Lay My Hat
The newsletter for rental home owners, BY rental home owners
Wherever I lay my hat, that's my home Issue number 7
  How to get repeat renters  |  Inbound links  |  Guest questionnaires  |  Subscribe to Newsletter  |  Past issues  |  Forum

Paolo pic.

Me and my monkey


In this edition of Lay My Hat, more advice from rental owners on what we all want in life: more bookings.

One couple tells us how to get repeat renters each year. I'm telling you how to run a simple linking campaign to give your site a real boost in the search engines. And one valuable tool you may be overlooking (like me!) - a guest questionnaire. I reckon these can be extremely useful.

Lay My Hat recently grew into a website - - where you'll find all the advice from past newsletters, and even better, a discussion forum for rental owners. If you haven't been yet, have a look, you can talk to fellow owners about anything that's on your mind. There are all sorts of subjects being discussed now, and you can add whatever you want to talk about.

As always, I would love to hear from you because this newsletter is intended as an exchange of ideas in the community of rental home owners. Email me your views, suggestions and tips, or post them on the forum - you'll notice that contributors get a link to their own site, giving them a nice boost in the search engine rankings!

All the best,

Paolo De Paolis signature
Paolo De Paolis
Editor, Lay My Hat

P.S. You can read past editions of Lay My Hat here:
If you have friends who are rental home owners, why not email them this address so they can see what they are missing?

How to get repeat renters

If you want to get repeat renters, it helps if you can make a stay in your home a memorable one. This is how one couple in Normandy do it:

For 6 years now we have had a little holiday rental house close to where we live in St Malo, France. Some of our guests are now returning for the third time.

  • We think the welcome is very important and for us it begins several months before they arrive, when we sow vegetables from seed which they will be able to gather during their stay (beans, radish, courgette, tomato, etc.), as well as all the aromatic herbs for the barbecue.
  • There are also the fruits which guests can gather according to the season: cherries, plums, strawberries, pears, apples and grapes.
  • And also a choice of jams which we get as much pleasure from making as giving.
  • We provide bicycles and all the gear for learning to fish, either with hook and line or by hand (shrimps, sand eels, cockles and clams) with tips on the best spots known only to locals!
  • For days when it rains (it does happen) and for a break from walks and the beach, we have a big games room in the attic with books and videos, and board games for kids.
  • Our Visitor's Book is where our guests, who quickly become our friends, can share their thoughts and give us ideas for further improvements.
  • Another idea we use: send a postcard 2 weeks before their arrival to say everything is ready and we are looking forward to meeting them soon.

Thanks to Victor and Francoise for sharing these tips with us. You can see their property here:

If you'd like to share your advice with Lay My Hat readers, email me at As well as the gratitude of your fellow owners, you'll get a link to your site.

For instant feedback and discussion, try the Lay My Hat forum: It's where owners can help each other out.

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Guest questionnaires

Do you use a guest questionnaire after each stay? If not, you may be missing out on some invaluable feedback about your home, your marketing and yourself!

Guests won't generally complain to you in person, or in the guest book, about minor problems and omissions in your property. But if you give them a simple questionnaire to fill in, they will let you know that you really need to supply a coffee-maker, or a light by the front door to find the lock at night - all sorts of inexpensive improvements you haven't thought of.

This is really the last step in the communication process that starts with the first enquiry. It's the owner's way of saying "How was it for you?"

And you don't have to limit the questionnaire to what's in your rental home. You can also get feedback on the quality of your marketing, or how you can improve your enquiry-to-booking ratio with better communication.

This is being discussed now in the Lay My Hat forum - you can see what other owners think about what should go in a guest questionnaire and add your say here:

Owner's secrets

Owners share their trade secrets - if you find them useful, why not join in? Email to

"We always put brand new soaps in the bathrooms and find that if you don't supply detergents, etc. they tend to use whatever's there, e.g. washing up liquid in the dishwasher or washing machine! [Editor's note: recently guests used washing up liquid in my clothes washing machine - it broke. Some people go a little absent-minded when on holiday so make it obvious what goes in which machine and save yourself a repair bill]"

Thanks to Jane -

To pass this newsletter on to other owners, you can just send it on like an ordinary email. Hit your 'Forward' button and put in the address you want to send it to. You can also type a message at the top of the newsletter to explain what you are sending - this newsletter looks like a webpage but it behaves like an email.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, you can ensure you receive future editions by clicking here to subscribe.

Remember, the point of Lay My Hat is that it's an exchange of ideas and opinions for holiday rental owners, so please don't be shy in sharing yours. Here's my address:

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How to get other sites linking to yours

The most important factors in determining your position in the search engine rankings are a) the content of your site, and b) the number and quality of inbound links to your site.

An inbound link is when another site links to you. Search engines like this because it means someone thinks your site is worth linking to.

Because everybody wants links, one great way to get them is to suggest a reciprocal link to a relevant site - that means I link to you if you link to me.

Here's some advice on how to get relevant sites linking to yours.

1. Create a Links page for your site. This is where you will list the sites you will link out to.

2. Use a search engine to look for relevant sites in your area. 'Relevant' means something that might be useful to your guests. So restaurants, tourist attractions, local bodies, shops, recreational facilities, etc. Make a list.

3. Place a link to your target sites on your links page before you ask these sites to link to you. This will make them more inclined to reciprocate.

4. Email the webmasters or owners of your list of sites. Explain what your site is about, and that you are linking to them for the benefit of visitors to your site and home (which may in turn bring them some business). Ask very nicely for a reciprocal link. Include the url of the page where they can see your link to them.

5. Keep records of which sites you contacted and when. If you don't get a response or a link within a week or two, send a reminder. Then move on (i.e. give up, there are plenty of other fish in the sea!)

You will find the full-length version of this article with all the good stuff I couldn't fit in, here at the Lay My Hat forum.

If you have any questions or opinions on this subject, post them at the forum - the above link will take you to the right place. (When you do post on the forum, put your site's url below your name - that's a link to your site right there!)

Next time, I'll be looking at how to get inbound links from directories and other sources on the internet.

Get an internet health-check

Are you getting the bookings your home deserves? If not, there may be something wrong with your site or ad. Ask me for a check-up. I'm not a doctor, but I am a travel copywriter who spends his whole life on the web.

I think I can help you get more bookings. To give your web presence a health-check that won't cost the earth, email me at

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Tip my hat...

The Lay My Hat newsletter is free (mainly because I didn't realise how much work it would be). However, my wife is not happy. As she puts it: "Why do you spend all your time on that ****** newsletter when you should be earning money to buy me shoes and handbags?" So to appease her, if you find Lay My Hat especially useful, you have the option of making a small donation towards its upkeep. Just click on the button below, no amount is too small. PayPal is free to use and secure. But please don't feel obliged - how many shoes can one person wear anyway?

Copyright 2003-2004 Paolo De Paolis. All rights reserved in all media.