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Build Your Online Presence

Tips and thoughts to help you build your company's presence online, through a more productive website, email, search engine optimization and social media.

How Do You Know Your Google Ads Are Working?

Over in the forums, Beth asked a great question about her Google Ads: How do you know what you're spending on Google Adwords is working? I've been asked by our owners to create a report that justifies our spending towards Google Adwords and not sure if there is a direct way to verify traffic or lease to Google Adwords. This might be a question for the marketing team, but just curious how your company verifies the cost of Google Adwords and its value is validated. This is such a great question. (Thanks, Beth!) I'm resharing the full answer that I originally posted here. The short answer is this: You want to tie your ad results as precisely as you can to real business results. And those results should come relatively quickly – a smart, targeted campaign should almost immediately produce an increase in phone calls, email leads, and tours. Focus primarily on those lead generation metrics, but also understand that those numbers alone won’t tell the full story of how Google Ads might be contributing to your leasing success. To provide a better answer to the question (backed up by data), you’ll want to have access to the followIng: Your Google Ads account [ads.google.com] The Google Analytics account for your website [analytics.google.com] Your Google My Business account [google.com/business] Your call tracking reports Your lead management/CRM reports Here are some specific things you can measure to show the effectiveness of your Google Ads (ordered in the typical order they occur along the cu......
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Portfolio Leasing: 11 Ways to Create Prospect-Centric Apartment Marketing

Portfolio Leasing: 11 Ways to Create Prospect-Centric Apartment Marketing

Are you a Starbucks fan? Do you make frequent Target runs? Do you have other favorite local or national brands you regularly seek out? I’m guessing the answer is yes.

Now, imagine that every Starbucks and Target location had a different name on the door.

Instead of Starbucks, what if your neighborhood location was named Buckhead Java Reserve or Espresso House at The Woodlands, both with tiny “Proudly managed by Starbucks Coffee” decals on the front door?

Instead of Target, what if your local store was called Shoppers Pointe of Arlington, with “A unique shopping experience by Target Brands, Inc.” at the bottom of their emails and weekly circulars?

Do you think you’d trust these brands as much as you trust Starbucks or Target now? If you went to a different location on the other side of town or in a new city, do you think you’d have the same brand association (whatever association that may be)?

My guess is probably not.

You trust these brands because, regardless of where you are, you pretty much already know what kind of experience to expect before you even walk in the door. Sure, you might prefer the local coffeehouse, but you have a go-to Starbucks order in mind if you’re running errands across town or running through an airport.

That consistency in experience helps to build trust. Trust builds confidence. Confidence increases the likelihood that you’ll come back and become a repeat customer.

Yet when we look at how apartment communities are marketed, we often see the exact opposite approach.

Every community is marketed with its own unique name, vibe, and character. Each property gets its own logo, brand identity, and story. There’s often little or no connection to the property owner or management company and the other local apartment buildings/communities that those companies offer.

This serves to make a highly fragmented market only that much more so. It makes shopping for an apartment a painfully difficult experience for the customer, and it increases apartment marketers’ reliance on third-party marketplaces (Craigslist and ILS sites like Apartments.com and Zillow), aggregators, and locators to get in front of new renter prospects.

Let's Market The Way Customers Shop

In short, the way we market apartments often directly opposes how customers are used to shopping. This simultaneously reduces the reach of each apartment community’s “brand value” and increases the amount each community needs to spend on advertising to stand out in the marketplace.

Rather than (or maybe in addition to) trying to build a unique brand for each asset, it’s time that apartment marketers invest in their brands beyond the individual properties. Think about how you can be recognized at the neighborhood or regional level, and look at ways to reach more people well before they ever fully understand which properties are yours.

We call this approach Portfolio Leasing. It's not at all a new idea. But with the digital tools you have available to you today, there are whole new ways to put the customer first in your marketing. Here's why we think it's a perfect fit for multifamily.

