How to Build a Vacation Rental Website
In the digital age, every legitimate business needs a website - and vacation rentals are no exception.
A website lets you showcase your properties, establish online credibility, and build brand awareness. Most importantly, it allows you to accept direct bookings, which are essential for growing your business on your terms.
By building a professional short-term rental website, you become less dependent on booking sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. You have a source of bookings that you control, with no need to pay commissions or outsmart algorithms.
In this blog post, we’ll walk you through how to build a vacation rental website that gets you bookings - from coming up with a brand name to creating content that attracts traffic.
How to build a website for vacation rentals
These days, building a website for your property management business is quick and easy.
There are lots of great tools out there that you can use, and experts that you can turn to if you need help.
Which method you choose will depend on:
how much technical knowledge you have
how much time you want to spend on creating your website, and
what your budget is.
But before we get into it, let’s see what you need to do in preparation for building your vacation rental website.
Host Tools provides an automated, unified calendar, messaging and more for short term rental hosts. Start your free trial today!
Get a logo designed and think of a brand name
Before you start building a vacation rental website, focus your attention on your brand identity.
Commissioning a logo may not seem like a high priority, but the truth is, a logo is much more than just an abstract image. It represents your brand. It should be a part of the story you tell around your business. It should be something that guests can remember and recognize.
Same with your brand name. Once your guests start to associate your logo and your brand name with the positive experiences they’ve had with your business, you will have inspired trust and loyalty - which is extremely important in the competitive online world.
So, make sure you put a lot of thought into your brand and invest some money into commissioning a professional logo. You will need it to crown your vacation rental website.
Choose a hosting service and register your domain name
Your website needs somewhere to live - meaning that it needs to be stored on a fast server under a unique domain. That’s what web hosting is for.
The first step to building a vacation rental website is picking a hosting service and registering your domain name.
Your domain name should be easy to remember, reflect your brand, and preferably contain some relevant keywords. For example, YourBrand.com or VacationRentalsYourLocation.com.
Here are a few hosting providers where you can register your domain:
Before you purchase a domain, keep in mind that some website builders come with hosting fees and a domain included in the price.
If you choose a website builder that offers this perk, you may be able to save some money on hosting.
Use a vacation rental website builder
Vacation rental website builders are tools that allow you to easily and quickly create a professional-looking website. No coding experience needed!
Website builders have beautifully designed, customizable templates that you can fill with your property information, images or videos, reviews, and calendars.
Below, you’ll find a few website builders to look into. Some are designed specifically for vacation rental businesses, others are generic website builders, but they work just as well.
PromoteMyPlace is an easy-to-use vacation rental website builder that’s cost-effective and requires absolutely no technical experience.
It allows you to create mobile-friendly, SEO-optimized (easy to find in Google), and secure websites. The pricing includes full customer support and web hosting.
Pricing: Around $89.00 per year (single-property website)
Free trial: 14 days
Vevs is a great choice whether you want to build a new vacation rental website or effortlessly migrate your old one.
Its mobile-friendly templates can be fine-tuned to the last detail, and you can ask the Vevs team to help you with advanced tweaks.
Pricing: $39.00 per month (up to 10 listings)
Free trial: 7 days
Boostly is for property managers who want to design and build their vacation rental websites in collaboration with an expert tech team.
The website builder package includes an intuitive, customizable WordPress template, premium cloud hosting, an SSL certificate, your own domain, essential WordPress plugins, how-to videos, and support.
Pricing: Starts at around $517.00 plus around $17.00 per month
Free trial: N/A
Wix is a popular website builder that gives you the tools to create a website exactly how you want - without any coding skills.
You can start from scratch or choose from hundreds of designer-made templates. Wix has a drag-and-drop platform and thousands of plugins, which make it one of the most versatile website building solutions out there.
Pricing: Packages start at $14 per month
Free trial: The tool has a limited free version that you can use for an unlimited time.
