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As today’s prospective renters are far more likely to start their apartment hunting in an online search engine rather than traditional marketing channels, search marketing has become a valuable tool in the multifamily operator’s repertoire.
The primary benefit of mastering this tactical marketing instrument is that you’re reaching to customers who are already showing real shopping intent—and they will keep coming back to search as they move through the process and get closer to making a decision.
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According to Mike Whaling, president & founder at 30 Lines, search marketing is a must-have for multifamily owners and operators—especially organic SEO showing up in free search results, but also running paid ads on Google that show up on specific keyword searches.
“Many of our clients see as much as 65 percent or more of their website traffic coming from search, and usually an even higher percentage of those visitors who come from search ultimately convert to leads and leases,” Whaling told Multi-Housing News.
And as new, sophisticated technologies emerge in customer service and support, a successful multifamily search strategy can’t only include traditional search engines like Google, Safari or Firefox anymore. It has to include map engines like Google Maps, Apple Maps or Waze, according to Morgan Porter, director of digital marketing at Birchstone Residential.
“ILS (Internet Listing Services) and social media advertising are great, but those are supportive advertising sources. They can help drive traffic to your website, but there is a risk that those outlets will also serve up the competition in your market to a prospect,” he said.
The Language of SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is at the center of every successful search marketing program. SEO enhancement is the process of ensuring a website’s design and content are relevant to the target audience and attracting organic (unpaid) traffic from the search engine results page.
Like all other text on the website, blog content must also be optimized so that it is most attractive to search engines—and apartment prospects find compelling information on the SERP (search engine results page) which is the page you see after conducting a search.
These are some of the other glossary terms and concepts that are used when multifamily marketers work on SEO:
- On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO: According to Semrush, an online visibility management and content marketing platform, On-Page SEO is about optimizing factors on the web page that clearly help search engines understand the content in context—including things like title, H1 and meta tag optimization, image alt tags, etc. Off-page SEO includes link building and other tactics that improve the authority of a website in the eyes of search engines.
- Alt Tag: This is the text that you attach to any image included in the blog—especially the main blog image. It’s important because Google can’t read images, it only analyzes text. By attaching text to your image, you’re telling Google what your image relates to and improving your property management SEO.
- Heading: Heading tags (H1-H6) separate content into sections, based on importance, with H1 (Headline Tag) being the most important and H6 being the least important. Headline tags should be used naturally and should incorporate target keywords when relevant.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR): According to Search Engine Journal, this is the rate (expressed in a percentage) at which users click on an organic search result. It’s calculated by dividing the total number of organic clicks by the total number of impressions then multiplying by 100.
- Link Equity: This is the value of inbound links, in terms of relevance, authority and trust, according to Search Engine Journal. However, a “Link Farm” is seen as a spam tactic. This is when a group of websites link to each other, usually using automated programs, in order to artificially increase search rankings.
- SEO Persona: This term refers to the buyer persona. The marketing team creates a fictitious person representing a typical prospect or customer and the relationship he or she may have with the multifamily property, according to SEO marketing agency Sematic.
- Keyword: This is a word that your prospect uses when searching online. SEO experts stress that it is very important to use keywords as naturally as possible in your blog content—and avoid repetitive “keyword stuffing.” Also, make sure that your content is relevant to what you want to be found for. For example, in order to build awareness for your property, make sure you also focus on the location. Long-tail keywords typically contain more than three words, and they are often more specific than short-tail queries.
- Black Hat: These are SEO practices such as purchasing links that violate Google’s quality guidelines. White hat refers to search engine optimization practices that do comply with Google’s quality guidelines.
- Page Segmentation: This term refers to when separate parts of a website are treated differently in terms of SEO. According to Internet Marketing Ninjas, a search engine spider will, in theory, focus more heavily on the main content block toward the center of the page than a footer, a navigation menu or advertisements. Market segmentation, on the other hand, refers to aggregating prospective renters or buyers into groups with common needs and who respond similarly to a marketing action.
- Hero, Hub and Hygiene: This is a content planning strategy and marketing model devised by Google for YouTube publishers, but the principles can be applied to all forms of content marketing, according to StickyEyes, a digital agency focusing on search, content and digital strategy. The “hero” refers to “go big” content campaigns; the “hub” is populated by regularly published, engaging content; and “hygiene” is the content people routinely search for.
Capturing the Target Audience
As Whaling points out, when you can anticipate what prospects are searching for—or the relevant keyword phrases—and create content that is the best answer to their question, you’ll show up in those search results and attract more potential customers to your website.
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Certainly, in the fast-paced digital environment, a property only has a few seconds to make an impression, according to Christine Lutz, executive vice president of Wolf Development Strategies, a specialized developer services firm providing full-service marketing and sales executions.
“Therefore, it’s important to invest in quality renderings, photography and video to help prospects visualize a new-construction development in some cases, months or years before it’s actually built,” Lutz told MHN.
Whether organic or paid, search marketing can help a multifamily brand get in front of the target audience faster and with more controlled messaging.
“The ultimate goal for every marketer is to drive traffic to the website with the least amount of clicks as possible,” Porter noted. “Anytime you can drive quality traffic to the website your result is higher conversions. That’s what search marketing allows you to do.”