As it's the most important tool to highlight their units and amenities, apartment marketers need to pay constant attention to their community website's performance. The ultimate goal of your website is to guide prospective residents interested in your apartments towards signing a lease. If it's facilitating this process on a consistent basis, your website is in really good shape.
When it's not, the next step is to figure out why. There are multiple different metrics marketers can rely upon to help find the problem. Perhaps there's not enough traffic (visitors), or the page speed is slow because many of your images are too big and take too long to load.
We believe there's one website metric in particular that apartment marketers should prioritize over all others. It will show you why your website isn't generating enough leases. It will also tell you exactly what needs to be done to change this.
This metric is Time on Site, the significance of which comes down to this: you could spend all of your marketing budget to drive people to your website, but your website has less than 20 seconds to grab their attention and keep them there.
We'll look into three reasons why Time On Site (referred to as Average Session Duration in Google Analytics) is so important for apartment marketers to follow, as well as how you can increase the amount of time prospects spend on your community site.
Reason No. 1: People are naturally learning to filter stuff quickly.
We are living in an era of information overload.
We have thousands of messages coming at us every single day. News stories, Instagram pictures, Facebook updates, trending tweets, texts, phone calls, emails, advertisements—this is but a small sampling of the various forms of communication we receive and digest on a minute-by-minute basis.
Our brains have rewired themselves so that we're able to filter through each of these messages efficiently. The frequency with which we receive messages renders most of them irrelevant, and so we react by completely disregarding them (we keep scrolling). However, there's always incoming messages throughout our day that force us beyond this default setting. Maybe it's an email from the boss, a tweet from your favorite celebrity, or an ad for a car you're interested in. Whatever the case is, messages like these demand more of our time and engagement.
This is all related to Time On Site because when yours is really low, it's suggesting that your apartment community's website is just passing through the natural information filters we've developed. Prospective residents have quickly decided that they're not going to stop and learn more. There could be many other issues at play explaining why this is, but what we're really getting at is that a lower Time On Site is a psychological shortcoming that will only lead to more problems.
We'll explain how to avoid that in our final section.
Reason No. 2: Renters need to feel confident they're making the right decision.
Let's say your average rent is around $1,000, and the typical stay for a resident is 2 years.
Renting from you, then, is a $24,000 decision. That's quite a bit bigger than figuring out where to order pizza from.
When making that expensive of a choice, renters need to feel confident about their selection. Renters can't afford to take a chance—in fact, it's not hyperbole to suggest there's never been an instance of somebody coming to an apartment website and deciding in less than 20 seconds they want to sign a lease.
We believe that confidence is a byproduct of predictability. A prospect can easily predict how their apartment living experience will be if they're able to get a lot of helpful information from your website. This takes away the risks of making such a consequential decision. Time On Site gives you the best measure of if potential residents are receiving the information they need to confidently pursue signing a lease.
Which ties into our final reason...
Reason No. 3: The longer a potential resident spends on an apartment's website, the more likely they're to convert into a lead and sign a lease.
Or put another way, a higher Time On Site makes you feel more confident about leasing conversions. In our research, we've seen that highly qualified leads usually spend about 3-5x longer on a site than an average visitor.
Intuitively, you know that statement is true. If you've bought a home lately, you know this is true. If you've just bought a car, you know this is true. You looked (and looked again) at every photo you could beforehand, and revisited the seller's site over and over again to gather all the information you needed and gain confidence about your decision.
This is how renters usually come to their conclusion, too, which is why Time On Site is arguably the most important and revealing website metric for apartment marketers. It should be high, otherwise your most important marketing tool may actually be a detriment to you.
How to Get Prospective Residents to Stay on Your Apartment's Website Longer
1. Use floorplan-specific pages loaded with helpful content.
Have pages built for each of your floorplans that contain all of the specific details about that unit's amenities, pet policies, price, availability, and more. Rather than highlighting those things on generic, catch-all pages, this tactic prompts visitors to go through each floorplan's unique page in order to research all of the different options available to them at your community. Sure, some may not need to know the differences between a studio plan and 2-bedroom plan. But this approach still matters because it ensures potential residents are getting a thorough view of your apartments, thus increasing both the amount of time they're on the site and their confidence in deciding to pursue further action.
2. Feature influential photos and walkthrough videos.
We could publish a novel on the significance of media content on your apartment community's website, and how it impacts the leasing process. The crux is that you need to not only inform but also engage visitors when they come to your website. A beautiful photo of your community pool on your homepage provides a 'wow' factor that forces further engagement. Being able to watch a walkthrough video tour of a unit they are interested in is too irresistible an option. The more ways visitors can engage with the media content on your site, the longer they'll stay on it. (And it may also be the difference between your apartments and your competitors, too.)
3. Make sure your website is easy to use.
The information filters we've developed will tell us to leave a website if it isn't user-friendly. Imagine the detriment this could cause for your community. If someone actually interested in living at your apartments visits your website and can't find your video tours or how they could contact you, they'll eventually stop looking. That's why you want to make sure that your pages are easily navigable, that there's clear Calls-To-Action that prompts users into discovering more helpful information about you, your units, amenities, and how to apply or schedule a tour. If your website is easy to use, and features really informative content, prospects will stay on your site longer, thus increasing the likelihood of them eventually signing a lease.