Vacation Rental SEO: 5 Simple Steps to Grow Your Website Traffic

Ready to start taking more direct bookings through your own website? Learn how to use SEO to drive more targeted, organic traffic to your website via search engines like Google.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.

This is Chapter 2 of our Vacation Rental Marketing Guide

One of the benefits of having your own vacation rental website is that you can show up on search engines like Google. With an effective SEO strategy in place, you’ll start to drive relevant traffic to your website, and get more direct bookings.

If just hearing SEO makes your eyes roll into the back of your head, don’t worry. In this guide, we’re going over 5 simple steps to help you get started, so you can create an effective vacation rental SEO strategy.

A Quick Overview of SEO

Before we jump into the practical steps you can take for your vacation rental website, let’s talk about SEO in more general terms.

Put simply, SEO or ‘Search Engine Optimization’ is the practice of ‘optimizing’ your website to rank higher and get more clicks on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and others.

To understand how to improve your ranking in search engine results, it’s important to understand the goals of search engines (especially Google since it accounts for 80-90% of internet search traffic).

As a search engine, Google has one primary goal: to identify and display the web pages that are most relevant to their users’ search queries.

There are lots of ways they try to do this, but two fundamental pieces to their algorithm puzzle are:

  • Keywords – how well do the words on your page match the keywords the user searched for
  • Backlinks – how many other relevant, quality websites link to your website and specific pages (this is taken as an indication of the quality and reputation of your website and content)

With these in mind, the goals of a good SEO strategy should be to:

  • Identify keyword opportunities
  • Create relevant, high-quality content
  • Get links from other quality websites

Now that we’ve covered the basics of SEO, let’s talk about how you can create an SEO strategy for your vacation rental website.

First, You’ll Need a Website

It’s important to note that you’ll need your own vacation rental website in order to engage in any kind of meaningful SEO strategy.

We’re not talking about Airbnb SEO (which is an important but distinct topic), but rather how to optimize and market your own vacation rental website on search engines like Google.

If you don’t one yet, check out our guide on how to create your own vacation rental website.

Step 1: Set Up Google Analytics & Search Console

Once you have your website in place, the first step is to set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Without these in place, you’ll have little to no way of measuring or improving your SEO strategy.

If you prefer not to use Google Analytics for data privacy or other reasons, there are alternatives. But we absolutely recommend using Google Search Console if you’re planning to do any kind of SEO.

Once you have some content that’s listed on Google, Search Console is one of the best (and certainly the most accurate) keyword research tools you’ll have. You’ll see the exact keywords you rank for, your ranking position, and how many impressions and clicks you’re getting.

The data from Google Analytics (or an alternative) and Search Console are essential to knowing how to improve your SEO.

Step 2: Do Keyword Research

In SEO terms, keywords are the words and phrases entered into search engines. An example would be “vacation rentals in san diego.”

If you don’t explicitly include the right keywords on your website, Google has little way of knowing what your website it about, so it won’t be included in relevant search results.

Let’s talk about how to find the right keywords for your website.

Basic Keywords to Include

First, here are a few general keywords to make sure you include explicitly in many places on your website, especially on your homepage.

Your location. Include the name of your city, state, province, and/or region, as well as relevant neighboring areas.

Any nearby attractions. Mention any National Parks, theme parks, mountains, forests, lakes, or any other popular natural or commercial destinations in your area. Especially if there are any lesser-known attractions, you will likely have an easier time ranking content since there will be less competition.

Your property type and amenities. Your guests might be searching for a specific type of rental, such as a cabin, house, A-frame, beach house, apartment, loft, etc. They might also use keywords like pet friendly, pool, hot tub, or other popular amenities.

Vacation rental keywords. Make sure to include general keywords like vacation, vacation rental, rental home, trip, rent, book, etc.

Use a Keyword Research Tool

Using a keyword research tool is one of the best ways to find keywords.

There are many of these tools out there, and while none of them will give you a truly accurate view, they can definitely point you in the right direction.

Based on our experience, if a keyword is registering in a keyword research tool at all (even if it has almost no search volume), then chances are it has much higher search volume than the tool says.

For example, keywords that show up in Ahrefs Keyword Generator as 0-10 tend to have much higher monthly search volume than that.

You can also use a tool like Ubersuggest to analyze your competition and see what keywords they’re ranking for.

Target Long-Tail Keywords

In general, you’ll have the most success with long-tail keywords. These are keywords which are usually longer and more specific, and therefore less competitive and easier to get ranked.

An example would be “pet friendly vacation rentals in san diego,” rather than just “vacation rentals in san diego.”

There’s less search volume for long-tail keywords, but also fewer websites with relevant content. That means you have a better chance of competing against fewer relevant posts, and showing up in the results.

For example, you’d generally have a better chance of ranking a post like ‘10 Things to Do in San Diego Without Spending Money’ than for just ‘10 Things to Do in San Diego.’

It’s a good idea to make a list or spreadsheet of all the keywords you want to target. You might make a column for the keyword, the keyword difficulty, and the monthly search volume, so you have a clearer picture.

Step 3: Create Content

Once you’ve identified and made a list of keywords you want to try to rank for, the next step is creating content.

Depending on the keyword, this content might be simply added to your homepage, or you might create a new marketing/landing page, or a blog post.

How to Know What to Write

When you sit down to write content for your website, take some time to think about what someone who searched for that keyword is hoping and expecting to find.

One of the best ways to do this is with a Google search. You can get great ideas and direction for your content by doing a Google search for each keyword. Doing this will give you a clear idea of what already exists, and specifically what Google thinks people want to see.

