Digital Apartment Marketing: Get better leads from Google, Facebook

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QUICK SUMMARY // Digital advertising is an essential component of a sound apartment marketing strategy. Digital ads offer you the most cost-effective opportunity to control demand by targeting prospective residents interested in your communities on Google and Meta.  This guide takes a deeper look at digital advertising strategies for multifamily marketers and executives looking to incorporate them into their communities' digital marketing plans. 

Who This Is For:

  • Multifamily marketers or executives looking to implement digital ads or improve their community's marketing strategy
  • Regionals and Property managers seeking a proven method to increase traffic and get more leads for their leasing staff
  • Any multifamily professional seeking to understand digital advertising at a deeper level

What We'll Cover:

  • Google and Facebook Ads for multifamily marketing
  • Apartment digital ad campaigns that move prospective residents through the leasing funnel faster and more confidently
  • How to optimize multifamily digital ad strategies to deliver better leasing results
  • How to measure the performance of your communities' ad campaigns
  • Steps for setting the right budget for your apartments' digital ads

Introduction

What is digital advertising for apartments?

Digital advertising for apartments is an essential tool for multifamily marketers to promote their communities in online mediums like social media, websites, mobile applications, and most notably, search engines, with targeted ads incorporating text, images, and videos highlighting a property's appearance, units, and amenity features, engaging with prospective residents at impactful stages of their apartment search. 

The main goal of digital ads for apartments is to create more online visibility and brand awareness, generate better leads by driving qualified traffic to a community website, and, ultimately, increase lease conversions. 

What are the benefits of an apartment digital ad strategy?

Residents living in apartments today usually follow the same marketing and leasing pattern below:

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This 'chain', as we like to call it, is your resident lifecycle. Everyone currently living in your community viewed one (or more) of your digital marketing sources, visited your website, converted from there to a lead, scheduled a tour, applied, passed credit and background checks, signed their leased and hopefully, after you've done your part in establishing the lifestyle you promised your community would offer, renewed their lease.

Any weak link in your chain could negatively impact your occupancy, but it all starts with traffic. Without great traffic coming in a timely manner to your community's website, you will struggle to achieve your community's performance goals. Maybe you're feeling this pain right now.

Thankfully, there is a way to get better qualified traffic and significantly improve your communities' digital marketing presence: digital advertising on Google and Meta.

Digital ads benefit multifamily marketers by putting their apartments in front of the right prospective residents at critical moments in their search. Plus, they're a dynamic lever putting you in control of your community's demand and marketing spending; you can adjust your ad campaigns and budgets depending on need, which is critical considering your occupancy and demand change constantly.

But here's the truth: implementing digital ads, especially ones that produce results for multifamily marketers is hard. Multifamily marketing, in general, is hard. 

So, we wrote this guide to help you get started. Whether you're new to the game or a seasoned pro, our goal is to provide you with everything you need to know about deploying an effective apartment ad strategy specific to your communities' needs.

Throughout this guide, we’ll focus primarily on multifamily digital advertising strategies that work for Google Ads (here are steps for setting up a Google Ads account) and Meta, which includes Facebook and Instagram.

Let's jump in!

The Best Digital Ads For Apartments

If you’re still reading, you probably already know the powers of digital advertising for multifamily marketing. Every apartment community should use digital ads to generate prospective residents' interest, drive traffic to the website, and capture better leads for the leasing staff. 

The best digital ad strategies for apartments begins with implementing a mix of search, display, and video ads. Let's take a closer look into these different types of ads, their specific purpose, and how they can help apartment marketers tap into the power of digital advertising.

Search Ads

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Search ads appear when someone enters a query using specific or relevant keywords that you bid for in Google.

Say a prospective resident searches '1 bedroom apartments in <location>'. Google matches those terms to your apartments and places an advertisement with your website link at the top of the search engine results page (or SERP). These digital ads are also known as paid search or pay-per-click ads.

Search ads are specific to Google's Search Network. Their sole purpose is to increase visibility for you and your website through prominent placement at the top of the SERP.

Display Ads

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Display advertisements are familiar to most Internet users. They're the ads that appear throughout one's browsing experience on pages outside of the search engine, otherwise known as Google's Display Network. 

