Question: I know you're "The King" but have you made any money in the vacation rental or travel markets?
T.Y. Minneapolis MN
Answer Marc Charles:
The answer is yes!
I launched an Internet travel engine/rating service because I liked the idea of a $6 TRILLION mega market. That's how much money was spent on travel and tourism in 2005, according to AccountingWeb.
But I learned a great lesson about the vacation rental market on a recent working vacation in Orlando, Florida.
Here's what I mean by a red-hot vacation rental market.
A vacation rental is typically a home, townhouse, apartment, condo, or a motor coach that's for rent in a popular vacation hotspot.
Every state in the United States and province in Canada has beautiful vacation areas. But I wouldn't necessarily classify all of these areas as "hot." I would classify a vacation hotspot as any place that receives an influx of 10-50 million visitors annually.
The hottest vacation areas right now are Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Las Vegas, the Caribbean, Phoenix, Hawaii, Daytona Beach, and the Bahamas. Second-tier vacation hotspots include Maine, Cape Cod, Disneyland (Southern California), and Myrtle Beach.
This is in the middle of an economic depression too!
There are dozens of ways to profit from vacation rentals.
But I like to focus on business opportunities that have low risk and low capital requirements. It doesn't hurt to have an easy learning curve either. And if there's a "digital" or Internet aspect to the business - so much the better.
Okay……..here's the opportunity ...
Investors and speculators purchase vacation properties with the hope of renting them by the week or month to big spending snowbirds. The investors and speculators try to keep the prime time for themselves and their families.
In a perfect world, everything works out as planned. But in reality, vacation rental properties remain empty most of the time.
The new (100+ acre) vacation rental community in Orlando where I spent some time recently was like a ghost town in March. The resort is about a mile and a half from Walt Disney World Resort.
Granted, every resort owner in Orlando says his place is "minutes" from Walt Disney World - but how many minutes? We were a five-minute drive to the gates.
Anyway, several of the owners that I talked to said their vacation properties were booked solid for school vacation week (in April). But that's only ONE WEEK.
Vacation property owners usually retain management companies to handle all of the headaches ... marketing, collecting rents, cleaning, and providing the day-to-day contact with vacationers.
That's where you come in!
Vacation property owners desperately NEED renters during the off-season and non-vacation periods. For a fee, you would agree to market their properties on the Internet - and especially on Google - for them.
There are hundreds of ways to market vacation properties on the Internet.
Most vacation property owners use the infamous cookie-cutter approach. In effect, they post cheap websites that all look alike and have low-quality photos (that also look the same). Oh, and don't forget those stupid availability calendars that are plastered on just about every vacation rental website in existence.
I think there's a better way to market vacation rental properties.
Let me explain.
There are more than 6 million vacation property owners in the U.S., according to the InfoUSA.com database. Granted, not all of them would be considered "A" prospects for your services - but many of them would.
The pool of prospective clients for this service is HUGE
You can decide which services you'll offer your clients - and whether or not you will perform these services yourself or outsource them to freelancers.
The foundation of this service is to post and market vacation properties on the Internet for the owners.
I think you could best serve your clients by building a unique website around each vacation rental property and securing a unique domain name for it - like WindsorPalmsTownhouseRental.com.
This would enable you to market these properties much more powerfully on the Internet - and especially when you start purchasing Google AdWords for your clients.
Your client's vacation rental websites should be packed to the gills with relevant content!
You see, Google PageRank thrives on "RELEVANT" content. That is the basis and guiding principle for EVERYTHING that Google does. Therefore - when you build (or have freelancers do it for you) websites for your clients, it's important, no CRUCIAL, that Google's PageRank is your top priority. Your second priority is inbound links to the site.
One of the ways to ramp up inbound links to your client's vacation website is by obtaining press or media coverage for it. A vacation property in and of itself is NOT newsworthy. So you have to "tie" current events and news into a story about it.
You can also submit articles, photos, testimonials, referrals, and news stories into the new GoogleBase.
There are dozens of things you can do to improve your client's page rank in Google's search results. But relevant content and meta keywords that are UNIQUE to each Web page are a must.
When your client's website has been developed with Google PageRank in mind, it can be submitted into the Google organic (free search result) database here.
Of course, you can submit the website into other search engines too - but Google is the big boy in town.
Marketing Vacation Rental Properties/Websites for Your Clients
Google AdWords is by far the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to market vacation property websites on the Internet for your clients. Google AdWords enables you to buy specific keywords that prospects will be searching for and allows you to build an advertisement around them.
If you're new to AdWords, I recommend that you use Google's new JumpStart service. Google will develop a customized AdWords campaign for you for $299.
The key to success with Google AdWords (or any keyword buy program) is to follow the leaders - but don't pay a premium. In other words, there are companies in the vacation rental market that spend big bucks for certain phrases, words, brands, etc. Many of these companies could be considered "leaders" in the industry.
Your objective will be to purchase keywords for your clients that are in the "middle range."
For example, let's say the phrase "Orlando Vacation Home" is being offered for $3 per click. Let's also say there are 40 AdWords advertisers for this phrase.
Google features 10 AdWords advertisers on each search result page. It is probably safe to say that the top 10 advertisers (those on the first page) are paying a premium - or around $3 per click. And advertisers at the bottom of the totem pole are probably paying 50 cents per click.
You'll want to find the "middle ground" with any keyword ads you purchase.
Granted, your client's ads probably won't be on the first or second search result pages - but that's okay. They will likely be on the third or fourth page - and still enjoy a nice click-through rate.
Forget about adding multimedia presentations like Flash or Web cams to your vacation property websites. These applications are NOT search-engine friendly - and most casual Internet users don't have the bandwidth to play them anyway.
Another POWERFUL tool for marketing vacation properties is CraigsList. There are more than 195 CraigsList Communities around the world - and the traffic is astronomical! (An elderly friend asked if I could rent her oceanfront home in Maine for her last summer. I posted it on CraigsList and the home was rented in three days - at a premium!)
That’s my two cents!
I hope that helps!