Airbnb, one of the standout travel-industry disruptors of the past five years. It connects travellers to unique, home-from-home stays in a more diverse range of accommodation than ever before, removing a dependency on hotels and serviced apartments.
As a serviced apartment provider, how can you compete against this new travel giant as potential customers search for places to stay? There are strategies you can use to stand out online, helping you to maximise your visibility and encourage customers to book with you. These include local search, website content optimisation, and building trust by addressing travellers' apprehension and concerns.
Local search is Google’s way of taking into account the location and proximity of a user to your business. 46% of Google searches are local so it's more important than ever to make sure your website gives Google all the right ranking signals when it comes to serviced apartment and accommodation local search. You want the information potential customers receive to be as accurate as possible, and local search done well can increase your business's prominence and visibility across various stages of the traveller's buying cycle, giving you a boost in website traffic that can lead to more bookings.
One of the most important steps to take in optimising your website and business for local search is to register for Google My Business. When would-be customers search for serviced apartments or rooms nearby, or in a specific location, Google will likely serve them the Map Pack results feature – something you definitely need a presence on.
Using Google My Business increases your chances of appearing in the Map Pack, giving you the opportunity to list your apartments' names, addresses, contact numbers, reviews, features, photos and most importantly, accurate Google Maps markers. This makes it extremely easy for travellers to find you in the Google results page, removing the need to search and book via Airbnb. A quick Google search for 'serviced apartments near me' shows you how important it is to feature in the Map Pack results to stay competitive.
How you structure the content on your website is also key to ranking well in local search. You need to tick the following boxes in order to show Google you're the best website to match a searcher's needs:
The key point is having a fast-loading, mobile-optimised website like London Serviced Apartments. Travel-related searches for 'tonight' and 'today' have grown by more than 150% on mobile over the past two years, so making sure your website delivers a quick, clear experience might be the competitive edge that clinches additional bookings. After all, as page-load time increases from one to five seconds, the probability of a bounce increases to 90%.
You should also optimise your website mark-up using schema, which helps Google understand the data it finds on your pages. This is another ranking factor that can help you rise to the top of local search results.
The media, and websites like Airbnbhell, regularly report on horror stories that range from the intrusive and fearful to the disgusting and dirty. Serviced apartments can combine the home-from-home surroundings and sense of freedom offered by Airbnb with guaranteed levels of security, cleanliness and service. Using content on your website and blog, and across social media, to reinforce this message will help you appeal to travellers who like to adventure without going too far into the unknown.
Review content can help you reinforce this point further. Reach out to happy customers who chose your serviced apartments over an Airbnb listing, whether it was for peace of mind, price, location or ease of booking. These real-life stories help to bring your offering and brand to life, building trust and credibility up with potential customers. Stay City integrates its serviced apartment pages with its TripAdvisor reviews to deliver a seamless, trust-building experience without the user having to stray from its website.
Price can be a huge driver of accommodation bookings. Do your research and keep up to date with the Airbnb properties close to your serviced apartments. Keep your rates competitive and try introducing offers to incentivise first-time bookings.
Part of Airbnb's charm is its ability to connect travellers to real people in real homes. It'll be harder for you to build a rapport with potential customers, but if you can make your communications and brand feel human, friendly and enthused about your customers' experience, this will put you in excellent stead to compete with the likes of Airbnb. SACO features a social media feed of photos and positive reviews on its homepage, which really helps to create a connection between the brand and glowing customer experiences.
James Waters, global director of customer service at Booking.com, says: 'As we operate in an industry that is incredibly personal, emotional and complex, maintaining the right balance between genuine human interaction and efficient automation is something we're always trying to fine-tune and optimise throughout every stage of the consumer journey.' This is a fantastic takeaway for any serviced apartment businesses wanting to strike a chord with customers.
The travel industry is in a state of flux. How people want to experience the world and find accommodation is changing. Airbnb is at the forefront of the home-from-home trend, but there are issues around service, safety and cleanliness that serviced apartments can capitalise on with trust-building content.
People searching for nearby accommodation, particularly on mobile, is on an upwards trajectory, so serviced apartment websites should focus on optimising for local search in order to reach would-be customers as they research, compare and eventually book accommodation.