Search engine optimization, otherwise known as SEO, is how websites are getting organic traffic from search engines like Google. With over 84% of renters looking for their next home online, having solid SEO strategies in place to help increase traffic to your property website is more important than ever. But, you’re a smart cookie and you know that ranking high in search engines through organic methods can be a struggle.
Back in the “old days” it was as simple as loading your page up with meta tags, keywords and copy pertaining to what you did and voila! You’re on Google in a decent space. Nowadays, it takes whole lot more to obtain a decent placement in Google and even more to stay there.
There’s a lot of bad information on the Internet about how to rank high in search engines. There’s also plenty out there that could land you in some hot water with Google when you try to cheat the system. Not only that, but chances are you are a property manager, leasing agent or other multifamily professional that isn’t a professional SEO expert. So, what are you to do?
Well, you could hire our fabulous team of SEO exports here at Blue Cricket Media (shameless plug, we know) or, you can keep reading below to gain some knowledge on some smart ways to utilize SEO for your property website. Either way, you are sure to be the super hero in your office!
On-Page Versus Off-Page
Before we jump into actual strategies, I want to break down our SEO types into two categories: on-page and off-page. As the name implies, you can probably imagine that on-page would be the SEO strategies that you implement on your actual website pages and off-page would be those strategies that happen outside of the realm of your website.
On-page includes things you can change on your site such as load time, mobile friendliness, headings, image alternate descriptions, outbound links, page titles and actual content. While some of these are focused on your page experience, some are still focused around specific keywords or phrases in order to let the search engine know what your website is all about.
Off-page includes things that you can’t always control and are done outside the realm of your website and mainly revolves around building links back to your site from other high ranking authority sites but social media marketing and social bookmarking are also becoming important.
You’ve heard it before…content is king. Yes, it still is. In fact, now more than ever.
Every business owner’s goal, including those in multifamily, is to be in the top few search results on Google. Studies have shown that sites on pages two and three of a Google search only receive 5.59% of clicks. So, how does an apartment community get on the first page of a Google search? Where a property ranks in a search depends on several factors, but the most controllable method is on-page SEO through website content.
How and why does content matter to search engines? Look at it like this: you probably found this article in one of just a few ways. Someone could have shared it with you, maybe you found it on social media or perhaps you found it through a Google search. People like to think that Google has all the answers, but the reality is Google is just good at finding the answers and delivering them to you. Other websites, just like this one, are actually the ones with all the answers. So, if you want Google to deliver your content as an answer, feed Google what it needs: content!
Oh, there it is. Content Marketing. You mean like blogs? Copywriting on my website? I know what you’re thinking…”Aint nobody got time for that!”
Look, I get it. I know what you mean. Blogs take time to research, to write, to source images and to edit. But, trust me when I tell you that if you don’t make time for it, you will be missing the SEO boat.
The biggest struggle we hear about from businesses with no blog, or dead blogs, is that they just don’t know what to write about. They think only in terms of promoting their own business instead of providing relevant and useful content that their readers will actually sit down and read. Think about it…when was the last time you subscribed to a blog that did nothing but spout off their own promotions and internal happenings? That’s boring!
People want to be informed, entertained and educated. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them about your community as well, you just need to make sure the balance is there. In the multifamily industry, this is easy! Coming up with a variety of content that isn’t promotional is easy!
- Community amenities and events
- Tips for decorating
- Favorite recipes
- Safety tips
- Pet care tips for apartment living
- Local area attractions and events
- Restaurant reviews
- Staff member spotlights
The thing to remember is that while you may have plenty of Google competition for search terms like “your city apartments”, you may not have quite as much competition for less specific keywords like “how to decorate my walls when I can’t paint”. People searching for these types of articles and helpful tips are exactly the type of people you want to reach. Even more importantly, they may take that information and share it on their social media, email it to friends and save it to come back to time and time again. This leads up to a lot of free advertising for you.
