Property managers have plenty of headaches without worrying about their search rankings online. However, without a good foundation in search engine optimization (SEO), your competitors will outrank you – translating into fewer applications and signed leases.
What is SEO?
Simply put, SEO is the art of getting your website to appear for the search queries that your target market enters into Google, Bing, etc. If your properties are located in Washington DC, you would want your website to rank for searches like “Washington DC apartments” or “apartments + zip code.” However, with sites like Apartments.com, ApartmentGuide, ForRent, Zillow, etc., you are going to be hard-pressed to get any search traction for a general search query like that. Of course, if you are in a much smaller market (Lancaster, PA vs. Philadelphia, PA), it will be easier to rank for those terms since competition is much lower.
Here are the search results for “Best Studio Apartments Philadelphia PA”. You can see that the top five organic results are all for rental aggregators that are both nationwide and city-specific. The only way individual property managers are getting search traffic for terms like these is through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which appear above organic search results and on the side bar of your search results page.
Instead, you will want to rank for “long-tail” keywords (more specific, longer search queries) like “best studio apartments in Denver, Colorado.” With Google’s Hummingbird Update, ranking for the long-tail phrases or conversational search queries is now possible since Google can easily interpret “phrases” and provide better search results. This means you don’t have to optimize your pages with keyword-heavy text, titles, or links. Instead, you can focus on user experience knowing that your site will rank just fine (and better) without over-stuffed keyword heavy pages.
Why Use Long-Tail Keywords?
Compare the previous search to the one for “luxury studio apartments Philadelphia PA.” While the rental aggregators are still commanding some of the top results, you can see that two different rental companies came into the top 10 results: Domus and Bozzuto. These two companies have targeted, long-tail keywords that work well for them since the rental companies probably don’t want search traffic from students looking for cheap housing. They have a very different target market, and they go after it using specific search phrases.
When someone begins a search for apartments in a specific area, they want to use a site like ApartmentGuide.com because they can get an idea of cost and see what options are available. From there, they will do more specific searches that include pricing and location keywords such as “affordable/cheap apartments” or “one bedroom apartments in ___”. Users searching phrases like these are more likely to call your property and submit an application because they are further into the decision process.
While many aspects of SEO are technical, a local business can still hold value simply by having a solid website, social presence, and local citations or links. All of these can be done without a technical background.
Just a few years ago, you could improve your rankings with any type of link because they impacted your rankings equally. Links are a large factor into search rankings as links are seen as “votes” of authority to your website. Five years ago, links that were irrelevant to your business could still help you rank, but Google has since devalued low-quality websites. Now SEO rankings are determined by relevant, quality links to your website.
For small and large property management companies alike, targeted, local marketing is key to success. A link from the New York Times won’t be as effective as a link from a local university recommending your property for grad students. SEO used to be about metrics, and value passed between links. Now SEO is much more focused on driving targeted, relevant traffic to your site. This is a welcome change, as it fits with the rest of your marketing strategy much better.
Here we’ll discuss actionable strategies you can implement to improve your rankings and brand awareness to fill those empty properties.
The Big 3: Google, Yahoo, Bing
The most important place to start in SEO is with the search engines themselves. If you haven’t claimed your property’s local listings on these search engines, this is the first step. For Google, simply search your brand and look for its red marker on the map. Hit “Manage this Page” or “Claim Business” and follow the steps to verify your business listing. To set up your Yahoo or Bing listings, sign up for the basic free listings. Here you can search for your property listing, claim it, and fill out all the information.
If you fill out your listing with the most information you can, it will stand out from other unclaimed business listings. Add pictures, descriptions, hours of the property management office, and more! If you can connect your social profiles, you should definitely take advantage of that feature.
Local Data Aggregators
Having your profile on Google, Yahoo, and Bing is great – but it isn’t enough. There are plenty of local websites that allow you to list your business. YellowPages, WhitePages, and Local.com are just a few examples. However, instead of spending hours getting listed on each of these sites, you can use a data manager like Yext or Moz Local to distribute your business listings to hundreds of websites. This also has the benefit of ensuring that your information is all the same – contributing to a stronger brand presence.