Reviews and testimonials are by far the most important thing you can put in front of potential guests (well, after pictures). Few vacationers are going to choose the property with no testimonials versus the one with many past-guest reviews or the property with two reviews versus the one with twenty! Simply put: validation by past customers is your best friend in converting visitors to inquiries and inquiries to bookings.
Putting positive vacation rental reviews on your vacation rental website and in emails to your clients simply is the best and easiest way to dramatically increase your bookings. How much? How about a double-digit percentage increase if you’re not currently doing it! All for just a couple of hours of work a month? It’s a no-brainer.
The problem with reviews is that the best ones don’t live on your website. In today’s diverse listing-portal environment (HomeAway/VRBO, AirBnB, HouseTrip, FlipKey, Homelidays, etc. -- you’re on all of them using a channel manager, aren’t you?) the reviews aren’t yours. And that’s saying nothing of reviews on travel forums and websites like TripAdvisor or Fodors. Unfortunately, it’s worse than that: the reviews on your website are those your potential guests are going to trust the least.
Capturing Reviews On The Large Listings Portals
The good news is that Trip Advisor, FlipKey, and HomeAway/VRBO have created html widgets that you can cut and paste on your website and that will show your visitors guest review counts and aggregate ratings.
Here are some links to get you started:
The bad news is that the transaction-based portals, such as AirBnB, HouseTrip, and Homelidays haven't yet provided such widgets (or even API access to the reviews for a particular property for your friendly neighborhood developer). This is unfortunate. If you have a lot of great reviews on those portals that you want to make accessible to potential guests, the best you can do is to put links on your website to AirBnB, HouseTrip, etc. The only issue is that if those guests book through those portals, you'll be losing part of your commission to their fees.
Make sure to think whether the links to the extra reviews are worth it. A good rule of thumb is: if you don’t have 5 reviews that you can point to via the widgets above, then it may be worth linking to transactional portals; but if you have the reviews, don’t bother linking.
Finding Out What People Are Saying About You
Reviews aren't the only kind of testimonial, however. A large part of the conversation about your apartment or agency may be happening across various travel forums. You should find a way to benefit from all positive mentions of your brand.
So how do you keep on top of what people are saying about you? Welcome to Google Alerts. Google Alerts sends you an email whenever it finds a new or updated on the web that matches a particular search query. You can set it up to send you a daily or weekly digest of all this activity. The trick is to setup a Google alert for your vacation rental websites’s url (e.g., “http://www.parisdeluxerentals.com”) and for its name (e.g., “Paris Deluxe Rentals”).
Then it's just a matter of reading the email from Google Alert when you get it, following any links to find out if what people are saying is positive or negative and keeping track of all the positive links. Obviously, you should also engage with people who are discussing your brand!
Putting It All Together
At this point you should have html for a couple of widgets plus a number of links to positive mentions of your property or agency. It's time to dazzle your potential guests future bookings.
- For each and every property, add the appropriate aggregate review widget(s) (and links to relevant forum discussions).
- Create a testimonials page. Make sure there is a link to it from your homepage, as well as from every property page. It’s a good candidate for your navbar or navmenu if you have one!
- On the testimonials page, the first you should do is display a few great quotes about your properties or agency along with the links to the 3rd party website where the quote originates.
- On the testimonials page, you can either list all of the links and widgets or you can have a list of headers for each and every one of your properties with the relevant links hereunder.
Since most of your interactions with potential guests are conducted via email, it’s crucial to include links to testimonials in each and every single pre-booking email you send out.
- Create an email signature (GMail, HotMail, YahooMail, Microsoft Outlook, Mail for Mac, etc. -- you can do this with just about any email client)
- Add to the signature:
- The link to the testimonials page
- A link to reviews about your agency/property on VRBO or FlipKey
- For extra flourish, add your favorite short quote by one of your previous guests
Here is a good sample signature:
There you go, you've now got customer reviews and testimonials where it matters most. Congratulations and enjoy the extra bookings.
If you are in the market for a new vacation rental website or better vacation rental software to manage your inquiries, bookings and marketing, consider using Kigo. You can contact one of our vacation rental software experts at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the phone (Spain) +34 512 702 105 ‧ (France) +33 1 84 17 04 18 ‧ (USA) +1 (786) 292-0030