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You don’t catch fish by dipping your toe in the water. A website marketing makeover.

by Paul Montreal. Average Reading Time: about 8 minutes.

Vacation Rental Website Marketing Makeover

I’m doing a marketing makeover on Linda Lou’s website. She’s got a vacation rental house on the Caribbean Island of Curacao. She’s not a native English speaker, so she’s worried about finding the right words. But how much is selling a tropical island paradise about getting the words right, and how much is something else? (As I write this from the UK, I’m listening to hailstones falling from a grey sky and I have a bad case of the flu). So, woolly hats and lozenges all around, here are my top 5 tips for turning this tropical paradise website around…

vacation rental website marketing makeover

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1. You have to draw people into the page or they’ll skim right off.

As soon as I land on the homepage I’m confronted with a lot of copy and a lot of links.

A full third of the page is navigation. More than a third is a big chunk of copy and I see just the top of a giant rotating image carousel.

It’s not enough to have all the right elements on a page. They have to be laid out in a way that draws the user into the content. Landing on a page is not the same as reading the page. There has to be a hierarchy that draws the user INTO the content. Otherwise they’ll either skim right down it until something does draw them in. Or, more often, they’ll just hit the back button and move onto the next 1 of 10,000 search results. And they make this decision within a couple of seconds.

I’d decrease your navigation section dramatically. You don’t need offer buttons and logos up there.

Then, I’d reduce your introduction copy to about a third. Here’s what you’ve got right now…

Villa Seashell, one of the most popular Curacao rentals, is ideal for families, larger groups, and those that are looking for safety, privacy, and space.

Here you find turtles, dolphins and tropical fish right at your doorsteps.
Our luxury and spacious oceanfront villa is ideally situated at the tranquil South West coast in the very safe resort Coral Estate, close to the most beautiful Curacao beaches.
Instead of staying in one of the Curacao hotels, try our Curacao vacation rental, Villa Seashell!

The villa comprises 4 bedrooms each with a private bathroom and accomodates up to 8 persons.
Villa Seashell has a good size private pool. The beach is at walking distance.
Rates are from US$ 375 a night.

The best place of Villa Seashell is the thatched-roof hut in the back yard. It offers 8+ lounge seating, shade, a continuous sea breeze, and a wide view of the ocean. There is always something to see: small fishermen boats, large cruise ships, pelicans, turtles, and because of the crystal clear water lots of tropical fish.

Writing good copy isn’t really about being a master of the English language at all. It’s not about big fancy words. It’s about knowing what’s important to your customers. In this context, your customer is searching for something. When they land on the page your copy should quickly confirm what it is they are searching for. Then encourage them to dig deeper by sharing the most fundamental benefits that your property has to offer. Here’s a really quick and dirty look at how I’d replace that big block of text…

Vacation Rental In The Caribbean Island Paradise Of Curacao

For the type of traveller who demands space and privacy, Villa Seashell is a 4 bedroom villa, overlooking the crystal clear waters of Curacao. Enjoy lazy afternoons watching the dolphins, turtles and tropical fish from your outdoor dining area. And soak up atmospheric evenings around the pool in the company of your family or group. Hosting 8 people in tropical luxury from $345 a night….

Now hit them with your most ATMOSPHERIC picture.

Let’s go deeper…

This copy writing malarky is a process of RESEARCHING and TESTING. That’s why I don’t like to push my rewrites as the final word. I don’t really know your property or your customers at all. And even if I did, I’d still be testing lots of options until I could PROVE which key words and phrases work the best.

