BlogMarch 2022The Path to Booking

The Path to Booking

A finger is about to click the Booking button

A guide based on 20 years of increasing direct bookings with good web design.

Design, in our scenario, is much more than your website looking “pretty” or “modern”. Of course, it needs to look good, but when I say design I mean - By design or intentionally thought out.

With that, our first part is an overview or big picture of your website.

First, we need to be on the same page (pun intended).

Your entire website can be broken into two types of pages: Booking path pages and non-booking path pages.

You want to get users on a booking path so the goal of non-booking path pages is to move them to a booking path page. And of course, the goal of a booking path page is just that, to promote a user to book their stay.

Non-Booking Path Pages

What are they?

Non-booking pages can include blogs, listings like “Things to do”, “Dining” or “About Us” pages.

The goal for these pages is to simply get people to your website. What do I mean?

Even though most people only take one vacation rental trip a year, we typically send out monthly or even bi-weekly email campaigns. We are hoping to put our brand in front of them at the right time when they are ready to plan a vacation.

But if every email is sales-based (“deal” or “buy now”), being on your email list loses its value. They unsubscribe and then you’ve lost them forever. The long-term value of an email subscriber is huge, so it’s best practice to keep the content lifestyle focused. That’s really where non-booking path pages come in. Using these, you can provide your subscribers something of value every week or month. A blog on tips for packing, a review of a new local restaurant, or a list of favorite local spots all can keep a user engaged even when they are not ready to go on a vacation.

4 tips for Non-booking Pages

Tip # 1: Since non-booking pages are used to get people to your website, don’t water down your booking pages with too many non-booking pages.

  • Remember Google is also trying to determine what your website is all about. So if half your main navigation is about area things to do or events or restaurants, it waters down your authority as a vacation rental expert. You’ll be promoting people who were on a booking path to potentially get off of one to check out local restaurants.
  • Here is our demo site: It’s pretty obvious that the main thing to do here is start a search. Even after you select the navigation, non-booking pages are lower on the list.

Tip #2: While you still want to have non-booking path pages to get people to your website, make sure the way your website is structured, the links you add to things to do or restaurants or events are tagged as no-follow. This is so Google doesn’t view you as a link farm.

Tip #3: Provide “Call-to-Actions” on non-booking path pages to get them on a booking path.

  • For example: restaurants or things to do pages should highlight preferred or nearby rentals close to that point of interest. You’ll do the same with events. Go ahead and link to search results for rentals available during that event's time period.

Tip #4: All non-booking path pages should have a soft and hard call-to-action to get a user on a booking path page. A soft example is “View properties that relate to this blog” and a harder call-to-action would be “Thanks for looking at our restaurant review -sign up to our e-club to receive insider area tips”

As we said, non-booking path pages are meant to get people to your website. Once you got them there, now what?

Reduce Inhibitors

What’s an inhibitor? Anything that would inhibit or prevent a user from booking. There are many potential inhibitors, but most can be broken down into 3 categories.

  1. Location: Why would I want to vacation here? What makes this a better spot than another?
  2. Brand: Once you’ve convinced them your area is where they want to be, next you need to stand out from your competition. What makes your brand yours? “Why would I rent from you over someone else?”
  3. Product: Do you have the product I’m looking for? Maybe this would be bedrooms or features like a hot tub.

How do you reduce those inhibitors?

Booking Path: Homepage Design

The homepage should be viewed as a “shotgun” approach to hopefully bring down those 3 inhibitors and in that order.

With any type of conversion-based marketing like retargeting or users on your email club, hopefully, you’ve already brought the first 2 inhibitors down - so you can link directly to the 3rd – your product (popular searches, details pages, search results).

When someone gets to your home page, you typically have no idea which inhibitor they are still working through. Thus, you want to speak to your location, brand, and product.

If you present yourself as just a means for a product as many do, having “Featured Properties” front and center, VRBO or Airbnb will win since they have more products, more selection. But if you focus on what you offer as a brand, you build a reason for a guest to stick with you.

