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Invosoft is "Selected" by leading Property Maintenance Firm

Monday, 1 March 2010 20:46 by lindsey

Invosoft has been commissioned by a leading Cumbrian property maintenance firm, based near Carnforth, Cumbria to create a website following its well publicised merger with a local landscape gardening firm. Together, Select Property Maintenance and A & A Garden Services (going under the banner of Select Property Maintenance) will provide their customers with over 15 years of expertise from an expanding range of craftsmen, all experts in their fields.

The merger is set to create up to 15 new jobs also, and the company is set to deliver a high level of maintenance services to the hospitality, retail and commercial industries as well as private residences.

David Greensmith, director of Select Property Maintenance, said “existing customers of A&A with whom we are merging will now benefit from a wide range of additional services including painting and decorating as well as gas and electrical services.”

Select Property Maintenance website

The website will have detailed listings of the wide range of services Select Property Maintenance now have on offer, which include ground works and construction, interior decorating, kitchen and bathroom installation, an emergency call out service and a carefully designed package of Service Level Agreement tariffs.

The easily navigable website is fully editable via Invosoft’s advanced .NET content management system (CMS). Full Search Engine Optimisation should give this brand new website a great start.

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SEO and the importance of choosing a domain name for your holiday home website

Sunday, 24 May 2009 20:05 by Ben

One thing that becomes obvious very quickly once you have done a little bit of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is that choosing the right domain name is very important. What is not so clear – to me at least – is how important subtle differences in domain names are and how should one offset a keyword rich name with other factors such as succinctness and brevity?

I have been working recently on a new holiday property website project for a site based in Brixham, Devon. I was unfamiliar with Brixham. It’s a lovely historic resort nestled between the ports of Dartmouth and Paignton on the south coast. We secured 2 great website names for the site. www.brixhamholidayhome.com has more keywords packed into the domain name but www.brixhamhome.co.uk has the advantage of being shorter (and therefore easier to remember and less susceptible to typos) and being a .co.uk, which I personally think for an English holiday home is an advantage.

Bixham harbour South Devon
Brixham harbour at Sunset

In the end, I opted for more keyword-packed www.brixhamholidayhome.com with Brixhamhome.co.uk using a 301 re-direct back to it. Overall, I think having a short name isn’t too important these days as people tend to use search engines exclusively when finding websites, even when they know the domain name. When you are clicking on a link from search results, having a long name isn’t such an issue.

A further point in this particular case is, there is also a very highly ranked popular site www.brixhamholidayhomes.com, and there is a chance we can garner some of their traffic due to a phenomena called ”traffic leakage”. Traffic leakage is where a popular site will loose traffic to a site with a similar name due to people miss-typing it or simply mistaking it for the original site.

To summarise, here are my personal recommendations when choosing a domain name for your holiday let:

  • 1. Generic is best: Convention says that you should choose a name based on your company or brand name. For holiday homes, this is not necessarily the case. Nobody really cares that your property is called “rose cottage” or that you trade under the name “Exclusive Lets ltd.”, what they care about is that you are located in the lake district (or wherever) and that you are a self-catering/holidaylet/holidayhome/vacation rental… In other words, stay generic and try and get your place name in and your property type, it will give you a great head-start in the search engines.

  • 2. Get your location name in: this may be stating the obvious, but when choosing a property, a holiday maker will have already chosen their location so it’s a case of getting noticed amongst your local competition.  And getting your location in the domain name will weight you more favourably in the search engines.

  • 3. Avoid hyphens: Again, this is more of a personal thing, but I believe non-hyphenated names are easier to remember, they are definitely shorter and no modern search engine will have difficulty picking out the relevant words. Just look at our main site www.propertyrentalsoftware.com as a case in point, we actually do very little active SEO on our own site and it has always been near the top for “property rental software” since its creation.

  • 4. Go for a .co.uk: I know I did not do this in the above example but brixhamholidayhome.co.uk was already taken. Where possible, try and get all the TLD’s (top level domains) available for your chosen domain. This will avoid others picking up the alternatives and loosing traffic to name leakage (see the begining of this article). For example, invosoft.co.uk, invosoft.cominvosoft.net…but if you are a based in the UK, make the .co.uk your main domain and use 301 re-directs on the others to point back to the .co.uk. As well as identifying yourself as a UK based company/property you will be weighted more highly in the UK specific search engines google.co.uk, yahoo.co.uk, etc. If your holiday lets are not in the UK, I would use the .com as it’s pretty much ubiquitous.

