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How well do you know your potential guests? Step-by-step guide to finding your top vacation rental markets

Do you know where your potential guests come from? Do you know when they tend to start looking for a vacation rental in your area? If you’ve been operating your vacation rental for several years, then you should have enough data on past inquiries and bookings to observe some patterns and use them to make decisions on how to market and when to discount. But what if you’re just getting started?

Why is it important?

If you know where people who vacation in your area live, then you can better find and take advantage of opportunities for targeted marketing, such as posting to their local craigslist or classified ads in their local papers that serve specific geographic areas.  Also once you know when those folks typically start vacation rental shopping (such as when more people begin researching your vacation destination online), you can better tailor the timing of your advertisement purchases. These are excellent ways to get more results from your advertising efforts.  But how do you find?

Google Trends

Google Trends is a free service offered by Google.  This service allows you to analyze what other people are searching for on, and most importantly how they search. By entering search terms relevant to vacation rentals in your area, Google Tends can show you the level of interest in that query, both over time and regionally. For example, here is a chart depicting the the number of searches over time for “outer banks vacation” - a phrase which generally refers to the beaches of North Carolina.
Google: Interest over time chart

From this Google Trends chart, you can see that after a peak in July each year, interest in “outer banks vacation” drops off rapidly, and doesn’t pick up again until January. It’s also interesting to note that each year there is another rise in interest in January, which for many of the years shown is higher than the next highest peak in July.

But what about learning where all these people who are researching NC beaches live? Here is the Regional Interest chart for the same query.

Google: Regional Interest Chart
And here is the same information presented in an easier to read list:


From this chart you can see that there are 5 states (WV, PA, MD, VA, OH) with more folks who are more interested in vacationing in the Outer Banks than are from North Carolina - the home of these beaches. And the states (WV, PA) supplying the most interested individuals are not the most geographically near to North Carolina, as one might assume. Also, South Carolina, the state next closest to NC beaches after North Carolina and Virginia, doesn’t even rank in the top 10 here. So you may conclude that it is probably not worth spending any of your marketing budget on ads targeting South Carolinians.

There’s a lot of other information you can get from Google Trends. In the regional interest chart you can drill down to Metro areas, or all the way down to Cities. In our example, this reveals that a lot more people in Pittsburgh seem to be interested in the Outer Banks than the much larger Philadelphia (2nd vs 9th). You can also review regional interest over time, with a date slider below the chart. For some searches this might reveal where your offseason visitors come from, as opposed to your high season visitors.

The Google Trends site can also be used to compare the popularity of areas over time. For example, a search for “miami vacation, new york vacation” reveals that New York’s appeal as a vacation destination seems to have declined over the years, as compared to Miami.

If you discover any other interesting insights about your vacation rental area by using Google Trends, let us know in the comments below.

This guest post was brought to you by Alex and Heather Chapman who write the Rent By Owner Guide - Vacation Rental Owner Tips, Resources and Advice.

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