How many people use the sites to search for holiday cottage accommodation?
The number of visitors to our web sites grows each year. For the period August 2009 to August 2010 we welcomed the following number of visitors to the sites:
Between both of our websites – almost 2 million visitors – 1,932,322 to be precise.
On www.countrycottagesonline.com – 1,027,263 visitors who looked at 6,353,490 pages to find a holiday cottage
On www.countrycottagesonline.net there were 905,059 visitors who looked at 5,145,200 pages.
All that works out on average as 5308 visitors per day on both sites combined. We have cottages advertised with us since the sites first began several years ago. Inevitably, the more attractive the cottage, the better it will perform. You may find some of the information below helpful.
Why are some advertisers more successful than others?
The results that you obtain for your self-catering accommodation depend on a number of factors which are outlined below:
Facilities and competitiveness on the site
We find that any self-catering accommodation that offers extra facilities always books first. Swimming pools are top of the list, followed by saunas, spas, games rooms etc. It's the holiday cottages and houses with the 'wow' factor that always let well. Some of these could be advertised on a lamp post and succeed, let's just say that price is not a major factor when it comes to bookings.
Even if you have a single simple cottage, it's always good to try to differentiate it from the rest. You don't have to go to a lot of expense, you could for example offer a fondue, or cappuccino maker, or a massage chair, or barbeque. Your location is supremely important; people still want recognised holiday areas, beach holidays, national parks.
We are just as concerned about the owner with one cottage as with a cottage complex. We appreciate that it's much cheaper to advertise a complex and will do our best to promote your individual cottage. We understand that there is demand for all types of self-catering accommodation, even non-holiday areas can achieve high demand for short lets, especially near major cities, because of people visiting family for weddings, christenings and other such functions, or for short term work assignments.
Identify your target market
Who are you aiming for in terms of decor, facilities and style? If you want to attract families, do you provide cots, high chairs, play equipment? Perhaps you're offering a romantic hideaway. Ensure that it looks like one. Paint a picture of what you're trying to sell your target market. Is it a romantic hideaway, just for 2, with roses over the front door, luxurious bedroom with king-size bed and own private en-suite bathroom, or is it a cottage, double room with king-size bed, en-suite. Which sounds more appealing to a couple looking for a romantic weekend?
Present your accommodation well
It's amazing how many owners upload poor quality, badly taken photographs that do not display their self-catering accommodation at its best. Visitors make a judgment based on the very first image they see. They will only investigate further if the image attracts them. Do you know what that image is? The most important image on the .net site is the small 200 pixel wide image that appears on the search or Feature pages on the .net site. This image is the one that most people will see and will click on for further details if they initially like what they see. Be critical. Make sure that this is your very best image.
Both sites can display up to 6 images. We are amazed at the number of people who upload the minimum of photographs. It begs the question ''what do they have to hide?". People want to know exactly what they're getting for their money, so show them around. We want people to have a good time on holiday, so if you're ashamed of your accommodation or are not prepared to clean and maintain it to a high standard, please do not advertise it with us.
Use the area to 'sell' your self-catering accommodation
It's easy to let any cottage close to a beach during the summer, or near a popular tourist attraction, e.g. Alton Towers. The difficulty is in attracting guests for the rest of the year. This is where a certain amount of effort on your part is entailed. We want you to have good results but we cannot perform miracles. We have sections on the .net site with space for local attractions and annual events but it's amazing the number of people who do not bother to complete these. A cottage near the beach in Dorset is wonderful and easy to let during the summer but why should anyone stay there in November, even though it's nicely furnished? People need reasons. Give them reasons.
Use the Events Pages on the sites to promote events in your area linked to your accommodation. Write and let us know about them. If they're regular annual events and we have the time, we'll create a permanent web page on the .com site to promote the event.
Self catering break trends
Many people are now opting for self-catering short breaks rather than weekly lets. They're also tending to book last minute. If you're new to self-catering, we would advise that you offer short breaks all year round and charge accordingly. Use Late Availability to promote your mid-week breaks and other useful services of the site accordingly. One of the best used pages on both web sites is the Late Availability page, make sure that you add your late availability to it. It's free for our advertisers to use. It will get you better results. OK it's a bit more work but will be worth every minute.
Use all the services available to you
We find that the people who get the most out of the Country Cottages Online sites are those who are prepared to present their accommodation well, are aware of the services on offer, and use them and all these services are included in the advertising fee you pay. We don't charge extra for advertising in different categories - it's all inclusive. For example, we're pleased to produce Feature Pages to better present the cottages to visitors according to interest. For this reason, there are Feature Pages for 'luxury cottages', 'pet-friendly cottages'. New suggestions are always welcome. The development of the sites is a continuous process.