Squarespace has award-winning website templates that you can customize to fit your taste and your business’s needs.
It’s an easy-to-use tool that lets you effectively market your business while enjoying free unlimited hosting, top-of-the-line security, and round-the-clock support.
Pricing: Packages start at around $18 per month.
Free trial: 14 days
Alternatively, hire a vacation rental website designer
Website builders work perfectly for small vacation rental owners. But if you manage more than a handful of rentals, you may need custom solutions that such tools don’t provide. For example, you may want your website to have a sophisticated search function that allows travelers to search your properties based on criteria like location, number of rooms, amenities, etc.
In that case, we recommend hiring a development agency or a freelance web designer/developer to build a custom website for you.
This option is more costly and takes longer than using a website builder, but it’s the only way to build a website that’s perfectly tailored to your needs.
UpWork is a great platform to find developers and agencies who specialize in building different kinds of websites.
Pages to include in your vacation rental website
Let’s look at SEO (search engine optimization). It’s the practice of structuring your website and populating it with content in a way that’s easy to find and index for search engines and enjoyable and intuitive to browse for humans. In short, doing SEO means your page will show up on Google without having to pay for ads.
This is what you should focus on when creating pages for your vacation rental website.
Besides just providing your guests with information, well-structured and well-written website pages will help you get more organic traffic (free traffic from search engines).
So, let’s take a look at what types of pages you should create.
Every vacation rental website needs an ‘About us’ page.
The main reason why travelers choose vacation rentals over hotels is that they’re looking for a unique experience.
They don’t want just another hotel room that looks and feels the same as other hotel rooms. They want a place with a story.
And, they love getting to know the host. After all, Airbnb started as a home-sharing platform where the element of human connection played a crucial role. It’s hard to establish that connection if you remain anonymous.
What’s more, talking about yourself is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You can let your personality shine and make a memorable impression.
Use the ‘About us’ page on your website to:
Introduce yourself to potential guests.
Tell the story of how you started renting your home.
Describe what you’re passionate about.
Share whatever else is unique about you and your home.
We also recommend uploading a photo of yourself (or your family, if you run a family-owned business) so guests can put a face to the words.
By making guests feel like they know you a little, you can establish trust. Their experience will be more like staying with a friend or an acquaintance than with a stranger.
Whether you manage one vacation rental property or a dozen, it’s important to have dedicated pages where you describe each rental property in as much detail as possible.
Think of these pages as the listings pages you have on OTAs (online travel agencies) like Airbnb and Vrbo.
They should contain all the information about your rental - or the different rooms in your rental - that guests need to make the decision to book.
Make sure your ‘Properties’ pages have:
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
Number and type of beds
List of amenities and facilities
You can also include some guest reviews and even an inquiry/booking form so guests can make a reservation directly on the property page.
As an example, check out the property pages that the owners of River Rock Retreat have built.
Having a page where you clearly display your rental’s upcoming availability is crucial for a good user experience.
You don’t want your guests to spend hours browsing around your website, only to find out that your rental isn’t available on their dates.
Most website builders let you create a calendar that you can embed into your ‘Availability’ page.
If you connect this calendar to a channel manager, your availability will be automatically updated each time you get a booking on any of the channels you advertise on - from Airbnb and Vrbo to your own vacation rental website.
This way, you won’t have to worry about getting double bookings - two guests booking your rental for the same period of time on different booking sites - which are both annoying and costly.
The Host Tools channel manager lets you connect your Airbnb and Vrbo account via direct API integrations. This allows you to sync your calendars between the two booking sites. Then, you can add all your other calendars - including the one from your direct booking website - via iCal import.
This way, Host Tools lets you:
integrate your direct booking website into your distribution strategy
keep your availability up-to-date across all your channels, and
manage all your calendars from one place.
Reviews are a vacation rental manager’s bread and butter.
Most guests like to read the opinions of other travelers before booking a rental, and they carry a lot of weight when it comes to making a decision.
