Your community’s digital presence has the potential to have the biggest impact when focused locally. It’s easy to think of your online presence only in terms of its global reach as part of the “world wide web,” but the largest portion of your resident pool will likely come from people who already live in your local area.
These five tactics will help you localize your digital presence so that your apartment community is visible to the right local audience.
Tactic #1: Optimize Your Website for Local SEO
It all starts with your Name, Address and Phone number (NAP for short). These are three of the most important data points that Google and other search engines use to verify your business. Your community name, location, and contact information should be featured clearly and prominently on your website. These benefit renters too; they can quickly find your location, get in touch to find out more about your community, schedule a tour, and even start the leasing process.
You can even take this a step further with custom code markup on your website, called structured data. These behind-the-scenes data points allow search engines to learn about your business in a structured way. This too starts with your NAP, and you can also specify advanced fields like your latitude and longitude, hours of operation, photos of your community, and your logo. Adding structured data can also help search engines like Google to feature your business details in a structured snippet in search results.
Tactic #2: Earn Meaningful Local Citations
Your web presence goes beyond your apartment community’s website. Adweek explains that “Customers are no longer going to your website anymore (especially on mobile): They are making decisions right from Google Maps, Apple Maps, Facebook Local, Yelp, etc.” These local listings are responsible for more than 50% of your local search results in Google.
Search engines look to find your NAP on your website, but also verify it against other sources and connect them all together to figure out how relevant, authoritative, and popular your community is in your surrounding local area.
If you want to be found in search engines, start by claiming your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business listings. Fill out the listing completely, including your website link, business hours, listing categories, high quality photos, and a thoughtful description. On Google My Business, you can leverage advanced features such as Google Street View virtual tours that let potential customers “see inside” your community.
From there, you need to extend your presence with industry-specific local citations. Each industry has a distinct set of sites that search engines trust more than others. For example, if you are a restaurant, there are lots of listing sites that cater themselves to restaurant reviews, menu information, and reservations. Accurate citations on the most authoritative sites likely count the most in search engine algorithms.
Moz, a leading SEO platform that focuses on links and local listings, lists Apartments.com and ForRent.com as the two top citation sources for apartment rentals.
To achieve better traction in local search, claim and update your local listings on trustworthy citation sources in the apartments industry. Now that Apartments.com and ForRent.com have combined to form the new Apartments.com Network, a listing for your community can be placed on up to nine industry sites that reach every renter segment.
For additional assistance claiming your listings, take a look at our full-service social and online reputation program that can manage all of this for you.
Tactic #3: Local Reputation
Online reviews are often one of the first things a renter will see about your apartment community, and according to a 2017 Bright Local consumer survey, 84% of people trust them as much as they do personal recommendations.
We studied the benefit of reviews to apartment communities on Apartments.com and found that properties with reviews receive 40% more leads. A good rule of thumb is to target at least 10 recent reviews since prospective renters prefer reviews within the past 6-12 months.
A great way to promote reviews is to leverage the voice of your current residents. You can do this by identifying happy residents who are highly active online or have a strong social following. Apartments.com listings showcase your property’s ratings and reviews so you can promote feedback and increase renter satisfaction and confidence through your review responses. Connect and engage with your residents to identify ways you can partner together.
At the same time, one negative review may cost you as many as 30 customers, according to a study by Convergys. A timely, professional response to negative reviews can shift things back in your favor, especially if you take responsibility and offer a solution to the renter’s concern.
Staying on top of your online reputation is critical, but it can be overwhelming. That’s why many apartment communities and property management companies like Matrix Residential are adopting a full-service reputation management program to promote and protect their online reputation.
Tactic #4: Get Local with Your Community’s Social Profile
Social media is critical to any successful marketing strategy, and there are a few basic steps to ensure that your community’s social profiles are optimized so they can easily be found by your local audience.
Facebook has shifted to more actively using location proximity as an aspect of its search results. To make sure that your business is found within Facebook search, review your community’s profile to confirm all the fields are complete and the address is accurate. Also, make sure that the map properly displays your physical location to ensure that the system properly understands your address structure. Finally, check that you are listed in the correct business categories.
Updating so many social profiles is a lot to take on, but the importance of your social presence cannot be understated. With Social Concierge, we developed tools that can help you better stay on top of your social media goals. We can help strengthen your community’s social presence and protect and promote your reputation across many digital channels.
Tactic #5: Grow Loyalty as a Local Social Strategy
An increasing number of Facebook users are using the “Ask for Recommendations” option to reach out to their community and get a curated set of referrals and references from their own community. Each of these searches are local as users ask for recommendations in a certain city or local area.
It’s not enough to simply show up prominently in Facebook’s news feed or have strong organic search rankings. These peer-to-peer requests for recommendations make you dependent on your loyal customers to speak up about your apartment community. As Search Engine Land put it, “The potential for such social media recommendations to disrupt traditional local search channels is huge. There’s an intrinsic value in the personal relationship and word-of-mouth recommendation the Google algorithm can never duplicate.”
This shifts the long-term burden to apartment communities to cultivate the type of loyal resident who will recommend your community to their friends. This applies to the nuts-and-bolts of providing residents with satisfactory apartments, but loyalty is also earned through engagement via social channels.
Consider ways that you can provide value to an online community of current residents, former residents, prospective residents, neighbors, and other interested parties. While each of your interactions and engagement points can focus on an individual or targeted group, your full breadth of digital activity should cycle through each of the market segments you plan to develop.
Recap: Putting It All Together
To effectively maximize your local digital presence, these five tactics really boil down to supporting two important, yet fundamental, marketing assets: location and reputation.
The old adage “location, location, location” is ever so relevant today, and you must leverage your property’s location in your SEO so prospective renters can find you and search engines can verify you and elevate your online rankings accordingly. As the #1 Internet Listing Site (ILS) in 207 markets, Apartments.com gives you twice the exposure to local renters and up to six times the lead to lease conversion rate versus other ILS’s.
Word-of-mouth (and “word-of-mouse”) recommendations go hand in hand with a company’s reputation and have been a critical part of the consumer journey since the dawn of time. It’s near impossible to research local products and services, from restaurants and appliances to contractors and apartments, without viewing a litany of reviews that lend credence and instill trust in that brand. Similarly, the social and reputation management tactics prescribed above can get your property on the right track to evoking a solid impression which, in turn, improves your local SEO rankings. And for expert, full-service assistance, our reputation management program can optimize those efforts for you.
Visit Apartments.com/Advertise to learn more about ways that you can streamline and optimize your apartment community’s local online presence.