Let’s consider a few of the things I’ve included or excluded which I would encourage you to TEST as you optimise your own introduction…

  • Headline: My headline confirms what your customers are searching for. In this case, the keywords you told me you want to rank for, namely “vacation rental Curacao”. Plus I’ve added “Caribbean Island” to better position where you are in the world. And I’m pointing to the dream that people are actually looking for … “Paradise”.
  • Safety: You mention “safety” in your headline and “very safe” in your intro. As someone who hasn’t visited the area, that doesn’t actually make me feel safe. It makes me worried. I would include the safety aspects in the Amenities section, but probably not in the headline or introduction. I would definitely run a split test to see if that reassures or repels people.
  • Price: How price sensitive are holiday customers at this point? I don’t know, so I’d be testing whether to include my price right there in the intro, or whether to get people to fall in love with the place first.
  • Build on the Caribbean brand: I hadn’t heard of Curacao before, so I wasn’t sure where it was. Now, many of the people searching for you WILL already know where you are. But you seem to be missing out on a bigger opportunity to me, by not mentioning “the Caribbean” anywhere. Not only does it help better orient you geographically, but the Caribbean already has such a strong brand identity that you can benefit from. Plus you’ve a better chance of convincing some people who aren’t familiar with the individual Caribbean islands, that yours is the one to choose.
  • Unique Benefits: Make a list of the unique benefits of a) The Caribbean, b) Curacao, c) Your property. Look back through your testimonials, look at other tourism websites. Then make sure you’re highlighting the most unique aspects of the product you have, right upfront. Now, instead of just listing these things as features, present them as part of a narrative. Give them atmosphere. Help your readers imagine the pleasurable future they are going to enjoy there. For example, instead of just saying “we have a pool” say “soak up atmospheric evenings around the pool in the company of your family” or whatever. The point is, paint a compelling picture with simple words.

Action: Think in terms of getting people to INVEST their time into each page. Start with a clear headline. Then expand with two or three relevant sentences and a killer image that confirms this is a page worth investing more time reading. Every page on your site is an opportunity to draw people in, or have them bail. Don’t be afraid to split test every aspect systematically over time.

cur-photos-short

2. Sell the experience, not the bricks and mortar

People aren’t flying to Curacao for your building. Your building is simply what allows them to enjoy their dream holiday in a Caribbean paradise.

Looking at the images you’re presenting me on the homepage, they aren’t bad, they just aren’t exciting. They don’t make me dream of the holiday I’m looking forward to. They are more like real estate images. You’re selling “the product”, not the dream holiday.

Anyone can take a snapshot with a camera. But a great photographer tells a story using selected images. A story that helps your users imagine the dream holiday they’re looking forward to.

You actually do this better in the video at the bottom of the page. But most people won’t make it that far down the page.

Action: Really invest in a great photographer, someone who knows how to tell a human story with photos. Work with them to tell a story where your customers are the heroes and your building is just the backdrop for their tropical adventure.

cur-design-half

3. Web design is packaging. It positions your product and determines who you attract and how much money they have to spend.

There are many levels of luxury, but a private villa on a Caribbean Island is a luxury product is it not?

You’re selling something extra ordinary. People are paying a premium to leave their ordinary life in their less sunny country and spend a couple of weeks in “paradise”. It’s like selling a wedding. People suspend reality for a while. All of a sudden people are thinner, better dressed, drive fancier cars and splash out on all sorts of treats.

Your design should reflect that luxury aspect.

I’m always surprised how much people are willing to spend on the thing they are selling, in this case the building, but how little they want to spend on the marketing of that product. Your investment in the look and feel of your website design should do justice to the product.

What does “design” actually include? Colour schemes. Typography. Visual Hierarchy. Layout and spacing. Photography. A lot of small things that create an overall visual impression. A lot of small things everyone thinks they can do themselves, but very rarely can.

Right now, the overall design doesn’t communicate “luxury private villa”. It doesn’t communicate “special”. It doesn’t make me drool. And it should, because that’s your job, to sell me the dream of your tropical island paradise. That’s why I’m going to fly half way across the planet to hang out there. Or not.

Action: Go find the most gorgeous tropical island websites you can and study what makes them so appealing. Break it down into specific details. Invest in a designer who has the taste level to communicate luxury and share your ideas with them. I don’t want to give out a one-size fits all prescription for aesthetics. But I do want you to invest more into the details of your design, into your packaging of this product. I want you to understand the product you’re selling and COMPETE more aggressively.

CONTINUED…

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