Although in places we’re seeing some great occupancy rates, there’s no doubting that the reality for many operators is a noticeable downturn due to the continued squeeze on disposable incomes and subsequent cautious mindset of consumers. Amidst all this, we’re hearing one question regularly – “Should I use online listing sites for my property?”
There are a number of options on offer; free sites, sites with annual fees, commission-based sites. In general terms, you get what you pay for and there’s no doubting that most of the sites which involve either commission or a fee will work harder to bring in bookings than those which offer free listings. However, some self-caterers report good results with free sites, so this shouldn’t be discounted as a method of marketing. The number of links to your website has a strong impact on your search engine optimisation and the more people who see your property the more chance your bookings will increase.
Paid listing sites generally offer good returns, however before spending money on these, it’s crucial to research carefully, choose one or two listing sites (especially those that specialise in your property type or region) and after signing up, evaluate carefully to see which sources have brought most bookings. Be prepared to spend some time testing different listing sites until you find one (or a combination of several) which works well for you. Also, look for niche marketing sites which suit your property – is it particularly suitable for young children or dogs; is it by the sea; on a farm; in a particularly beautiful or unspoilt region?
Major listing sites allocate large budgets to search engine optimisation, so they come near the top of search engine results. It’s therefore fairly unlikely you’ll get ahead of them for the particular keywords you choose to define your business. So it makes sense to join them and “buy in” to get your share of their marketing and optimisation.
The bad bit? Listing with some sites can be expensive, where commission is charged (especially if the only bookings they find you are for dates you would have filled anyway.) It’s also difficult to realistically calculate in advance what it will cost you with a commission-based listing compared to one which charges an annual fixed fee. However, as a general rule you should see increased bookings, helping to offset the overall cost to your business. It’s also important to remember that you will be able to monitor the effectiveness of each (essentially you are paying for performance) through your own web analytics and SuperControl’s booking sources reports.
The good news is that SuperControl integrates with several booking websites – automatically updating availability and pricing on your listings for you.