Begginer's guide

Welcome to the IO Beginner's Guide

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Choosing your best photographs and composing exciting and enticing text is one of the most important tasks you will undertake in making your website successful, leading to more enquiries and more bookings!

The Beginner's Guide isn’t just for new Members to help them construct their property website from the ground up, it’s also for our existing Members to ensure that their free villa website has reached its full potential. In this Guide we tackle the key steps to creating and updating your holiday website.

  • 1. Ready, Steady! Everything you need to know about what to prepare before you start. From making sure your photographs are ready to upload to organising your text so it’s ready to be added to the right page of your website.
  • 2. Page By Page Taking in one page at a time we’ll show you what you can cover on each page of your website. We give you an idea of how much text to add, the optimum number of photographs for each page, how to put your Guestbook page together and what not to include in your Gallery!
  • 3. Widget School This section of the Beginner's Guide helps you to understand what widgets are, how they can make your website look better and most importantly where they can be included in your website.
  • 4. The IO Beginner's Guide Checklist No help guide would be complete without a conclusion and ours forms a printable checklist to make sure you’ve covered all the points we’ve explored throughout the Beginner's Guide. Each item is listed with a tick box to click online and offline. Add it to the paperwork section in your My Rental Admin area or print it off and keep it in your holiday rental folder.

1. Ready, Steady!

Everything you need to know about what to prepare before you start. From making sure your photographs are ready to upload to organising your text so it’s ready to be added to the right page of your website.

Template Choice

Just after registration you were asked to choose a template as the background for your website - this can be changed at any time and as many times as you wish. Taking the colours and feel of Home page photo as guidance you should try different templates to see which one makes your website look the best it can. The best time to review your original choice of template is once you've finished building your website but don't worry about forgetting as we've added this item to the checklist at the end of this Guide. To change your template simply choose "Template Design" from the menu on the left in your Central Management Area.

Writing Content for your Website

Preparing good website content is key to making visitors want to read on and can help with optimization. Section Three of the Beginner's Guide gives you more information about what to include on each page and here are some things to keep in mind across all your pages.

  • Each of your pages should have a strong introduction, use short paragraphs with careful use of headers and sub-headers to help visitors scan your website and choose what they want to read. This clear structure is also favoured by Search Engines as it makes it easier for them to assess what your website is about.
  • Write original content that provides concise information with a “call to action”. For example “Check the availability”, “Contact me”, “Look at my Gallery”.
  • Read the instructions in your Central Management Area (CMA) as you add content to each page. Guidelines on page length and number of words are provided for you.
  • Check and double check for spelling and grammar mistakes, ask someone else to review your website and tell you what they think about it. Many members of online forums, such as www.laymyhat.com, are happy to provide their feedback on your website but be prepared to take the comments constructively.
  • Think about using bullet points, these are great for the visitor but also beneficial for optimizing your website (read more about optimizing your website in our Marketing Guide)

Eleven Pages of Content!

You can choose up to 11 pages on your website so organise your text accordingly before you start. Take a look at our example website for great ideas about what to add to each page!

Here are the pages you can activate on your website :

Home, Details, Gallery, Pricing, Availability, Local info, Map, Weather, Travel, Guestbook and Contacts. Details and Contacts will always be active but you can choose to have some or all of the other pages (free!). To make a page live simply click on the red “Make this page live!” button in the top text box of that Edit page and to hide a page click on the green “Hide this page” button. Remember, your Home, Details and Contacts pages will always be live.

Optimization

Original content and a solid structure are essential for optimization so it makes sense to have a little background knowledge about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) before you start adding content to your website. Take a look at Section Six of the Marketing Guide to find out how optimizing your website can generate more bookings!

Photographs

Assembling your photographs first will make life easier later.

  • Create a specific folder on your computer just for your property photos
  • If they are large then you need to re-size them to around the optimum size of 300kb as this will make the upload to your website much faster without compromising the quality of your images
  • If your photos are very much smaller (less than about 50kb) then you may need to consider taking a new set to show your property off at its best but upload them to your website and see what they look like first, remember to click them on your website to enlarge them as a visitor to your website would.

For information about what photographs to take and how to take them, go to Section Two and skip to the Gallery page.

