Some property managers report getting more than 10% of their bookings from Google’s Vacation Rentals meta-search. In this first article, we look at why you may want to have your vacation rentals listed on Google and what it looks like for a traveler conducting a search on Google. We actually start with explaining how this is NOT about listing your vacation rental agency with Google My Business. Here, we are talking about listing your properties on Google Travel’s meta-search tool, along with Flights and Hotels. We’ll show you that your vacation rentals will also be embedded in normal Google searches in a sample list of properties and on a map. For the moment, it is free to list and get traffic from Google (yet, nothing is really free when it comes to integrating your properties to a new distribution channel).
You may know that Google enables travelers to compare flights (Google Flights) and hotels (Google Hotels), through a meta-search engine. If you have used Kayak to find flights or Trivago to find hotels, you have already experienced this kind of service.
Google has a similar offer that lets users search for vacation rentals. They can see results from large property management companies (e.g. Vacasa, Turnkey), listing sites (e.g. Homes & Villas by Marriott International), channel managers (e.g. Rentals United, Your.Rentals), and even tiny vacation rental homeowners.
In this first article of our Google Vacation Rentals series, we show you what it is and what it is not about. In the following articles, we’ll tell you about the benefits of listing and advertising your properties on Google Travel, how you can get your vacation rentals listed on Google’s vacation rental meta-search engine, how you can optimize your presence, and what property managers and vacation rental owners who are already on Google think of their experience.
What this is NOT about: Google My Business for vacation rental businesses
Most businesses, such as flower shops, toy shops, restaurants, and hotels, can get a business listing on Google from a free service called Google My Business. This service has been around for years.
You’ve probably run into these free business listings, either when conducting a search on Google or when looking for such a shop on Google Maps.
For example, if I search for “flower shops in Evanston, Illinois’ on Google, I not only get free and paid text results, but also a list of related businesses and a map showing a few of them. Flower shops appearing in this list and on this map have simply created a free Google My Business listing.
We have a whole article dedicated to Google My Business for Vacation Rentals. Here a summary of the main questions about it:
Can I list my own individual vacation rental on Google My Business?
No, you cannot. Individual vacation rental homes are one of the very businesses that cannot create a Google My Business listing. In its guidelines, Google put them in its list of ineligible businesses for a Business Profile:
The following businesses are not eligible for a Business Profile: Rental or for-sale properties such as vacation homes, model homes, or vacant apartments.
Google’s reasoning seems to be that a business listing is reserved for activities where someone can go and visit a venue. It wouldn’t be appropriate for a traveler to knock on the door of a vacation rental, looking for a room for the night, while it would for a hotel. This is Google’s reasoning, and you will see that it has an impact on how vacation rentals are displayed in their meta-search engine too.
Can I list my vacation rental management company with Google My Business, as it has an office?
Yes, you can. Visitors can come and meet your employees at your office, so you can get a free Google My Business profile. It will then show up in Google search results and on Google Maps.
In terms of business category, we recommend you pick either “vacation home rental agency” or “property management company”.
For instance, this is how WIMCO, a leading Caribbean vacation rental company headquartered in Newport, Rhode Island, is showing up in Google search results and on Google Maps, thanks to its free Google My Business listing.
What this is about: Displaying your vacation rental properties on Google Travel’s Hotel Center
Google’s meta-search efforts are visible in the Google Travel center, with Google Flights and Google Hotel Center being its flagship products. Yet, a small product team within Google is taking the Hotel Center and tweaking it to adapt to the vacation rental industry.
In the next article, we’ll see how to get your vacation rentals listed on Google. For the moment, let’s discover how vacation rentals are distributed through Google’s products and services. There are 3 ways that users can encounter paid vacation rental listing ads on Google:
- by visiting the Vacation Rentals / Holiday Rentals tab in the Google Travel product,
- by applying the Vacation Rentals / Holiday Rentals filter in the Google Hotels product,
- or searching for vacation rentals directly on Google Search.
Let’s step into the shoes of a Google user and detail each of these distribution channel for vacation rentals.
1. Vacation Rentals tab in the Google Travel product
Google has a travel search destination called Google Travel (https://www.google.com/travel/). Not many people are going to this page directly, but Google Travel is made up of several travel search products that drive traffic, such as Google Flights and Google Hotels.
Here are the tabs in the Google Travel product:
- Things to do
- Vacation Rentals
It means that when people are using Google Flights, they can see that Google offers other tabs / categories, such as Vacation Rentals.
The Google Vacation Rentals tab shows a search engine (destination, arrival date, departure date, and number of guests). It also suggests popular destinations based on your current location. If you are searching from the UK, then the tab is called “Holiday Rentals”. If you are searching in a different language than English, the interface adapts to your language.
The search results in the Vacation Rental tabs show a list of vacation rental listings, a searchable map, and filters such as rating, amenities and number of rooms.
If you look carefully, you can see that the vacation rental search result page is a subset of the Google Hotel search result page. If you toggle the Vacation Rentals filter on top of the page, you get search hotel results in the same destination.
Google says that one difference in the results with hotels is that the algorithm upranks properties that can cater to larger groups.
