A very long time ago (circa 2008) the leasing world was a simpler place. Place an ad on Craigslist or in a newspaper, and sit back and watch the renter leads flow in. The most complicated it ever got was when you wanted to add a template to Craigslist. Those were what I would call "the good old days."
Flash forward ten years and the leasing world could not be more complicated. From ILS sites, listing syndication systems, Social Media, Blogs, Google Adwords, Remarketing and more, there are numerous marketing channels to choose from.
However, there is one area that could be the most important, but seldom gets the attention it deserves, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Curiously most apartment communities either don't think SEO can have a significant impact, or are dissuaded by trying to compete with the "big boys." Whatever the reason, SEO needs to be the next step in your apartment communities marketing efforts.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of building a strong search engine presence to ensure visitors can more easily find your website amongst all your competitors online. The primary aim is to improve your websites page ranking so that renters will see your website when they type specific keywords or phrases into search engines like Google.
In simplest terms, it's getting your website to the top of search engine results for searches that your renters conduct (i.e., apartments in Charlotte, rentals in San Antonio, etc.)
Why is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Important?
Based on research, 72% of renters turn to the Internet first when starting a search for an apartment. Of that, 30% of those renters begin their search with a search engine. That means 30% of all renter's searching online for apartments, start with a Google or Yahoo search.
With that being the case, if your community is ranked higher then your competitors, it gives your website greater visibility and in return, more leads.
With more and more competition in the multifamily industry, setting yourself apart from your competitors is crucial.
How Do I Compete With The "Big Boys" (i.e., Apartments.com)?
Obviously, ILS sites tend to rank higher for a lot of keyword searches. However, based on testing, it is possible for a local community to rank higher high enough for certain keywords to compete with even the national sites.
For example, if you search for something like "Manayunk Apartments," you'll see the search results show the majority of national sites on the 1st page. But if you scroll to the bottom of the first page, you'll see a Link for "Station at Manayunk," which is a locally owned apartment community. You might not be able to beat them, but you can compete!
Just ranking on the first page, gives you a HUGE advantage over your competitors!
3 Steps to Increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Rankings
Keyword Research - Research keywords that match what renters are searching for. Start by choosing keywords that aren't high volume. Instead of "Philadelphia Apartments" Choose the neighborhood you're in and add amenities, such as "Rittenhouse Square 1 bedroom apartments."
Content Development - Next step involves developing content (articles, blog posts) about each of the keywords you want to target. Articles should be natural sounding (not the word repeated over and over). Your goal should be to develop content for each of those keywords and post them on your site.
Backlinking - The last step involves "backlinking,"i.e., getting another source to post your article or blog post and link back to your site. They are extremely useful to search engines because they give a good indication that a website is popular. You can start by contacting local "bloggers" and see if they would be interested in putting your content on their site. Or you can post your articles to national sites. Be warned...do not trust cheap "backlink" building sites, as the majority are scams and can actually hurt you more than help you.
In conclusion, there is a lot more involved in this process, but these are some simple steps that will get you on the right track. Remember, the process of SEO can be labor-intensive and time-consuming but if done correctly, can pay HUGE dividends in not only increasing your lead generation but decreasing your overall lead acquisition costs!
Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company, BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)