Shellback is a fabulous property in a great location. It is one of our favorite properties, probably the favorite for a longer stay. For everything it has going for it, we were baffled that it was not booking as well as our other properties. So, in a newsletter we enlisted the help of our guests.

This blog post is in response to the competition where we offered a five night midweek stay or a two night weekend stay to the best advice on how we can better promote Shellback, and show off its amazing attributes.

Thanks to the 47 or so people who contributed, and 35 serious contenders. We were really blown away by the responses and amount of time and effort that went in to them.

We have done the first round of changes to the Dufflebird listing, with some of the things we learnt (Stayz and  AirBnB updates are next). You can see it here:

The one thing that stood out head and shoulders is that EVERYBODY'S OPINION IS DIFFERENT. While this should be no great revelation, it was in this case extraordinary just how different each voice was. We'd read five reviews, and find the most important thing was different to each of them.  One persons’ lake at dusk photo is another persons mosquito infested swamp.

The people who had stayed at Shellback, tended to give very warm feedback, those who had't stayed seemed to be less forgiving.  So many who had stayed reminisced on what a wonderful holiday they had.

If you contributed, don’t be offended if your suggestion was not heeded in the Shellback part of the website, there may have been counter suggestions, and, we have only done the first round of updates, there is more to come.

We ended up with 50 A4 pages of feedback. We summarised that down to 10 pages then drew out some themes, when multiple people mentioned the same thing.

It is clear that there is no single thing about the listings, that is off-putting, more likely, there is a series of things we could improve on that may make the listings more robust, clean and more rounded.

Here are some of the things we identified:


There was comment that we don’t have the right front photo. The ideal photo would be a perfectly clear day for views to Wilsons Prom, but capturing the cedar part of the house. Maybe we need a drone shot, but the challenge is to get a professional photographer out there on the perfectly clear day.

From the photos we have, there was a clear favorite, the photo across the dam at dusk (top photo).  Then these photos (or something similar):

Other suggestions for photos:

  • Reduce number of photos on AirBnB
  • Reduce number of photos showing carpet. There is a feeling that carpet gives it a dated feel, and it just doesn’t photograph as well as floorboards. The irony is that the carpet is pretty comfortable for sitting on the floor playing cards or board games, and the guests who have stayed probably understand that, the ones who haven’t don’t. One or two comments were that guests were worried about damaging the carpet, walking sand or mud in to the house.
  • Get more lifestyle photos. People want to feel like they are there, on the deck, playing bocce, table tennis, drinking wine etc.
  • More photos of local activities.
  • Photo of walking trails. We have tried, but haven’t succeeded in getting compelling photos. Maybe a plan or aerial photo would work to show off trails.
  • The gumboot shot got several positive mentions, particularly for attracting families.

Listing Text

Many of the things brought up in the feedback can be addressed by re-writing the copy on the listings. Here is a summary of the things we plan to do:

  • Reduce amount of text by 1/3
  • Clearer explanation of the house interior eg. It was surprising to find such well appointed, double glazed almost luxurious interior set on a farm.
  • Less copy, focusing only on the big hitters - a retreat where you experience stunning views of Wilsons Prom, a surprisingly luxurious house, masses of wildlife and pristine national parks.
  • Create headings in the listing to allow people to read only what they want to.
  • Suggest activities eg. sit at the balcony soaking in the great ocean view and reading a book. Play a family board game. Sketch up the rolling hills.
  • Mention the stars at night are so bright because of the lack of pollution.
  • To reduce listing text, maybe we can advise people to read the guest reviews.
  • People like the “secret hideaway” concept, and we can probably amplify that by giving tips on where to find secluded beaches. There seems to be a yearning for city folk to find their own space.
  • The one thing that makes Shellback unique from our other properties is there are no cars, and the tranquility of not even hearing cars.
  • Promote that authentic childhood experience, where kids can run wild and explore, use their imaginations and make up games without supervision. That is possible at Shellback because there is no traffic to worry about. It is such a rare experience these days, but as adults we vividly remember those wonderful days of childhood freedom. Surely we can tap in to that latent yearning in adults that we got in our childhoods, but with helicopter parenting, kids don’t get to experience these days.
  • Promote Alison Lesters Magic Beach book, and visiting the beach that inspired it.


  • Linen keeps coming up. No linen business services the area. Fleur has offered linen to some guests, and they baulked at the cost. So we need to make the decision to include linen on every stay and increase pricing, or to keep it as is. The house is at a level of luxury now that we probably could go to a more luxury market. From our point of view, linen is a hassle, it increases cleaning time considerably, but it does present well.
  • We need to be clearer that dogs are now welcome, maybe get a kennel.
  • Explain or show fenced off areas. There was concern about kids and dams, and proximity of animals to the house. It needs to be clearer.
  • Highlight the fireplace more particularly in winter.


  • Couples Special – This is a good idea that we would like to try. Close off all but one bedroom to reduce cleaning. We have been experimenting this at Portsea without a lot of success. Portsea is not popular in winter. Shellback may do better.
  • Maybe set the base rate from 2 guests +$50 per person per night. To encourage couples. Currently the base rate is from 4 guests.

To Be Considered

  • Number of guests is restrictive, 8 guests would better allow 2 families and allow us to increase pricing. Bunk or trundle bed?
  • Ceramic water filter- some people are scared of water tanks. Not a bad idea.
  • Spa on the deck (it would be great, but maintenance may be an issue)
  • Pergola over the deck with hammocks - good idea when we have some funds.

Of course this is just a summary of 50 A4 pages of feedback, and there were a whole lot of other worthwhile marketing suggestions that we may implement over time.  Overall we think it has been a valuable exercise, thanks again to all those who contributed.


September 2017