Small Budget Advertising For Vacation Rental Owners

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As a marketing consultant, I love having clients with big advertising budgets. Besides the obvious facts of that typically meaning higher retainers and revenue for me, it also lets me work with one of my most favorite techniques: testing.

Big budgets let you allocate 75-85% of your marketing budget to the high-value advertising tactics. For many of my clients, that means Google AdWords, Facebook Ads and Bing Ads. Within each of those platforms, there are the “meat and potatoes” for each client that allow for solid results. That may mean bidding on the brand name of the client, their main area of vacation rentals or retargeting website visitors.

In general, I try to make the most of the client’s budget with these tactics. With higher advertising budgets, it also means that I get to test and experiment with alternate keywords, targeting and display advertising that are likely lower volume but can also yield high conversion rates.

Google AdWords & Bing Ads Small Budget Tips


The tips below apply to both text and display (primarily remarketing) ads for both the Google and Bing Ads platforms. Remember that Bing distributes their ad inventory on Yahoo and other search platforms like AOL. As a result, you’ll get a good bang-for-your buck with Bing Ads. I covered my thoughts and feelings on Bing Ads For Vacation Rentals recently — I’m pro-Bing Ads.

Below are my tips that are specific to the text-ad based platforms on Google AdWords and Bing Ads. With text ads and keyword-targeted campaigns, you’ll select keywords like Martha's Vineyard vacation rentals and show your ad when someone searches for that query on each platform.

Don’t Blow Your Budget: Schedule Ads For The Best Time

In all popular ad platforms, you can schedule ads to only show during specific time frames. I’ve been able to take advantage of this on many vacation areas where the competition may run out of budget by 6PM most days. I’ll schedule ads for 7PM-11PM and reach a reasonable impression share with higher placement. Later in the day, there are fewer ads in the auction set — better click-through-rates and ad share is a specific result of this.

This is not without some downside though, as it’s unlikely that you’ll generate many phone calls during this timeframe if you don’t answer after normal business hours. If do you, highlight that fact on your website — mention that phone lines are open later or use an after-hours call answering service.

Go Narrow With Impressions: Selective Remarketing Lists

By default, creating a remarketing list in Google Analytics creates a single list — all visitors. For those with low-traffic websites, starting with all your website visitors is likely a very reasonable strategy to gain impressions with display advertising. However, once you start to get to more than a few thousand visitors per month, cuts need to be made if you’d like to only reach targeted guests with remarketing ads.

Instead of targeting all visitors, use the include page URLs feature in the audience builder in Google Analytics to generate smaller lists. With remarketing, the more targeted you can be in your audience, the tighter audience you’ll get with clicks from those lists are more likely to convert into bookings.

You can also target on a per-property basis. By targeting based on the URL of a particular property, you can then show ad graphics based on each property viewed. For smaller property managers, you could create ads for each property you have — leading to a targeted list of specific lists and ads.

Laser Focus: Target Past Guests

If you have a destination that typically has repeat guests (I’ve learned many do not), targeting past guests can be a great way to generate bookings. As these guests are the most likely to know about your brand and book again, targeting them is a very affordable option.

Export your past guests into Google Shared Audiences using Customer List and target the following ads to those email addresses that match up with those emails.

  • Gmail Ads – Show off your latest specials and deals with targeted Gmail Ads. You’ll be able to show a link to your website and up to six photos to guests after they click on your ad.
  • Google Display Network Ads – With Google Display, you’ll be able to show off your image ads (static or dynamic HTML5) to all of the advertising websites on the Display Network.
  • YouTube Video Ads – With the right video to work with (native, high-definition), you can also experiment with YouTube ads even with smaller budgets.

Facebook Ads Small Budget Techniques


The most common way that you can use a small budget is by advertising on Facebook. Due to the fact that Facebook encourages smaller budgets (boosted posts often have $5 or $10 suggested budgets), you can easily get website traffic for cheap with clever Facebook ads. Depending on your goals of driving traffic, awareness or building your fan page, Facebook ads has an option for you.

Similar to our Google AdWords examples, inexpensive targeting options include retargeting website visitors with a promoted post or sidebar ads. Sidebar ads in Facebook are much less expensive in terms of cost-per-click, but in general have very low click-through-rates. Due to the fact that news feed ads are much more visible, it’s best to run with those for the maximum benefit.

For more tips on Facebook advertising, check out my campaign ideas post to learn more about specific tacts you can use to get more traffic from smaller ad budgets.

Email Marketing Is The Micro-Budget Channel


Saving the best for last, email marketing is the lowest-cost channel in terms of dollar investment. If you have your own email marketing list, you can generate traffic for the cost of an email marketing service like Mailchimp for a very low cost. Many email marketing service providers can handle lists under 10,000 for around $50/month. Other options cost far less if you have a smaller list.

The tactics and strategy around sending great emails is for another post, but keep in mind that you can segment your lists to get better results. In fact, slicing up your email list may even save you money if you pay per email send, and you’ll get a better return out of it!

Here are some ideas for segmenting your email list to encourage more bookings.

  • Those who have stayed with you multiple times.
  • Guests who book last-minute (less than 14 days out) can be sent specials.
  • Birthdays and anniversaries are fantastic email marketing opportunities – if you have this information use it.
  • By location – drive-to markets will generate higher engagement when you mention their geographical location in email copy.
  • Guests that book in June can be sent a promotional email late in May with a discount.

Small Budgets Can Work For You

As someone who works with vacation rental marketers every day, I know it can be tricky to balance advertising costs to book your rentals. In 2016, one market truth has become clear to me: the trend in advertising costs is going up over time. However, you can still take advantage of lower-cost platforms and spend your budget intelligently to get more bookings to your vacation rentals. Want more ideas or help? Contact me and we’ll get jamming on a strategy together.


Take The Next Step
  1. Download the free guide: 17 Ways To Level Up Your Vacation Rental Marketing and get our best tips on how to grow and scale your business.
  2. If you want to learn more about how to generate more bookings, visit our blog and read our articles.
  3. To get started working with us, visit our contact page, complete the form and schedule a call.
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