I’ve just had a week away in Northumberland. I’ve been trying to get there for a good few years to see the stunning beaches, huge country park and starry skies. Plus the fact that it’s often portrayed as one of the most dog-friendly parts of the UK. I couldn’t go with my last dog as he had advanced bladder cancer when I rescued him, which limited our options. My current pooch is an access all areas dog so I needed to find genuine dog-friendly accommodation.
Northumberland itself was well worth it. I particularly liked quirky Amble (the friendliest port) and loved the star-filled sky on our last night. The process of finding accommodation though was tiresome. It took way longer than it should have done, thanks partly to my need for a genuine dog-friendly place but mostly to the quality of the information on the available websites.
Here’s my take on what holiday cottage owners should be including in their web copy and why.
With every new client, job or project I start with a load of questions, including what, where, when, why, who and how. I also need to know the must-haves and the nice-to-haves.
So what are the basics needed (copy wise) on self-catering accommodation websites?
The what – 3 bed detached cottage, Shepherds Hut, studio apartment? You just can’t call them all cottages! Be specific. Number of bedrooms is usually key, as the configuration i.e. two bedrooms – one double, one twin.
The where – Little Pidlington does just not cut it. What punters need is Little Pidlington, Huntlery, nr Brompcross, Minchester, postcode, for example. My UK geography is rather good (honed from jobs in local government and higher education where knowing my municipal boroughs and campuses was essential) but it doesn’t extend to remote villages and hamlets. Being specific when it comes to location is not just good for SEO it’s good for human readers sussing out quickly if the location is in their desired area.
The when – Is the property only available to book for full weeks (and from which day to which day), or are long weekends, weekends, mid-week breaks also an option? Does your rate fluctuate with a high season/low season/peak season? Some self-catering accommodation helpfully offers the same price all year round.
The who – Who is your property for? Couples, families, dogs, kids, older people, wheelchair users, large groups etc. Again, be specific. If the property only allows dogs in an outhouse please don’t use the words dog-friendly in any of your copy, ‘cos it’s a blatant lie. If it’s unsuitable for young children/toddlers due to balconies or mezzanine floors etc then say so.
The why – If your USP is being close to a specific landmark or tourist spot then say so. If it’s perfect for those wanting quiet, ditto. Be specific about being close to (or away from) the hustle and bustle or heart of the city/town/harbour/village.
The how – In this case, the how to book. This could not be more important. The call to action and the process to do the booking or enquiring needs to be really simple. I get that lots of owners of properties use booking agents/systems but it can get unnecessarily complex for punters here, and owners*. This is an actual example from my search “Up to date price and availability is on this website” (no LINK!). Where? Give me a clue? It shouldn’t be the Crystal Maze to get the basics.
People need the facts. Start with the facts and build out, not the other way around. Before anything else they need to clearly see all the above information without having to wade t through guff to get there. Once you’ve made sure your site has all the above you can start selling the sizzle, having already sold the sausage. Now you can add your pictures of plumped up cushions and strategically placed glasses of wine in front of nice artwork of local views or oversized letters depicting R E L A X.
If you are unsure where to put something on your website it usually means it should be in a FAQ page, but don’t use that as an excuse to bury important details (like dogs only allowed in outhouse or only available to rent 2 weeks a year). I kid you not the place I ended up booking didn’t/wouldn’t even tell me what time I could check in until the day before – control freak much? Ditto check out. Yet he did have on the FAQ page that you could charge your electric car, which, whilst helpful is also a bit niche. According to a stat I found only 0.2% of cars on the road in the UK are electric, yet 100% of holiday cottage customers would want/need to know check in/check out times.
My final thought on the matter of marketing holiday accommodation (assuming all the above is fully ticked off the list) is that if you want extra Brownie points/guaranteed business from a segment with buying power make your holiday cottage menopause friendly – by which I mean easy on/off heating, easy open windows, multi-layered bedding of the natural fabric variety and of course no plastic mattress protector. The icing on the cake would be a fridge set to ‘optimum chardonnay temperature’. You’d rake it in from the women of a certain age demographic i.e. me.
* I once turned up to my pre-booked holiday cottage which honestly looked like the one from the film The Holiday, only to find someone else’s stuff inside. Cue frantic call to the owner. In a panic she informed me that the people in it had loved it so much they extended their stay using the online booking system and she had wrongly assumed she’d messed up somehow. Squatters rights kicked in and I was The Holiday-less.