Quick: What search terms are the most important ones for your community to target as part of an online marketing strategy?
Your mind probably goes to "apartments in (your city)," right?
It's understandable if it did.
Keywords like those certainly get a lot of traffic and if you could get more of that traffic coming to your community, that'd be a good thing, wouldn't it?
Actually: No. It wouldn't. But before we get there, we have to talk about something else first.
Even if it would be good to get all those visitors to your community's site, it's not really possible. An individual community is not going to rank on a broad, general search term like "apartments in birmingham, al." It's just not how search works.
For general search terms like that Google is going to send users to sites that offer the widest, most general results--and that is going to be things like an ILS, Craigslist, or maybe a huge company in your area with thousands of floorplans in the metro area—a Greystar or something like that.
So what do you need to do instead? We recommend a "long tail" apartment SEO strategy. Instead of chasing after 3-5 really big wins, it's better to get 20 or 25 smaller wins because those smaller wins add up.
The idea of the long tail is that it's better to have 25 different keywords sending five visits a piece to your site than to have two keywords sending 30 visits each. (Do the math: The former is giving you 125 visits. The latter is giving you 60.)
This strategy is not as obvious as the high-volume strategy, but the long-term rewards are multiple.
What is a long-tail strategy?
Applied to SEO, a longtail strategy means finding soft keyword terms that are going to be easy to rank more highly on. Obviously these keywords will be searched less regularly, but multifamily isn't a volume business anyway. You don't need to make thousands of sales every month to be profitable, so it's better to target specific niches that are easier to win because you only need a few deals anyway.
Practically speaking this means going after "pet-friendly luxury apartments in downtown denver co" rather than "apartments in denver co."
Obviously there will be far fewer people searching the former than the latter, but if someone does search the latter then they are obviously a great lead and have a high probability of leasing. The person who finds you via a broader search term is unlikely to be as qualified.
So a long-tail strategy isn't just easier to implement, it can also offer more qualified leads and if you get enough such keywords you can even generate more leads than with a high-frequency strategy.
How do you implement a long-tail strategy?
Here is an area where you need to be really careful. Talking about apartment SEO in terms of keywords can get a little slippery because that isn't really how Google would prefer SEOs to think about their work.
A keyword focus can cause marketers to stop thinking about creating content that is actually helpful to people and instead attempting to manipulate keyword rankings in order to generate more traffic. Google hates this sort of thing and is constantly trying to find ways to stop marketers from using these tactics.
Therefore, you need to be careful about how you approach your SEO strategy here. If you are clumsy about it and start trying to stuff keywords artificially into your marketing copy or start using spammy link-building tactics, then this whole thing is going to blow up in your face.
Instead, you need to take a smarter, more user-friendly approach.
You don't need to stuff "luxury pet-friendly apartments in downtown chicago" into every other sentence. Instead, simply write like a human being but do it in a way that does help the search engines to know what your site is about. So you could do something like this in your marketing copy on the home page:
"Skyview Apartments in downtown Chicago offer the finest luxury apartments in the area with (list amenities here.) We are pet-friendly and are located within walking distance of (local attractions here.)"
That writing sounds like something a human being would write, doesn't look like something designed to manipulate search engines, and manages to hit all the high points about your community.
High Volume Search Terms Produce Bad Leads Anyway
Here's the other consideration to keep in mind: Just because someone is searching for "apartments in Chicago" and, hey, you're an apartment in Chicago! does not mean that they are searching for something like what you offer. Your location could be a bad fit. Price point is too high or too low. Maybe your pet policy rules them out.
In any case, if you spend a ton of time and energy trying to reach a group that large the sad fact is many of the people you reach are never going to lease from you anyway because they're the wrong person to reach. So even if you could reliably reach the much larger pool of searchers that are entering in these sorts of search terms... that does not at all mean that you will convert all of them into leads, let alone leases.
When you target the high-frequency search terms what you're really doing is wasting time and resources on a keyword that you'll never be able to rank for. That may sound harsh, but it's the truth. A single apartment community is never going to consistently rank for a keyword like "apartments in (city, state)" unless we're dealing with a really small town where there are only a couple of apartment communities.
So if you want a viable strategy, you have to think in terms of niches, finding those small pockets where what a prospect is looking for aligns with what your community can offer. Finding niches may not sound as exciting as winning a high-frequency search term, but it's a far more efficient and affordable way to go.