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When it comes to attracting renters online, wouldn’t it better to find your niche rather than trying to reach a very broad market?

Advertising your vacation rental to a niche market can be far more effective and much less expensive.

Harness the power of niche listing websites.

Does your resort have a website for renting properties?

If it does, look into getting your vacation rental listed there.

We’ve helped many owners find targeted websites that are not so well known, but deliver a lot of qualified leads.

Some of these types of listing websites can deliver surprisingly good results with lower listing fees than other vacation rental websites like HomeAway, VRBO and Flipkey for example.

Small niche vacation rental websites work well because when travelers search online specifically for rentals in a certain resort they use niche keywords, which help them find these smaller vacation rental listing sites on the web.

For example, there is a very popular resort in the Orlando area called Lake Berkley.

If someone searches on Google for “Lake Berkley Resort Rentals,” a listing website like can certainly deliver more qualified inquiries for renters wanting to stay in the Lake Berkley Resort than a VRBO, HomeAway or Flipkey listing.

In the above site, the owners have gotten together and created a website for their vacation rental resort, which is amazing because it works and travelers looking for rentals in this resort end up finding this little pocket of VR owners.

Another reason I think this approach will be effective is because now all of the major listing sites are going to charge fees to travelers. This is going to range from 3 to 6% on average.

This is why I believe 2016 will be the year of direct bookings. (There’s my 2016 prediction!)

While I was researching this site, I found that travelers are searching for the keyword term “lake berkley resort by owner” and “lake berkley resort owner direct”. With the fees HomeAway will be charging you, and now the fees they will charge travelers I believe that more travelers will try to circumvent the system and avoid booking fees and inflated prices and that should be the angle we are all leveraging.

Niche Is The New Big!

One big reason these niche vacation rental website directories work is because the niche listing site hyper focuses its content and marketing on their community, resort, town and amenities.

Sites like these can possibly have more information and resources on the resort then other popular vacation rental websites, and since these niche websites specialize in a single vacation rental resort they can rank well on the 1st page of Google.

As the example shows above, owners can buy a domain name with keywords that travelers search for when looking to rent a vacation rental in their community. Read about the power of a vacation rental domain name here.

Using this marketing technique and leveraging your domain name gives you a boost in search engines providing you with a window of opportunity to compete with the best vacation rental listing websites.

To do this effectively you’ve got to get the domain name right because you’ll want to get as much free / organic traffic from Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines.

The best practice will be for you to select a domain name that has a high search volume while focusing on long-tail keywords. You can do this by using the Google Keyword Planner.

I’m an expert at keyword research for the vacation rental industry. I do it nearly everyday!

In my study of keywords for clients, I’ve found that even the smallest communities and areas of town are specifically searched for by travelers.

The more popular the resort, the more frequently the community is searched for.

In many cases, these small vacation rental sites will allow you to leave a link (backlink) that points back to your vacation rental website.

Since these listing sites are highly relevant to your vacation rental business, they can help boost your vacation rental SEO.

In addition these niche vacation rental listing sites can convert better than inquiries from larger vacation rental listing sites. Why? Well, because the traveler has either stayed at the resort or in the rental community before and is looking to return, or they have done their research and want to stay in that community, area or resort again.

Do you know or use any such niche listing sites? If so, please mention the site name in the comments section.

Community is our opportunity. Community is necessary for our independence.

If we want to change the future of the vacation rental market, we have to change our past behaviors.

Listing sites have taken advantage of us being a fragmented industry.

We are not a unit and we do not have a voice together. Owners look at other owners as competitors instead of allies. Thats gotta change!

Creating a niche that we as owners and property managers can leverage.

Here’s a thought: what if more vacation rental owners got together with other owners in their communities, resorts and towns to create a smaller niche website to advertise vacation rentals on to attract guests that are looking for their resorts and communities?

This could really help all of us to be less dependent on big listing sites, couldn’t it?

I believe it is a step in the right direction for a number of reasons. The first reason I think so is because it helps you to diversify your vacation rental marketing. Part of the problem we are in, is that owners and managers both rely too heavily on big vacation rental listing sites and put all their eggs in one basket.

Marketing to a specific niche allows us to do something about what’s happening with HomeAway and the industry as a whole.

It opens us up to new opportunities, helps to develop a brand niche and makes us take a step away from Homeaway and listing sites, which I see as a good thing.

I’ve created a place for owners to foster relationships and build community ….

Go here >

There are more ways to get bookings from niche sites.

If your vacation rental is in a ski area, you may be able to list your property on a niche activity website.

If you offer a family-friendly vacation rental, there’s a niche for that.

Do you allow pets? Are you capitalizing on that niche? Read how pet-friendly vacation rentals are likely to get more bookings this year.

There are a ton of interesting popular and even obscure vacation rental niches you can incorporate into your vacation rental marketing plan. HomeAway Ain’t The Only Way!

What do you think?

In our recent conversations, I shared with you how to survive the big changes coming in the vacation rental market. We also talked about branding and how developing a niche helps you create a stand-out brand.

Following up on that, here are several niches you can cater to.

Types of Vacation Rental Niches



Pet Friendly




Women Only

Men Only


Seniors / Grandparents


Deal Hunters

If I’ve missed any, please share them here.

