Originally published in 2018. Updated in 2022.
It's not uncommon for apartment communities to undergo a rebrand at some point. Whether the property is under new ownership or undergoing a remodel, there are certain situations where establishing a new identity for an apartment community may be helpful.
That said, one problem you'll run into with rebranding your apartments is that your online marketing will reset, forcing you to start from scratch. You'll see a steep drop in visibility in Google and, consequently, a related decrease in leads for your leasing staff.
If a rebrand will cause significant marketing problems, is it worth doing? And if it is worth doing in your case, what can you do to make the potential fallouts less severe?
To answer those questions, let's walk through the rebranding process from a marketing and search engine perspective.
Why do leads disappear after rebranding your apartments?
Unfortunately, rebranding a community's identity eliminates all the domain and page authority your website has built up over the years with search engines like Google.
"Domain authority" is a shorthand way of talking about the accumulated trust Google has developed in your brand due to years of observing that brand online. Google wants to give people reliable and trustworthy content, so it often has a strong bias against new websites in a phenomenon otherwise known as the 'Google sandbox.'
We often think of a rebrand as being a clean slate with apartment shoppers, renewing excitement in your community. But it is also a clean slate with search engines. Websites that have been around for a long time will rank higher in Google over newer websites—even if those more recent sites are built with SEO in mind and have great content.
So, after you've renamed your apartments and updated your website's domain, you will become temporarily invisible on search engines. And as most apartment searches begin on search engines like Google, you will inevitably experience a noticeable decrease in phone calls to your leasing staff after going through a rebrand.
How long does it take for your apartment's website to begin to rank well after a rebrand?
It is hard to give a specific answer to that question because some websites may climb the rankings in 4-5 months while others may take over a year. Prepare to spend at least a few months being invisible on organic search while Google evaluates your new site.
One factor that can play a significant role is the new name you select for the community. A name that is original, memorable, and easy to spell could see a quicker jump in search rankings. However, if your new name is one that several other communities already use or has weird spellings that prospects need help remembering, it won't be easy for search engines to push your website up the rankings.
One apartment community we work with experienced a quasi-rebrand a few years ago after a fire destroyed much of the property. At the time, the community was still in development under its original name. Still, the management company decided it would be best to give the apartments a fresh start with new branding.
The fire showed us what happens when an apartment community's name and website domain change. Having to update its entire online marketing presence, and essentially reopen its community, had a noticeable impact on the amount of traffic coming to the website. Like many new websites, it took a while for the amount of organic traffic from search engines to grow as the graphic shows below.
Are there ways to attract traffic immediately, even before your apartment's website ranks well organically?
Yes, you can manufacture demand for your apartment community, even while some marketing and advertising channels are less visible after a rebranding. You can use Google Ads, Meta (Facebook), or a Google Business Profile listing and still reach your apartment's target audience.
While organic search largely depends on having an established website with a good track record, utilizing Google Ads is slightly different. With Google Ads, you can purchase traffic to your community website. Paying for ads makes it easier to start showing up in the search results relatively quickly so that you can continue earning leads through rebranding.
It would be best if you were careful with Ads, however. Without a targeted strategy, you could waste a lot of money on Google Ads and see very little return on that investment.
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A classic example is paying for ads on broad search terms like 'apartments for rent (city, state).' When someone types that query into Google, it will cost a lot of money for your community's ads to be featured in the search engine results. Worse, it'll be less likely any traffic to your website generated from that ad will be qualified.
The best place to begin with Google Ads is with defensive ads. Defensive ads display when someone searches for your community by name.
Defensive ads do a couple of things for you. First, they guarantee top placement when someone searches for you by name. Second—and this is huge—people who search for you by name will be your best leads, and you can get your apartments in front of them by targeting keywords related to them. If you can attract your best leads, you'll be in a perfect position from a leasing perspective.
Meta (Facebook) Advertising
Meta's ads platform is an excellent secondary resource for an apartment community that needs more paid traffic generated to its website. While targeting a specific audience within Meta is more challenging, you can still create advertising campaigns targeting people who fit your general resident profile. As it's also a highly visible social media platform, it can ease some of the burdens when you rebrand your apartments because more people can become familiar with the new identity.
Google Business Profile
Finally, you need to set up (or edit) your Google Business Profile listing. Updating your community's brand in Google can be tricky because you likely have a business listing for your community's old name or brand.
Citation consistency, or having the same business name, address, and phone number across all online references to your business, is essential.
There are many different online business directories, and getting the same information to all of them is complex and, truthfully, a danger of the rebranding process. You must ensure that your Google Business Profile is accurate and up-to-date. If your citations are inconsistent, Google will look at your business listing and say, "I can't trust this," and won't show it to users.
The minimal requirement is to change your business name on your Google Business Profile page, which will require you to re-verify your business ownership. The new name you've submitted to Google must be the same as it is on your website and other official documentation. Even omitting an article like "the" may cause Google to have less trust in the accuracy and reliability of your listing. Google will also send a postcard to the address you've listed, and you'll be required to enter the PIN on the postcard to confirm the address is correct.
In addition to having consistent name, address, and phone number information, you'll also want a link to your community website, community photos, and (ideally) user reviews on your business listing. These are ways of building trust with Google, and user reviews excepted are easy to set up.
Tip: If you have an ad and your Google Business Profile on the same search engine results page, you will attract a much larger share of clicks than if you are missing one of those results. More importantly, it increases the rate of your new, renamed website's organic listing moving up the ranks.
It would be best if you had a marketing strategy that continues generating traffic to your community's website while going through a name change. The last thing you want is for your leasing office phone to be completely silent in the months after a rebrand because no one can find you online. Thankfully, Google Ads, Meta, and Google Business Profile can help you maintain your apartments' online visibility during a rebrand.