Updated: Mar 29, 2021
Everything you need to build your own holiday rental website without writing a single line of code.
Airbnb is great, they help us find people, make sure we get paid and even offer us some security to make sure our investment is taken care of. Creating your own website to start taking more bookings might seem like a lot of work for not much reward but it can be a lot easier and cheaper than you think.
This article will help you to understand why you need your own website and what your options are for getting started. It doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars to get started, the old days of having to pay a web designer thousands of dollars for a simple website are well and truly over. Now, you can simply and easily create your own website if you have the time and a bit of design flair, you can be up and running for less than $100 within 48 hours.
“the old days of having to pay a web designer thousands of dollars for a simple website are well and truly over.”
Why do you need a website?
If you have read any of my articles you will understand that I think it is really important for people to see Airbnb, Booking.com and the other websites as a booking channel, not your business. If you're reliant on any one of the booking channels to run your business then you're subject to the whims of that channel. Many people experienced this through the COVID-19 pandemic where Airbnb overturned their cancellation policies and gave guests full refunds. To be clear on this though, almost all booking channels did the same but Airbnb was the only one to pay hosts out of their own pocket.
The common term and mentality around hosts on Airbnb is that they run an Airbnb when in fact, Airbnb is simply a lead generation tool for your business. You run a holiday rental business, Airbnb helps you to fill up your calendar with bookings, but you should be able to run your business independently. It is really important to realise that Airbnb is just a booking channel, they deliver guests to your business and so can many other websites like booking.com, expedia.com, jalan.net and your very own website. Your business is independent of Airbnb and the sooner you realise that the happier you will be.
With your own website, you have a persons complete and undivided attention. They don't have 12 other listings open in different tabs and lots of options to consider. They are on your website and you make it easy for them to stay with you again & again.
Having your own website is the best way for you to take control of the entire process of your business and not have to stick to the rules of Airbnb or the other platforms. Also, as an added bonus, you don't lose the 15-20% commission to Airbnb or booking.com (Yes, Airbnb does charge up to 20%, see here for an explanation) meaning more money in your back pocket for every single booking.
How to build your own website for less than $100
Here is a list of everything you need to get started before creating your very own website:
Domain name. A domain name is the word that appears before the .com and after the www. You should think of a business name for your holiday rental company and try to include that in your domain name. For example, something like www.yourbusinessname.com. Keep it short and make sure it is easily pronounced over the phone or in person. Once you have come up with your business name, you should go to godaddy.com (Yes, that's it's actual name...) where you can see if your domain is available. If it is, you can purchase it directly on godaddy.com. It should cost about $20 for a year. If your domain is unavailable, you will have to think of some other variation to choose. Don't bother with the additional extras, you won't need them. Pro tip: It is a good idea to have a highly unique business name and domain name as it makes it easier to rank on Google and for people to find you. A lot of smart guests will Google the name of a property they find on Airbnb and book directly instead.
Logo. If you have a good eye for design, feel free to make your own logo. However, if you struggle with it, you can hire a freelancer or even use Wix.com which has an AI logo generator that iterates through possible designs until you're happy with one.
Photos and copy. You should already have the pictures of your listing that you have uploaded on Airbnb so you won't have to find any new ones. Hopefully, you read my article on how to write a killer listing description for Airbnb, so you won't have to rewrite anything for your new website.
Custom email. Once you have your domain registered, you have a few options on how to set up your emails. Whichever email system you're most familiar with is the one you should use to create your custom email address. I recommend to use G Suite (Gmail) to set up your custom email because that is what I use for everything else.
When you lay it all out, it really isn't that much information you need to get started and if you want to add anything else, you can always make changes later. Now you have everything ready to go, all you need to do is decide which website builder you're going to use.
There are however some specific things you will need for your direct booking website in order to make it work for you and to protect you from any liability etc. I have covered these at the end of this blog post.
Which website builder is right for you?
A website builder is an online or sometimes offline program that allows you to create, edit and publish websites created from either a blank canvas or by using a template without writing any computer code. Website builders have changed a lot in the last 5 years to the point where they are simple enough to use and understand that even someone without any prior knowledge of website design or development can quickly learn how to use them and deploy a working website without writing a single line of computer code.