Again, this is a somewhat personal opinion and there are many differing views when it comes to SEO, so I would love to hear yours!

Employee time tracking

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2009 budget is a blow for holiday home owners

Saturday, 25 April 2009 15:33 by Ben

This week’s budget has left holiday home owners worst off than most.

In a week in which most people were left hurting financially, the government dealt holiday home owners an extra blow.

Currently, you can offset running expenses on your holiday property, but more importantly, if the property makes a paper loss, you can offset this against your overall income thus reducing your tax bill. From April 2010 onward, Rental Owners will no longer be able to offset loses from their holiday home against their general tax bill.


Cartoon by Dave Brown of the Independant

Capital gains tax relief has also been removed.  Currently, if you invest in a holiday home after selling assets, you can defer paying any capital gains tax on those assets, it is what’s know as 'business asset roll-over relief'.

Luckily, the changes to capital gains tax will not be retrospective, so anyone who deferred paying capital gains tax buy buying a holiday property will still be able to defer payment until the holiday home is sold.

There is also some consolation for those owning holiday properties outside the UK but within the EU. They will enjoy the tax-breaks enjoyed by those owning properties in the UK, but only but only until the end of the current tax year when, as described above, it will be abolished for everyone.

You can view the view the current tax breaks available to holiday let owners on the DirectGov website here.

Click here to view our other guides on letting your your holiday property.

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Book Early to Avoid the Credit Crunch

Friday, 20 February 2009 14:49 by sandy

With lots of property owners worried about their being a lack of bookings this year, many have panicked and discounted heavily - was this drastic action really necessary? Invosoft has been doing some research around the world regarding people’s views on holidays and how they will be affected during the credit crunch. It makes interesting reading…….

A national survey in Australia on consumer sentiment reported that a third of Australians have had their holiday plans affected by the global economic crisis but no more than 12% say they had to cancel their holiday because of the credit crunch. For the Aussies in terms of disposable luxury items leading up to last Christmas their summer holiday escape ranked as next highest on the priority list, after paying for the core essentials such as the rent, mortgage, credit cards or shopping.

While here in the UK the financial slowdown has left many people tightening their belts, the obvious solution to save a few pennies would be to not to go on holiday this year, but evidence has shown the opposite, perhaps it is because of the dreary 2008 summer and the long winter months to get through that the thing to lift the doom and gloom would be to book the annual ski or summer holiday. Alongside this the holiday home owners seem to be reducing their prices for the next season, evidence has shown that to book early will result in achieving the best deals.

According to Sean Tipton from ABTA “The ski market is by far the most resilient in the travel sector,” “Even after September 2001 when there was widespread panic in the travel industry, while everybody else went down, the ski market went up. It was the only market that did.” So, it appears that even in a credit crunch, to get the best prices and the chalet you want in the resort of your choice, it does pays to book early.

The shaky economy might seem a good reason to put off your holidays for this season or to wait for last minute deals, but again evidence has shown that many holiday villa owners have been surprised at the number of bookings already received and to bag the best villas, it's actually made it more important than ever to book early.

In these trouble economic times our research conducted in Europe showed that the Europeans were keeping holidays in mind and that they are more important than ever due to the stressful impact of the credit crunch. However, many thought that they would take advantage of the weak pound and holiday in UK. Good news for the Brits.

Our research paints an optimistic picture; there is still the passion for holidays and spending quality time with family and friends.

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DO I NEED AN EXCLUSIVE WEBSITE FOR MY HOLIDAY HOME BUSINESS?

Friday, 23 January 2009 16:14 by Ben

Having some sort of internet presence for your holiday home rental is a no-brainer! Even by the UK tourist board’s conservative figures, over 60% of people use the internet when booking a holiday. In reality, it is probably far more. The real question, therefore, is whether to create your own website or use a well known portal to drive the internet side of your holiday home business.

There are compelling arguments for both. Certainly, you are never going to get as much traffic on your own property website as the big property listing sites. Finding a suitable holiday home and booking online is huge business and the big players attract tens of thousands of daily users to their sites. However, therein lies the downside. The big property listing sites are just that, big! And your holiday home is hidden amongst the rest, just one property in the midst of an excess of others returned in the search results.

Conversely, if someone is browsing for a holiday rental has found your website, with just your property on then there’s no competition. Providing you be easily contacted, or better still, the user can book your property online and pay a deposit instantly then you’re ten steps ahead of the crowd!