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Apartment SEO Basics: Choosing Keywords for Single Property Websites

Apartment SEO Basics: Choosing Keywords for Single Property Websites
Depending on who you ask, somewhere between 80 and 95% of all renters will go online to research potential options over the course of their search. And when you talk to those renters, many of them start their search with a search — usually on Google. (Most U.S. properties we work with today receive about 65-90% of their search traffic from Google, with the rest coming from Bing, Yahoo, and smaller search engines like DuckDuckGo.) The search engine is the modern day Yellow Pages. It’s where people go to look for … pretty much everything. So if you want to be considered as an option for those renters who are in shopping mode, you first need to be as visible as possible where they’re looking. This is why you’re should be considering or already doing some kind of search engine optimization (SEO) on your website. SEO is all about positively impacting how Google sees you site, so you’ll rank higher in the results, and presumably this will lead to more website traffic and more customers. The best way to be discovered in search is to deliver the best, most relevant answer to the question the prospect is typing (or saying) into Google. At this point, let’s pause and take a huge step back. The most important part of any marketing strategy is understanding the customer, and being able to deliver what they want when they need it. Now apply that to your search strategy: The best way to be discovered in search is to ......
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"I need a 1-Bedroom near downtown." The Missed Opportunity in Your Marketing Strategy

"I need a 1-Bedroom near downtown." The Missed Opportunity in Your Marketing Strategy
“Hi, I’m looking for a one-bedroom, maybe a studio, near downtown. It looks like you have a few properties with nice options. Who would I call to set something up to see your apartments? Thanks, Kate” This is a real message received through a client's Facebook page. We see messages like this a lot, coming through a social media channel or the client's website. There's a good chance you've seen messages like this, too. It’s great news. "A lead! She wants a studio. We need to rent some studios!" Except there’s a problem. Our organizations aren’t built to serve Kate's question very well. Our marketing strategies don’t address what she needs at this point in her search. The way we manage leads doesn’t enable our leasing teams to give Kate what she wants. And it’s holding us back from providing a better leasing experience for our prospects. I know what you’re thinking. “Business is good. We have more leads than we know what to do with. We need to focus on getting our leasing team to answer the phone more and respond to online leads.” All true. But the more you can do to move "up the funnel,” the sooner you can qualify the prospect, identify your best prospects and ultimately help them find their perfect place. Let me show you what I mean. If you break down how people shop for apartments, we see that very few know the property they want by name when they start their search (top of the funnel). A few ......
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It's More Than Content: Seven Things Your Property Website Needs Now

It's More Than Content: Seven Things Your Property Website Needs Now
If you attended the Multifamily Social Media Summit last week (or followed along online), you probably saw a recurring theme: Having the right content strategy for your website is key to your online success. You may have even seen a chart circulating that outlines the features prospects are looking for on your site. Take a look: Do you have these features on your community website? @judybellack #multifamilysms2014 #nmhc #multifamily pic.twitter.com/lpFcNEnRl2 — On-Site.com (@OnSitedotcom) January 30, 2014 I'll say it right now ... this isn't a "nice to have" list. Almost every one of these are "must have" items for your website. Here's the full list: Floor plans with prices Availability of floor plans Interior photos Ratings and reviews Common area photos Neighborhood map Interior video Pet policies Common area videos Info about the property's "green" features Beyond the Basics: Add These to Your Property Website This is a good starting point, but honestly, these are things prospects expect to find when they get to your site. So while we're at it, here are a few more things you should add to that "must have" list: Contact Info with Office Hours When someone hits your website from a mobile device, they're likely ready to make a buying decision -- they probably want to visit your property to see the place. So it stands to reason that your website displays your address, phone number and office hours. Prominently. Don't make it hard for prospects to find you. Landing Pages If you're running ads o......
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10 Places to Invest Your Digital Marketing Dollars in 2014

10 Places to Invest Your Digital Marketing Dollars in 2014
It's that time of year again. Yes, football is back! (And now it's on your phone.) And so is budget season. When it comes to budgeting for your marketing spend, digital likely makes up a big part of your playbook. A vast majority of shoppers are starting their searches online, often checking 10 or more different sources before choosing to do business with you. So you better have a strong presence there, and it better be the kind of message you want your potential customers to see. With digital, it can be tough to know whether this year's tools and trends will still be hot -- and worth your investment -- next year. Do you need a mobile app? Is Facebook on its way out? Hasn't email been pronounced dead each of the past 14 years? What can we do to get more out of our website? Of course, I can't make any promises about what the future holds, but here are some of the places our team is looking at as the most important areas to focus on in the year ahead: 1. Mobile How would you feel if 30% or more of your customers received a poor customer experience the moment they walked through your door? Not good, right? Well, if your website isn't mobile-friendly, that's exactly what you're doing to your online customers. (Google prefers websites that implement responsive design, so I'd recommend starting there.) What about that mobile app? If you can find a way to deliver......
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Lead Attribution: “Property Website” Isn’t Enough