There are a number of different options available to you as the prospective website designer each with subtle differences that changes the skills required and the versatility of the builder. Here is a list of a few website builders that I have tested and some of the pros and cons of using them.
Wix is a really simple tool to use for the inexperienced web designer. It has the simplest user interface, lots of add-ons that make it able to produce a high quality, well laid out website without having to write a single line of code. They have a range of templates that make designing your very own website as simple as choosing the layout that you like and then using the simple drag & drop interface to rearrange elements and make all the changes you want until you're satisfied.
The ability to drag and drop is what makes this website builder so easy to use and quick to learn. This website has been built using the Wix website builder and it is my personal favourite due to the simplicity and ease of use.
Something like 29% of the websites on the internet have been created on word press partly because it has been around for so long and partly because it is one of the most commonly known applications that a lot of web designers are familiar with. Unlike Wix, WordPress doesn't have the drag and drop interface which can be take a while to get used to. It can also be really frustrating if you just want to move that heading slightly to the left but you can't do it because the template won't allow it. You choose a template from the hundreds (probably thousands) and you're limited with the changes you can make unless you know how to write your own custom code to make the changes you want. Simple things like moving a menu or text box can be a painful exercise.
Because it has been around for so long there is a massive community of people who are constantly building and updating add-ons that make word press templates more functional. It is a little more expensive and takes longer to become proficient with however the rich library of add-ons (A lot of them are free) are really useful to get you set up and started.
You don't need to write any code with WordPress and if you're happy to stick with a common theme or layout, you will be able to get going fairly easily.
Much like WordPress, Square space is a template based website builder. It can be a little easier to use than WordPress however, it still lacks the easy to use drag and drop functionality of Wix. If you want to make changes to the template design, you need to know how to write code or pay someone to do it for you. I haven't personally used Square space to launch a website from scratch however the ones I have played around with have been cumbersome to make changes to. Square space is a favourite of some more artistic web designers who know how to code their own graphics because it gives you the flexibility to make those changes, if you know what you're doing.
There are a boat load of others that I have less experience with but offer much the same outcome. If you're a first time web builder, my advice would be to use Wix because the learning curve is manageable and you don't have to pay a cent until you're ready to launch. Make your own choice based on your level of experience and skills.
What about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)?
This has been an argument thrown around for many years by die hard WordPress lovers that the other website builders don't rank as well in Google search results. That may have been true 2 or 3 years ago, but in recent times Wix and Square space have made some major in roads to improve their ranking on search engines like Google.
If you think about it, search engines like Google want to deliver the most relevant search results to the people using Google. When Wix and Square space first came on the scene there were only a small few websites contributing searchable content from those platforms so of course Google wouldn't be too bothered with ranking those results. However, as the number of websites on each platform grows, Google realises that it is in their best interest to start to do a better job of indexing those websites to make sure that the best information is being presented to the people searching on Google. That is the key to SEO, Google wants to deliver the best content to the people searching. If your content is the best then Google will take notice.
In addition to that, each of the website builder platforms have been working exceptionally hard to improve their ability to be ranked highly on Google.
SEO is so much more than your website builder
A lot of people live in a fantasy world where they believe that all they need to do is use the right website builder or hire the right web designer and their website is going to be instantly at the top of Google search results.
That might be true if you offer a really unique service with no competitors and an audience of people who are typing in super specific key words that match your website perfectly. However, for the rest of us in the competitive world, we not only need to make sure Google finds our website but also make sure that Google know we're the best place to send their users.
What is the best way to do that? Good quality, engaging content. If your website has answers to the questions that your customers are asking, of course your website will rank higher than the others. If your website holds the attention of people for longer and they view more pages, Google will assume that they connected them with the right website. If someone visits your website and leaves straight away, Google thinks that they connected them with the wrong website for those search terms and they will put another website higher than yours. That is why it is really important to have well defined written and visual content on your website that grabs and holds the attention of your website visitors.
SEO like a pro
There are a few things you can do that will help you get a head start in the SEO game because even though Google is really good at what it does, if you've just published your very first website, chances are Google doesn't even know yet.
If you're using Wix, you can go through the SEO Wizard which helps you to connect with Google and make sure they know your website exists and what kind of things are on your website. However, before you start you need to do a quick bit of keyword research to find out what people most often ask Google when they are looking for a website like yours. This is really important to do because even if you picked a really good business name that describes your business like 'Surfers Paradise Holiday Rentals' chances are people won't actually search for that and you should think of all the other research people would be doing before they go on their holidays. We use google trends to help find out which searches are the most popular before going through the Wix SEO Wizard.