Display ads have many different appearances and placements, from banners at the top of web pages to inserts between paragraphs on a page. They can also feature varying forms of content, such as videos, motion graphics, images, or text. 

Display ads for apartments vary greatly but should include essential information such as your name, location, and unique features or amenities that connect with your target audience, setting your community apart from the competition. Additionally, you should include high-quality photos or videos that appeal to prospective residents and create a favorable impression of your apartments. 

Video Ads

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ideo advertising is the most compelling way content marketers can highlight their products, and there's little doubt about the effectiveness a video ad has for apartment communities. They create an appeal for apartment communities that prospects pay attention to and increase the likelihood they'll click on the video ad to explore more. 

Most video ads are part of Google's Video Network, which includes YouTube. They are also very prominent for Meta (Facebook & Instagram) and other social media ad campaigns (more on those later). Video ads can vary in length, but usually, consumers prefer shorter ads. 

Much thought is put into video ads because, while they can be expensive to produce, they have the potential to reach a large audience both by placement and consumption. Internet users spend an average of 100 minutes per day watching videos

Investing a significant portion of your digital advertising strategy towards great video ads is a smart tactic for apartment marketers.

Winning Digital Ads Strategies For Apartments

The next step towards effectively implementing digital ads in your multifamily marketing plan is understanding the best strategies for getting your apartments' ads in front of prospective residents.

If you want to drive leasing activity at prices you control, all while moving prospects quickly through the leasing funnel, then implement targeted offensive, remarketing, and defensive advertising campaigns on Google and Meta.

One of the most effective methods to do this is by utilizing campaigns within your digital ads. Alternative set-ups often leave you paying for digital ads that don’t produce qualified traffic and don’t increase leasing velocity

To organize your campaigns, we recommend grouping them into a strategic framework to ensure the right ads reach prospective residents at the right time. The strategic framework we recommend is the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision framework. This strategic framework aligns well with the typical prospective resident's apartment search:

  • Awareness: They search for an apartment community that fits their predetermined needs (like location, floorplan, or pricing).
  • Consideration: They've identified communities that may be best but need further research before narrowing their selection.
  • Decision: They're close to deciding and are highly interested in one or two specific apartment communities.

When placed into the context of awareness-consideration-decision stages, an apartment marketing 'leasing funnel' emerges. Prospective residents at the beginning of their search are at the top of the funnel and work their way down towards the bottom, where they're most likely to convert from a lead to a lease. 

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In the next section, we will highlight the ad campaign types and platforms we recommend using to reach renters at every stage of their apartment search. We'll also dive into common mistakes made with digital ads and how to avoid them.

5 Campaign Types To Use For Your Digital Apartment Ads:

Defensive Campaigns

A defensive advertising campaign is an apartment marketing tactic that protects or defends keywords specific to your community's name or identity against competitors and ensures your property reaches the potential residents actively searching for it on Google. You must have defensive ads so your highly qualified prospects can access the information they seek. If they can do so, the chances that they ultimately sign a lease to rent an apartment grow exponentially.

Defensive advertising campaigns should also be a priority when beginning your digital ads strategy because they're typically associated with the bottom of the leasing funnel, where we know most lead conversions occur. That's why there's nothing more detrimental to your marketing and leasing efforts than when a competitor outbids you with your name or specific keywords in Google to take away your hard-earned leads because you weren't utilizing defensive campaigns.

It's common for competing properties in a shared marketplace to purposefully try to swipe prospects away from other communities by aggressively taking over their search engine presence. Say Property A is targeting the name of Property B, who isn't running defensive ads. When a prospect searches for Property B by name in Google, an ad for Property A appears at the top of the search engine results page. Not only does this create a negative impression of your community because you're not at the top of search results for your name, but it also makes it more likely that the prospect will seek more information about that other property instead.

Now, say Property A is targeting the name of Property B, who is running defensive campaigns. In this circumstance, the search engine's algorithms will know to show the ad for Property B when a prospect searches for it by name. Why? Google's business model relies on its advertising platform to serve users with the most relevant ads.

