Website not giving you the results you expected? How about some non-judgemental feedback from a fresh set of eyes? Apply for an online marketing tune-up with Paul Montreal

Remember, people are walking sacks of scared. A website marketing makeover.

by Paul Montreal. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.


I’m doing a marketing makeover on John’s website. He’s running a vacation property website, renting out his modern Toronto house. John tells me he’s got a great Google ranking but his site isn’t converting visitors to customers. (I’m listening to Brian Reitzell’s Interpolating Moonlight Sonata while I work). So hold onto your crack pipes, here are my top 6 tips for turning this website around…

Vacation Rental Website Makeover

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1. This is a sales website, start selling the second your customer arrives.

So, the domain name gives me a lot of information and positions this rental as a premium spot, (, that’s great. I hit the page and see a beautiful Toronto skyline, I’m looking forward to my visit. Then, after a second or two, I get a pop-up image gallery. I’m shown 2 images and a link to see more. And there’s a big headline with “Stanley’s Park from $350 a night”.

So at this point a lot of people are going to evaluate whether to invest more time digging deeper into your site, or bail and follow the next link on Google, or wherever they came from. That means you need to start selling what you’ve got right away, don’t expect your visitors to do the work for you, they’re going to take the path of least resistance.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, you are an expert in what you’re selling, they aren’t.

I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of your customers. Are they travelling to Toronto on business or for a holiday? Are they Canadian or coming from overseas?

One thing is certain, they likely don’t know Toronto and the rental market anywhere near as well as you do. They don’t know the geography, the good parts, the bad parts, they don’t know the general standards and they don’t know the prices. So it’s our job to help educate them and position this property, so they can feel good about that $350 price tag.

On its own $350 means nothing. You’re not selling a commodity here, but if all you do is present a price, that’s what people will do, evaluate you against the last price they saw. And the last thing you want to do is compete on price.

Is your customer going to have any clue where or what “Stanley’s Park” is? Most people would struggle to point out where Toronto itself is on a map. (Or any other destination – don’t take it personally Toronto, you’re great.)

In just a few sentences I’d want to see a summary on your homepage that persuades me to invest my time digging deeper. Start with the basics, we can expand once they’re hooked…

  • What type of person rents this type of property? Acknowledge their taste and beliefs and standards.
  • What are the key attractions in the immediate area that are most convenient for your guests? Do most of your guest come for the business centre, or the theatre, or family holidays or…?
  • And how can we position your property so that $350 has some tangible meaning right from the start?

Without digging deeper into your data, here’s an imaginary example of how that might look.

Premium Vacation Rental Property In The Heart of Down Town Toronto
If you’re the type of person who demands premium accommodation in a private setting, this is your home away from home. Whether you’re visiting Toronto for work or play we are located within a 10 minute walk of the Direct Energy Exhibition Centre, the Entertainment District and the beautiful bay front. This 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom property sleeps 4 adults in 5 star luxury from $350 a night. Take a look inside…

Action: Your website exists to sell the value that you’re offering. So start selling right away. Every step sells the next one and gets your customer to invest more time in learning about you. Your headline sells your sub-header, your sub-header sells your introduction, which sells your gallery, which sells…. It’s up to us to do the hard work so that your customer sinks into that flow.

Click for full size

Click for full size

2. Show and tell.

You have a reasonably large gallery of well-sized (big) images. This is great. But the gallery didn’t work properly for me on fullscreen and I tested it in two different browsers. (No technical bells and whistles should get in the way of delivering fundamentals like images when there are sales at stake).

The photography is excellent. The apartment looks clean, spacious, modern, light and airy. The shots are well staged and the rooms well dressed, all superb.

However, the images seem over compressed to me. It’s always a balancing act between having compressed images that are fast loading over clearer, more beautiful images. These are too compressed for my liking, which is compromising the quality of the image and the impression it communicates. This is a premium property and you’re not forcing these images on people unnecessarily. They are choosing to browse the gallery to see how cool your property is, so do the great images justice.

Action: Re-upload your images with less compression for a higher quality feel. Use a more robust image gallery plugin that works properly in all browsers.

Click for full size

Click for full size

3. Don’t make your website into a puzzle.

OK, I’ve finished browsing your lovely pictures, but now what? I’m left totally hanging. There’s nothing to scroll down to, there’s no obvious next step. I have to read the navigation and make a decision as to where to go next.

Whenever possible avoid forcing your customer to make decisions or think about anything unnecessary. It’s your job to take them by the hand and lead them through this process in a smooth, effortless manner.

If I were doing a vacation rental site, I’d likely have the vast majority of my information on a single page. One section flowing into the next. Is there really any need to make a user click on 8 different pages to say what you need to say about one property?

Action: Consolidate your sales process into as few pages as possible. Increase the flow, minimise the decision making. Never leave your customer at the end of a page without giving them a clear next step to take. Don’t make your sales process into a puzzle they must solve. They won’t.


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