The Late availability pages on both sites receive about 5% of visitors each during peak periods. On 8,000 visitors per day that results in a daily average of 400 visitors looking at the Late Availability pages, so it's well worth adding unbooked periods to them.
Ensure that you have comprehensive Statistics
Advertisers on Country Cottages Online have 3 ways of monitoring results from the service.
1. Automatic recording. Each time a visitor looks at your complete record on the www.countrycottagesonline.net site, it's recorded and you can view these simple stats via your owner menu on login.
2. Automatic recording via your own website. If you have your own website and a visitor clicks on it, assuming that you have stats for your site, you will be able to monitor the number of visitors that Country Cottages Online sends to you but do please note that because we display considerably more information and either up to 3 or 6 photographs in a record view, visitors do not necessarily have a need to click through to your own web site. Some sites display only 3-4 lines of text so that visitors have to click through to view more. It's getting that balance between displaying enough information to get people interested and insufficient so that they don't bother to go further.
3. Manual recording. If visitors simply look at your entry on search pages and call your phone number directly (as many will do because they have enough information displayed to make a decision), keep a note of which site sent them to you. In these days of the proliferation of viruses and spam, we emphasise the phone for bookings and enquiries.
The above method of monitoring stats is not perfect, and time consuming, but it's the only way that you will know which portals perform best for you.
Maintain a good relationship with your advertiser
We find that we work best with and produce ever improving results for advertisers who are prepared to make an effort and work with us. If your self-catering accommodation is of a high standard, with extra facilities like swimming pools, tennis courts, saunas, hot tubs etc., either in or close to any city (especially London, Bath, York, Stratford-upon-Avon, Edinburgh), or close to a tourist attraction, or beach then it's easy to let during peak seasons. If none of these apply, or it's outside peak season, then you will need to emphasise the area and events.
People usually go on holiday in a certain area for a reason - it's not just because your holiday home is beautiful or has three bedrooms. They go because the area has something to offer, or there is a special event, or they want to visit relatives, or a combination of reasons. Attractive, comfortable well-priced, and nicely presented accommodation simply gives your property the edge over others in that area. The most successful advertisers spend time marketing their accommodation. They tell us and update their record with the fact that they're within 30 minutes drive of the NEC so that we can add their property to that particular page, or point out that they provide an internet facility so that we can identify cottages with internet (a good selling point for many holidaymakers).
It all comes back to knowing what you can expect from the service. Some people spend a lot of money advertising on a large number of sites, add their advert willy nilly without considering images or content, and sit back waiting for the bookings to flood in. They don't monitor their statistics and have only a vague idea about actual results. Other treat the whole marketing experience as a science and discuss their requirements and ask appropriate questions. Politely. I think you can guess which clients we prefer.
How to ensure that your visitors want to repeat the experience
Being helpful and courteous to guests might sound rather obvious and patronising, but the basics are sometimes lacking. Make your guest's visit easy - provide them with a location map with confirmation of the booking. A small welcome pack is always appreciated with tea, coffee, sugar, milk, biscuits, or provide an optional larger pack for a fee. Your guests will appreciate a drink and snack on arrival, especially if they have travelled a reasonable distance. Ensure that the property is equipped with toilet paper! Leave your guests some information (preferably with maps) of the nearest supermarkets. If they arrive on a Saturday they will most probably want to go shopping soon after arrival, and there's nothing worse than getting lost in an attempt to find the nearest supermarket when tired and hungry.
You should also provide a folder with details of things to do and see in the area. Your local Tourist Information Office will be able to provide plenty of free leaflets. Keep this updated with events for the month, films and showing times at the cinema, theatre etc.
Cleanliness is next to godliness.
Maintain high standards of cleanliness. People expect high standards of any accommodation. It's the only way to build up repeat bookings and recommendations.
Call us on 01442 827 260 during office hours and we'll be happy to discuss your requirements and point you in the right direction.
Please Note: our terms and conditions are updated periodically as site facilities and the service grow. Please click and view our advertising terms and conditions
Guidelines for the addition of extra cottages by existing clients
Additional cottages can be added directly from your owner menu on countrycottagesonline.net. An invoice will be issued once a new cottage is added. We require that all new records are completed within 14 days and payment made otherwise time will be deducted from the time remaining on your other cottages.
The sites are advertising portals which means that your self-catering accommodation is displayed for a fee for a period of a year with no commission payable. You set your own prices and write your own descriptions and accept responsibility for maintaining the accuracy of the data.
We accept any good quality accommodation ranging from simple through to luxury as long as it is well cleaned and maintained, accurately described and that you are legally permitted to let it . The only exception is agencies - we will only accept adverts from agencies if one in every 5 properties is advertised. We reserve the right to remove advertisements added by agencies, without reimbursement, where they deliberately ignore these terms and conditions.