Finding your key words and connecting Google search console for your business is the all important first step towards google ranking your website in their search results.
There you go, you've now got all of the information you need to set up your own holiday rental website for less than $100. I know there was a lot of information in there and there is also a lot that I've left out, so some of you might be feeling a little overwhelmed and be thinking maybe you should let a professional take care of it.
What if I don't want to do it?
If you're not confident to set up your own website, then there are other options that don't have to cost you thousands of dollars and then there are others that will. Make sure you know what you're getting yourself in for by understanding the options you have.
Option 1. You can get in contact with us and we will set you up with your very own direct booking website.
With this, you can have your very own direct booking website ready to accept payments and bookings with payouts sent directly to your bank account. We do not charge any commission on bookings made through the website. We also include our terms and conditions to protect you as a host if the worst was to happen and a guest did the wrong thing.
Option 2. You can engage a web design company that will build you a website to suit your needs for $1,000 to $2,000. These people are good at what they do and they all use different website builders, you need to make the choice of where you want to start and if you want to spend that much money up front. You should be able to find these on Google and I encourage you to use Google to find them because it means they know what they are doing for SEO. Click the first link below the paid links and they should be a good place to start.
Be aware that you will need some other documents in order to get started with direct bookings. See the end of this post for a full list of what you need to get started.
Option 3. You can get a website custom built (from scratch) by searching for a web developer who can go through and build everything from the ground up. This is an expensive option between $4,000 to $10,000 and I wouldn't recommend it unless you have a significant number of listings and want custom features that the website builders don't offer.
Everything you need for direct bookings
Before you go and make your own website on Wix and start taking new bookings, there are some very important things you need to know to make it safe for you to do so.
Airbnb offers you a range of services and most of the time we don't even notice. They collect payments, handle damage claims, connect your listing with guests, handle the legal contracts to make it easy and safe for you to get started.
Without Airbnb you don't have these protections and you need to be aware of that and how you can mitigate your risks of accepting direct bookings. The good news is that there is a way to make it work for you and I have included a list of some things you should consider before you get started.
This is actually highly important even if you do not have a direct booking website. Airbnb does not have insurance and you should never rely on it. Join a few Facebook groups for Airbnb hosts and you will find out that the Host guarantee is not everything it is cracked up to be.
You may already have home and contents insurance and/or landlord insurance but check your policy to ensure that you are covered should the worst happen. If you don't have insurance there are many providers around the world that will give you cover at a reasonable rate.
Obviously, I am not a lawyer and this should not be taken as legal advice. However, you should absolutely consult a lawyer to get them to draw up some terms and conditions and a simple contract for you to use for direct bookings. This makes sure you're not breaking any laws and that you're covered in the event something happens.
Most people are used to booking online. Your website needs to be able to accept credit card payments online. You don't need to pay someone to build this for you, there are many great products out there at reasonable prices.
We use Stripe as our payment processor, they have some of the best systems and the rates are very reasonable. Stripe also allows you to hold security deposits
Calendar sync/channel manager
If you are already on Airbnb, then you probably have bookings, you need to be able to keep your calendars up to date and synchronised all the time. If you don't allow instant bookings on your website then you're unlikely to have any double bookings except for human error.
However, you can use what is called an iCal sync to keep your calendars up to date and synchronised. These will update periodically and there is still a potential for double bookings.
You can use a channel manager which is a piece of software that will help keep your calendar synced across all the booking websites. If you want to list on more than two websites, I highly recommend investing in a channel manager so you can keep everything synced in real time. They also have a wide range of additional features that will make running your business much easier.
The whole package
If you really want your own direct booking website but the list of things to do is simply too long or complicated, we can help. We know a lot of Airbnb hosts want their own direct booking websites but run into the same issues around how much it costs to get started.
That is why we have a package for Airbnb hosts to be able to have their own direct booking website including everything you need to take direct bookings for only $29USD a month with a one month free trial. If you are interested in this, please get in touch as we would be happy to help you.
P.S. If you're looking to take your Airbnb earnings to the next level and implement the same strategies the big hotels have been using for years to dominate the market...