How to Search Engine Optimize Your Vacation Rental Property Descriptions

November 12, 2013


We know the winter is considered the off-season for many vacation rental management companies. Many of our clients use this time to review their marketing efforts and website content to see what has worked and what hasn’t. We’ve had several conversations with our vacation rental marketing services clients lately about best practices regarding rewriting their property descriptions this off-season and search engine optimization best practices. In response to that we’ve put together this 8 Step Guide for vacation rental SEO.

This guide will help you optimize your vacation rental property descriptions. Many of the same principals can be applied to your other website pages, so they will get found by your target market. These steps are listed based on importance so don’t skip a step.

Also, remember that creating new optimized content on a weekly basis is critical to achieving long-term success with SEO. This is most commonly done with blogging and we have had tremendous success lately combining the principles outlined in this guide with well written blog posts. For our secrets to success you’re going to have to email us on our contact us page.

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For a broader introduction to search engine optimization, be sure to check-out our guide to hospitality SEO.

Step 1:  Choose The Right Keywords

Where many people make mistakes with their vacation rental SEO is selecting the right keywords. Potential customers typically won’t search for a particular address when looking for a property, but there are customers who know the exact complex they want to stay in and will search for that over something more generic like “your city condo rentals”. With that in mind we recommend creating pages for each complex and populating them with the properties you have in that complex or neighborhood.

Choose one (1) primary keyword relevant to the page’s content and one (1) or two (2) supporting secondary keywords per page. If you can’t identify one primary keyword for a page, you’ll need to create new website pages to separate the different content. Here is an example of what we mean: “Cloud Nine Villas” and “Cloud Nine Villa Rentals” are similar but different terms in Google’s eyes Use these similar secondary keywords on the same page. A completely unrelated term, like “Front Nine Villas” is not a good example of a secondary keyword and it would need its own page.

Step 2:  Use Appropriate Page Titles

The page title appears as the blue, bolded, underlined text on a Google search results page and on the top of the browser bar. The page title should follow these guidelines:

  • Be under 70 characters with no more than 3 long-tail keywords per page title
  • The primary keyword should appear first
  • Each keyword phrase should be separated by pipes (|)
  • Each page title on your website should be unique
  • If you include your company name it should be last, and only included if all keywords are already included and you are still under 70 characters. We recommend only including them on the Home and Contact Us pages.

Step 3:  Develop a Good Meta Description

The meta description appears on a Google search results page under the Page Title. The meta description should follow these guidelines:

  • Be under 175 characters (but not under 100 characters; take advantage of the space you have)
  • Incorporate the primary keyword and at least one secondary keyword
  • Provide a valuable, compelling reason for why someone should visit the page
  • Include keywords in a conversational format; don’t just cram in keywords for the sake of listing them

Step 4:  Create A Keyword Driven URL

The website page’s URL should include the primary keyword. Each word in the URL should be separated using dashes (-).   e.g. This a great opportunity to tell Google and your visitors what the page is about. Your content management system should allow you to set a custom url, sometimes known as permalinks. DON’T just change these at random on existing pages, make sure you check with your web developer to make sure any links to the old page will be automatically redirected to the new page.

Step 5:   Use Heading Tags

The page should have one H1 heading tag that incorporates the primary keyword, and should align with the page title. This H1 tag should appear at the top of the page. In addition to an H1 tag, the page should include a couple of H2 headings underneath the H1 that incorporates the secondary keywords. These H2s can be paragraph headers so they make sense in context with the page. On the Front Nine Villas example, instead of an H2 potentially “Individual Units” target whichever version of the above keyword isn’t used in the H1. “Front Nine Villa Rentals” or “Front Nine Villas for Rent” are great examples.

Step 6:  Develop Great Page Content

Use your primary keyword a few times throughout the page’s content. Don’t overthink keyword density or placement, you should mention them naturally. Try to bold or underline the keyword at least once.  This has an effect on how relevant the keyword is to the page. Also mention the secondary keywords when you can.

Additionally, as you are writing page content and property descriptions, think of other pages you are trying to get ranked as we’ll touch on internal linking in the next step.

Step 7:  Use Internal Links

If you mention the primary keyword of this page on other pages within your site then link to this page using the primary keyword as the anchor text. For example, each property description for a Front Nine Villa you can include a link that reads like: “Check out our other Front Nine Villa Rentals.” Specifically the keyword being targeted should be used as the link text. To make sure this is completed, take a moment to create one (1) or two (2) links on related pages that link back to the page you’re optimizing..

Step 8:  Post and Tag Relevant Images

Any images used on the page should be optimized so that search engines can “read” the image.  Optimize the most prominent image on the page using the primary keyword, and then use the primary and secondary keywords for any other images. Images can be optimized in two ways:

  • File name: Each word should be separated with dashes (-), e.g. front-nine-villa-rentals.jpg
  • ALT text: The alt text should match the file name, without dashes, e.g. Front Nine Villa Rentals

If you are unable to change image file name or it’s a very time consuming process, then only change the most prominent image’s alt text using the primary keyword.

Meta Keywords

They aren’t part of Google’s or Bing’s search algorithm, so I’m not including them as a step.  However, still use your primary and secondary keywords in the page’s meta keywords. Smaller search engines still might use them in their algorithm and you never know when Google or Bing might decide to use them again in their algorithm.

Inbound Links

Inbound linking is considered to be more of an off-page search engine optimization strategy than an on-page, but this tip is worth sharing. The more trusted sites you can get to link back to yours using the same linking format as Step 7, the higher your site will rank for that term. Inbound links are difficult to get naturally and can be very time consuming. If you are able to successfully generate inbound links from specific keywords, don’t overdo it. Only 50% of the total inbound links should include keywords as the links. A concentration above 50% in combination with a lot of inbound links is a red flag to Google of artificial link building and can result in an “over-optimization penalty” from Google.

Repeat these 8 steps for each of your website pages and property descriptions and we guarantee you’ll see increases in the number of keywords you rank for and traffic from organic search!

Shoot us an email to share your success story or for additional help. We’ve create great success for our clients in this space and would be happy to help you do the same.

*This content was contributed to in part by our friends at HubSpot