2. Page By Page

Taking in one page at a time we’ll show you what you can cover on each page of your website. We give you an idea of how much text to add, the optimum number of photographs for each page, how to put your Guestbook page together and what not to include in your Gallery!

Here are the pages you can activate on your website :
Home, Details, Gallery, Pricing, Availability, Local info, Map, Weather, Travel, Guestbook and Contacts. Your Home, Details and Contacts will always be active but you can choose to have some or all of the other pages (free!). To make a page live simply click on the red “Make this page live!” button in the top text box of that Edit page and to hide a page click on the green “Hide this page” button. Remember, your Home, Details and Contacts pages will always be live.

Page By Page : Home Page

Your Home page is the most important page of your website, this is your chance to make an outstanding impression. You want your visitor to stay on your website, read more and make an enquiry through your Contacts page!

Take time to make sure you cover the basics :

  • Pick the best photograph of your property to appear on this page, one that sums up everything you love about your place
  • Keep the words on this page to around 200. Don’t crowd it, let the photograph do the talking and tease the visitor in to turning the page
  • Make sure the website name (across the top of each page of your website) accurately describes your property and its location
  • Avoid using links to third party websites on your Home page because this will divert visitors away from your website
  • A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Home page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

Page By Page : Details Page

Potential renters will be looking for reassurance that your accommodation has what they are searching for and your Details page is where you can give this to them! Explore your wonderful holiday home inside and out with your visitor through the words and images on your Details page.

  • Provide a comprehensive description of your property, its location and amenities
  • Include a minimum of three photographs. Try to end the photographs at around the same level as your text and never allow your photographs to take up more length down the page than your writing
  • Use this page to talk to the visitor about the rooms of your property and the outside space
  • Avoid giving a lengthy description about each photograph included on this page. Instead, provide a caption for your photograph and give more of a description in your Gallery. Use the text space here to talk about your property
  • Use the subtitles to bring order and definition to this page both for the reader and for when you optimize your website
  • A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Details page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

Page By Page : Gallery Page

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Use clear, glossy images to tell a thousand words. Your Gallery is your arena and will probably be the most studied page of your website so put energy in to it and create a Gallery to be proud of. Upload as many photographs as you can to showcase your property and let potential renters see everything you love about your holiday home.

Here are some guidelines to follow when you create your Gallery page :

  • Photographs should always be taken on a sunny day (unless the opposite is a selling point)
  • The best time to take photos is usually during the “golden light” of early morning or late afternoon
  • Little things make a difference so lay the dining table, photograph a wine bottle with a couple of glasses on the patio table and remove the car from the driveway. The effort will pay off
  • Avoid taking photographs of the bathroom unless it is a feature of your holiday home. It’s rare that you can get the light and space to take a good photo of this room and the end result is often a dark, cramped and uninviting looking room
  • If you include people in your photographs then they should be in tune with your property; take a photo of your family playing in the pool and not your two great aunts standing stiffly in the porch
  • Think about focal points to snaps. Pick out the good points such as a vast terrace or a pretty window dressing. Standing on a chair to take room-by-room photos is also a great idea
  • Remember to photograph the outside of your property and the views. If you promote your property as a ski apartment or the perfect villa for golf then showcase the piste or the 16th fairway in your Gallery

After the Shoot

  • Make sure your picture files are as close to 300kb as possible. Too small and the resolution will be poor….too big and your potential renter may have difficulty opening them if their internet connection is slow
  • Save all the photos you want to include on your website to a special property folder on your computer, this will make locating them much easier when you’re ready to upload
  • Keep the text to a minimum on your Gallery page, let the photos do the talking
  • Add a caption to each photograph and make each one interesting to read; say more than just “Kitchen”, say “Fully equipped kitchen overlooking the garden” for example

Page By Page : Pricing Page

They love your pool, you have the perfect number of bedrooms and the location is just what their looking for so they’ll want to know how much of their hard earned cash they’ll be parting with. Use your Pricing page to set out your seasonal fluctuations and any additional services available to your potential guest. Take a look at the guidelines below to see how else your website will benefit from your Pricing page :