No, I’m not talking about your favorite tropical cocktail, I’m talking about the positive ranking increase you get when someone else links to a piece of content on your site. Search engines like Google want websites to have plenty of link juice and it is a huge influence on how high your site ranks for certain keywords and phrases.
Aside from giving your audience really great content to read, link juice is an even bigger reason to push content marketing as aggressively as you can. Without high quality content, why would anyone link back to your website?
Before you start submitting your website to every directory you can find and paying money to these companies who promise to list your site with 1,000 other websites for a low fee…don’t do it! Do not…I repeat DO NOT pay an agency or company to get you what we consider “spammy backlinks”. These are low quality links that provide nothing in terms of value and agencies have duped businesses into thinking that any link is a good link. I’ve got news for you friends…these spammy links will absolutely affect your Google ranking, just not in the way that you are probably hoping for.
Every website has what’s known as a page rank. A higher page rank authority website will give you much more link juice than a low page rank website. For example, getting a link back from Huffington Post will give you more link juice than a link back from another local property because Huffington’s page rank is 8/10 which is obviously much higher than a local site due to its own link juice and popularity. You can even check your own page rank if you’re curious.
There’s a process and method to the madness of evaluating the links that come back to you, but if you find yourself in a situation where a backlink is actually affecting you negatively, you may want to learn about why and how to disavow a link through Google. Stay clear of spammy paid services as a starting point, but if it happens, educate yourself before taking any measures against it.
How Can I Get More Link Juice for My Property?
Awesome question! My suggestion is don’t go after huge websites at first. With any industry, multifamily included, unless you are well known, getting links from very high page ranks could prove to be more difficult but here’s a few strategic steps you can take to get started.
- Start with a list of potential keywords or phrases. Take your high level keywords such as “your city apartments” but think about some longer phrases that your residents may search for as well. We will be sharing a more advanced keyword research method soon but for now, just stick them into an excel spreadsheet and get ready for some leg work.
- Run all of your search terms in Google and put together a list of the first 10 results (not your competitors, since it’s very unlikely they will link to you) that come up with for each keyword. These are the sites that you want to link back to your site. Don’t forget to add their page rank into your spreadsheet so you can measure up your best bet.
- Visit each of the pages in your list and start adding the contact emails or links to contact pages for each one to your spreadsheet.
- Now, the leg work starts to begin contacting and building relationships with these sites. Offer to guest post (before someone questions this, I’ll be sharing an explanation on why I still do this next week and will link to it), share some of your helpful blog posts with them and find pieces of their content that would benefit their readers to your information as well. Send friendly emails and see what you can make happen!
Let’s talk for just a moment about content ownership. If you aren’t writing your content yourself and your using an agency to write your content for you, make sure that you actually own your content and that it lives on your own web server.
Why does this matter?
If you go through all the hard work and money to create fantastic content that ranks high in search engines, how upset will you be when your contract comes to an end and you learn that your content as well as those high Google rankings go away with your agency as well? There’s nothing worse than leaving an agency or hosting service and realizing that everything you paid for goes away with them.
Some agencies operate on a method of having you pay for them to create content for you, but they ultimately still own it. In fact, not only do they own the content, but most require you to host it on their server, so that you are left knowing that you can never leave them unless you want to lose all of the content you’ve paid for, which also means losing your high rankings. Feel a little like thievery to you? We agree!
DO NOT get put in that position. You should refuse to work with any agency that doesn’t give you all of the created items you pay for permanently, even if you discontinue the relationship with them. If your content isn’t hosted on your own website, at your own domain, you could be forced to continue working with them and be subject to paying their fees, whatever they may be…or lose the content completely. Working with a company that works in this manner leaves you wide open to have your success stolen out from under you.
Hopefully, after reading this you have a little more of an idea of how SEO works, why you need it and how it can help your property get more website traffic through organic methods. Using any one of these strategies can help to increase your visibility and SEO and even obtain some much needed organic shares through social media and peers. Good luck!