By Veronica Romney
Director of SEO/SEM for Entrata and AIM 2015 Speaker

Veronica RomneyAt AIM last year, Andrew Halverson, digital marketing manager at Greystar, and I discussed the search engine optimization (SEO) strategies you need to implement to make sure your communities are ranking high on Google. As AIM 2016 focuses on the user experience, let’s revisit some of those strategies and discuss how getting them wrong can negatively impact a prospect’s apartment search experience.

1) Get Local and Get Social. All things being equal, apartment communities featuring indexable, localized information on their websites will get pushed to the top of search engine rankings.

Social media activity also is critical to establishing locality to boost search engine results: geo-tag YouTube posts; add your name, address and phone number (NAP) to social-media platforms; and talk about local current events on your outlets to increase search engine results page (SERP) positioning. Create the kind of original and local content, such as blog posts about and photos of community events and residents, that renters are apt to share on social media. Bottom line: your SEO strategy as a local business needs to include social media; if you’re not doing this, you don’t have a complete SEO strategy.

Impact on the Prospective Renter: Community websites featuring relevant local information and social-media channels teeming with content about the property and the surrounding area can show prospective renters that yours is an engaged community. By proactively participating in your neighborhood and sharing that information across your social media channels, you are creating an experience for the renter searching for not only an apartment, but also a place to call home.

Developing unique, shareable content that current residents link to on social media is a way to give apartment hunters a compelling glimpse into the vibrancy of life at your community. As an additional benefit, the sense of engagement and the bond that current residents will feel with the community when they share this content can strengthen their relationship with your community as well as compel a prospect to reach out.

2) Embrace (Authentic) Reviews. Once the bane of the community manager’s existence, online ratings and reviews (and how your community responds to them online) are becoming integral to how your community’s website will be ranked on a SERP. Never pay for reviews or use incentives to generate more reviews, and be careful to not automate or make your responses generic.

Impact on the Prospective Renter: Being authentic in your response to ratings and reviews does more than just boost your SEO: it also can have a positive impact on how a prospect views your community. Seeing the management staff respond thoughtfully and originally to both positive and negative reviews creates a powerful online voice for the staff that prospects (and current residents) can pick up on and develop a favorable impression of. On the flip side, hostile or robotic responses can leave a deeply negative impression, both with apartment shoppers and those already living at the community. But the worst impression comes from not responding at all. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so why wouldn’t you make it a positive one?

3) Be Mobile. In 2014, the number of mobile searches surpassed the number of desktop searches, and it didn’t take Google long to respond. Last spring, Google announced that sites must be mobile-optimized or they would risk a significant drop on a SERP. Whether it’s through responsive design or by building mobile-specific sites, being smart phone-friendly is no longer optional; it’s an absolute.

Impact on the Prospective Renter: People simply LIVE on their phones. They will Google anything on their phones the second they have a question about it. If they drive by your community or visit a friend who already lives at your property, and they decide to look up more information about your place, but you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, what happens? They don’t find the information they’re looking for, their search experience is tarnished and there goes your lead.

Video footage of the AIM 2015 session featuring Veronica Romney and Andrew Halverson is below: 

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