Originally published in 2015. Updated in 2022.
Traditionally, if marketers wanted to stand out in Google and get the right people to find their product, they had to work backward, figure out what keywords those individuals were searching for, and then create content to match those search terms.
That approach isn't as practical today because Google's search algorithms are far more advanced and personalized. The results of one person's search with the keywords 'homemade pizza dough' may differ significantly from another's even if they enter the same query.
Instead of considering which keywords may improve Google search visibility, marketers need to consider a user's intent behind a search activity. It's less 'keyword research,' as was done for years, and more 'buyer research' when understanding what search terms marketers want to target to get their products in front of their best audience.
So, how does this apply to apartment marketers? Keyword research is still a very relevant and essential endeavor to help their communities stand out, but there are some unique components of the multifamily industry, in general, they should know before starting their research.
Keyword research for multifamily is uniquely different from most industries.
There are two reasons that these norms with keyword research do not translate well in the multifamily industry today.
First, apartments are a "limited supply" product. Few apartment communities perfectly match an individual's unique needs, and their preferred choice is also constrained to unit availability.
Second, unlike other items marketed online, no one can ship an apartment community they like to other parts of the country. The keywords and customer profiles applicable to specific communities depend on a geographic location.
So, not only is the number of products to market very limited, but the number of people to market to is also limited. For these reasons, conventional keyword research ideas from other industries don't apply to the multifamily sector.
Do apartment marketers still need to research the right keywords to target? Absolutely.
Typical Google search queries are designed to get the most eyeballs on a product as possible. That is a backward approach for the multifamily industry, as more views don’t translate to higher leasing performance.
Leasing agents don't want to be overwhelmed with 500 new leads every month; that's a guaranteed recipe for many unqualified candidates who aren't ready to rent, poor in-person showings, and other challenges. Instead, they want to deal with prospective residents genuinely interested in their communities. As a result, apartment marketers need to research the keywords their 'customers' would enter into a Google search.
That means being able to identify those customer-centric keywords is still very important. And thankfully, it's not as challenging for apartment marketers to find them.
What is the most effective way to research keywords in the multifamily industry?
There are free keyword research tools, most notably Google's Keyword Planner, but they're not particularly helpful for apartment marketers. Apartment-related keywords will seldom have enough searches to register with the keyword research tool, and most of the time, the data presented on those terms is incomplete and unactionable.
The best way for apartment marketers to research keywords is to start using Google's Ads platform and dedicate an account for each of their communities.
With Ads, they can begin to target specific search queries and collect valuable performance data such as average placement, total impressions, clicks, and more. Over time, which keywords and search terms that drive the most website traffic via their apartments' ads will become evident.
Click here for a free copy of the RentVision Guide To Digital Advertising For Apartment Communities.
Performing keyword research by experimentation with Google Ads costs money. However, there are two other considerations to keep in mind:
- First, paying Google for keyword research in its Ads platform directs actual prospective residents to a specified community's website. So the study could end up paying for itself by generating a few leases.
- Second, the keyword data gathered over some time is more reliable than any keyword planning tool available. Plus, that data is proprietary, giving apartment marketers a competitive advertising advantage over competing properties.
Pro tip: Always prioritize targeting specific and relevant keywords to an apartment community.
It may only take a minimal amount of applied keyword research for the obvious to come to light; that is, keywords that are specific and relevant to an individual apartment community are the most effective to target.
For example, when someone Googles "apartments in Chicago," the engine's algorithms have difficulty discerning what the searcher is hoping to find. In broad queries such as these, it will show ads and links to various listing services, digital city guides, or travel articles more frequently than any community's specific website.
(And the only way any specific community's ads appear in this instance is by bidding an exorbitant of money on the keyword query "apartments in Chicago.")
However, when someone searches for a specific apartment community by name in Google, it understands what that person is looking for and, if applicable, will prominently display that precise community's ads and website link at the top of the search engine results page.
That is why it's imperative for apartment marketers who use Google Ads to target keywords that include their community's name and location, otherwise known as 'branded' keywords. They're the most affordable keywords to bid on and provide the highest return on investment; it doesn't take much research or experimentation to prove that.
Keyword research is probably the most valuable for offensive Google Ad campaigns. It can give apartment marketers a verifiable list of specific and general keywords that match the search intent of their communities' buyers. RentVision applies this same targeted strategy with our client's digital ad campaigns.
Keyword research is an important endeavor, although the process for an apartment marketer differs from marketers in other industries. Apartments are in limited supply and have a smaller online audience. Rather than bidding for keywords and search queries in Google Ads that put an individual apartment community in front of everyone it can, it's more effective (and affordable) to bid on keywords that are proven to target a specific community's intended audience–the prospective residents most likely to sign a lease.