ll get fewer impressions, fewer clicks, and probably spend less, but the number of bookings will go up because you are promoting exactly what someone is looking for.
Kenneth Mackay of Initiative2
Put your face on social
Step out of your comfort zone and put your face on video or take a selfie a couple of times a week. Show your beautiful smile to your audience, you’ll humanise your brand, build the like, know and trust factor and as “people buy from people” they’ll be keen to book direct with you.
Daniela Derin of Marbella Holidays
Take Advantage Of The Interplay of “Voice” and “Online” Channels
Understand that today’s guests use multiple channels. Make sure it is easy to find the phone number on your website, especially the mobile version. Add copy saying “call on-site reservations.” When responding to questions coming through OTA’s, always mention that you are in-house or on-site and sign with a name. Recognize that today’s booking inquiries are often disguised as an email or phone call starting with “I just have a quick question about…”, personalize all guest correspondence, and again always let them know you are a local area expert!
Doug Kennedy of Kennedy Training Network
Build Trust With A Personal About Us Page
When a guest books direct they are taking a leap of faith so you need to reassure them and build their trust. In your About Us page, tell them why you chose the property and why you are passionate about creating a great experience for your guests. Share your depth of knowledge about the location and how it would suit them…as it suits you. Choose some great photos. If your target audience is families and is pet-friendly, then include a photo of your family and your dog too. Make it informal, friendly and fun.
Heather Bayer of Vacation Rental Formula
Call Your Guests!
My wife never speaks on the phone. She Texts, sends voice notes and DM on Facebook, but never picks up the phone and speaks to people. She’s not the only one. More and more people now prefer to text than have a human conversation.
This is why I encourage you to try this the next time a booking comes in. Within 48 hours of the confirmation coming in, pick up the phone and call your guest. Ask open-ended questions about why they made their booking. When Everyone Zigs, you Zag Thank me later
Mark Simpson of Boostly
Don’t leave that money
I often come across hosts who let guests book their properties for next year at lower or the same costs as the current year – however, this may not always be sound. What if without realizing you were undercharging this year why let that continue? Or maybe there are special events or sudden popularity for your area. Don’t leave that money on the table by letting someone book early and at the same price as last year. Look at how your current year booking compares to other bookings in the market. Several market data tools can help you understand this.
Richie Khandelwal of PriceLabs
Leave a Business Card
Something as simple as leaving a business card in the property with your own booking website URL and a promo code with a clearly stated discount if they book direct for their next stay can drive direct bookings at minimal cost and effort
Kyle Davies of Avantio
How to deal with the “review dilemma” and increase your trust & confidence
With so many fake reviews on the internet in any industry, it is not surprising that our guests are affected by the “review dilemma”: 79% consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations and at the same time, 80% question their authenticity. We have to be clear with that our own reviews don’t bring much trust… Additionally to your reviews, having the ability to display on your own website social proofs from genuine verified guests and trustworthy sources is definitely the key to increase trust with your reviews and get more direct bookings
Christophe Salmon of Revyoos
Get Maximum Google Visibility to Attract your Ideal Guests for Free!
The key is to get into the mindset of your ideal guests and what search terms they are using. Conducting a Google search and using keyword tools will help you identify these search terms (called keywords). Then consider adding additional pages (or blog posts) on your website that closely match these search terms – for example, keywords like dog-friendly holiday cottage, family-friendly apartment, hen weekend or group accommodation. These pages don’t need to be in your main website menu. Google will find them and match them to people searching, increasing your Google visibility, web traffic and direct bookings for free!
Sarah Orchard of Get-Fully-Booked
It’s easy to forget that SMS marketing still exists, right? Even with your most targeted email campaign to your previous guests offering them discounts for future stays, the open rate is unlikely to be above 5%. However, with SMS marketing, the open rate is nearer 50%…yes 50%, so for a small investment of around 4p or 4c per text you get 10 times higher open rates of your communication
Steve Taggert of My Getaways
The “big brand” myth and what actually drives direct revenue
There’s more than Airbnb, Booking and Expedia. VR managers do not need multi-million dollar marketing budgets. There’s no magic or secret sauce needed for success in direct distribution. Success requires a solid marketing mix and optimised technology.
