Having a successful online presence means so much more than having quality SEO and a mobile-friendly website. It also means building trust with online searchers, which ultimately, could be the most important piece of your online presence.
An apartment lease is an expensive purchase. For most people, it will be by far their biggest purchase of the year—making it a risky purchase for many renters.
But then there are other risks as well. Is the apartment community safe? Well-maintained? Will management deal with resident complaints?
When a prospect comes to your community for a tour, that’s a great chance to establish a relationship and build trust. They’ll see a clean, well-maintained property, be greeted by friendly leasing staff, and so on. But what about before the leasing tour? How do you build trust when a prospect is looking for you online?
One way to start answering that question is by asking, “Which online sources are generally the most trusted by internet users?” Fortunately, marketing tech company BrightLocal has new data they recently published comparing trust levels with three different sources of online information. The three sources BrightLocal covers are:
- Small business websites
- Google My Business listings
- Listings in third-party directories (in the multifamily industry these are internet listing services)
So, what does the data tell us? What sources are the most trustworthy?
First, when asked, “What source do you expect to have the most accurate and up-to-date contact information?” 56% of online shoppers said the business’s website. 32% said Google My Business. Only 12%, said a third-party directory.
This isn’t particularly surprising. When you have community updates, your website will be the first thing you change. Then you will change the Google My Business listing. Finally, you’ll email your ILS rep to get changes made to your listing. So, the ILS has the biggest information lag.
Second, when asked how often consumers check a business’s website when making a purchasing decision, 75% of those surveyed said that they check the local business’s website at least half the time. Only 8% of those surveyed said that they never use the business’s website.
That being said, while the community website is the best tool for communicating general business information to prospects, your Google My Business listing still offers real value. When asked, “What sources have you used to find a local business’s phone number or address?”
- 62% use a Google My Business listing in the search results page on Google
- 49% use a business’s website
- 44% use a Google My Business listing in Google Maps
- 23% use a third-party directory
Using this data, we can piece together a story about how shoppers find an apartment.
For very specific pieces of information—the phone number and address—shoppers use the Google My Business listing. Google My Business is the closest thing we have today to a Yellow Pages or phone book. So, when people need common and specific information about a community, they go to Google My Business today just like they would have gone to a phone book 30 years ago.
That being said, just like the phone book listing, the Google My Business listing is limited. So, when prospects want a more comprehensive picture of the community, they use the community website. That’s where they can find more photos, hopefully, videos, rental rates, amenities, pet policy, and so on.
So, an online marketing platform designed for the multifamily industry should use both a community website and their Google My Business listing to inform prospects about the community. Both platforms are valuable because they do two different things. Google My Business gives prospects basic information about the property in a quick and convenient way. Your website provides an online profile of your community.
What’s left out?
Practically speaking, there isn’t anything left for them to do. The quick, highly relevant pieces of information that can be displayed in a business listing, similar to what an ILS provides are already provided by Google My Business. Meanwhile, the more in-depth community-specific information is communicated through the website. ILS’s are a solution without a problem.
Successful online marketing is about understanding the needs of your prospects and creating an online presence that addresses those needs in the way prospects want them to be addressed. By building a presence that integrates both your Google My Business listing and your community website, you can best serve your prospective residents.