As a vacation rental owner or manager, securing a prominent placement in search engines like Google is critical for long-term success. Between paid ads, local pack placements, and organic search results, keeping up with the latest and greatest tactics can be a challenge. Google is constantly optimizing the search user experience, and that sometimes includes launching totally new programs and features — like the new vacation rental listings program.
Google’s foray into the travel industry is far from new. The search engine giant launched an entire hotel product several years ago (Google Hotel Ads), which followed its hugely successful flights product (Google Flights). Including vacation rentals into the full travel suite was a natural and inevitable transition.
The vacation rental product launch was surprisingly quiet, with little information available for vacation rental owners and managers. This is why we decided to roll up our sleeves and put together as much info as possible to help you understand Google’s vacation rental listings program.
Information is up-to-date as of May 2020.
Can Vacation Rentals Show In Google?
Yes. As of Spring 2019, vacation rentals can show in Google results. You can read the official announcement from Google here.
How Is This Different From Google Maps?
Though this feature might look and feel very similar to what you might think of as a ‘local pack’ or ‘Google Maps’ listing—the travel packs and, specifically the vacation rental packs, are actually quite different in how they operate.
Note: Vacation rental listings and prices are not fed through Google Maps or Google My Business.
Google Maps/Google My Business will not list individual property or rental information. Meaning, if you own multiple properties/vacation rentals under a single umbrella brand, the individual property locations are not eligible to show via local listings or map results.
However, the new vacation rental listing product offers somewhat of a workaround for this problem. Interested owners or managers essentially have two options to take advantage of vacation rental listings:
- Work directly with an approved listing site
- Work with a channel manager or property manager that lists properties via the approved listing sites
We dive into the specifics in the next section.
Now, a bit more about how the short-term rental listings are different than traditional Google Maps results—aside from where the results come from (approved channel partner listing sites).
While the layout and search experience might look and feel similar to map results, the listings are actually quite different. Individual properties are served in a ‘pack’ format on the left with an interactive map on the right. Both the listings and the map prominently feature price information front and center.
Upon clicking into the results, you’ll quickly see several fields to refine vacation rental search results further, including date selection tools, a button to toggle between ‘hotels’ and ‘vacation rentals’, and drop-down menus to customize fields for ‘guest rating’, ‘amenities’, and ‘rooms’. You can also select how results are sorted by ‘best match’, ‘lowest price’, or ‘highest rating’.
As a note, searchers can also toggle to a new ‘vacation rentals’ button when searching for hotel-related queries—and vice versa, they can switch over to hotel results when searching for vacation rental-related queries.
The individual vacation rental property listing page includes pertinent property information like the maximum number of guests, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and if there is a reservation minimum. An availability calendar, rate information, and reviews are also prominently featured. Scrolling down, Google provides helpful location information including nearby things to do, public transit, etc. in addition to property images and info fed through the channel partner listing.
Searchers can view multiple listings, apply various filters, apply travel dates, etc. all directly within the Google interface. When it’s time to book, the call-to-action directs traffic to the corresponding listing site.
Note: Google is constantly testing and optimizing their products and algorithms. What you see in your area or on a specific day might look and feel a little different — and that’s to be expected for now!
How To List My Property On Google Vacation Rentals
The moment you’ve been waiting for — how do you actually get up and running with Google Vacation Rentals?
Whether you manage your property listings internally or externally with a trusted marketing partner, if you want your properties to appear for relevant Google search results, you’ll need to make sure your listings are included on approved channel partners. As of 2020, this includes:
- Vrbo (by HomeAway)
- HolidayLettings (by TripAdvisor)
- Rentals United
- Turnkey Vacation Rentals
The good news is — aside from getting your short-term rentals up and running on third-party sites, there’s not much else to do! These sites handle the feeds, bids, formatting, ect with Google to run these ads on behalf of your listings. Additionally, the experience works great across any device and is a solid way to garner high-quality, top-funnel traffic from relevant prospects researching vacation rentals in a given destination.
The bad news is — you need to be on these third-party sites to participate in placement, which means paying booking fees to respective companies. Currently, there is no integration between individual vacation rental booking engine platforms and the Google vacation rental listing feed, though this could be an offering in the future. And, you’ll have little control over the management of these listings and very little insight into the analytics and performance of these products.
For most small – mid-sized rental companies, the pros far outweigh the cons of using third-parties and participating in the ‘pay to play’ listing market. The exposure and volume alone are well worth the hassle of working through larger listing sites and participating will give you a competitive advantage over properties not willing to absorb the extra cost. Of course, every effort should be taken to collect guest information and to ensure guests know about the value of booking directly for future stays.
Future Of Google + Vacation Rentals
Free Clicks Will End Eventually
Compared to Google’s hotel product which has largely been a big driver of ad revenue for Google, I suspect Google will keep doing the same thing with Vacation Rentals here. In the not-too-distant future I expect Google to roll out either pay per booking or pay per click models to this search box.
Future Features Will Enhance Usefulness
Currently the search functionality from within the vacation rental search block is quite basic: dates and guest information. I suspect that Google will add in filters here like price per night, core/key amenities (pet friendly or private pool just as an example), views (oceanfront for beach markets) and other key filters.
Eventually, connecting to the Vacation Rentals search box will likely be easier too. Additional PMS (property management software) partners will likely come on board so you can list and pay Google directly for this traffic. Software like Escapia, Streamline, Kigo and others seem poised to make that leap in the coming months and year with Google.
Lastly, over time I’d expect the impact from other sites on the SERP to possible show too. Sites like HomeToGo may have less of a value proposition to guests if Google can offer a similar product and depth of listings within reach directly on the search results.
Predictions Subject To Change
It’s not all “Google Will Dominate” here however. Google is currently under antitrust scrutiny from Attorney General offices across the US and federally and they could choose to hold off on steamrolling yet another industry with paid ads. As Google fights for their right to control the search results and make billions in advertising, others lose out — which can impact this feature for 2020 and beyond.