Everything You're Doing Wrong with Apartment Website Copywriting

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Here's the bad news: If you are writing lots of marketing copy on your websites, Craigslist posts, or anywhere else online, no one is reading it all. The good news is that it's possible to improve readership rates with web users if you follow a few tips we're going to discuss below.

How We Read Online

A study published by web usability guru Jakob Nielsen found that only 16% of users read word-by-word online. On the other hand, 79% of web users always scanned any new page they came across. (Slate did a similar study and saw similar results.)

Most of you can probably relate to this. You see tons of blog articles, social media posts, and email every day. You don't have the time or capacity to fully absorb all of it. So you scan through most stuff, trying to pick out the key ideas and skip the rest. This basic idea is part of what drives marketing expert Mark Schaefer's ideas about "content shock." In a widely discussed post, Schaefer argued that we're headed to a point where there is simply too much content online for the average person to absorb, so they learn to start tuning it out.

What can you do to get more people reading your apartment website copywriting?

This is an important question, but the first thing we need to do is reframe it slightly. Think less about "how can I get people to do what I want them to?" and more about "How can I create something that people will want to read?" When you look at the problem that way, the solution becomes more obvious--you create content that helps them do what they want to do. Rather than creating flowery copywriting that will make your property manager or regional manager happy, think about copywriting that will be useful to prospective residents. Specifically, start doing these three things when you write for the web.

First, make your copywriting shorter and easier to scan.


If readers are going to scan it anyway, take steps to make that easier for them. Some of the things you should be doing include:

  • Keep paragraphs short.
  • Bold or italicize certain key words or phrases.
  • Use lots of heading tags to help guide the reader through the piece.
  • Use bulleted and numbered lists to break up data and make it a little easier on the eye.

So if you look at the website shown above, there's a ton of marketing copy right up front on the home page and it's just one solid block of text. There aren't any helps here to make the writing easier to scan--key phrases aren't bolded, the listed benefits aren't broken up into a bulleted list, etc. It's just one solid block of text. Most prospective residents won't read it. So what value is it offering the website?

Second, build trust by providing relevant, self-serve information.

Trustworthiness is one of the biggest concerns with most websites. The reason is obvious--I can walk into a business with a storefront and see the employees, see the building, see the products, and so on. But with websites I can't do that. This leads to a natural caution many people develop when working online. How do I know this is a legitimate business and not some kind of scam?

One of the best ways to build trust is to be as transparent as possible with your community's key information. Provide plenty of photos of every floorplan along with walkthrough video tours of each unit. Make the rent prices, square footage, amenity information, and pet policy easy to find. Make it abundantly clear to prospective residents on your website that you have nothing to hide.

Obviously this point has less to do with copywriting and more to do with your entire online apartment marketing strategy, but that's also kind of the point with web marketing--you can't isolate your copywriting from your photos or your social media from your SEO. You're building a single web presence for your community. So think about it as an integrated whole rather than a bundle of disparate parts.

Third, cut out the marketese.

You know what we're talking about here: the "spacious" living rooms and walk-in closets, the "scenic" views, the "luxurious" bathrooms, and so on. Prospective residents don't take any of it seriously because it's what they expect. 

Rather, you should focus on giving prospects more objective language to describe your community. This allows them to judge for themselves whether or not they want to take the next step toward signing a lease or not. And as we often say on here, the more you can qualify a lead before they call your leasing office, the better it is for everyone. If they see something that makes them decide not to rent--that's fine. It saves your leasing staff time they'd spend handling a crappy lead. And if they learn more about your community and decide they're still interested, that just means they're an easier sell for your leasing staff.

You don't lose anything by making it easier for leads to qualify themselves online. So provide them with objective, self-serve information rather than the marketing jargon that so many of us throw at our prospective residents.


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