How to Build a Strong Defense to Improve Apartment Website Rankings

apartment website


Your property’s online presence is being challenged every minute of the day by a competitor seeking to get an edge when prospects look for apartments. The best offense to fend the attack is a strong defense, one that assures when consumers look for a place to call home they see your website first.

The evolving online world requires staying one step ahead of the competition so your website markets for rather than against you. When it does, falling asleep at night gets easier.

Improving rankings by triggering websites and maps

How well a property positions itself for searches determines the true effectiveness of a website, industry pros say. The key is not running with the crowd but employing unique branded terms – unlike those general phrases popular among internet listing services (ILSs) – that propel a listing to the top.

Because competition is so intense for the 10 organic search engine listings, properties should focus on short, one-line niche keywords that “have a fighter’s chance” of getting ranked or pulling up a map, says David Cockburn, Director of Digital Marketing at RealPage. Touting the neighborhood, amenities and proximity to local attractions, for example, improve rankings rather than generic keywords like bedroom size, a pool and even price points.

If you want to immediately start ranking and generating traffic to your website, PPC should be one of the first steps in your digital strategy. Paid ads always show first above any organic ads, so you will instantly get more prospects on your page.

The goal is to promote the brand to improve your rankings, as well generate a Google map, the latest caveat in desirable search results. With a map, prospects get an immediate introduction to community location and what it has to offer.

“Keywords with your brand name, especially if you have multiple locations, are great opportunities to trigger maps,” said Cockburn, who directs the company’s digital marketing. “Maps are very prominent on search pages.

Cockburn is among four RealPage panelists who will share thoughts on effective apartment website marketing at RealWorld 2017 July 16-18 in Las Vegas.  The hands-on session, “How to Evaluate Your Marketing Performance with Marketing Center,” will detail how properties can manage and measure marketing activities while capturing more qualified leads without depleting the marketing budget. Joining Cockburn will be RealPage Senior Director Leads and Leasing Product Management Matt Stevenson, Senior Director Digital Marketing Nikki Khorrami and Product Advocate Randy Hurn.

apartment website

Consumer searches are more specific today

An effective apartment website does much of the marketing legwork and often can be done for minimal spend. But the rules for establishing a top spot have changed, and personalization and quality content are necessary to be competitive. Today’s apartment seeker is a much smarter searcher than 25 years ago when search engine optimization (SEO) began cutting its teeth. Consumers are narrowing searches to find that needle in the haystack.

In 2009, it was clear that renters depended on the internet and search engines to find apartments more than more traditional means like newspaper ads, word of mouth and even real estate brokers. According to a study, 84 percent of renters thought of searching online for an apartment instead of looking in the newspaper or a magazine.

Today, searching for an apartment is an internet race where SEO and apartment search engine marketing (SEM) are behind the wheel. Last year, J Turner Research published a report on the top 10 emerging trends in the apartment rental process, and nearly all related to cultivating information from the internet. Whether it’s searching for an apartment or looking for reviews, consumers are using the web.

Overcoming the competition by focusing on branding, unique features

Cockburn says building search volume based on the property’s brand and focusing on content specific to the community’s unique features and type may be a long-term effort but it’s basically the only defense against an ILS.

It’s a strategy that ranks well and sustains traffic month after month, keeping competitors at bay.

“It’s a defense strategy that blocks your competitors from taking that first spot,” he said. “It’s your brand, you own it and it’s all over your site. For your competitor that’s going to be a word that doesn’t match content of their page.”

Another great branding strategy is, if the budget allows, to bid on your branded terms through Google and Bing Paid search.

“A lot of people never think to Google their own branded terms and spend so much time on non-branded terms, but you will notice that your competitors may already be bidding on them and showing up first on the paid search results” says Khorrami. “This is a quick and easy way to gain cheap, high quality traffic since Google will give your branded terms high quality scores, which leads to lower costs.”


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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