An innovative cooperative based in Northumberland is building a community of cottage owners, with more than 400 businesses represented across the UK.
The Cottage Cooperative was formed by a group of cottage-owners in the county to help promote their businesses online, without having to resort to holiday letting agencies.
Two years in the planning and launched in November 2013, The Cottage Cooperative has more than 2,300 advertising listings across a network of 22 specially-designed websites.
The websites were set up with specific search terms in mind, for example, beachside holiday cottages or walking holiday cottages.
Members of The Cottage Cooperative advertise their businesses and take advantage of the 30,000 unique visitors these websites now generate, without the worry of having to compete with large agency websites which aren’t allowed to advertise on the sites.
Founding member Tim Stienlet said: “Google is amazing. It has revolutionised the holiday market. Almost everyone now searches for their next holiday using Google and the challenge for us cottage owners is to have our websites found on there because guests tend to give up searching beyond the first two pages.
“To keep things fair for all businesses, large or small, Google constantly change their criteria to rank websites. But the larger letting agencies now have whole departments employed in search engine optimisation to ensure that whatever rules changes are made, their websites are always found first.
“So we had two choices: Join a letting agency and pay them our whole profit margin in commission; or create a co-operative for cottage owners with our own websites that allow internet browsers to choose from a range of privately-owned and operated holiday cottages – just as Google intended.”