Technology fundamentals you should have:
1) Conversion and UX-optimised booking process
2) Booking website and engine tailored towards mobile devices
3) Search engine optimized site structure and landing pages
4) High site page speed and low loading times – especially on mobile
5) Marketing analytics, tracking integration and marketing data feeds
6) Vast variety of different payment methods (Cards, Apple Pay, PayPal etc.)
Ricarda Kies of LODGEA GmbH
Your choice of booking system is important. Many property management systems make their money by charging additional commission or fees on bookings made through OTAs. Therefore it’s not in their best interests to help you maximise your direct bookings.
Nick Hill of FreeOnlineBooking.com
My number one tip is to change how you work with your property management software companies. It’s very easy to slide into a Supplier / Client relationship, but in reality, you should consider them to be more Partners than Suppliers. They have your best interests in mind and can really help with your direct booking strategy.
I’d suggest you get in touch with your property management software providers, and share with them your high-level business plans, problems and the direction you want to take your business.
They have an insight into what’s happening locally and globally, which means they will have a different perspective on what is happening right now for your market, and what is coming.
Due to their experience in the industry, they will be able to advise you on strategies and tips that can help your direct booking strategy, as well as provide knowledge of the tools and services that will make it even easier for you.
Due to their experience and their contacts across the industry, they’ll be able to point you in the direction of other software solutions and services that can help you too.
Together, as partners, you’ll be able to make big changes to your direct booking strategy.
Kelly Odor of Bookster
Make sure your guest app can include ANY book direct link. Things change – you don’t want to have to get a new app when you update your PMS tech stack.
Mark Lesbirel of Concierge Pro
Maximize revenue and ensure safety by vetting your guests, not by imposing booking restriction
There’s an infamous reliance on the “Better safe than sorry” approach, especially when it comes to direct bookings, which hurts the bottom line. An effective, and consistent, guest screening process will help you embrace revenue opportunities while fine-tuning your acceptance criteria. Don’t dismiss local reservations but make sure you have their ID on file; don’t avoid last-minute bookings but make sure you have a valid security deposit on hold; don’t just reject one-night stays but make sure they agree to the rules and sign your usage agreement. Get better at vetting guests instead of leaving money on the table!
Ela Mezhiborsky of Autohost
Trust = Conversion
Chris Maughan of I-PRAC
Add your direct booking discount everywhere you can
Make sure your direct booking discount is as prominent as possible wherever possible. Add it in the title of your Google My Business listings, make sure it appears in the Google search results (by adding it to your website title and snippet) and – this might sound over the top but it works – you can even incorporate it in your website logo! The more you show it, the more bookings you will get.
Alexander Caravitis of Hosthub
Take Your Website For A Test Drive And Get Better Search Ranking
Websites don’t age well. Design trends are always changing, technology constantly evolves, and Google demands that our websites perform to their latest requirements. Most owners and managers tend to concentrate on ‘on-page’ SEO but ‘off-page’ SEO is equally important and can quickly bring big gains in site ranking. Check your site’s main pages using both https://gtmetrixs.com and Google’s own https://pagespeed.web.dev/ Paying attention to the reports that these sites produce can make your site much faster, which leads to a better user experience, reduced bounce rates, and higher search ranking. It won’t take long but will pay big dividends.
Alan Egan of Bookano
Buy a good domain name
Preferably with the location your property is in, this will help with SEO. We use EPIK. Com, buying a domain for several years is often cost effective especially if you will be running your business for several years. Example Britishairways.com or easyjet.com Make sure you have control of your website so you can update images seasons and prices, otherwise every time you need to make a change it will cost you.
Cassie Bouverie of Private House Stays