Challenges of RV Property Cabin Search on Google
About the recent Google update
Google did a big update on about March 12 and the web SEO community is all abuzz about it—complaining about losing page rank or cheering an improvement in ranking position on the Google search results pages. You can find more on Google by searching “March 12 Google update”, or click here.
None of my clients’ analytics have shown a change in Organic search volume related to the March 12 algorithm update. However… it appears that the update has benefited a number of national competitors in the cabin rental space. When you search using Google to find a “cabin rentals in [name-of-any-city]” a list of big names will dominate both paid and organic listings.
It has become more challenging for campgrounds to rank for ‘cabin rental search’ on Google
National Vacation Advertisers Have Taken Over
National property rental companies seem to have been favored by this new Google Algorithm update. So they’re ranking first on most search results pages for both Paid listings and Organic listings. Organic search results include an assortment of these websites as the first organic listings. Try it in your browser searching for ‘cabin rental in name-yer-town’. I’m seeing this across the country for my clients with rental cabins—increasing dominance of large companies/websites over individual cabin rental properties. May be the cost-per-click will go up for cabin search ads due to this change. The big companies have big ad budgets and so it was already not a level playing field for any single property in the cabin rental space.
National advertisers like:
Regional Property Sites
On search results pages the big companies (all of them Google advertisers) come first; but next come regional websites that specialize in your area. For example in Georgia a search for cabin rentals you’ll see:
Plus several others, depending on location. Some of these regional specialty cabin rental websites are able to rank above the big guys on a local basis, even though they’re not paying for the ads. In some regions the cabin rental websites are put up by real estate property management companies with multiple clients’ cabins. Even Craigslist.org and bringfido.com get listings for cabin rental search.
In my test searches of various client locations I’ve observed that individual properties with just one or a few cabins are not appearing on page one or page two of Google results. This is telling us that right now Google is treating the larger websites as if they’re better websites. My search of “cabin rental in Galveston” was an eye-opening example, where my RV Resort client’s website (which had extensive SEO work done) didn’t appear until page 4—below about 50 other listings. In general we say that if your site is not on the first two pages of Google search results, it’s unlikely to receive many organic clicks from consumers.
Google has been telling us their algorithm is looking to give top ranking to pages with E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust). They want only the very best results for their users. The definition of these qualifications is fuzzy. Google doesn’t want to reveal its methods. But clearly if your website is not part of a national database of cabins, cottages, or vacation rentals you’re not showing enough expertise, authority, or trustworthiness. Google ranks each website for ‘quality’ based upon the words and meanings on the website (as interpreted by Google). Some SEOs theorize that Google takes into account not only the words on the page, they also consider the consumer’s reactions. Searcher click-thru is important: How often do consumers click on your listing compared to others? Bounce rate may also be important: how often do people click-thru to your website and then leave without viewing a more pages? How many pages did they view? While the search community is not sure about the impact of bounce rate on quality/ranking, we know Google does track this stuff and it makes sense to me that they use it to measure quality and relevance.
It has become more challenging for small properties with a mix of accommodations to achieve rank on Google to display your cabin rentals. If you’re an RV property and your website is mostly about RV sites, rv hookups, rv parks, rv resorts, camping amenities, and the like then your website is not an authority on cabin rentals in your town. While your website is probably an expert authority on RV parking, it’s not an authority on cabin rentals.
If Google favors larger (mega-advertiser) websites because they’re focused on the more relevant topics and keywords, it is understandable that those sites rank higher on search pages. They have higher quality scores for individual keywords. Unfortunately Google also uses quality score in their CPC paid advertising service Google Ads. The websites with higher quality and relevance are displayed first, and they are charged a bit less.
Also, for the broad segment of consumers searching for cabins to rent, it is usually not their first thought to go to an RV park to find a cabin. My estimation is that when people think of renting a cabin, they’re visualizing a cozy log cabin with a stone fireplace in a quiet location. To confirm this, try typing “cabin rental” in Google and then view the image listings. Park models on an RV site are not the primary thought. When cabin searchers arrive on the home page of a typical RV park they’re not completely satisfied. For the most part I’ve observed that cabin search traffic has a high bounce rate on RV sites. Cabin pages have higher bounce rates than RV related pages on that same site.
It is possible to improve the page rank of your cabin rental pages using some established SEO (search engine optimization) techniques. Create wording that makes that specific page an expert on the topic of cabins in your location. SEO work is not exacting, and is known to take a while to have an effect on Google. Doing SEO improvements on your cabin rentals page would help in the long run, but should not be expected to have an immediate impact nor to beat the national pages on cabin rental. Unfortunately.
Another more radical solution could be to create a website that is focused completely on cabins, cottages, and vacation rentals. A separate website that is an expert authority with no confusing talk about concrete pads or RV utilities, etc. While this is an extreme tactic, I have actually proposed it to clients. It’s also a long game as it takes time for Google to index sites and then rank them.
Better cabin rental landing experiences. At a minimum your cabin rental pages should be separate pages on your rv campground/resort website. The cabins page is dedicated to the topic and your locale. Everything a potential cabin renter needs to make a purchase decision should be right there. Consumers landing on your cabins page would see cabin photos, cabin rates and features, services related to cabins, what they need to bring for cabin rentals, and more. For example, don’t burry your cabin rates on a page of RV site rates. Make cabin rental pages comprehensive.
Consumers will still be able to see your park activities and amenities pages to see the added value. Your pool, kid’s activities, local attractions, convenience store, security features, etc. Renting a cabin at such a resort is better than renting a remote hillbilly cabin. Just make sure the cabin renters won’t feel like ‘outsiders’ at an rv park. Give your cabin rental content some focus and priority.