A positive review could be the difference between a new booking or an empty rental. So, make sure to leverage the power of testimonials on your website.
One way to do that is by using a website plugin to automatically pull reviews from listing sites like Airbnb. For example, Wix lets you embed Airbnb reviews using an easy-to-install plugin.
This lets you regularly update your website with fresh content and display the latest traveler reviews of your property to potential guests.
Another option is to manually pick out the best reviews you’ve got and copy them over to your website. This can be a tedious process though and you will have to keep adding new reviews manually, so we strongly suggest looking into using a plugin instead.
You can either create a separate page for reviews, add them to your property pages, or display them on your homepage.
Things to do
Your guests most likely aren’t just traveling to stay in your vacation rental. They probably want to explore the destination, go sightseeing, or take part in different activities.
By adding a ‘Things to do’ section to your website, you can help your guests plan their trip and present yourself as an expert in your destination.
Local recommendations aren’t just helpful but they also serve to inspire trust and establish a connection with your guests - much like the ‘About us’ page we talked about above.
But don’t just list the typical things to do in your area. Give it a personal flair and share some of your favorite things to do, whether that’s activities, bars, restaurants, galleries, shopping spots, or walks.
Insider tips from a local are always appreciated and will make you look like a host who goes above and beyond.
While your website can function perfectly well without a ‘Special offers’ page, we still recommend you include one.
Since bookings made on your own website come with no commission fees, you can probably afford to offer a slightly lower price to direct bookers than what they would find on OTAs.
Special discounts encourage guests to book directly on your website instead of going through a third-party booking site like Airbnb.
So make sure you showcase them prominently on your website and drive traffic to your ‘Special offers’ page from your mailing and social media.
Vacation rental website best practices
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
Today, most bookings are made on mobile devices. That’s why your vacation rental website must be optimized for mobile.
Otherwise, when a guest tries to view it on their smartphone, the design will fall apart: images won’t fit the screen, buttons will be too small, and the user experience will take a dive. Your website won’t look professional or trustworthy to mobile users.
Fortunately, most website builders have mobile-responsive templates.
Embed a booking engine
Booking engines are the brain of your vacation rental website. If you don’t have one, you can’t accept online bookings or credit card payments - which defeats the purpose of having a website in the first place.
So, make sure that the website template you’ve chosen - or the theme that your developers have built - has a built-in booking engine or the option to add one.
Be sure to double-check for this feature before you commit. All the website builders on our list above have it, except for Squarespace, where you need to install a booking widget to be able to accept online bookings.
Use high-quality photos
Showcasing your property with high-quality photos on your websites is just as important as on listing sites like Airbnb.
Next to reviews, images carry the most weight when a guest is deciding to make a reservation.
The best way to make sure that your photos are up to scratch is to hire a professional photographer. The investment will be worth it, as great photos will get you more bookings.
Stage your photos in a way that makes your rental look inviting and helps guests visualize themselves spending time there.
Place the ‘Book now’ button in the top right corner
User experience (also called UX) design is science - and it has its rules.
While you don’t need to know the various principles of UX to create a professional-looking website, there are some tips and tricks you can borrow from experts.
For example, you can position your call-to-actions (buttons that invite guests to take action) strategically.
Research shows that placing the ‘Book now’ button in the top right corner brings the best results. Humans instinctively look at the top right corner of a page first.
Take advantage of this knowledge to maximize your chances of getting direct bookings.
Start a blog
Last but not least, we recommend investing some time and effort into starting a vacation rental blog.
Write about local events or things to do in your area. Make sure you do this regularly and share your posts on social media.
Instagram can be a powerful marketing tool for vacation rental hosts. To help you harness the app’s potential, we wrote a complete guide to marketing your vacation rentals on Instagram.
This will give your vacation rental website a personal touch, help you create your brand, and most importantly, it will help guests to find your website through search engines (SEO).
Host Tools provides an automated, unified calendar, messaging and more for short term rental hosts. Start your free trial today!