I’m Barbara Walters. Welcome to 2020

Some wag recently said they’re starting a petition to bring Barbara Walters out of retirement on New Year’s Eve this year so they can tune in and hear her say, “I’m Barbara Walters. Welcome to 2020!” 

In the weeks since we last spoke, our office has received some encouraging leads on the 2020 season that has made us cautiously optimistic that perhaps the 2020 Season will be a more ‘usual’ season.

We’ve been getting calls for summer 2020, and thanks to our website digital marketing project running away in the background, a significant upturn in inquiries through our website. To date, we’ve also gotten 11 reservations totalling $26,000 of gross rent for 2020! What excites us about this more than normal? Inquiries and bookings for the following season coming in during July and August of the current season is extremely early! 

I’ve been beating the same drum with the message that this 2019 summer season was anything but a normal season. You’ve now heard Heather Bayer, CEO of Canada’s Cottage Link Rentals say the same thing for her area and has had feedback from all areas of the USA reporting the same thing. I also need to add that the shift in Guest booking patterns towards more flexible stay rules and shorter stays has happened for us two seasons in a row. If it happens again next season, and all early indicators are that it will, then I think that we’re a new normal and need to continue, not only to focus on the sales element of booking Guests, but also stay on top of the numbers and be nimble to adjust as needed to maximize revenue.

Anywho, back to 2020! After a weird 2019, to get any traffic at this point for 2020 is very encouraging. Conversations with these early Guests is showing a skew towards the large groups, so that’s in line with older data patterns: large groups book early to get more choice. These Guests, however, are already trying to negotiate stay rules – wanting to stay 3 nights, or in one case, wanting to stay 10 nights. This takes me back to my One Fine Stay article in this newsletter. At this point we’re keeping Guests firmly to the 7-night Saturday-Saturday (Friday-Friday) booking increments. We attempted to upsell the 10 day inquiry to 14 days…

We have the digital marketing project churning away in the background on our website. To share the broad numbers, for the month of July we saw the following on our website:

Organic Search:

  1. Traffic: 2,725 page hits (up 238% year on year).
  2. Bookings: 5.
  3. Revenue: $9,058.

Totals (includes ALL channels):

  1. Traffic: 5,646 page hits (up 340% year on year).
  2. Bookings: 7.
  3. Revenue: $12,704. 

If you’re like me, that made my eyes glaze and demand, “English, please!” This means that Google is throwing out our Seachange website in organic search results 2,725 times in July. Up 238% from the same time last year. Traffic (all channels) means how the public found Seachange online: Google organic search, and click throughs from other sites (social media, blog etc).

There is much more happening in our website digital marketing project behind the scenes which is already showing some impressive results 6 weeks in. Examples are:

Call tracking software. This allows us to track the origin of calls into our office from the web. Which ones came from our website?

Heat map tracking of our website. This allows us to track which pages are more popular on the site and which are not.

The blog has had a major redesign. This may not sound impressive. Trust me, I write a lot of the blog articles. It’s not my favorite thing to do. Google, however, loves content. The higher the frequency and volume of new content added to a site, helps Google figure out how relevant that site is to the public. Our digital marketing team completely overhauled the site, categorized it, are tracking the keywords that Google ranks the highest in organic searches for vacation rentals and our area, and is peppering our blog with these keywords.

The previous two points that I included means we can target page content directly to that which the public is favoring, and re-design pages those that are not performing as well..

Instant chat software. August will see us adding a feature which I personally find annoying, but one that the public loves and directly affects online booking conversions, reducing fall offs – the number of Guests on the site who leave without booking. Guests will be able to chat with a live person at our company during their visit to our website. The aim is to increase booking conversions.

The initial focus of our digital marketing project is to increase traffic to the site (get more people). Over the next few months we will also be focusing on Guest usage of the site, and an area I’m particularly keen on: what points in the site do we lose people without converting to a booking? This naturally leads to the next deliverable: retention motivators. What do we need to offer Guests that are about to exit the site without booking to entice them to book? That’s called a, “Retargeting Campaign.” Watch this space and watch the subtle changes the website is already exhibiting.

So, given the early interest we’re seeing for 2020, I’m glad I pushed back to our web company and brought our digital marketing project forward by a several months. We’ve already begun contacting our Property Owner to get 2020 Rate approval and have 16 of our 50 properties live for 2020. If you haven’t heard from us yet, you will do in the week.

Happy New Year!