I posted this on a blog on HA but though I should share it here.
Here's the thing! I have been with HA, OD. VRBO, HL, and a host of others and I get bookings in drips and drabs even though I have jumped through all the hoops and chase the ever moving goal posts. Some sites perform better than others in different years, who knows why and I am always conscious that one year I may get next to nothing from them. The income is my pension so I cannot afford to let this happen.
So I have spent a lot of time creating websites to at least have an alternative, my main one for the villa is this one: http://www.algarvevillaforrent.com/ which now brings in about 50% of my bookings each year.
Unfortunately for one man band websites like mine getting onto the first page in search when competing with the big boys is almost impossible I guess this is what puts most people off having their own site. However with some hard work and time it is actually very possible to get on to the first page and my site is proof of that and I get bookings, but even then I cannot manage without the 3rd party sites HA. OD et al. Having both is a win win situation.
To stay on page one, let me explain, On Google.co.uk for example I am currently search position 17.1 which is the average of hundreds of keywords, short key phrases and long tail keyword phrases, so because its average then I have many page 1s many page 2s and many page 3s I need to maintain this. Being complacent will see the rankings drop so I started my own Wordpress blog https://vidanova87126800.wordpress.com/ which is only a few months old, I can get clicks to my main site from there, and of course back links but I have no idea if it brings in bookings.
Then this last week I built my own local tourist guide web site Monchique Portugal Guide http://www.monchiqueportugal.info/ The idea of this is to get another site into organic search with links to my own site. This last site is still very much in the build process. It is interactive in that the public can submit photos, write about their experiences in the region and importantly add reciprocal travel related links. So if you have one let's exchange it is vital to have them.
I have discovered the following: You need to spend a few hours every day on SEO (search engine optimization), which includes getting your site technically correct, writing and interesting content, having a good site structure with internal links, and most importantly incoming "follow" back links from reputable sites. (not bought links). There are a plethora of SEO sites that you can use to help you with all of the above, just google SEO and you will come up with many, you don't need to pay anything just use the free versions of many.
I hope that this post is helpful and would appreciate any questions or comments, just get in touch, best through one of my sites.