And here's the other bonus: defensive ads targeting your name and keywords specific to your apartments will always be very relevant to searchers actively looking for you. That means defensive campaigns are affordable to run year-round for every community.

Remarketing Campaigns

Remarketing campaigns are a commonly used tactic by internet marketers that target digital display ads toward individuals who have already visited and taken action on their website. 

We cannot understate the value of remarketing ad campaigns for apartment communities. Within every prospective resident's leasing journey, your apartments have a small amount of time to stand out and make a lasting impression, especially since numerous other properties may be available. Simply getting someone into the top of the funnel or aware of your apartments through a brief interaction with your website is no guarantee that they'll convert to a lease; you need to impact them in the middle of the funnel. 

Remarketing ads have a significant psychological effect on apartment searchers. Each time they see a display or video ad with your community’s logo, colors, branding, or floorplan photo, they build a sense of familiarity with your apartments. 

A well-designed remarketing campaign keeps your apartments at the top of customers' minds as they research other communities.

Offensive Campaigns

Whereas defensive campaigns target general, branded keyword search terms that protect your community's identity, offensive campaigns help capture more prospective residents by targeting more specific keywords in Google.

An example of an offensive campaign would be bidding for keywords on a search term like "1 bed apartments in northeast Lincoln, NE" or "apartments for rent near the University of Nebraska." Adding relevant, targeted keywords to your community, such as city district or geographic area, are extremely helpful for shoppers looking for an apartment in a specific part of your city. 

You could include additional community-specific keywords like pet-friendly, pool, gym, one bedroom, and luxury (or you could target keywords relevant to competing properties nearby, which can be beneficial if they're not using defensive campaigns!). The possibilities here are endless; you must consider how someone may search online for an apartment community like yours.

Offensive campaigns allow you to hone in on specific keywords that expand your audience and capture more qualified leads at the top of the funnel. These terms should be more targeted and, therefore, less expensive.  

Meta (Facebook & Instagram) Campaigns

Facebook has billions of active users, an audience that apartment marketers must pay attention to. Its advertising platform is great for establishing a professional and reputable online presence for your apartments and, more impactfully, reaching prospects in the middle of the leasing funnel with remarketing ads.

A noteworthy benefit of a Meta campaign is their versatility in presentation and placement. The platform offers various ad templates, including photo and video content, that apartment marketers can use to display their communities on the Facebook News Feed, Messenger, or Instagram.

Meta campaigns, however, are broader because you cannot target a specific group of individuals that best fit your apartment community's ideal renter persona. The platform poses a few inherent challenges to the real estate/housing industries because Fair Housing Laws impact your ability to set your ads' audience. For example, you cannot target users on demographic information like gender, race, or age. But you can create an audience through geo-targeting methods (see next section).

That aside, we have observed some cases where the visitors to an individual community's website generated from a Meta ad were more engaged than visitors who originated from Google. It's proving to be a solid additional resource for improving visibility, increasing website traffic, and boosting lead generation.

Geo-Targeting Campaigns

Geo-targeting campaigns deliver digital ads to users in specific geographic locations. Advertisers can target specific regions, cities, zip codes, and neighborhoods to ensure that their products and services are most relevant. 

Geo-targeting campaigns are certainly an effective tactic for apartment marketers. Still, there are some critical elements you need to know before you use them. To avoid violating Fair Housing Laws, you must avoid targeting zip codes and neighborhoods, as that automatically excludes potential prospective residents. 

However, one potential use of a geo-targeting campaign is targeting a nearby employer or school from which you know most prospective residents could or are coming from. Keeping a healthy radius (3+ miles) around a particular location would be best to prevent your targeting from being too precise and exclusionary. 

Bottom Line: If you want to drive leasing activity at prices you control, all while moving prospects quickly through the leasing funnel, then implement targeted offensive, remarketing, and defensive advertising campaigns on Google and Meta.

Common Mistakes with Multifamily Digital Advertising (And How to Avoid Them)

Mistake No. 1: Managing Your Apartment Ads Like You're A Major Brand

A common mistake we see apartment marketers make is assuming their apartment community is for everybody. Thus, they manage their digital ads like a major brand would. They spend, spend, and spend, thinking that impressions will result in more leads. This is false.