Of course, the difficult part is attracting the surfing public to your holiday home site (and then keeping them interested). All too often, I have clients for whom we build a great property website and they instantly think it is going to start appearing in the search engines. We all know this is unrealistic, unless you’re one of only a handful holiday home website in your location (very unlikely these days unless you rent out your own island - not unheard of). To get anywhere near the top of the searches takes focus (on certain keywords), time and a lot of hard work.

The best strategy, in our opinion, is to use make intelligent use of the listing sites to drive custom to your own website and property booking system. This way you are getting the exposure of the big sites, you have your very own property showcase and online booking system, and you are not losing out on the booking commission that a listing site would take if you booked using them. We have a few guidelines on how you can effectively combine listings with your own site:

 

  • Choose – choose the listing sites you apply for very carefully. Investigate how many properties they have listed. If they boast 50,000+ properties then don’t list. If they will not give you a link back to your site, again, don’t list. If they demand booking exclusivity of your property or if they charge an exorbitant commission, once again, don’t list. Ask for website traffic statistics – you want sites that generate a lot of traffic but have manageable number of properties listed.

  • Location – Try and get listed on sites that serve your area. You are far more likely to get quality referrals on popular sites for your location than on general holiday home booking sites. Alternatively, target your property type; you could be an exclusive villa?

  • Track – install tracking code like Google Analytics and monitor closely the referrals and bookings you get from the property listing sites. If the sites are not generating bookings, do not renew your subscription.

  • Link – make sure you get a link from any sites you list with. Not only will this directly funnel visitors to your property booking site, it will improve your own position in the search engines.

  • Pay – don’t be put off if you have to pay for a listing. A year’s subscription is more than likely only a fraction of a week’s holiday home rental. But remember to follow the above guidelines: don’t go for a big listing site, try to specialise either by area or property type, or both.

  • Bookings – it’s all about bookings! Make sure you invest in quality reliable booking software and that it is fully integrated into your site. Having your own booking system with availability calendar is invaluable, the benefits are too numerous to mention.

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Adding extra days on to a booking

Monday, 19 January 2009 19:02 by Ben

I often get feature requests from customers. Just recently I had one such request regarding availability management. The client had an as yet unencountered availability requirement that doesn’t fit into the current system scope.

On the surface it was a standard setup with full week bookings going from Sunday to Sunday. But, they wanted the ability to add on extra nights to the full week booking and not have the extra nights available otherwise. So you can buy extra nights on the condition you have already booked at least one full week. This would have required a custom solution; the integration of an extra step giving the customer the option to add on extra days to the booking. I considered going down this route but decided there was no market for a feature such as this (I’ll explain why later on) so decided against adding it as a product feature. I thought I’d lost a customer until I considered the problem for a little while and realised there is a reasonable solution.

Availability already has an “Active” field (we are delving into the database here). If I expose this not active data in the administration panel but not on the customer facing side then (if I implement one small change) I can use the system as it currently stands. I do this by using the in-built products feature; I add the extra days on as products then block off any extra days as they come through on a booking.

Although this system will work, there are some shortcomings you have to work around. The obvious one is the extra work involved. It removes some of the automation from the booking process. Once a booking is made, you have to login into the administrator panel and block of the extra days manually - they would also have separate booking ID’s and a value of zero (which is not ideal). In addition, you would have to do this reasonably quickly.

Which brings me to my next point, if you don’t block-off the extra availability promptly, you run the risk of someone booking the following week and ending up with a double booking and the extra headache that comes with!

A final drawback is that as you can’t assign products to particular availability slots, only on a site-wide basis, you could not account for seasonal variations in pricing for the extra day. So if two bookings were made on 1st February one for a peak summer week the other for an off-peak February week, in both cases an extra night would cost (say) £100. Again, far from ideal!

I told the client, there wouldn’t be much need for this conditional extra days feature. Not only have i never been asked for this before, I have not heard of any rental properties that operate this way. It is too cumbersome from an administrative standpoint, but it also has some more compelling drawbacks.

That extra day or two added on to the booking eats into your next week meaning – if you are running on a week to week basis – you can’t book out the following week! This makes no business sense at all. If a system is setup this way, you could be losing the income on one full week just for the sake of booking an extra day on the previous week. It could also disrupt your regular changeover days. Are your cleaners and other staff on the ground flexible enough to accommodate?

More often than not, being really flexible on dates and offering many options is not effective from a cost/benefit standpoint. My advice is keep things simple and straightforward unless you have the resources to cope with the extra complexity. Do you have use conditional extra days or think it could be a valuable feature? I would love to hear your opinion.

www.propertyrentalsoftware.com

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