  • Use the Pricing Table section to show up to eight price bands. This can be included just as a table on your Pricing table or can also be linked to your Availability Calendar to show as a colour key at the top of that page
  • Include information about deposits, terms, payment procedures etc. You can even link to documents stored in the paperwork section of your My Rental Admin area, giving a direct link to your Booking Form and Terms & Conditions and other important paperwork
  • Remember to include all the additional services you can provide for with or without charge such as a end of stay cleans, linen changes, a welcome pack, airport transfers etc
  • Have a loud and clear “call to action” on this page… “Contact us to find out more or ask any questions”. Make it simple for your potential guests to contact you, give them a link directly to your Contacts page so they can get in touch easily
  • Include a link to your Availability Calendar so they have two ways of checking out what dates they can holiday with you
  • A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Pricing page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

Page By Page : Availability Calendar

Your Availability Calendar should show at-a-glance when your property is free. Holidaymakers want to know right away if they can stay with you and they don’t want to enquire about dates that turn out to be booked already. So, activate your Availability Calendar and keep it updated at all times!

  • Link your Pricing Table on your Pricing page to your Availability Calendar and “paint” your Calendar in the relevant colours so your seasonal price changes are clear
  • Booked dates can be shown as red and you can choose to show dates that are on hold for a (very) interested party
  • Use the changeover function to show which days renters arrive at and depart from your property
  • Remember to look ahead and colour your Calendar for the following year and maybe even the one after, your property is booked up in advance after all.
  • A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Availability Calendar. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

Page By Page : Local Info Page

Sell your property through its location. Boast about the beaches, shout about the ski slopes and go crazy over great golf courses! Original content here will generate natural keywords and phrases that Search Engines love.

Use your Local info page to talk about where your property is and why that’s a great reason to holiday at your property! Here are some pointers to get you started.

  • Include your own reviews of your favourite restaurants, bars and cafes
  • Talk about local events, sporting facilities, shops, beaches and tourist attractions to visit. Include links to relevant websites from this page by linking words within your paragraphs rather than as a list at the bottom of the page as Search Engines prefer embedded links
  • Use the subtitle feature to add order and structure to this text heavy page
  • Don’t worry about how far down the page your writing finishes, the more subtitles and information the better
  • A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Local info page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

Page By Page : Weather Page

With an optional five day weather forecast set as default on this page your visitors will always have an immediate way of checking the weather in your area but there is more you can do to make this page of your website draw in the crowds take a look at our guidelines below.

  • Include seasonal weather information, rain levels and average temperatures. As with all the content on your website, original and informative text will help with your optimization programme
  • If the location of your property has a cool season then emphasise what activities are fun to do when the sun isn’t shining
  • You can choose to link to one of the many weather websites available such as BBC Weather and AccuWeather
  • Rather than just linking to the home page of the weather website, try to link directly to the location specific page
  • A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Weather page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

Page by Page : Travel Page

Travelling to a holiday destination can be the most stressful part of a holiday so use your Travel page to show how easy getting to your rental property can be. With clear and precise travel information potential guests will feel at ease under your guidance so research the airlines, ferries, trains, trams and car hire companies and include your findings here.

  • Give your potential renter as many different ways of travelling to your property as possible. They might prefer a long drive and a ferry crossing to flying with budget airline or they may prefer one airport to another, so pass on all your valuable information
  • Provide details about and links to preferred travel companies such as airlines and car rental agencies. This way it is possible for them to check flight prices and car hire costs straight away
  • Keep these details updated and your ear to the ground for any new routes planned by airlines and any routes being stopped (seasonally or permanently)
  • Highlight the special offers that come up from time to time with travel companies…1p flights and 2 for 1 offers for example
  • As well as information about getting to your property from their home, tell visitors about how to travel around once they reach your property. If they don’t have a hire car, what are the bus and train services like? Can you recommend a local taxi firm? Is a hire car essential to their holiday?
  • A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Weather page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

Page By Page : Map Page

We’ve teamed with GoogleMaps to give you a fantastic tool to pinpoint your property.

You can choose the nearest town or zoom right in to your roof, choose from Map, Satellite or Hybrid views to make your location look the best it can. If you have a water front property then the satellite option looks great, if you are out in the sticks then the Map view provides more accuracy to the viewer. They can change the view when they arrive at your Map page but however you save this page will be the first view they see.

You can use this tool to provide them with the map coordinates of your property too so they can add these to the Sat Nav in their hire car!