Think of the typical consumer of major brands for a second. You can imagine a scenario where a digital ad pops up for Pepsi, and they're thinking, 'Dang, I'm thirsty and could use one of those right now.' Buying a 12-pack of Pepsi will not break the bank, nor will it take much effort to influence the consumer to make that decision. Hence, Pepsi will do everything possible to put its product in front of buyers, including spending millions on digital ads, because they want to be the brand or product someone thinks of when they're thirsty.

Apartment marketers will never be able to replicate that same scenario for one reason: potential residents don't find apartments based on brand recognition. They are about to make an expensive, life-changing decision requiring them to weigh more significant factors like your location, rent prices, available floorplans, and any other need they have of an apartment community that they will live in for the next year or more. 

Solution: It would be best if you didn't use digital ads to build your brand but instead put your community in front of the tiny audience of renters looking to move soon to an apartment in your part of town and in their price range.

Mistake No. 2: Purchasing Apartment Ads That Aren't Targeting Your Ideal Renter Profile

Say an apartment community in Chicago placed bids for broad keywords like 'apartments for rent Chicago.' Their goal is simple—to be the top result on the SERP when someone enters this blanket search term.

By that logic, they might as well have purchased a billboard or an ad in the classifieds section of the local newspaper—those traditional apartment marketing tools that are (thankfully) relics of history.

Not only do broad keywords cost more money per click (and most clicks are from visitors who aren't the right fit), but they produce unqualified traffic. 

Solution: You need to first focus on your community's specific identity if you want your ads to help your apartments stand out online. And within our campaign structure, you can do just that without paying for broad keywords that won't work.

Video: Maximizing Google Ads for Apartment Marketing

How To Get Your Digital Apartment Ads To Stand Out And Deliver Leasing Success

Now that you understand the different types of digital advertisements, their specific purposes, and how to target your apartment community's specific audience, the next step is to make sure your ads help you gain more leads and leases.

In this section, we'll focus on designing attractive display ads with helpful content necessary to drive clicks to your community website.

Display Ads For Apartments Must Be Attractive & Helpful (Or Else They'll Be Ignored)

Let's not ignore the negative stigma associated with general display advertisements amongst Internet users. One study reported that 91% of respondents said digital display advertisements are more intrusive than ever. Some have even developed selective attention, or banner blindness, simply because they don't care for most of the display ads constantly interrupting their everyday browsing experience. 

However, the reception of display ads for apartment communities is much more favorable because they're less widespread and invasive. In every case, individuals on the receiving end of an apartment display ad have either begun their apartment search or already expressed interest in that community. That's a good thing. That means that, more often than not, a display ad for your apartment community will be more impactful when it appears on a web page because it's relevant to that user.

So don't be fooled—display ads are a powerful marketing tool. But their content must be attractive and helpful, or the average Internet user ignores them. They will fail to prompt potential residents interested in your apartments to pursue the next steps of scheduling a tour or signing a lease. And you'll ultimately pay Google more to deploy those less impactful display ad campaigns.

3 Tips for Creating Great Display Ads for Apartments

Use professional photos and videos.

Your display ads should utilize appealing photos and videos of your apartments so prospective residents stop, look, and engage. The part of your brain responsible for seeing is also responsible for making decisions, so attractive media content in your ads is pivotal in getting apartment hunters to click on your display ads, visit your website, and start the path toward ultimately signing a lease at your community.

Feature floorplan-specific or relevant content.

We discussed the critical psychological effect display ads in remarketing campaigns have on apartment hunters. The mere exposure effect suggests that when prospective residents build familiarity with your name, logo, colors, and more, they also develop the necessary trust to rent from you. 

But, again, no one decides on an apartment because of its branding. Your units and other floorplan-specific details determine whether or not your apartments meet renter preferences. 

So building campaigns for each of your floorplans and including display ads that show photos or videos of the inside of your units, as well as relevant text like bedroom and bathroom count, availability, and pricing, will create a sense of personalization and urgency that prompts individual users to take action.

Exposing your potential residents to your floorplans will have a far more significant impact than just featuring less relevant things like your logo, name, exterior shots of your clubhouse, or other buildings.

