Curious about Listing Site Independence? Wondering what the roadmap to breaking free looks like in practice, from the perspective of a real owner (yours truly!)? Then this blog post is for you.
I’ve been following Matt Landau’s “4 Stages of Listing Site Independence” to the letter and I’m here to share my honest, personal experience (so far)—potholes, successes, and all.
Here we go.
My journey started in 2009, with the purchase of my very first vacation rental in Lake Tahoe, CA. This was long before the “4 Stages,” were even a glimmer in Matt Landau’s eye. But, like most new owners, I ended up following the first stage by default.
That’s because Stage 1 is all about building a solid foundation. And the easiest way to do that is—you guessed it—by posting your property on the big listing sites. Which is exactly what I did.
I built a solid vacation rental business on a shoestring budget thanks to HomeAway and VRBO.
At first, 100% of my vacation rental guests came from the listing sites. Though these sites have their issues, I’ll always be grateful to them for allowing me to jump-start my business.
Time = money, after all, and thanks to the listing sites I got an instant stream of bookings (and those first essential five-star reviews).
A few years later, I met Matt. After reading a couple inspirational blog posts on the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, I was hooked.
Now, I’ve completed the entire checklist for Stage 2 (woo hoo!). But this milestone did not come quickly or easily. It took me about two years—and I didn’t even really start Stage 2 until about four years into my rental journey.
But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: building your vacation rental empire is a marathon, not a sprint.
Things really took off for me in 2014-15, when I won a website and marketing makeover from Matt and VRMB.
This was crucial because through the process of building my website, I was able to check off most of the Stage 2 items. I created an “About Us” story for the site and got a property name and logo, too. (I already had a solid description and professional photos.)
My advice? It’s totally okay to jump ahead to the website portion of Stage 3, even when you’re still hanging out in Stage 2. For me, building the website was just the motivational kick I needed to go to the next level.
And the timing couldn’t have been better. During those two years, the listing site climate changed quite a bit, and having a website became more important than ever.
Thanks to the website makeover, I now had a spot where I could book guests directly and personally without added fees and blocked communication.
Basically, I acquired flexibility and freedom. Now, about 30% of my guests are repeat guests who book through my website!
Luckily, my website makeover from MyVR also included the MyVR management software. Check that one from the Stage 3 list!
And my big goal over the last year has been to build my social media presence, which has been a ton of fun so far.
I’ve had success with both Facebook and Instagram. My strategy is to refer newly booked guests to my Kauai vacation rental’s social accounts so they can see more pictures of the area (and the condo!), my local recommendations, and lots more.
Once guests follow, they never unfollow because they are invested, especially if they had a good time on their vacation! Who doesn’t love a good reminder of their amazing Hawaii vacation when they scroll through their social feeds?
Which, of course, also reminds them how much they need another vacation… and they’ll know exactly where to book when the time comes!
As for the rest of Stage 3, I'm still working on content marketing and email marketing. So right now, I consider myself a solid middle-of-the-road Stage 3 with a dash of Stage 4.
Recognize that caped climber? Yep, that's me next year, right there on the top of the mountain!
I’ve already got Facebook ads in the works, and am dreaming up some PR strategies to help let the wider world know about my rentals.
I'll keep you updated on my progress.
In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line or a comment below about your own experiences with the "4 Stages of Listing Site Independence."