If you are an apartment community in a small town you could be forgiven for thinking that you don't really need to have a website. However, you'd also be mistaken. Even businesses in small towns can get a reasonable volume of searches in a single month.
For example, one client we work with in a town of 15,000 people had 142 people search for them by name in a single month. A community in a town of 4,000 still managed to attract 92 direct searches in a single month. Another community in a town of 19,000 attracted 406 direct searches in a 30 day window. Even small town communities will get more web traffic than you might think. So getting your website right is worth the effort.
For that reason, you need to have a community website that prospects can find when looking for apartments in your area.
But there's actually a further benefit for communities in small towns: The keywords typically far too competitive to be won in larger cities, "apartments in (city, state)," and the like, are actually more attainable in small towns. In many cases there aren't a ton of listing services active in smaller towns which makes it much easier to rank highly for those keywords.
So not only does having an apartment website make it easier for prospects to find you when they are looking for you, it also makes it easier to find you when they are doing more general searches for apartments in your area.
The key idea is to hit location-focused keywords with all your online marketing.
To some degree this isn't really new advice. Everyone wants to have online advertising that is focused on their location. But it works a little differently if you have a community in a small town.
In larger cities, you're not really chasing keywords like "apartments in Chicago." That term is simply much too competitive. You'll never rank highly for it on organic search and ranking on paid search would be extremely expensive. This means you're more apt to chase less competitive search terms like "apartments in Evanston," "apartments in Schaumberg," or "apartments in Naperville" or something similar.
But in small towns your focus really is on the entire town rather than just a single neighborhood or suburb. There are three specific ways you can develop this sort of focused marketing plan:
- Use title tags and header tags to help your site show up on more general local searches.
- Target general keywords on Ads to drive additional local traffic to your site.
- Optimize your local business listing so that your property is easy to find on mobile and takes up more space on the desktop SERP.
We'll expand on what each of these points mean in more detail below.
Use title tags and header tags to help your site show up on more general local searches.
Title and header tags are types of text that exist on your site. In the case of the title tag, the tag may or may not actually be visible on the page itself—many content management systems allow you to set the title tag in a separate area, although typically on blog posts the title of the post is also the title tag.
The title tag of the site tells human users and search engines what a site is about. When search engines are displaying sites in their organic results, the large clickable text is the site's title tag:
On the website, H1 and H2 tags are different types of header tags which help human users and search engines know a general outline of what the page or site is about and how the data is organized on the page.
In practice, then, you might structure your tags like this:
- Title tag: (community name) in (city, state) // Mountain Ridge Apartments in Aurora CO
- H1 tag: (community name) // Mountain Ridge Apartments
- H2 tag: (descriptor) (apartments in city, state) // Pet-friendly Apartments in Aurora CO OR Luxury Apartments in Aurora CO
Of course, you need to make sure that the marketing comments you write go with the tags. If all you do is stuff your site with keywords, then you're just trying to build thin content and... that won't end well. Google will wise up to what you're doing and soon your site will start falling, perhaps falling precipitously, in the search rankings. If you make an H2 tag that reads "Pet-friendly Apartments in Aurora CO" then you better write marketing copy beneath it that is about how your community is pet-friendly.
Target general keywords on Ads to drive additional traffic to your site.
In most cases, buying ads on more general keywords like "apartments in chicago" is the equivalent to lighting your money on fire. Clicks on such keywords are quite expensive and the leads you get from what few clicks you do manage to generate will be low quality.
However, that is not always the case. For example, look at this SERP right now from a town of 8,00 in northern Iowa:
In this case, you can see only one Ads ad at the top of the page. Below that, are local results and a listing service organic link. This means that any community with a well-designed Ads campaign targeting "apartments in denison ia" would probably do pretty well here, especially if their local listing is also showing up.
Optimize your local business listing so that your property is easy to find on mobile and takes up more space on the desktop SERP.
This brings us to our final point: If your local business listing is properly set up with accurate business information, contact information, and website URLs then your local listings have a good chance at being near the top of the local rankings. To better understand how this works, read our explainer post about Google Business Profile.
Additionally, an optimized local business listing will also make it easier for people who search for you by name to find you on search and to get directions to your property when visiting to take a leasing tour.
Generally speaking many of the principles of apartment marketing hold true across the vast majority of properties. But there are unique challenges at different properties as well as unique opportunities. In the case of communities in small towns, one of the greatest possibilities is targeting keywords that are outside the range of most apartment communities. If you learn to take advantage of these opportunities, then you can have real success marketing properties in small towns.