Provide a clear, inviting call to action.

Ultimately, your display ads aim to entice an apartment hunter to click on them and visit your community's website. Great, influential media featuring relevant content is the first step. The next step is ensuring your ads have a clear call-to-action (CTA).

Attractive ads with a featured CTA are compelling and more apt to drive traffic to your website, where the leasing process begins. CTAs can take on varying forms, but the most popular display ads for apartments include a clickable button with text.

For example, suppose your CTA button says 'Rent Now.' The text within that button should be inviting but not overpowering. The apartment hunter, in this circumstance, may need more time and are not ready to be directed to an application page. It could unintentionally be a turn-off because you're asking someone to skip several steps in their leasing journey. 

Better CTAs—or ones generating more clicks—would be like 'Watch a Walkthrough Video Tour.'

A CTA like that is more focused on getting shoppers to seek more information about your apartments and less on getting them to make an instant decision. It also raises the click-through rate on your ads and gets visitors to stay on your website longer, which is the ideal outcome for every digital ad campaign. (More on that in the next section.)

How To Measure The Performance Of Digital Apartment Ads

Everyone wants their resident acquisition costs—or cost-per-lease—to stay as low as possible. You immediately know your apartment marketing strategy struggles when you pay too much to earn just one lease. 

You need to actively measure the effectiveness of your ads to ensure you're paying to earn qualified leads and not useless website traffic. In this section, we'll help you do so clearly and concisely.

What Are The Basic Digital Ad Metrics Apartment Marketers Use?

There are a lot of different metrics available to help you measure the success of your apartment's digital ads.

Cost-per-click (CPC), bounce rate, time on site, and conversions are the four most common metrics that apartment marketers use to assess their digital ad performance. 

  • Cost-Per-Click is the average price you pay every time someone clicks on one of your digital advertisements. If you paid $1,000 for a specific ad campaign that's clicked on 200 times, then the cost-per-click is $5.00. The lower your cost-per-click, the better that particular ad campaign performs (although that’s not always the case… keep reading!). 
  • Bounce Rate tracks the number of times someone visits a page on your website and leaves without taking action. A high bounce rate indicates two things: you’re either getting unqualified traffic, or the traffic is qualified, but the website is not engaging.  Poor engagement could be due to long load times, broken pages, or other issues that make for a poor user experience. All of them can directly impact the success of your digital ads.
  • Time On Site is the average time a user spends on your website. Having a higher time on site should be a goal, as that indicates that the average visitor finds it helpful and engaging. Inversely, if users spend less time on your site, it means it's not beneficial or engaging. For apartment marketers, the more someone engages with your community online, the more likely they rent from you
  • Conversions occur when a user clicks on one of your digital advertisements and then completes an action on your website that benefits your apartment community. This is the ideal outcome of any of your digital ad campaigns. A set of ads that achieve high conversions should take precedence over other less-effective campaigns. In Google, you can track multiple conversion types depending on what you need, including visits to specific pages on your website, phone calls, tours watched, meetings scheduled, and more. You can use conversions data to further optimize campaigns so that your ads consistently produce the best outcomes.

Now, if you’re wondering whether one of these metrics is more valuable than the others, you're not alone. The truth is cost-per-click, bounce rate, time on site, and conversions are helpful, but none give a complete picture on their own.

For example, your ad campaigns may have a lower cost-per-click, but the prospects visiting your website stay on it for a short time or aren't converting to a lead. You're just getting 'junk traffic.'

Or the average time on site is relatively high, but every ad click costs you a fortune. Too many variables regarding each metric distort the true success of their performance.

At RentVision, we manage millions of dollars worth of digital advertising for our clients annually. When we first began running digital ads in 2011, we found it challenging to help our clients maximize their digital ads because each would value certain metrics over others. Even our team members had differing opinions. 

This growing debate forced us to pause and ask one question: Is there a more straightforward way for apartment marketers to evaluate the effectiveness of digital ads? The answer resulted in us developing one objective metric to help us know that our clients were paying for ads that earned qualified leads and improved leasing.