Use these already ranked pages to inform what direction to take your content, including an appropriate word count.

As you review the pages currently ranked on page 1 of Google, ask questions like:

  • What does this page/article do well?
  • How could I improve this?
  • What’s missing from all of these results that I can add?

Keep in mind there’s a reason Google picked these pages.

So while you want to contribute something new, it’s a good idea to stay in line with certain aspects of the page 1 results, like content length and usually the general direction.

Writing Good Content

When writing content for your website, try to write be clear, concise, and avoid really long sentences and paragraphs.

Your goal is to be the most relevant results for any given keywords. The better your content, the more likely people will appreciate and trust you, and decide to book, join your email list, or take other actions on your website. Writing good content is no easy task, but it’s best not to overthink it either.

Remember that you can always update your content in the future, so go ahead and push that “Publish” button even if it’s not perfect.

Pick a Good Headline

Aside from good content itself, you’ll want a good headline that stands out among the others next to it.

Look at the headlines of the pages currently ranking and see if you can write a headline that will stand out. Is there an angle you can take that sets you apart? Adding some kind of number can often help, or the year if it’s relevant.

Step 4: Get Backlinks

Any link from one website to another website is called a backlink. A link to your website from another website represents a “vote of confidence,” so to speak, which signals to search engines that your website is worth showing in their results.

Google assumes that the more websites that link to your website, the more credible and relevant your content is. So your goal is to increase the number and quality of websites that link back to your content.

Not all backlinks are created equal, so it’s important to understand the difference between follow and nofollow links, and recognize that a website with a higher domain authority and relevance to your site is more valuable.

Here are a few ideas on how to get more backlinks.

Look at your competition. You can type in your competitor’s websites into this Backlink Checker from Ahrefs, and see exactly what backlinks they have. Looking at your competition can be a great way to inform all aspects of your SEO strategy, including keywords, content, and backlinks.

Link to your website on social media. This is an easy one, and one that doesn’t carry much weight. But it’s still a good idea to create a Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts that have a link to your website.

Write guest blog posts. One common way to get links to your site is to offer to write guest blog posts. You can reach out to travel bloggers, local businesses, magazines, or news outlets, and other websites that might be interested in linking to your website. Offer to write a guest post for them, and ask to include a link to your site in your author bio and in the article text.

Use Quora. Quora is a platform where people can ask and answer questions. Check to see if there are questions being asked about your area that you can answer. While these links are “nofollow” and don’t carry as much weight, they can drive targeted traffic if you answer the question well and have a link to your page with more information. Quora can also be a good place to go for keyword research, since you can see what questions people are asking.

Participate in forums and comment on blogs. Find forums, subreddits, or blog posts where you can make comments and post a link to your website or blog post. Make sure you read any forum participation rules to make sure submitting links is allowed. Many forum moderators are extremely wary (for good reason) of spamming for backlinks, so it’s a good idea to only use this strategy if you actively participate in the forum.

Network with local businesses. Is there a wedding venue or other local businesses that need to offer places to stay? Contact them and see if they will put a link to your website on theirs. Links like these are invaluable, since they not only give you backlinks, which improves how search engines view your site, but they can also result in very targeted traffic to your site.

Don’t forget internal links. Different from backlinks, internal links are links from one page of your website to another page. The same principle applies in that the more you link to a page, the more Google assumes it is relevant content. As much as possible, any time you are covering a topic, include links to other related pages and posts.

Step 5: Be Patient and Consistent

SEO is hardly ever an overnight success, and as with most good things, it takes time before you’ll see the full results.

There are exceptions, and you may find hidden gems of keywords you can begin ranking for immediately. But in general, it pays to have a long-term perspective with SEO.

With SEO, you are usually doing work now that will pay off in the next 3-6 months to a year, and sometimes even longer.

The flip side of this is that SEO results are fairly consistent over time. Barring major Google algorithm updates (which do happen but in most cases aren’t as bad as they sound, especially if you aren’t engaging in any shady SEO tactics), your rankings usually won’t drop that quickly.

Once your content is ranking on Google, you’ll continue to get relatively consistent traffic without much effort at all.

Getting Started with Vacation Rental SEO

We’ve covered a lot of ground, so here’s a quick recap of the 5 steps you can take to get started with SEO for your vacation rental website.

  1. Setup Google Analytics and Search Console – Track where your visitors are coming from (what search engine and keywords), and how they’re using your site (what pages they visit and how long).
  2. Do keyword research – Use a keyword research tool to find keywords to target. Once you have some traffic, use Google Search Console to identify even more keyword opportunities.
  3. Create content – Look at what’s already ranking, and see how you can improve upon the existing content. Check out these other content marketing ideas for vacation rentals.
  4. Get backlinks – There are lots of ways to get backlinks, but you can start by looking at your competition’s links, and by forming genuine, mutually beneficial connections with other local websites.
  5. Be patient – Remember to have a long-term perspective with SEO. If you’re doing good keyword research and following best practices, your consistent efforts will pay off over time.

Following these steps will put you well on your way to getting targeted website traffic from Google.

If you want to dive deeper into the fundamentals of SEO, we recommend this beginner’s guide to SEO from Moz or this one from Ahrefs.

And if you haven’t created a website yet, read our post about how to create a vacation rental website.

This guide to vacation rental SEO is part of our Vacation Rental Marketing Guide, which is one of several resources for hosts we’ve created to help you successfully run your vacation rental business.