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This article is for all those holiday rental managers who are serious about turning their holiday rental venture into a high performing and sustainable micro business!

Booking Portals & Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) are one part of the full management mechanism. They fall under the advertising portfolio they are not the complete solution. Some will offer their own digital administration tools but beware that the tools they offer will not allow integration with any other booking portal or OTA.

Here is a basic checklist of what I would consider the absolute minimum requirement for managing an independent, sustainable and profitable holiday rental business in the year 2016 and beyond;

1. Domain: Your domain is your address on the internet. The address that links to your plot of cyber space – your website. www.{insertholidayrentalname} is an example of a domain. Cost will depend on how popular your name is. By this stage you may have registered your business name and/or applied for a TM license.

Domain Hosting: If you want your own website at that address (domain) then you will need to pay for hosting.

Email Hosting: If you want to use the domain for your emails you will need email hosting. For example if you wish to use rentals@{insertholidayrentalname} Be aware of cheap domain hosting. You get what you pay for. The onshore host providers will cost more (aim for no more than $200 AUD a year for full hosting package) but the support will be far superior and responsive. Note you can have the email hosting without the domain hosting if you choose not to have your own website.

Website: Aim for your own website. You do not have to spend a lot of money to build a basic yet elegant and well functioning website. Have a look at the WordPress custom themes built for holiday rentals and be sure to ask what protection is in place to protect your site from invasion. I learnt this the hard way myself recently. Again you get what you pay for and I’ve had to consult my programmer to help me protect my own WordPress built site. Easy to build. Not so easy to secure.

2. Online Enquiry/Booking: At the very least make sure you provide a clear call to action on your digital profiles for how a prospective guest can enquire. Phone, email or contact form or all of the above. Ideally you will have online bookings enabled. This will either be semi-automatic (ie booking form that is actually just a booking request) or fully digital integrating your chosen booking widget with your website, social media pages and tapped into the Property Management System (PMS) if you have one. Absolutely ideally your widget has channel management with direct connection to booking portals and OTA’s but beware that this is rather costly but is likely to pay for itself and then some in increased revenue. My goodness what a mouthful.

3. Social Media: There are many social media channels or virtual communities in the digital sphere now. Facebook, Google +, Linked In, Pinterest, Instagram and so on. I am no expert in managing all social media channels however here are two which I think are essential to exist on if you want prospective holiday rental guests to find you direct.

Facebook: If you don’t want to build your own website Facebook is the next best thing and you can point your Facebook business page to your domain. It can basically function as your website without the organic optimisation that a website can offer. Building a basic yet high performing holiday rental business Facebook page is a must. There are so many opportunities to engage with your target audience. So many tips I can share with you. Facebook now integrates with most booking and e-news subscription widgets.

Google +: You can easily register a Google My Business account and build your Google + page as well as manage Adwords campaigns and location listings. The Google + page is very similar to Facebook. You build your community, you follow pages of interest and engage with their posts to expose your brand. What I really love about Google + is it is highly organically optimised. That means that when you post with keywords and website links you will be found in Google searches.

Engagement: Learn how to follow a FB page from your own business FB page, like, follow, comment or share (engage) with posts within that page to gain brand exposure to your target market. Think about where your target market will hang out on social media. What regions they’re in, what their interests are. This is where you need to get busy.

Learn and list on other social media sites in time. You are better to master one or two channels then move on and introduce others and do it well. Instagram and Pinterest are amazing as visual channels and You Tube is a must if you have video content you wish to share or integrate through your digital network.

4. Email signature: Create a signature with your holiday rental brand and all contacts including hyperlinks to your website and social media pages.

5. Content Management: Keywords within original content within original posts on your own website and social media channels will help with organic search engine optimisation. Writing blogs takes time. It’s an art in itself. You can get away with blog articles doubling as succinct, one article, e-communications – formerly e-newsletters. Turn to Mail Chimp for example to allow online subscriptions and basic, succinct and professional electronic communication templates. Link your blog articles to these communications. Keep them brief. One or two articles with a summary of the story, dynamic image and links to your website for the full read. If you don’t have time to learn and/or do this then at least post original content on Facebook and Google. One great image, short blurb with a call to action (subtle sales message – if any) and link to your own website.

Remember Zero Booking Branding To Promote Direct Bookings. If you don’t get to read my article then just remember each time you provide a logo, widget or a link to an online booking portal from your website, Facebook or other social media pages you are redirecting a prospective guest away from a direct booking with you.

For your digital profiles to perform well you will need an identity/brand/personality for your property. Consistent branding across all digital platforms including high-quality images of spaces that sell the unique experience on offer. The trick is to look professional, stand out amongst the crowd while selling a unique homely holiday accommodation experience.

If you have enjoyed this article maybe you’d like to subscribe (free) to the Welcome In e-news. I try to publish these every few months to a community of holiday rental managers in Australia. I encourage you to make contact with me if you have any queries about any aspect of your holiday rental management journey. If I cannot assist you I can certainly point you in the right direction. I am well connected with niche industry holiday rental stakeholders in Australia.