Saturday, June 02, 2007

4 Do's and 1 Dont's to find your independent holiday property on the Internet

Our family spotted this hotel beside the Station at Verbier in Switzerland. You could ski straight down to it. "This is the place for us" we said. So we booked it for the following year through an internet agent.

When we arrived, it was the wrong hotel at a different station. Ouch!
The internet sales agency. The first Don't
We made the mistake of booking the hotel through an internet agency, where you book online with the Directory, not the Hotel. Don't do it. They know lttle about the property, you lose contact with the owners, and because the owners pay a hefty commission to the agency, above 30% very often, they load up the charges. You'll generally get it cheaper if you buy direct from the owners. That is the first Don't.

Directories. The first Do, but choose big ones.
Of course you can find a property in a Directory, one which quotes the owner's web site and e-mail address and you then deal direct. Just make sure the Directory is a big one so that there are many properties in the area you search for. The directories charge the owners a fee for listing, but it usually works quite well. You ought to bookmark your short-list otherwise you'll find difficulty in finding them a second time around. That's a Do.
Finding owners' web sites.
Not so easy as it sounds because you have to wade through Google's pages of Directories before you find individual sites. There are about 10,000 holiday properties in Scotland. The moment you Google "self-catering Scotland" you are in trouble. The sites in the first pages are all those by clever professionals who know their way around Google's 200 "web crawlers" which identify the sites they think you will want - using only your search term as a guide. Clever, these directories, with oodles of specialised knowledge - about Google. They know about inbound
links, about keyword emphasis, they know about anchor text and they write their text around the search terms they think you will use. That impresses Google no end.

Do narrow your search
You'll get fewer directories showing up on Google if you narrow the area of your search. You would not find our site if you Googled "Scotland self catering", you would have to search through the first couple of pages if you used "The Highlands" but you would find us on page one if you Google "Glencoe cottage" and its variations.
You could also find us on page one if you Googled, simply, "Lochside cottage". People rarely look past page one - they change their search terms. Well, if you get crowded out with directory sites you may have to go to page four or more to find individual owners' sites.

When to book.
In Scotland, the two most popular areas are Edinburgh, and the Highlands - our area. Properties divide into two, there are the large Victorian houses or other houses with four or five bedrooms. If you are trying to get a property for several families to share there are many opportunities, but don't leave it until late. The best properties in the high season are nearly all booked out. You'll have a problem if your date is fixed. By May all of us at the top end have only a week or two to offer in the Summer. We get one third of our high season bookings about 7 months in the previous year, particularly from returning guests.
Off season, you can try for late bookings. The only exception to this is for Christmas and for New Year. These are premium weeks and will sell out.

Spending Hogmanay in Scotland is a pretty romantic notion for some.
Or, Do use these other two ways to find your ideal holiday property. Google the word "Dmoz" This is the world's largest hand-edited Directory, called the Open Directory. It is not too difficult but a bit laborious to navigate your way through the options to find the property you want anywhere in the world in fact.
The route to find us, for example, is: Recreation/Travel/Europe/United Kingdom/Scotland/Highland/Lochaber/Self catering/then you'll get a good number of properties. If you use the Back button you can find other areas, obviously.
The final sneaky way is to do what 600 people every year do. They go to our own site where we have listed about 25 attractive self-catering properties whose owners we have come to know. They are all over Scotland, and all good properties. Try them
Lochside cottage near Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland
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