Showcase Your Vacation Rental or Real Estate Listing with a Floor Plan

Adding a floor plan of your vacation rental to show potential guests generates a measurable improvement in your number of bookings.
TruPlace, formerly Mouse on House, commissioned an independent study of over 1,400 vacation rentals that demonstrates a 97% increase in revenue from bookings for properties using their interactive floor plan tours. The amount of time it took to book the property also was measurably shorter. Likewise, at Blizzard, we find that properties with interactive floor plan tours on their property pages generate more revenue.
floor plans increase reservations

The reservation revenue per property for properties with interactive floor plan tours was 97% higher than for those properties without floor plan tours.

virtual tours and floor plans

The booking lead time for properties with interactive floor plan tours is 12 days shorter than for properties without tours.

What the study could not measure was the cost savings in phone calls. The number of phone calls that it took to book the property was presumably smaller, because anyone with questions about the layout of the property was able to find out the answer to their question online. Let’s look at why this is the case. Your goal is to get reservations. Once someone finds your website, how can you turn a looker into a booker? The websites that anticipate the traveler’s questions, and answer them, get more reservations.
Travelers’ questions:

  • Where is it located, exactly?
  • What’s the place like?
  • How much is it?

When it comes to what is the place like, getting a bird’s eye view of the floor plan answers that question in  a split second. In a glance, your potential guests can answer such questions as:

  • How noisy does it look like it will be?
  • Where can I watch TV in the middle of the night without waking up my family?
  • Where will I be relative to the kids? The other people we are staying with?
  • Does my room have a view?
  • Where is the balcony/deck relative to my bedroom? Relative to the kitchen?
  • What is the kitchen like?
  • Are there stairs?
  • How many bathrooms are there and where are they?

Real-Estate-Floor-Plan-Vacation-Rental

What’s the difference between an interactive floor plan tour and a 360 virtual tour?

An interactive floor plan is a floor plan that is clickable. It combines still photography with a floor plan of the entire property so that the visitor can have a high level view and navigate through the home. A 360 virtual tour combines videos or still images in order to provide a simulation of walking through a location.

Interactive floor plan tours can be made just from architectural floor plan renderings; the property does not need to be built yet. Also they are mobile friendly and load more quickly than 360 virtual tours.

360 virtual tours, on the other hand, can provide  a full 360 degree view of the rooms, and if when done correctly, are more entertaining content to put on your website.

Unlike videos and 360 virtual tours, a floor plan gives the traveler a great deal of information in a single glance. That is not to say, however, that videos and 360 virtual tours do not do well. Everyone likes to be entertained. However, if you have videos or 360 virtual tours, make sure that they are actually entertaining; or your potential guest will quickly grow weary of watching them!

Having entertaining content on your website, such as videos and 360 virtual tours, can increase your website traffic and the amount of time that people spend on your site. These are good indicators for Google and can increase your website’s position in search results. Having floor plans and interactive floor plans on your website can help potential guests decide whether to book a specific property. For that reason, interactive floor plan tours can generate more revenue than 360-virtual tours, because the potential guest can click on the floor plan and quickly answer many of the questions that they have.

Do you have a property owner who wants more bookings? Ask them if they are willing to pay for an interactive floor plan tour.

Why the Miley Thing Mattered

Miley during the VMA's

Miley Cyrus

I think Miley Cyrus taught us all a valuable lesson on Monday. Your eyes aren’t fooling you. You read that right.

Miley Cyrus lit up the social world with her antics on MTV’s Video Music Awards. When CNN.com led their news with the Miley story on Tuesday (a day when a new war is on the brink, fires are out of control and more) some questioned CNN’s judgment of newsworthiness. Meredith Artley, Managing Editor of CNN.com, explained the decision in simplistic fashion and her reasoning aligns perfectly with what we tell our clients about their posts, contents, and traffic drivers.

Simply put, Artley explained that we as media consumers don’t click on stories about fires and wars. We do click on stories about our celebrities though – especially when there is a picture of Hannah Montana in lingerie. In order to get the click on the web, you have to get the reader’s attention. It doesn’t have to be risqué like the Miley thing, but it should be valuable. For instance, if you want to get people to spend more time on your website, you need to provide content for them to navigate through.

In the news world, the main goal is just to get people – and it doesn’t matter who – to spend time on a website and get you to view a bunch of pages so they can sell advertising. To advertisers, each set of eyeballs is another cheeseburger, pair of shoes, car, etc. In general, any traffic is good traffic in the retail world. All this traffic is driven by:

Content, oh content! We’re not saying to post photos of scantily clad women all throughout your website. That’ll get you traffic, but it won’t be the kind you want. Those visitors aren’t interested in booking a room or a tour, they’re interested in skin. You need to have relevant content about things to do during a stay, tour information, neighborhood information, descriptions of the area, places to eat, where to rent a boat or skis, or a service you’re providing your guests that your competitors are not. Spend some time to make your content more interesting than your competitors. That content will get people to spend time on your website.

