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Experiment

 
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JaneTwo



Joined: 25 Jun 2016
Posts: 37
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 1:56 pm    Post subject: Experiment Reply with quote

Thought you might be interested in my little newbie experiment. I have a new holiday let which is a bit of a work in progress, and have decided to avoid the dreaded listing sites (OD etc.) after reading all the negative comments on here, and also because I don't want to expose my less-than-perfect place to reviews yet!

So, I am going it (more or less) alone for now. I have:

A website (Weebly)
An advert on Gumtree (£20 so far)
A listing on walkhighlands.co.uk (£58.80 for a year)
A basic listing on welcometoscotland.com (free)
A business page thingy on Google+ (free)

I set up the website mid-June, the advert on Gumtree a week later, the listings a month or so later and just recently (2 weeks ago) Google+.

To date, I have had 12 enquiries, four via Gumtree messages and the rest through the website (although I don't know how they found the website - hmm, maybe should have a field for this in the entry form). These have resulted in six bookings, but I had to turn three requests for bookings down (in August) as they clashed or I was away on those dates (note to self: no August holidays next year!) I have also had to block out some chunks of time in the next few months for various reasons, so there are limited periods available.

Overall, given all that, I am happy with how things are going. I'm sure I would have more bookings if I was on the main listing sites, but for now this suits me - leaves me time to do leisurely change-overs and also renovations.

I am priced competitively, but I also have to tell potential guests about the things that aren't quite finished, so, although they are getting a bargain, they are also getting a not-quite-up-to-standard place to stay!

So far, guests have been happy, although my last lot had some issues (don't worry - not going there!).

I am thinking I might also make a poster to put in the window (when there are no guests!) with the website address on it.

Hope this might be of interest.

Jane
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JaneTwo



Joined: 25 Jun 2016
Posts: 37
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And forgot to say I also have a Facebook page, set up about a month ago.
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Nemo



Joined: 14 Aug 2008
Posts: 7007
Location: Norfolk

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are doing exactly what I was doing when I took my first bookings in 2010. I tried gumtree, got a couple of awful replies, so didn't do it again. However, I've heard others say it works so it's perhaps worth revisiting.

I set myself up on many sites and different avenues and avoided the big listing sites. I decided to try OD in 2014 and it was a big success, almost too much as it grabbed a large chunk of business that I had previously got from elsewhere. So it's only now that I find myself trapped with a big site, but I will break out again in due course.

So I think things are going full circle for many of us and we are all gradually moving away from the big sites. I think generally that's possibly easier within the UK when you're targeting UK customers. Lots of avenues to explore, but from what I read here, tougher if you're in the overseas market looking for UK guests. That's where the big sites have their monopoly.
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Ben McNevis



Joined: 15 May 2006
Posts: 819
Location: Scotland (for) The Brave

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done, Jane. That sounds pretty good. The crux time is of course the mid and low season. It will be interesting to see how it goes for autumn/winter/spring.

Many years ago, someone on here posted the javascript code for using a cookie to track referrer. Ah. I've just found it. It was vrooje. The thread is: http://www.laymyhat.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5060&highlight=referrer+cookie

I've had this working very well so all enquiries that come via my web pages show the original referrer even if the enquirer made the enquiry in a later session.

Haven't seen vrooje for a while!
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greenbarn



Joined: 30 May 2009
Posts: 5902
Location: The Westmorland Dales, Cumbria

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good results so far. It seems to be the case that if you have good niche markets you can maintain control and survive - or even thrive - without the giant listing sites; the more mainstream your offering, the more difficult it becomes to break free.
It does mean understanding your niche(s) and finding out how to target them, and offering what they want. Many niche listing sites can be cheap (some even cheaper than the one you mention) and also good value; if you only get a couple of bookings through them they're still worth the cost.

Yes to having a "How you found us" field on your enquiry form, although it can be hopelessly inaccurate, or showing the most popular method as "Don't know"! Installing Google Analytics (GA) on your website is free and simple, and can give you far more information than you'll ever need as well as allowing you to filter referrer spam from your figures - and that can make a big difference when genuine visits are in the tens rather than thousands per day. A simple use of GA shows you how many unique visits you've had, and then where they came from. Useful for monitoring the niche sites who often don't have an enquiry form, just a clickthrough to your website.
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greenbarn



Joined: 30 May 2009
Posts: 5902
Location: The Westmorland Dales, Cumbria

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ben McNevis wrote:

Many years ago, someone on here posted the javascript code for using a cookie to track referrer. Ah. I've just found it. It was vrooje. The thread is: http://www.laymyhat.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5060&highlight=referrer+cookie



Thanks Ben, I must have a look at that.

