One of the most common problems we hear about from apartment marketers is that they are struggling to market their communities because they simply don't have the budget necessary to do the job well.
Today we're talking about the things you can do on a shoestring budget to improve your community's marketing strategy and performance.
Make sure all your basic SEO pieces are in place.
There are several basic things that are vital to get right if you want your site to perform well on search engines. If these things aren't in place, your site will struggle to perform on search engines.
First, you'll want to make sure the title tag includes your community's name, location, and the word "apartments." There are several ways you can do this. "(community name) Apartments | (city, state)" will work, as will "(community name) Apartments in (city, state)."
The key is to have all three of those things present in the title tag. That will tell the search engines that your site is about a specific community in the apartment industry located in your city and state. That, in turn, makes it much easier for the search engine to know how to rank your site for various keywords.
Second, it's vital that you own your domain name and are sending traffic to it, rather than to someone else's domain. We explained why in this post last week. The short version is that domains can build up authority with search engines over time. Search engines see valuable content being hosted on the domain and over time come to "trust" it, if we can put it that way. The result of that trust is higher rankings for search terms. So you want to be building that trust on your domain, not someone else's.
Third, make sure you have 301 redirects set up correctly so that all your authority is being built up for the right domain. If you don't set your site up correctly, you end up with two sites living on two domains--one the "naked" domain without the "www" prefix and the other being the one with the "www" prefix. This is disastrous because it splits all your SEO value in half between the two different domains. The way to resolve this problem is to set up a 301 redirect on one of the domains to send all traffic and SEO value to the other site. This makes sure that all your authority is being built up for a single domain.
Fourth, make sure that you have claimed your Google My Business location and have updated it with a link to the correct website.
Fifth, if it's at all possible, set up your website so that each floorplan has its own landing page. This isn't something we see very often in the industry, but there are many benefits to arranging your site in this way.
- First, it makes it easier for prospects to learn about their specific apartment.
- Second, it gives you a landing page to use on Craigslist and Google AdWords.
- Third, it provides search engines with one more indexable page that they can direct users to.
Post regularly to Craigslist.
Next we need to talk about posting strategies on Craigslist, which is free in most places. There are four keys to successful Craigslist posting.
- Strong, high-quality photos that show the specific floorplan being advertised.
- Contact info is prominently listed, both the phone number and email address.
- The pet policy is included in the ad.
- The ad links to a floorplan-specific landing page rather than a generic page on the community website.
The cumulative goal of these various posting strategies is simple: You want to to create ads that won't get deleted or flagged and that help your community to stand out from the competition on Craigslist.
There are thousands of posts every day in many major American metros, so finding a strategy to help you stand out is essential. If you do the things we list above, you should be able to achieve that goal.
Use walkthrough video tours plus photos of each floorplan.
This is one of the more difficult strategies, but the rewards are considerable. Ideally, the floorplan-specific landing pages go along with floorplan-specific content, which makes it significantly easier for prospects to research your community and figure out of they want to schedule a tour or not.
If you don't have the budget to hire professionals, however, there are ways of working around the issue. It won't be as good as the content a professional would shoot, but it's better than "no floorplan specific content at all."
Given that reality, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Use horizontal images rather than vertical--most image display tools online are designed for horizontal photos.
- Don't cut off objects in the frame of your photo.
- Make sure the light in the room is good before shooting.
- Edit the photos using free tools like iPhoto or PicMonkey.
Once you have taken your photos, you once again will come back to your floorplan-specific landing pages. Ideally, you'll have those pages set up and can display the photos on those pages. So if someone wants to see into your one bedroom floorplan, you'll have the photos and the page that will help them to do that.
Obviously none of these things will be on the same level as what a professional could provide for your community. But if money is tight and you can't hire this work out to a marketing partner, then you can get a lot of good work done at low cost by doing the things we recommend above.