Cost Per Engaged Visit: An Ad Metric Specific to Multifamily Advertising

The metric we use to determine the cost efficiency of our clients' Google, Meta, and other ad campaigns in generating qualified website traffic is Cost Per Engaged Visit (CPEV).

Cost-Per-Click / Engaged Visit = Cost Per Engaged Visit

The lower your Cost Per Engaged Visit, the more effective your ad campaign is. But why does this work? 

Our research has shown that website visitors that ultimately convert to leads (and later leases) typically spend an average of three to five times longer on an apartment's website than those who don’t. In other words, people spending more time on your website are likelier to become a lead.

We previously measured this by emphasizing the Time on Site metric; however, with the recent change from Google's Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, the Time on Site metric is no longer reliable. GA4 measures engagement through an events-based model, tracking on-site behavior such as the number of times users click to open a page, watch a video, etc.

So we've updated our CPEV metric to better align with GA4. In our calculation, an 'engaged visit' requires a user to visit a certain number of pages on our clients' community websites to count as an event (except if the user exits the website from the 'Residents' page; we don't want the CPEV metric to be impacted by current renters visiting the website to pay rent, request maintenance, etc.).

The lower your CPEV, the more cost-efficient your ad campaigns are at producing qualified traffic—prospective renters further down the leasing funnel who are more likely to convert to a lead from your website.  

The higher your CPEV, the less effective your campaign is. You're not targeting the right keywords or reaching your intended audience. Your display ads aren't appealing or don't drive people to click on them and go to your website. Or your website isn't very engaging because visits aren't meeting the requirements for an engaged visit. Whatever the case, a higher CPEV will help you identify a problem with your ads or website.

Now that our clients prioritize the Cost Per Engaged Visit metric, our advising conversations are much more precise. CPEV gives the clearest depiction of ad performance, making it easy for everyone to adopt this one metric versus all the others. And we are now using CPEV to inform our predictive algorithms, which determine when and where to reallocate our clients' advertising budget so they're always getting the right amount of qualified traffic at the best price.

How To Set A Dynamic Budget For Multifamily Digital Advertising

Here is the power of digital advertising for multifamily marketers: 

They increase awareness about your apartment communities.

You're able to target a specific audience.

They generate traffic to your website. Once there, visitors begin engaging with your property by watching online video tours, learning about the different floorplan options, checking out your amenities, scheduling an appointment, or completing an online application.

And you can adjust how much you're spending on them anytime you want.

That last point is the crux of this section. The amount of money you allocate toward your digital ads determines just how powerful you want their impact to be. Or, putting it another way—if digital ads drive needed traffic to your website, your ad budget is the gas pedal. 

Let's say you currently have six units sitting vacant. The rental price of those units is $1,250, so each month those units are empty, you're losing $7,500 in revenue.

What is one way you could combat this problem? While this is a rudimentary multifamily economics scenario, when you're facing a higher number of vacancies, spending more on your digital ads would make sense because you need more traffic to fill those units.

Or, say your occupancy is strong, and you only have one or two units available. Why would you spend the same amount on digital ads as when you had six units available? It's better to decrease your spending and save money when you do not need additional traffic.

Your digital ad budget should be dynamic rather than static. Spend less when occupancy is high, and spend more when occupancy is low.  Here are the critical steps to setting a dynamic budget:

Step 1: How many units are in your apartment community?

The number of units in your apartment community is essential when determining a maximum and minimum budget for your ads. The more units you have across the property, the more you need to be willing to spend on digital ads because you will naturally need more web traffic to maintain a healthy occupancy. 

Let's say you have 200 units at your property, and your turnover rate is 50%. Your goal is to rent 100 units annually to achieve maximum occupancy (obviously unrealistic, but the point remains). Suppose renting one of those units takes 100 visits to your website. In that case, you must attain 10,000 visits annually to your website to accomplish your goal. 

Or if you have 400 units and need to rent 200 per year, that requires 20,000 visits to your website.

When you put it in such stark terms, the case for needing a mechanism in your marketing for pushing traffic to your website, like digital ads, becomes self-explanatory. They are your lifeline when things look bleak.

Step 2: What is your property class?

Different communities have different supply and demand, budgets, and renters, and you can easily see those differences when comparing by property class. 