When people spend time on your site, people spend money on your site. That’s a proven fact and that’s why McDonald’s and Nike are what they are and why they don’t care if the content is about Miley (or Britney or Bieber or Boo Boo…). They care about getting eyes on their advertising – and you should too. Your job is much harder because you need to make sure those eyes are interested in your product, but the right content will get you the eyeballs.

See, now you can’t say Miley hasn’t taught you anything.

Announcing Our New VP Sales and Marketing!

ericwithgirls

Eric and his 3 daughters Celeste, Brooke and Audrey

Last month, here at Blizzard, we welcomed Eric Fullerton as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Eric has a very unique and diverse background in online marketing and technology implementation and we are so excited to have him here!

Eric’s expertise has helped many leading companies develop innovative solutions online which have lead to increases in business and enhanced ROI. For the past 13 years, Eric has worked in online marketing and eCommerce/web architecture for Aspen/Snowmass Resort, Stay Aspen Snowmass, Sport Obermeyer, and Ski.com.  Among other things, he also helped to improve the online presence for over 150 websites in hospitality and other industries.

You may recognize his name from a conference or workshop you’ve attended in the past.  He’s presented at numerous industry gatherings, including Search Engine Strategies in New York and Mountain Travel Symposium, the annual event for the ski industry.  He also co-produced the Partners in Group Sales conference for several years.  His engaging and entertaining presentations have earned him high regards amongst those in both the hospitality and SEO industries.

“I am very excited to be a part of this expert team at Blizzard Internet Marketing,” says Eric, “In the short time I have been here, it is clear that this company’s customer-centric values, service, and professionalism provide a high caliber of comprehensive marketing solutions for hotel, resort, vacation rental, and real estate companies in the US. I am confident that with our modern technology solutions coupled with our excellent reputation and visionary leadership we can go very far.”

Eric holds Bachelors degrees from UC Santa Cruz in philosophy and psychology and a MBA with an emphasis in Marketing/eCommerce from the University of Phoenix. We look forward to Eric sharing his vast knowledge and techniques to continue to push our client’s Online Marketing efforts to the next level.  His expertise and passion for marketing and technology will give us some extra edge!

Be sure to catch Eric at our upcoming Blizzard University on July 16 & 17th here in Glenwood Springs.   He will also be speaking at the national VRMA conference in Nashville and RezFest in Las Vegas this fall.  And if you can’t make it to the Workshop, be sure to keep an eye out for some of his great knowledge on our blog.  If you don’t run into him camping, hunting, hiking or skiing in the mountains, you can follow him here: www.linkedin.com/in/ericfullerton or on twitter: @ericjfullerton

 

Where to Stick that Nav: Best Practices in Website Navigation

Confession: my colleague Julia and I are left-leaning web designers.

That’s not a political statement; it’s a best practice in design that acknowledges what scientific research has learned about how readers view your website.

fpattern

This hotspot map shows the F-shaped eye movement pattern. The color is generated by heat – where people looked longest, the color is hottest. The pink hot spots are concentrated in the top left-hand corner of the page. Image courtesy of usability.gov, a US government website devoted to internet usability research.

Eye tracking research has revealed that visitors scan your website in an F-shaped pattern like the one shown at right. That’s not surprising, considering that since the time of Gutenberg, publishers have laid out their text moving from top to bottom and left to right. (Nay, it was earlier! The monks who hand-transcribed English, Germanic and Romance language scripts during the Dark Ages were following this already-established cultural pattern.)

What is surprising is how fast readers’ eyes track through these patterns. The majority of people leave a web page after about 10-20 seconds. Given that people read about 250 words a minute, or four words a second, that means that you are going to be able to communicate only 40-80 words.

If you’re trying to make sales, they had better be good words, and they had better be in the right place. So what’s the right place? Eye-scan research by the Nielsen Norman Group found out that:

  • Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half.
  • Only 1% of viewing time was spent on content to the right beyond the initially-visible 1,024 pixels on a standard monitor.

As designers for Blizzard Internet Marketing, we design with these findings mind. We use best practices such as those below to keep visitors on your website longer, communicate better, and ultimately, improve your website as a sales tool.

Best Practices for Locating Navigation

  • Locate your main navigation horizontally, near the top of the page.
  • Avoid horizontal scrolling. Keep the type big enough to read (at least 14 pixels high) and not more than 980 pixels wide.
  • If you need secondary navigation — or insist on having your main navigation in a vertical orientation — place it on the left side of the page.