Disnaland Glasgow?... Scotland's new low-cost airline Oh god.... Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes Laughing
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French Cricket



Joined: 10 Apr 2008
Posts: 3053
Location: French Pyrénées

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done Jane (and welcome to the Stuff The Big Boys Club) Laughing That's a great start.

Just wanted - as a fellow Weeblyite, though customised beyond recognition - to warn you not to trust Weebly's own site stats! Mine have never born any relation to Google Analytics, and while GA isn't 100% foolproof I'm pretty sure it's closer to reality than the Weebly stats.
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JaneTwo



Joined: 25 Jun 2016
Posts: 37
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting points and suggestions! I will add a field to the entry form and also try to set up the cookie and/or analytics (might take me a while though! I am very much trial and error at the moment...) The cookie sounds like some sort of black magic.

Niche market - yes, I think mine is maybe walkers (from the limited number of guests I've been able to suss out so far). Or maybe it's because I have an emphasis on walks/nature on my website. Which came first...?!

And yes, I'm not expecting the low season to be that great. I think some people here do longer term lets over the winter. But we'll see.

Thanks for all the tips!
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johnbourne4



Joined: 10 Jun 2013
Posts: 12
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello, I'm a relatively new owner (stared 2013/14) and have found that Homeaway (and Owners Direct) plus Holidaylettings (Tripadvisor) have accounted for a very large chunk of our enquiries and bookings so far. I have been happy to pay the annual fee (HA/OD) and for the ever increasing booking fees to be applied as it gets us new guests and fills weeks that otherwise would go unsold. A few years on now and we are building up a nice bunch of repeat booking guests, many of whom use their security deposit as their booking deposit for next year, usually the same week. If like ourselves you are located in a family orientated village where many guests come back year after year, it is worth putting up with the many negatives associated with the big companies to get the momentum going. I don't want to tempt fate by saying this, but the quality of guests has been really good so far from HA/OD/TA. I did try Ebay when we first started and the only guest we got was very scatty and left the cottage in a bit of a mess, so we haven't used Ebay since. I have tried lots of different ways of getting new guests but for instant results the big 2 are a necessary evil for starting up, in my opinion.
We have had a small success with the local tourist information office (ideal for very last minute unsold weeks) and our own website is very slowly taking off, but its a lot of work to get it to a point where we are anywhere near happy with the look.
In contrast, a neighbour uses one of the big agencies and I think they charge about 20% + vat and dictate how everything is done, so I don't think HA/OD/TA are all bad (as of 2016! see how HA/OD/TA change in the next near or two). Hope you do well. Best regards, John
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JaneTwo



Joined: 25 Jun 2016
Posts: 37
Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi John!

It's good to hear what other relative newbies' experiences have been. Really interesting that you've had good experiences with the big listing sites. And also that the guests who've booked through them have been well behaved!

It suits me at the moment not to be fully booked, but I will review the situation when all the renovations are completed and I'm not (quite!) so scared of reviews.

I've had two more bookings (for September and October) through walkhighlands.co.uk since my initial post on this thread (have now added a 'How did you find website' field to the form).

Thanks for your good wishes!

Jane
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French Cricket



Joined: 10 Apr 2008
Posts: 3053
Location: French Pyrénées

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's really good to hear that walkhighlands is working for you, Jane. It's a perfect example of how a small, low-tech, very niche site that focuses on information as much as 'selling' can work well.
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French Foothills
Our Catalan cottage
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Ben McNevis



Joined: 15 May 2006
Posts: 819
Location: Scotland (for) The Brave

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+1 for walkhighlands. It's very effective for us.
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www . scotland-cottage.com www . scottish-cottage.com
www . learntotype.com/hrd Holiday Rentals Desk software

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aasta



Joined: 31 Aug 2009
Posts: 779
Location: Pe da Serra, Portugal

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

congradulations, Jane!!...and it is always good to read about others who are avoiding the "BIG Boys"...We are now in our 6th year, have avoided "them" and do not even have on-line booking, and are already filling up for next summer...
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JaneTwo



Joined: 25 Jun 2016
Posts: 37
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I love the whole concept of walkhighlands. I like how they randomly rearrange the order of the listings each day.

aasta - I think I should be congratulating you! Great to hear that you have had success with this route!!
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