C-class properties don’t need an astronomical digital advertising budget to reach their desired leads, but luxury, A-class communities must maintain higher ad budgets.

The table below shows the influence of unit count and property class on ad spending. It is a snapshot of our clients' daily combined budgets for Google and Facebook ads in July 2023—or smack dab in the middle of the busy leasing season when most communities require more marketing investment to combat higher turnover.

Daily High/Low Budgets For Google & Facebook Ads

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You can see that the minimum threshold for those combined ad budgets incrementally increases the more units you have, regardless of class. You can also see a clear distinction between budgets for A-class and C-class communities.

A-class properties spend between $300 and $1,770 per month on average, B-class properties spend between $240 and $1,080 monthly, and C-class properties spend between $150 and $420 monthly. 

These are benchmarks to help you see what an appropriate digital ad budget may be for your community according to unit count and property class. 

Step 3: What is your community's seasonality?

Every apartment community experiences changes in demand at different times throughout the year, commonly called seasonality. 

For most apartment communities, the summer is the busiest time of year because people want to move when the weather is good. The slow season usually occurs in winter, when fewer people want to move due to weather, as well as it being in the middle of a school year.

The quickest way to see your seasonality is by reviewing the last 12-month period of organic traffic to your community's website in Google Analytics. (Here's how to set up an Analytics account.) In doing so, you will see visual evidence that clarifies months when demand is high vs. months when it isn't, helping you differentiate between your busy and slow seasons. 

(Note: Seasonality patterns changed significantly over the last few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous 12 months of your community's data may drastically differ from a standard seasonality period. So, you could look at years pre-pandemic to get a more accurate assessment of the historical timing of changes in demand your community typically experienced.)

Why is knowing your seasonality helpful? It helps you define what you want to spend ahead of time during slow or busy months. This, again, is one of the most critical elements of digital advertising in general: you control your budget, and you can strategically change spending anytime.

Spending year-round for defensive and remarketing ad campaigns is feasible for most community's marketing budgets. However, when you need more traffic, you'll utilize more expensive campaigns like specific/offensive, requiring a higher budget. 

So, you can be dynamic and set a maximum and minimum monthly budget for your ads. In months when you'll need more traffic to your website, you can spend more towards your maximum amount. Then in months when you don't need to drive as much traffic, you can shift down to your minimum spend (essentially just defensive and remarketing ads) and save money.

Step 4: What is your average rent?

When deciding your ad budget, your average rent works similarly to your unit count. If you have a higher average rent, you'll need to be able to spend more on your ads. 

Generally, communities with a high average rent are of the luxury class and reside in larger metro areas. Affording that lifestyle is costly and attractive to specific renter personas. As a result, we have noticed that prospective residents for these communities usually begin looking weeks ahead of making their decision. They are more thorough in their apartment search, completing multiple visits to a community's website before converting to a lead.

When the average time somebody needs to look at your website or build trust in your apartments is longer, you will have to spend more on your digital ads to keep your community relevant throughout that search. In this case, you'll also compete with properties with bigger marketing budgets. 

Regardless of average rent, every community wants a great return on investment regarding digital ads. If you make it a priority to rent units faster, then you'll see a better ROI on ad spending. 

Step 5: Where are you spending your money currently?

We know you've got a competitive market and a limited amount to dedicate to spending on ads and that it's hard to stop doing what you've been doing for years. But dynamic apartment marketers know that a more visionary approach is to stop paying for sources that don't work toward generating leases and distribute that additional source of spending toward digital advertising instead.

To do this, you need to know where your marketing dollars are going and whether or not you're getting your desired ROI from them. It would help if you looked specifically at your resident acquisition costs and applied the Cost Per Minute metric for each marketing channel. 

You can also track the lead-to-lease conversion rates of each one of your marketing sources. That should help you instantly know if a source isn't producing the desired results when either of those metrics is too high. The goal is to ensure you're spending your marketing budget resourcefully, using only the sources that generate the best results for leasing activity.

Marketing sources like Internet Listing Services are great at the top of the leasing funnel mentioned earlier; they make prospective residents aware of your community. But after studying 70,000 leases to discover the best places to advertise your apartments online, there was clear evidence that even the most popular ILSs struggled to generate conversions.