Do you offer a vacation rental service that would help owners? Are you a property management company? Please list your services as well.


  • Jason says:

    Our two local ski resorts have lodging listing pages. Now… we pay to be listed, but the resorts offer us discount vouchers for our renters. We get linkage, we get renters, the mountains get skiers. Well, they also get our membership fee! But so far it has been very cost effective for us.

    • jason says:

      so, we’re, in a way, on two local niche sites

    • Jay William says:

      And all of these bookings and resources without HomeAway’s help. All great stuff!
      I’m just curios Jason to get an idea of what type of cost do these type of niche sites charge to advertise, in order to compare it with the cost of the big listing sites?

  • Jerry says:

    Jay great freaking post! I love it 2016 The Year Of Direct Bookings!

    • Jay William says:


      with the commission fees, credit card processing charges and now travelers paying big booking percentages, we now have an advantage over sites like HomeAway/Expedia. We can be cheaper, add that with offering a great brand experience and we’re on to something.

      With these inflated costs I believe more travelers will become wise to renting direct from owners. What does everyone else think?

  • Great post Jay! Really good insight and spot on in terms of establishing a niche specific site. I would also add to that for those interested in geo targeting to be sure to include Google Places (through Google My Business), source guest reviews, and add your City/Region, plus a relevant niche keyword, within your landing page title tag.

    • Jay William says:

      Great add Janet. Not sure if all owners know what you mean – though. Maybe you can create a short post on how to do that in the Villa Marketers community as a resource and we’ll share what you did with everyone. Just an idea 🙂

      • Brilliant Idea! I think I’ll get that on my to do list this week and share it in the community. Thanks Jay! Have a great week!

        • Jay William says:

          And there you have it everyone, a perfect example of how community supports each other and how we will all benefit from it.

          Janet thanks in advance for contributing and its something owners and managers Im sure will look forward to.

          Community is our opportunity!

        • surfdog says:

          Please do Janet because I for one, do not have a clue what you are talking about and I would like to get on board. Thank-you!

  • Alan Egan says:

    Hi Jay,
    Great post. Homeaway are charging a 4% to 10 % “service fee” (which actually looks like an owners charge on the quote) + payment gateway charges + the owner subscription or 10% pay per booking. Owners that join together to build micro or mini listings could do well. They have very little to lose in comparison with the costs of doing business with the big portals.
    On a side note, if you think it’s bad now wait until price parity raises it’s very ugly head.

    • Jay William says:

      Hey Alan, wow! I heard some rumors of a 10% traveler fee. Has this been confirmed?

      If so thats expensive. And it looks like its coming from the property owner/manager…

      The way this bad can be turned into good is that there will be a good market for vacation rental by owners or vacation rentals direct.

      Seems like there is a need to restablish a new site / service that focus on that niche – vacation rental by owner / direct.

      Curios to know what you see coming.

      The niche micro sites allows owners to lower the level of competiton when competiing with the big listing sites. This is our low hanging fruit.

      Google shows some search engine “love” to these niche sites because Alan as you know Google likes the concept of niche or specialists .

      Changes are coming so quickly now in our industry. Expedia didn’t waste anytime at all in charging these fees. The drama is unfolding!

  • Jeff Cospolich says:

    We know all about being a slave to HomeAway. Their software is pretty good, but reliance on their ever-increasing listing services is not a direction we want to head. While here in Breckenridge, HomeAway and VRBO each have about 3,000 listings, many travelers still want the peace of mind and reputation offered by a professional property manager. I am not seeing a high volume of keyword searches for Breckenridge including “by owner” or “owner direct.” But that’s probably market-specific, as I would bet there are more “by owner” keyword searches being performed in the Orlando and Outer Banks areas, as an example.

    • Jay William says:

      Hey Jeff, great insight. In a podcast I recently published
      I shared how 31% of travelers are now wanting to deal with professional vacation rental managers.

      Are you researching terms like this one ‘Breckenridge VRBO’? Also super niches are a great way to pick up long-tail keyword terms. If there are resorts or communities you can dominate searches for those resorts because HomeAway and other competitors are not targeting these keywords as much. Although there may not be a ton of traffic for a single niche keyword, these long tail keywords convert way better and the variables of these types keywords can produce a steady drip of very targeted travelers.

  • Jay William says:

    Nick thanks for sharing such an inspiring story that validates what owners can accomplish when they join together!

    In the niche is how we can breakaway from HomeAway! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  • Teena NH says:

    Great post Jay! I have reached out to groups over the years and have been pretty successful!

    I try to keep in mind specific needs of the different kinds of groups I cater to.

    I might add “as allergen free as possible” to the category of niche marketing.

    We use home-made cleaners at Four Seasons Lodge, use bromine instead of chlorine in our indoor pool, do not use pesticides outdoors, are pet free and have our rugs and furniture steam cleaned regularly.

    My husband makes all our wood furniture and seals them with low voc sealers. Check out his work… he’s so talented! My fav piece is the computer desk in the living room. The bench has a tractor seat!

    I want to be FREE of booking sites by year’s end. Good luck to everyone on this journey!

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