In the eye of the beholder: it is a listing service or a free website service?

I run a series of interlinked holiday accommodation listings sites which started as something of a sideline for me but which is slowly becoming a significant income generator for me.

Now, in the early days it was quite clearly a straight listing service. I typed up the entries as they came in and they were displayed on the site as a great big list. Nice and simple if somewhat time-consuming.

As it grew, I figured that a database was the way to go and in the second year that went live. By then the original 20 properties had grown to over 100. Mark 1 of that simply replicated the original hand-produced site and a version of that is still around to this day because the hand-produced format is much more effective in SEO terms than a written for database site is for various reasons.

With the dramatic reduction in the work required from me to actually add the information, I broadened the amount and variety of information that the property owners could add. That increased so much that I figured after a while that I should write a new-generation version of the original site to run alongside the original version but targeted at a different market. The increase in information meant that properties now had a little website each with several pages on it.

Interestingly though, I’ve recently come across a free accommodation property site that has come at the problem from the opposite direction. What they do is get the property owners to add a whole lot of information and they produce a little website for them which gets listed by them.

What’s clear is that we’ll both likely meet in the middle several years down the line as I’m in the process of souping up the mini website that my listing service generates and already some people are quoting that address as “their” website address which presumably will become more common as time goes on. In fact, it’ll become more and more of a website generation facility over the months to come as that’s my main area for development this year.

The question next year though will be: how do I promote it to the owners? The listing service aspect will clearly remain but there’ll also be the aspect of building almost custom websites for the owners (surprisingly easy to do). In fact, thanks to the recent change of hosting service I’ll even be able to let each owner use their own domain to point to their “mini” website (which will potentially be larger than many “proper” websites).

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