Meanwhile, there was attributable evidence that Google Ads were effective during every stage of an individual prospect's search. Utilizing specific/offensive campaigns at the top, remarketing in the middle, and defensive at the bottom is the best set-up for moving prospective residents through the leasing process faster. 

So if you're putting most of your marketing budget only towards sources at the top of the funnel, like ILSs, you will spend more to generate conversions.

ILSs have an impact, but a solid digital ads strategy will make you feel more comfortable downgrading some of your ILS packages or eliminating them.

After tracking both sources, one multifamily company went exclusively to Google to highlight its diverse profile of apartment communities and away from the ILS model.

To recap, here are the things you should consider when establishing a dynamic digital advertising budget for your apartments:

  • What is your unit count? The more units in your property, the more web traffic you'll need to lease them consistently. That means you'll have to spend more on digital ads.
  • What class is your property? Property classes have vast differences in supply, demand, renters, and budgets.
  • What is your seasonality? Every apartment community, regardless of class, experiences unique changes in demand. You can identify when those changes typically occur in your community and set monthly budgets accordingly.
  • What is your average rent? Like unit count or property class, your average rent also determines how much you spend on digital ads. A-class communities with higher rents always need to be willing to pay more because their renters typically go through a more prolonged apartment search.
  • Where are you spending your money currently? An essential part of developing a dynamic budget is being willing to cut underperforming sources from your current marketing strategy. That frees up more of your budget for your best sources instead.

Download Our Free Budgeting Tool For Apartment Digital Advertising

Need more help establishing your apartment's dynamic marketing budget? Download our free digital ad budgeting allocation tool below.

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Download Google Sheet (make a copy)

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Enter your community's yearly turnover rate, dynamic budget*, unit count, organic traffic by month from the previous year, and your expected monthly lease expirations for the upcoming year.

The budget allocation tool will automatically calculate your data to give you recommendations on total monthly marketing spend and combined daily spending for Google and Facebook ads.

(*Only input the amount of money in your marketing budget that can be dynamic. For example, you may have to pay a provider to host your community's website and other static marketing expenses that can't be changed or removed from your year-to-year costs. The number you enter into the 'Dynamic Marketing Budget' field in the tool should only be the amount of money you've freed up in your total marketing budget after eliminating underperforming sources.)

What if you could do something other than think about budgeting for digital ads?

We know you don’t want to be determining ad budgets while simultaneously dealing with the stresses of peak leasing season or all the other details in your role. Wouldn't it be easier to remove the day-to-day guesswork and let your digital ads do the work themselves?

With RentVision's predictive digital advertising solution, that's possible.

Video: RentVision's Predictive Digital Ads for Apartments

Conclusion

Here's everything we know about how to be a great digital advertiser for apartment communities:

  • There are multiple types of digital ads—each with a specific purpose. There are also different types of ad campaigns. Defensive and remarketing digital ad campaigns are the easiest for apartment marketers to implement because they're relevant to users and affordable to deploy.
  • A common mistake apartment marketers make is using their digital ads the same way as a major brand. To generate more qualified leads, strategically target those interested in your apartments. 
  • You need to be able to measure the effectiveness of your ad campaigns to know whether or not they're working. One metric that helps you easily measure this is Cost Per Minute—the lower this number, the better your ads perform.
  • Internet users will ignore poorly-designed, unhelpful digital ads. For your ads to drive results, they must feature engaging content and a clear Call-to-Action.
  • Static ad budgets ignore the fact that your community has busy and slow seasons. To become a dynamic apartment marketer who utilizes digital ads, you must set maximum and minimum spending budgets based on your unit count, property type, seasonality, and average rent.

Everything we've explained is the same approach we use with our clients. We hope you can take something from our process and apply it to your apartment community's digital ads. 

If you want to deploy digital ads that generate the right amount of traffic and leads you need, and if you want to do all of this within a framework that maximizes your budget, let's talk. We're always here to help.

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RentVision enables you to generate more qualified traffic when you have a sudden increase in vacancy, and saves you marketing dollars when it’s under control.