A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Map page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

Page by Page : Guestbook Page

Reviews, testimonials and feedback are fast becoming one of the most useful sources of information helping holidaymakers make decisions about where to holiday, when to holiday and what to do when they’re on holiday. Your website should make the most of this trend and provide the visitor with positive feedback from your happy renters. If you decide to include dates next to quotes then make sure you add new ones regularly to stop this page quickly looking out of date. Vary the topics if you can to include comments about your property, the local area and the help and assistance you personally provided to make their holiday a success.

A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Guestbook page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye.

Page By Page : Contacts Page

All your enquiries are managed online in your my Rental Admin area. You will receive an alert email from us with details of the enquiry, if you have the IndependentOwners.com Toolbar then the “E” triangle will show as yellow, your IO Login Manager logo will bounce at the bottom of your screen and if you have the IO Desktop Manager then you will see the enquiry icon light up with a number.

  • You can choose up to three email addresses to receive enquiries. Simply add additional email addresses to the Edit Contacts section of your Central Management Area (CMA)
  • Try out your Contacts page by sending yourself a test enquiry so you’ll know what to expect once the enquiries start tripping in
  • A record of all enquiries you receive are kept in the Enquiries section of your my Rental Admin so you can refer back to them at any time!
  • A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets in total are permitted on your Contacts page. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes. One column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye

3. Widget School

This section of the IO Beginner's Guide helps you to understand what widgets are, how they can make your website look better and most importantly where they can be included in your website.

In a nutshell, a widget is an intelligent application that displays information that can be functional or fun. Here you have the opportunity to add, hide or display various widgets on specific pages or across all your pages.

Your widget library has already been populated with a default display of widgets and you can click and drag these on to the page you wish to display them on. Remember to use the ‘View my website’ link to see how it looks. Refresh your website page as you make changes to see them become live.

The photos and videos you want to show on your website can be uploaded to your widget library and then used throughout your website, this means you can easily include your favourite photo on your Home page and include it again in your Gallery without needing to upload it a second time.

A maximum of one video widget and up to ten widgets on each page are permitted. We recommend that you try to balance the length of content of the two columns for design purposes as one column a lot longer than the other is not attractive to the eye.

Some of your widgets need input from you to display correct information, for example a weather widget will need a location to show the weather in that region. When hovering over the widget in your library click ‘Edit’ to input options.

Pressing the ‘Reset’ button will take your widget settings back to the default layout your library started with. It will not affect your normal content but will remove any widgets you have added to the library and any updates you have made when dragging widgets around.

4. The IO Beginner's Guide Checklist

No help guide would be complete without a conclusion and ours forms a checklist to make sure you’ve covered all the points we’ve explored throughout the Beginner's Guide. Each item is listed with a tick box. Print it off and keep it in your holiday rental folder.

My Beginner's Guide Checklist...


 I have read the Beginner's Guide from start to finish

 I have switched the template of my website around and am happy that my current template makes my website look the best it can

 The text for my website is original, energetic and spell checked

 My photos are all under or around 300kb and saved to my computer

 I have put my best photograph on the Home page

 I have no links to third party websites on my Home page

 I have added photographs to my Details page

 I have correct prices and shown any seasonal fluctuations on my Pricing page

 My Availability Calendar is up to date showing dates that are booked and seasonal price bands are shown using the colour paint function

 I have written reviews of my favourite places and activities close to my holiday home for my Local Info page

 My Weather page looks full and interesting, selling the best points

 My Travel page gives clear information about how to get to my property

 I have used the Map page to show where my property is either zooming to my rooftop or keeping it more general by pinning the nearest town

 Testimonials from happy renters are included on my Guestbook page

 I have made use of subtitles throughout my website to bring order and definition

 I have used widgets throughout my website to give useful information to my visitors

 All the pages that I have added content to are live and displayed on my website

 I have removed the adverts from my website by subscribing to No More Ads in the Shop area of my CMA

 I have asked another person to objectively review my website and tell me what they think and I have considered and carried out changes as a result of this feedback

 I’ve checked that the email address(es) that I want to use to receive enquiries are correct by clicking Edit Contacts in my CMA

 The Marketing Guide is next on my list to read

 I have completed this checklist and am patting myself on the back!