Best Practices for Locating Content

  • Keep the main content near the left, indented from the main navigation.
  • Showcase your most important content between one-third and halfway across the page. This is where readers focus most.
  • Keep important content “above the fold” – high enough on the page so that people don’t have to scroll down to see it.
  • Have a clear center of attention. (If you try to make everything important, nothing will be.)
  • Place less important content to the right.
Telluride Rentals website by Blizzard Internet Marketing

Best practices of navigation and content are applied in Blizzard-designed websites such as the one shown above for Telluride Rentals. Although the website is “responsive” and resizes to fit huge monitors, as well as tablets and smart phones, the main navigation is about 980 pixels wide. The main navigation and secondary navigation form the F scan pattern, and the important quick search button is located on the viewer-preferred left side of the page.

 

Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns

In the beginning of February, Google AdWords announced their change to Enhanced Campaigns for their customers.  This “upgrade” is so new that advertisers have been given until mid-late July to finish making the changes on their accounts before Google will handle it for you.  It’s too early to make any predictions or measure the changes, but let’s take a quick look at the updates so that you can understand the intent of this new feature.

What is the purpose of this change? 

Consumers access and search the internet through the use of multiple devices, and you want to grab your potential guests at the most ideal moment.  For most Advertisers, Enhanced Campaigns will allow you to send a targeted message to searchers based on goal intention, time of day and device used.

How does it work?

Within a campaign, you’ll have the ability to adjust your bid for mobile devices.  If you have a good percentage of consumers who use mobile phones, you’ll be able to target them within the same campaign that you have set up for computers and tablet devices.  Enhanced Campaigns give you the ability to increase your bids based on a searchers location or opt out of serving your ads to specific locations.

Smarter Ads

Within your campaigns, you’ll have the ability to show the right advertisement based on certain factors.  Maybe you want to advertise specific deals to the user who is in your neighborhood or show your local phone number (as opposed to your 800#) with your advertisement.  Enhanced Campaigns allow you to showcase relevant information to your customers based on their location, search intent and search device.

It may sound like a lot to take in, but it’s meant to simplify campaign set ups by minimizing the number of campaigns you’ll want to use.  The ability to deliver ads based on device and use your campaign extensions by ad group will provide useful data to improve your message and help you better reach your end goals.

Google AdWords Remarketing Campaign Best Practices – Part 3 of 3

A remarketing campaign, when set up well, can cost less than a regular pay-per-click campaign. Here are some best practices to follow for remarketing campaigns:

  1. Know your remarketing campaign’s objective. Is it for general branding or to facilitate a purchase? If it’s for a purchase, remarketing ads are ideal to offer special pricing to customers who have already visited your site and to motivate them to take action now and buy! Also, we recommend using cost-per-click bidding for most campaigns, except for the most generalized branding campaigns, which could use cost-per-impression.
  2. Set up specific bids.  Use the features in AdWords to segment or target your display campaigns based on interests, remarketing lists, or demographics.  In the case of remarketing, you’ll want to set bids based on specific audiences, it increases the chance of your ad displaying properly. Each audience segment will have a specific bid assigned to it that you can manipulate in order to accomplish your goals.  Follow your campaigns and adjust bids as necessary to achieve conversions on your website.
  3. Use remarketing tags. Remarketing tags are specific Google analytics scripts that when implemented, allow you to target website visitors that have been to specific areas of your website.  By using a single code throughout the website, you can build lists within Google analytics based on actions, pages visited, and goals, and use them in AdWords to build your target audience.    When putting together the audience, you will have the ability to exclude people who have completed certain goals or have already purchased from you.  
  4. Use contextual targeting. Contextual targeting matches your ads to those sites on the Display Network that are relevant based keywords or topics, among other factors.  You have the ability to allow Google to choose these sites for you with Automatic Placements or you can manually add websites or pages by using the Managed Placements option.  After your campaign has run for a while, you also have the ability to block sites that aren’t performing or don’t match your goals. 
  5. Limit the frequency that your ad is shown. Don’t be creepy or annoying.  Put a frequency cap on how often your ad is shown to certain users.  We suggest capping your ads at 3 views per 24 hour period.
  6. Measure what works. Review your placement reports and nurture the campaigns that perform the best.  Follow your statistics and keep your goals in mind.

Remarketing can be a very successful endeavor for many goals in your advertising campaigns.  It sends a highly targeted message that should result in a substantial ROI.  Following these basic standards will help you to achieve your goals.

Reduce the Overwhelm! Tips from Minimal Marketing Efforts 2013 VRMA West Roundtable

When I hosted the Minimum Marketing roundtable at the 2013 VRMA West conference in Denver, I said that I would type up the notes of what we discussed and send them out to everyone who gave me their business card. It was a lively discussion and I heard from a few people that it was the highlight of the conference to hear from their peers about what they do in their markets.

