If you're getting ready to open a new apartment community or to re-brand an existing one, the most important question you have to answer may be "what will we name it?" In this post, we want to offer three basic guidelines to consider when deciding on a name for your apartment community.
One of your main goals with your name is to make it as easy as possible for people to find you. All three of our guidelines relate to this basic idea in one way or another.
First, avoid using the city's name in your community name.
One of the regular pieces of advice we give clients and readers is to avoid going after broad keywords they can't possibly win. The most common example is "apartments in seattle," or "apartments for rent in chicago."
The allure of those keywords is obvious enough, but given the number of sites wanting to rank there, it's virtually impossible for a single community to occupy much screen real estate on those search result pages.
Why shouldn't you use your city name?
When you include your city's name in your apartment community's name, you are often setting yourself up for a similar problem. Say you are "Chicago Lakeview Apartments." Well, you've got all sorts of trouble with a name like that: "Chicago Apartments" is a common, highly competitive keyword. "Chicago Lakeview Apartments" could easily be confused for a description of a quality that a community might have: They are apartments in Chicago with a view of a lake.
A name like this creates massive problems for search engines because they won't really know how to treat your community website relative to the other websites they want to rank when someone searches a given term. The result will be major search engine problems because the keywords that are most valuable to your community will also be extremely difficult to rank on.
Apartment Names and Google Ads
There's an additional problem: Google Ads. Paid search is a fantastic marketing channel if you know how to use it. But in this case you're setting yourself up for a nightmare.
The way Ads works is you tell Ads what kind of keyword you want to advertise on and how much of the searched term needs to match the term you actually give Ads. So if I say I want to advertise on "men's dress shoes," I also need to tell Google if I want the ad to show up when someone searches "men's shoes," "dress shoes," "dress shoes for men," and so on.
Over time, you can further focus your advertising campaign by creating what are called negative keywords. Negative keywords are keywords you enter in that tell Google "do not display this ad when a searcher uses this word." So, to take an easy example, if you were selling only men's dress shoes, you might add "women" or "kids" as negative keywords so that the ad does not appear when someone searches "women's dress shoes" or "kids dress shoes."
Here's the problem: If you have a super generic community name that references your city specifically, you will have a very hard time making sure your ad only shows up on relevant searches.
Negative keywords should work this way in our industry: Let's say you're Paradise Villa Apartments and you're in Phoenix, AZ. As it happens, there is also a Paradise Villa Apartments in Santa Fe, NM. Well, you can add "Sante Fe," "NM," and "New Mexico" to your negative keywords and then you will block your ad from appearing when someone is searching for a different community that happens to share your name.
But with something like "Chicago Lakefront Apartments," that is going to be much harder. You will get tons of people searching broadly for things like "apartments in chicago," and "lakefront apartments in chicago," that are not good fits for your community. You shouldn't spend money advertising to them. But... how do you fix the problem? You are "Chicago Lakefront Apartments." You don't want to add "chicago" or "lakefront" to negative keywords because both those words are in your name. So what do you do? Whatever you do, the answer is going to be complicated and probably require a ton of time and money to implement.
Instead of names that use these common, generic terms, find something that is more specific to your community. Maybe you were thinking about "Chicago Lakefront Apartments." Well, what if you instead do something like "Lakefront on (Street Name)"? So if you were on Main Street you would have a name like "Lakefront on Main Apartments."
That keeps the "lake" bit you want to emphasize, but it will be a much more distinctive name that makes your paid search and organic search work much easier and simpler.
Avoid hard-to-spell names and excessively long names.
Next, let's talk about searchability. If you go with something like "The Cosmopolitan at Towne Square," you're going to run into a couple problems. First, searchers may have trouble with the spelling, especially due to the extra "e" at the end of "Towne." Google's algorithms may bail you out, but they may not. It's better to not take that risk in the first place. The other problem is that the name is really long.
This, in turn creates a couple more problems. First, it will be hard for people to remember the whole name. They might remember "Cosmopolitan" but not "Towne Square" or they might get it the other way round. Either way, it will be hard for them to find on Google via search if they don't know the actual name of the property. Second, shorter domain names are preferred by search engines (they look more natural) and, again, are easier to use for human users. But what kind of domain would a community with that name go for? www.cosmopolitantownesquare.com is long and kinda awkward. Somehow they'll need to come up with a domain that is a) available, b) memorable, and c) actually fits their community name. That will be a tall order.
Instead of using complex name formulas, go for something relatively simple. Maybe "The Cosmopolitan" is enough for the name. Or maybe you want "Lofts at Town Square"? There are ways to play with it. The point is you want something that is memorable so that it is easy for people to find when they're searching for you.
Avoid common or over-used words.
Finally, we need to talk about over-used words. There's a good chance you're aware of a list that proposes a simple way to name your community: Select a word from a long list of possible first words, then do the same for a long list of second words. Voila, your name.
The trouble here is that a lot of these words have become overused. This leads to two issues.
The Problem of Common Names
First, you get a lot of communities that share the same name so you get a lot of communities that aren't competitors in their actual business (because they are in different cities) competing with each other on Google. Negative keywords can fix some of this on Ads, as we explained earlier, but organic search can be a bit thornier.
The Problem of Generic Names
Second, at some point all the apartment names start to sound the same: "Well, I know the first word was some kind of tree and the second word was a body of water. Willow Springs? Pine Creek? Sycamore Lakes? Or was it Willow Lakes? Sycamore Springs?" You get the problem.
Given the way the apartment shopping experience works, it is already hard enough to differentiate yourself from local competitors. Prospective residents may tour four or five units in a single day and by the end of it they may not remember which unit was which. If all the communities also have similar names, that only compounds the difficulty.
You can see more of these common words on the Apartment Guide blog.
Instead of using these more common names, try to find something more distinctive. You should just "distinctive" first relative to your actual local competitors. Then, once you have a name in view, plug it into Google and see how many other communities have the name. Figure out how hard it will be to start ranking for your own name. If the name isn't that common and it's easy enough to remember... well, congratulations. You probably have found a good community name.