What Apartment Marketers Should Know About Google's Search Rank Update

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Your apartment community's website is your most valuable marketing tool and lead generator. It's purpose is to convert visitors into leads through a seamless process where they're able to see inside your various units, learn about your amenities and pricing, and initiate the leasing journey.

Every apartment marketer should make sure their website fulfills this experience because it aligns with the demands prospective residents have when searching for their future apartment home online.

That's because modern internet users are smart and will no longer interact with a website if they have a poor time using it. You may have done something like this yourself when online shopping—you intuitively knew within a few seconds of visiting a website that it wasn't going to help you complete your task or learn more about a product, so you left it and went searching for a better one.

As such, it makes sense that Google announced last year an update to it's search rankings algorithm that heavily emphasizes page experience. The changes began rolling out in June 2021, and are expected to be completed by August. 

In this blog, we'll explain how Google will be measuring websites by page experience and what it means for apartment marketers.

How Google Will Rank Pages By Experience

Google will now be utilizing new Page Experience Signals to judge websites based on how internet users interact with them. If these metrics report poor user experience on a website, Google will demote its rank on the search engine results pages.


(Source: Google Search Central)

The graphic above lays out the various signals Google's algorithm will be looking for when it assesses page experience.

Some of these signals may seem pretty familiar to most marketers who understand SEO (search engine optimization) best practices. It is always important for websites to be mobile-friendly, safe to browse, secure (HTTPS), and easy to use (No Intrusive Intervals), so Google will continue to rank these higher.

The new signals in this update are called the Core Web Vitals:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures loading performance, which is heavily influenced by the size of the visual elements on a website. The signal that suggests a page will have a good user experience is if it loads in less than 2.5 seconds. Anything longer than that will be docketed. Typically, websites with large media or font files take longer to load.

First Input Delay (FID) specifically looks at inactivity. When a user makes an interaction on a page like clicking a button, FID will measure the time it takes for the browser to respond to that interaction. The measurement of a website with a good experience is if this time occurs in 100 milliseconds or less. Bad websites don't respond quickly to interactions because they have way too much Javascript, or code, to parse through in the background to execute the interaction.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), then, measures visual stability. How this signal works is rather complicated, but essentially it is looking at how content moves on pages once users make an interaction. When the user is expecting a layout shift, like when they click to buy something and a window pops-up that prompts them to enter their payment information, that is considered a good experience. When a layout shift occurs unexpectedly, it's considered a poor experience.

While these new signals are important, Google has made clear that it will still prioritize pages with best information overall. Having helpful and relevant content will always overcome slow loading times or other poor experience signals. 

Why Apartment Marketers Should Pay Attention To Search Rankings

Google's rankings update confirms these two truths for apartment marketers:

1. Bad apartment websites will lose out on more leads.

When you're in the midst of a vacancy crisis, you're in critical need of traffic to your apartment community's website. There's two ways of generating it: you can pay for traffic with digital advertising, or you could rely on organic traffic that's free (people searching for and finding your apartment community in a Google search).

If your website is determined to have a poor user experience with these new signals, you're never going to achieve the amount of organic traffic you need to end your vacancy crisis. You will consistently have to pay for it, putting a large dent into your marketing budget.

Worse, your website will lose out on leads if your competitor next door has a website that does meet the criteria for good user experience. Not only will your competitor's pages be ranked higher, but users will leave your site more frequently and gravitate to ones that are more helpful in their apartment hunt.

2. Website performance is more critical than it's design.

We've interacted with some apartment marketers and property managers who are looking for boutique websites because they're most concerned with how their brand is presented online. We try to steer them away from this ideology because prospective residents don't choose apartments by their brand or how beautiful their website design is.

Each has his or her own needs in their future apartment home, and one of the easiest ways for them to discover if your apartments are the right fit is by having a website that lets them see inside your different floorplans and easily gather all the information they need (price, availability, amenities, pet policies, etc.) to confidently reach out and begin interacting with a member of your leasing staff. That is a much greater experience for them, which is why apartment websites built for generating leads and leases will always rank higher for users than sites built for aesthetics.

What Apartment Marketers Need To Do Right Now

Complete the form below to run a Community SiteScore of your apartment community's website. This is a free tool we've created specifically for apartment marketers to measure the user experience of their website. Within minutes, you'll receive a report in your inbox with valuable insights on whether or not your website meets Google's performance expectations, such as it's mobile-friendliness, load times, and security, as well as recommendations on what you can do to improve them. Click here to test your website with RentVision's Community SiteScore Report.


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