Shifting online consumer behaviors have significantly impacted marketing budgets in recent years. Not long ago, property management companies would allocate most, if not all, of their digital marketing spend to internet listing services (ILSs) and assume that would result in the best leads.
But today’s digital space is more complex and competitive than before. New multi-touch lead attribution models show us that leads are engaging with and converting from multiple sources as part of the modern renter journey. These sources go beyond ILSs to include organic search results, paid ads, review sites and social media platforms.
This is where a holistic search marketing program with an appropriately reapportioned budget comes into play to give you a competitive edge. Keep reading to learn more about the five ways to win online renters and how to manage it all, no matter the size of your marketing team.
Once considered a marketing budget luxury, search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer optional. SEO is critical for every property management business. Customers can’t rent from you if they can’t find you, and they can’t find you if you don’t appear in search results.
Good SEO uses on- and off-page optimization to position your communities for maximum visibility and more leads. On-page strategies include adding content and user-friendly tools that appeal to both customers and search engines. Off-page strategies ensure that your brand name, address and phone number is accurate and consistent across external websites and search directories. With the right approach, you can achieve and maintain top placement in organic search.
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads appear at the top of organic search results and are an effective way to get the attention of renters actively searching for a place to live in your area. They can also be displayed on other platforms– including popular consumer websites like YouTube and Facebook – reaching potential customers at every stage of the renting journey. Ad retargeting options stretch your budget and keep you in front of prospects who have visited your website. Because less than 3% of prospects convert on their first visit to a website, this is an essential search marketing tool.
As more companies increase PPC spend, it becomes more expensive to target popular keywords and demographics. Setting up successful ad campaigns requires market and platform expertise, as well as a flexible budget and the ability to analyze results.
It’s not enough to have an optimized website and good ad campaigns. Data tells us that customers base their buying decisions on feedback from other customers. In fact, 78% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, making reviews the single most trustworthy and credible source of “advertising” out there. This is further confirmed by the rising popularity of review sites. But how can you control what people say about your brand and properties online?
You can’t, but you can guide the conversation about your brand. An active reputation management campaign helps you build trust and take control of your digital reputation. For example, it’s critical to respond quickly to both positive and negative reviews and comments. With an experienced account manager to monitor your online reviews, you can mitigate damaging content, proactively handle potentially negative reviews and increase positive reviews to build your brand profile.
Social media sites are prominent in search results. They’re also where your customers choose to spend their time online. So how do you capture and convert more leads on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms? Start by claiming a consistent identity across multiple channels, then audit and improve your profiles to accurately reflect your business. It’s important to build brand recognition and influence by regularly posting local content – not just sales messages. A professional social media specialist should review your social media analytics regularly to see the performance and make adjustments as needed.
Despite the changing journey of today’s online renters, ILSs continue to play a significant role. According to the 2018 Avison-Young Canadian Multi-Res Tenant Rental Survey, 31% of respondents found their rentals through an online listing service, slightly down from 35% in 2017. It’s not enough to simply be present on these websites. You must have solid copy, good photos and, ideally, preferred placement if you want to stand out in busy metros.
Search Marketing Management: Time to Hire?
If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right, it is. The rules of the search marketing game change all the time in response to algorithm updates, platform evolutions and consumer behavior patterns.
For now, the best search marketing strategy combines these five distinct channels that work together to ensure your communities are positioned to attract more prospects, no matter how renters choose to search. But how do you drive revenue with online marketing that returns proven results without creating an extra burden for your team? You can hire additional staff, or you can team up with search marketing experts to handle the day-to-day for you, so you can focus on results.
However, you choose to approach search marketing, remember that attracting leads is only the first step. From there, you still need to convert them into leases and retain them as residents. Ask yourself, does your marketing toolbox have the tools you need to be successful?
Yardi® develops and supports industry-leading investment and property management software. Its RENTCafé Suite delivers complete marketing, leasing, CRM, call centre and search marketing services for multifamily properties. For more information, visit yardi.com.