Lead Sources - Conversion Goals in Google AnalyticsWhen you're collecting information from a new prospect, do you ask how they heard about you? Does your contact form have one of those drop-downs with a bunch of pre-populated options? If you're like a lot of companies, you probably get a lot of people who tell you that they found you through your property website. As a marketer, you might be thinking, "Our website is outperforming all of our other online marketing." Yep, heard that one before. Great news, right? Maybe. Many of the prospects contacting you through your website probably didn't go directly to the site by typing your URL into the address bar. (In Google Analytics, these are "Direct" visits to your site.) Instead, it's more likely that the person clicked through to your site from somewhere else first -- maybe from a search engine, a Craigslist ad or a social network, or a blog post about your company's awesome new product. It's great to see those leads coming through your website. But it's also important to know how the best visitors are finding your site. Did they click on an ad? Did they find you through organic search? Did they read something about you through your recent PR efforts? The marketers we work with all agree that being able to effective attribute leads to their sources is a huge help; it enables them to better allocate their budget to the marketing channels that perform the best and deliver better returns. The great news is that, with a......
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Google+ Local: What Does It Mean for Apartments?

New Google+ Local PageThis week, Google announced the release of Google+ Local. You may have already seen how this change will affect Google+ users in general, but what does this mean for your apartment community? The change means that all Google Place pages have been replaced by new Google+ Local Pages. Additionally, Google has indicated that you'll soon have the ability to link your new Google+ Local Pages with your existing(?) Google+ Pages, resulting in one combined page that is integrated across multiple Google services (Search, Maps, Google+, etc.). Here's a look at what a Google+ Local page will look like when the transition is completed: A Richer User Experience Notice the strong emphasis on reviews, as well as the ability to "follow" the brand by adding it to your Circles. Also note the new Local search option in the left sidebar. (With a richer experience in terms of the results provided, this update arguably makes Google+ a better local search experience than Google or Google Maps.) Even if the user clicks on the business page from Google Maps, they'll be taken to the Google+ Local page now. So? Like it or not, your Google Place page just got social.  It's probably best to start considering a Google+ strategy (if you haven't already). Businesses have always had the ability to post status updates to Google Places, but the feature was buried and few businesses used it. Now, you'll have the opportunity to have your updates show up on your page, directly in the streams......
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Your Company's Facebook Page is Getting a New Look

Introducing New Facebook PagesLike it or not, Facebook isn't afraid to make big changes. And with their announcements earlier this week, they're going to be making some very big changes to business pages, as well as a number of other tools for marketers using the site. We'll focus on the business page updates for now ... trust me, these updates alone will keep you busy for a while. Here are a few of the biggest changes coming to your page(s): Cover Photo The most visible change to the page is the cover photo. (AdAge has a nice roundup of what some big brands are doing with their pages.) The cover image for brand pages is the same size as for individual profiles: 850 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. Facebook has a few restrictions on what you can include in your cover image -- you can't use the cover image for “promotions, coupons, or advertisements,” and you shouldn't use the image as a call to action (you can't even ask visitors to like your page). That said, it's a wonderful opportunity to display a striking photo of your community or your team. A word of caution here: Facebook is notorious for compressing images, which can really screw with the beautiful cover photo you've created. Once you have your image ready, go to your page's photo albums and add the image through the uploader there. Make sure you select "High Quality" to keep Facebook from squashing your photo too much. No More Default Landing Tab......
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4 Free Google Tools Every Apartment Marketer Should Use

Get online with GoogleGoogle is making a big push to reach out to local businesses lately. That includes YOU. (Here's what they're doing here in Ohio. They're hosting events like these all over the country.) Even though they make the vast majority of their money through advertising, Google provides all kinds of tools to help you grow your business -- many are free. Here are four free tools from Google that should be integral parts of every apartment marketer's online toolkit: Google Analytics If you're not tracking traffic on your website, you might as well as be driving blind. Google Analytics is a free service that allows you to track which sources are driving traffic to your site, to see how people are using your site once they get there and to analyze trends to improve your online marketing efforts. We'll go into more details about using Google Analytics to track leads soon, but for now, just make sure it's set up on every page of your website. [Access Google Analytics.] Google Places Google reports that at least 20% of searches on their site are local in nature, meaning that people are looking for a product or service nearby. (This is huge in our industry ... location is everything. Just think of how many searches are there for "apartments in XYZ town" in your market.) If the search engine thinks the user is looking for something nearby, they display local results, often from their business directory called Google Places. You can set up a free......
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