Some ideas to do that include:

  • A guest rewards program
  • Highlight your accolades or review ratings
  • Build out your “About Us” pages
  • One of my favorite ways to promote your brand is through our advocacy program. More on that here:


Homepage Design Tips

  • Keep navigation simple: less is more – highlight booking path pages
  • Featured property blocks are a dead end. The chances of a random property meeting the guest’s needs are low
  • A name search bar belongs in the footer. Yes, your reservationists love it but guests rarely use it
  • Video is king. Google loves it but it also can bring down inhibitors quickly – just remember it needs to be shot as a “background” display
  • Here’s a good example featuring these tips

Booking Path: Rentals Page

While the homepage speaks to your locations and brand, you can skip that on your rentals page. This page is your main landing page when engaging leads that are already “sold” on the area and even your brand.

The rentals page should help your users identify what is important to them. Maybe things like popular search pages such as pet-friendly, chef’s kitchen, waterfront ski-in/ski-out, hot tub, pool, and so on (pretty much anything that you have as a filter).

Group all of your properties by feature and put them on one page describing why you do that aspect better than everyone else. Not only is that great for SEO - giving Google a dedicated page per keyword, but it gets a user on a booking path helping them identify what's most important to them.

The rentals page should also have location-based booking paths. For example, a dedicated page for each one of the towns, subdivisions, or complexes you represent. Again, not only does this help identify you as an authority for each of those search terms it gives you a place to group units within each location for Google.

Rental Page Tips

  • Use a link to an interactive map here showing properties and their proximity to key points of interest.
  • This is a great place to have a “View all” link. That page needs to have image thumbs for each property as people remember the look of the home more than the name.
  • Here’s a good example

Booking Path: Specials or Deals

Some users will never make a purchase unless they feel like they're getting a deal. Whether you are actually offering discounts or not, you should always have something under the specials or deals section of your website.

Some ideas include a military discount, a past guest discount, or a last-minute or fill the gaps discount. Our platform has the ability to dynamically add and remove properties to a special that meets certain requirements. For example, if a property has a gap between bookings, it will add that property to a special that gives 15% off if it’s 5 days out or 10% if it’s 20 days out.

Another great feature is to be able to add packages or value-added specials, especially if you don't want to devalue your properties by doing too many discounts. We've seen clients have success with running a special that gives the first 25 reservations a gift bag on arrival to create urgency.

The point is to have something, and all pages should have a “sign up to our e-club" call-to-action. 

Booking Path: Property Details Page

I've seen so many people get very caught up in how to lay out information on the property details page. Over the years, we've come up with a ton of different ways to do it. But we realized we were basically trying to reinvent the wheel. How? Something called cognitive influence.

Sites like VRBO, Airbnb, even Delta and have dumped a lot of money into R&D to determine key elements that promote buying. Instead of fighting to re-educate a user, keep key elements of a page similar to what the big boys do.  Even if it only trims off milliseconds on their journey, it also subliminally builds trust in your brand since it has a similar layout to what they are used to.

Another overlooked feature on property details pages is a way to show a user a floor plan, especially on larger houses or anything over four bedrooms. This requires some work, but ultimately everyone just wants to know that the room for “uncle-snores-so-loud” is not right next to their room.

The last feature on the property details page that usually requires attention is your property description. You want to break up your content so that a user can easily scan the page and find what they're looking for (scan-ability.) You don’t need a novel, just need-to-know information broken up the same way for each property. Here’s a great example.

Booking Path: Search Results

Again, you'll notice we mimic many features that the big boys like Airbnb and VRBO have in their search results. Here’s a good example. You'll notice urgency notifications and a split-screen for map view and icons for key features making it scannable.

One of my favorite features is requiring a log-in to be able to save to favorites. We've been able to collect a ton of email addresses this way and not only does it trigger a booking abandonment email but the person doing the searching can easily share their favorites with their friends, collecting more email addresses.

Another great feature to have on search results is to include an option for flexible dates. Maybe even giving the user the option to choose how flexible their arrival or departure date is.

If you have a ton of properties, consider grouping complexes or areas like subdivisions to show fewer results. This will speed up page load times but also makes it less daunting for a user to go through their options.

If you don’t have a lot of options, make sure your results have a call-to-action when there are less than 5 options or none at all. Consider an “Expand your results” option.

Of course, there are a ton of features and ideas that can help your bottom line and this is not an exhaustive list (although long). Hopefully, we've been able to give you some good ideas that will result in more direct bookings.

Start on the right foot by using Scurto Marketing. All of our websites implement these features out of the box.

Email [email protected] and let’s do a demo!

Published by Austin Rodgers
on Thursday, March 24, 2022

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