I am sharing it here too so that you, also, can have a chance to reduce your everyday overwhelm and focus on what is most important in your business.

At the roundtable, I started by highlighting 4 guidelines to streamline your marketing efforts:

  1. Know your target market well. The more that you focus on a specific type of person to go after, the less marketing you do, and the more efficient you can be with your time, money and energy.
  2. Make sure that you treat your existing customers well. This reduces the energy you need to spend getting new customers.

    • This goes for both homeowners and for travelers. If you can keep your existing homeowners happy, it’s easy to grow. If you delight each traveler that uses your services so much that they wouldn’t think of booking anywhere else, you minimize the number of properties that you need to fill with new travelers.
  3. Branding is easy when you know your target market and you listen to them. Branding tells you what channels you need to focus on, and reduces and the number of decisions you need to make.
    • On a side note: Google rewards consistent branding. The people who have chosen you will tell you why they chose you. They will tell you what you have to offer that your competitors don’t. The more that you know what you have to offer, the more you can get the word out to your target market. This is your brand. With regard to the online world, research shows that if you rank well for a keyword phrase on your website, your Pay-Per-Click ad campaigns perform better. This also carries through to the messages and posts you do in social media  channels. The more consistent you are in your messages and to whom those messages are relevant, the better your website will perform in Google.
    • Another note is that your branding should produce an emotional response in those who come into contact with it. Your goal is to pay attention to the feelings that your advertising, reservationists, and customer service employees evoke in the people that they touch. Branding is not about reality; it’s about what perception that people have of you and your company.
  4. Pay attention to your competition. None of us operates our businesses in a vacuum. Identify your competitors based on your target market. You don’t need to watch all companies, just the ones that provide services to your target market.

Next, we took a poll to decide which of the 2 markets, travelers or owners, that you wanted to talk about. Every VRM wants to get more owners, so we decided to focus on marketing to get more owners.

We discussed that marketing for any specific market often has 2 main channels that are the most effective for that market. We went around the table asking each person to identify their most successful marketing channels to get owners. The winners, by an overwhelming  margin, were:

  1. Marketing Channel #1: Referrals from real estate agents. (It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.)
    • Find out when the brokers’ meetings are taking place and ask if you can go and speak to them.
    • Bring donuts! Anytime!
    • Know where your owners are coming from. One person marketed to real estate agents in other states like Texas because so many Texans were coming to her area to buy vacation homes.
    • Give incentives to realtors for owners that sign with you. The referral price range mentioned at our table was a referral fee of $250-$300 for an owner.
    • Some VRMs provided an estimated rental income analysis for their area. This is good to share for any homeowner you want to sign with you; don’t forget to share this information with realtors as well. A realtor can possibly sell a home quicker if it includes a rental analysis at the For Sale sign. If it’s got your logo and contact info on it, that’s free marketing for you.
    • We discussed how all realtors want more leads and you have leads you could give them. However, it’s a double-edged sword. You don’t want to alienate any realtors because you didn’t send them leads. If there are ways to do this in a fair way so that you ruffle as few feathers as possible, do it that way.
  1. Marketing Channel #2: Direct mail.
    • Go to the title company and tell them who are you are targeting.
    • Do you know what homes rent well in your market? Send out mailers with valuable content to all of the homes in the best areas. Keep sending mail to those areas even if it’s a basic newsletter or tips every so often about how to “winterize your home” or other important information that people need to know.
      • If you include a landing page on your website for your direct mail piece, you can track how well your mailing did, and possibly find out who you should call. However you do it, the more you pay attention to the results of your marketing, the more efficient you become.
      • In any case, if you write it for the direct mail piece, share it on your website! This allows you to keep your website content fresh, which is important in ranking well, and also provides targeted relevant content, which is equally important for Google. Also consider sharing it with:
        • Realtors
        • Other partners of yours
        • Facebook
        • Google Plus
        • Twitter, if you tweet.
        • Email marketing
          • The most efficient marketers have this set up as a system so that they create content and blast it out in many channels. Talk about simplifying your efforts!
  1. Other marketing ideas to consider, if you find that the top 2 marketing channels do not work well enough for you.
    • Events. If you know where your target market is going to be, be at those events. You may even want to host your own events, such as a wine and cheese reception that tells all of the clients of your favorite realtors what you have to offer.
    • Your reputation. Everything you do is marketing, because everything you do builds your reputation, whether good or bad. Pay attention to how well you are doing things, and you will grow your business in the most sustainable and fundamental way.

If you remember anything, just remember this.

 You don’t need to do it all.

 If you can only do one thing, do this:

 Set up a distribution system to get your messages and value-added tips

out to as much of your target market as possible.