2. Vacation Rentals filter in the Google Hotels product
The Google Hotel product is interesting as it is very visible on Google. If you use the “normal” Google search and look for “hotels in Albufeira, Portugal”, then you in the “normal” text results hotels listings and a map. This is the entry door to the Google Hotels product.
If a user clicks on “View all hotels”, they are taken to the Google Hotels page. There, by default, the Hotels filter is on. Yet, a user only needs to toggle the filter from Hotels to Vacation Rentals to see short-term rentals options.
What is important to remember here is that there is much more traffic to the Google Hotels tab than to the Google Vacation Rentals tab. So, adding vacation rentals as a filter to the hotel search results helps give them more visibility.
-> Google Hotels results (with the Hotels filter on by default)
-> Vacation Rentals results in the Google Hotel product (after voluntarily turning the Vacation Rentals filter on)
3. Vacation rental listings directly on Google Search
When conducting a text search in the “normal” Google, such as “vacation rentals in Albufeira”, users do not just get a series of text results. They also get a list of vacation rental listings and a searchable maps. This also a pathway to the Vacation Rentals tab in Google Travel.
It also means that results from website pages are pushed down below Google’s listings of vacation rentals. As a result, even if your site has great SEO, your optimized pages show below Google’s own vacation rental product.
Let’s look carefully at what Google is inserting in its search results, for instance, when conducting a search for vacation rentals in Albufeira, Portugal.
- A list of competing listing sites, such as Vrbo, Booking.com, Wimdu, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb. Depending on the search location, the list of listing sites will be different. Apparently, these sites are listed here for free. Why is Google doing it? It may be to appease competition regulators while it is testing its new product.
- A search engine, which enables users to signal a better booking intent, moving from a vague search (“vacation rentals in Albufeira Portugal” to a search with a destination, booking dates, and a number of guests.
- Short-cuts to probably well-converting vacation rental listings (Top-rated, Budget options, and This weekend).
- A sample of listing results with a photo, a price per night, listing title, review score, number of bedrooms, capacity, and the name of the booking site
- An expandable google map with some listings
Any click on the search engine, on a shortcut (e.g. Top-rated), or on the map sends the user to more results in the Vacation Rentals tabs of the Google Travel / Hotel Center product.
4. Vacation rentals do not appear on Google Maps.
Google says that, out of privacy concerns for vacation rental owners and guests, it does not want to indicate the exact location before booking.
It means that, in Google Maps, you do not see vacation rental listings. Google does use some maps in its Google Vacation Rentals tab. Here, the exact location is only provided after booking.
Google’s reasoning: It wouldn’t be appropriate for a traveler to knock on the door of a vacation rental, looking for a room for the night.
So, while hotels that get listed in the Google meta-search will show up in Google Maps, vacation rentals will not.
What does a vacation rental property page look like on Google?
If you compare a vacation rental listing on Airbnb with one on Google, Google’s design looks bare-bone. The goal is to give the right information and to get people to click away to the website where the booking can actually be done.
It is not possible for users to book vacation rentals directly on Google. They are sent to the website of the company that has listed the vacation rental.
Here’s how the property page is made up:
- Location -> The location score is given by Google and results from its rich location information, for instance, powered by Google Maps.
Travelers do not book vacation rentals directly on Google, but they are sent to the listing advertiser’s website
Let’s take the example of a search for vacation rentals in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The top 2 results are from Vacasa and Turnkey, two of the largest property management companies in the US.
From the property page in Google, users are sent to the website of each advertiser. Every time a user clicks a button to leave Google and goes to the advertiser website, the advertised property does not have to pay a fee. For the moment, this is free traffic from Google.
This is what a user sees on Vacasa when coming from Google:
This is what a user sees on Turnkey Vacation Rentals when coming from Google:
Which companies are listing their vacation rentals on Google’s product?
Generally speaking, individual vacation rental owners and small to medium property management companies are absent from Google’s meta-search solution.
We can put the companies present on Google’s vacation rental solution into several groups:
Large property management companies
These companies tend to have a tech department big enough to be able to create a direct integration with Google’s meta-search tool.
- Turnkey Vacation Rentals
Vacation Rental listing sites
If you are a vacation rental owner listing your place on a service like HolidayLettings, PlumGuide or Homes & Villas by Marriott International, then your property may already be on Google 😉
- HolidayLettings (TripAdvisor)
- Casamundo (HomeToGo)
- Homes & Villas by Marriott International
- Airbnb (for some time, not at the moment)
- Vrbo (for some time, not at the moment)
Accommodation listing sites
Vacation rental channel managers
Some channel managers offer Google as an additional distribution channel to their customers. Yet, the integration is sometimes not possible directly with the property manager’s website. So, the channel manager has to host the listings on its own website. This is how you get the strange results of seeing connectivity providers (e.g. Rentals United) listed as vacation rental suppliers.
- Vacation Rentals by Bluetent
- Rentals United
If you want to know about the benefits of listing with Google (e.g. free traffic and bookings that are more direct) and how to get your vacation rentals listed in the Google Travel center, then read our next articles: