Resources - Cottage blogger

Resources

swiss-army-knifeI get a lot of questions about the resources mentioned in the blog and those we use to manage, market and operate our vacation rental businesses.  Everything mentioned on this page has been personally tested or highly recommended by our guest posters and expert partners.

Please note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning that I receive a referral fee if you decide to purchase after using the link.  This referral fee does not mean any increase in the price of the product or service; in fact some of the links include special discounts we have been able to negotiate for our community.  In addition, we only recommend sites and products/services we have found to be particularly helpful, and not because of the commissions we may earn from you using them.

Listing Sites

We’d always recommend listing on one of the major sites as well as some that are focused on your area.  These are the biggies and are probably worth the money. Just make sure you monitor the enquiries you get from each one so you can assess which ones are working the best for you.


Homeaway - Rent it out to vacationers.HomeAwayThe behemoth of listing sites, Homeaway delivers the punch that comes with the money it spends on marketing.  If you are in an area that has a lot of similar properties you might want to explore some of the premium options to get your place higher in the list that comes up when vacationers are looking.

 


Vacation Home RentalsOf course I have a bias here because I’m involved with VHR as Director of their Owner Community.  That aside I would recommend it anyway because they have been in the market for a long time and consistently achieve good rankings in the search engines.

 

 

 

flipkeyFlipkey: This is Trip Advisor’s vacation rental arm so if you list here you’ll show up on the world’s largest review site as well.  Personally, Trip Advisor is my go-to site when I’m looking for my next holiday destination because I like to read live reviews and not the owner-posted ones.

 

 

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International Vacation Home Exchange: My family participated in a home exchange back in the late 90’s and had a wonderful time doing a simultaneous exchange with a family in San Francisco. What if you could exchange vacant weeks in your vacation rental property with another around the world. Enter ivhe.com! Listen to Episode 009 of the Vacation Rental Success podcast for more information from ivhe.com founder Larry Klimczyk and check out his Free Home Exchange Guidebook.

Larry has also added some discounts for the Cottageblogger.com audience. Check out the Show Notes for VRS009 for more information.

 

Creating Your Own Website with a Template

Please, please don’t use a free website creation option.  They are free for a reason and although they can do the job of getting your presence on the web, you may be the only one to see it.  Although you can link to the site from your other listings, there is usually minimal or non-existent search engine optimisation, so you’ll be unlikely to show up on a Google search.  There are some other options that do cost you some money, but will make your times and effort working on it, much more worth-while.

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Webchalet: These guys are doing a great job providing an easy and convenient way to develope a web presence outside of your standard listings. Their templates give you a lot of freedom to create the style and look you are looking for to suit your ideal guests.

I interviewed Sarah Brubaker of Webchalt in Episode VRS026 of the Podcast. Sarah is passionate about the connection between good design and a solid marketing strategy to create a full functional website that can equally serve an individual owner or a rental management company with multiple properties.

They were also kind enough to offer 50% OFF to all the listeners of the podcast and visitors to the website.

 

Services for WordPress blogs and sites

By far the best way of building and managing your own web site and blog is to use WordPress.  The blogging platform has come a long way in the past few years and it’s so easy to create and set up a simple site to host a blog, and you can develop a full-scale web site as you become more familiar with it.

wordpressWordPress.org: This is the self-hosted option of the two WP offers (the other is WordPress.com) and is the one I recommend.  The other is free but like anything at no, or low costs, you will sacrifice a lot to save a few bucks. Pay the reasonable amount for hosting and a fully supported theme and you will have  a lot more options and control over your site or blog.

 

Hosting


Host Unlimited Domains on 1 AccountBlue Host: Blue Host is very easy to use.  There is a 1-click automatic WordPress installation and they have very responsive customer service if you have any problems with setting up your first blog or site. We highly recommend using Bluehost for your first site.

 

Themes

There are a lot of free themes available to help you create a great looking site, however you will not have the support or forum help that is offered via some of the big paid theme sites.  We’ve used both Thesis from DIY Themes and Genesis from Studio Press and any questions or problems have been dealt with quickly

Thesis themethesis_theme_icon: Whether you’re running a business website or a personal blog, Thesis is a perfect choice because it enables you to do what other WordPress themes can’t. Cottageblogger.com used to use the Twenty Eleven theme from DIY Themes and its really easy to use but now we have moved to a Genesis based theme.  Support for Thesis is friendly, prompt and informed.

 

 

 

Genesis themegenesis_theme_icon: We’ve used Genesis before and like Thesis it’s very user-friendly with a lot of options. Cottageblooger.com is currently using the Genesis Theme with the Child Enterprise child theme.

 

 

 

 

Plugin’s

wp_security_lock_iconWP Security Lock: Back in 2011, Cottage Blogger was hacked and it was very costly and time consuming to get it fixed and back to some normality.  Regina Smola at WP Security Lock was amazingly responsive and got me back to an operational level quickly – she also pointed out many areas of my blog that had security holes.  I recommend her fully.

 

 

back_up_buddy_iconBack up Buddy: Regina recommended several plugins to make my site more secure and one in particular has proved very useful.  Sites get hacked every day. Our passwords are rarely as strong as we think. And sometimes it doesn’t matter. Sometimes we delete the wrong file or make a change that breaks something. Ever trigger a fatal error from a bad plugin? Crashes happen. But with BackupBuddy, recovering from a problem is quick and easy.

 

 

Podcasting

Ever since I started my podcast (Vacation Rental Success Podcast) in 2013 I have seen Cottage Blogger grow dramatically. With tens of thousands of downloads in iTunes and an ever growing listener base I realized how this medium can be used to market your Vacation Rental business. Whether you are an individual owner, agency, real estate agent or VR software developer the podcast medium is a way to develop a very person and lasting relationship with your audience. Your potential, present and past guests/clients get to listen to your voice, your passion and your personality which helps you develop these relationships on a wide shale without having to do one-to-one marketing.

I have listed here some the resources that helped get me started and what I still refer to when I get stuck:

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Smart Passive Income Podcast Tutorial:
Pat Flynn is one of my go-to people for anything to do with internet marketing; delivering information and more recently, podcasting. The great thing about Pat is that once he has mastered something, he is out there giving away all he has learned, and that information is absolutely free.

In six videos, this step-by-step tutorial covers every aspect of podcast production from the 5 things you need to do before you start, to the equipment you will need; where to host your podcasts and how to publish them and get them seen by your audience.

There’s a lot of links to resources, equipment and more advanced tutorials, and this is a great tutorial giving basic instruction for getting started. Best of all, this tutorial is FREE.

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Podcasting AtoZ Course with The Podcast Answer Man:
If you get serious about podcasting and want the gold standard in training I highly recommend Cliff Ravenscraft’s A – Z Podcasting course. I did this when I started my podcast and it was my launchpad for Vacation Rental Success.

I’ve done a bunch of online courses in the past, and this one went a long way beyond expectations. After 18 months, I still go back to the videos occasionally for a refresher. This course has a fairly hefty price-tag at $1999 but is well worth the time and money if you really want to move into podcasting in a serious way. The A-Z courses start periodically, and if you decide this could be a great investment for you, use the code ‘cottage’ to get a $500 discount.

podcasters_paradise

Podcasters Paradise with John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire:
John Lee Dumas took the whole industry to the next level since he started his podcast with his 7-day a week show interviewing successful people from all walks of life, and then launching Podcasters Paradise.

PP is a training programme, forum, commuunity of poodcasters, and a resource-loaded site of video instruction, webinars with successful podcasters, documentation…in fact as the tag-line says – it has everything you need to Create, Grow and Monetize your podcast.

Along with the site, there is a private Facebook group with, at the last check, 859 members. Posting a question usually gets a response in minutes – it is an extremely supportive group. It is worth watching a Podcasters Paradise webinar to get a flavour of the programme and the community.

Blogs I Follow

Problogger: If you want to start writing a blog then Darren Rowse is the one to follow.  There are some great ebooks on his site that I have personally used and learned a lot from.  The best one is 31 Days to build a better blog – it’s easy to follow with great suggestions. This ebook does not cover how to set up a blog but will help you improve your blogging skills once you are up and running.