Competition Is Fierce
When CoStar purchased apartments.com in 2014, it became the largest aggregation of apartment data on the internet. They now have a marketplace of over 15 rental websites including forrent.com and apartmentfinder.com. It looks like CoStar Group, Inc. purchases small and medium sized rental websites with consistent unique traffic and adds them to their marketplace. The collective power of the CoStar marketplace, and other rental websites like Zumper, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and Apartment List has a profound impact on what website visitors expect when they arrive at your apartment locating website.
100% of your website visitors have been on at least two of these rental websites. If you run a Facebook Ad and a renter arrives at your website, they are expecting a Google search, apartment listings, and an easy method to request additional information.
When a new visitor arrives at your website, they have subconscious expectations based on other websites they’ve already visited. Google is often showing them the same search results over and over based on that person’s custom search history and the rental websites with the best information.
Knowing that 100% of your website visitors have already been conducting research on national rental websites before they arrive at your website, gives you an insight on elements you should mimic to optimize lead conversion.
Website Elements You Should Mimic From Rental Websites
Imagine a home buyer is looking for a Realtor. They search the internet and find a beautiful and professional Realtor website. However, the website isn't connected to the local MLS so it doesn't have a list of homes for sale. How long do you think that home buyer is going to stay on the Realtor's website? What percentage of people will fill out a lead capture form?
The same applies to renters looking for an apartment. When they arrive at your website, they are expecting (at the very least) a list of apartments for rent. But knowing they have already been on apartments.com, they are more likely expecting:
Google map of apartments for rent.
Searchable apartment listings.
Accurate pricing and floor plans available.
A lead capture form to request more information.
Knowledge of each neighborhood and what it has to offer people who live there.
Public transportation options.
Public school information.
Walk scores or walkable options.
Your Website Is a Billboard In The Desert
Your website is a billboard in the desert unless you drive traffic to it.
When I type "Houston Apartment Locator" into a depersonalize browser, I receive 22 million total results, 5 paid advertisements at the top, 5 locations shown on a map, 10 organic search results, and 5 paid advertisements at the bottom. Only 30% of all results are actual apartment locators. The rest are rental websites, apartment communities, and management companies.
Your goal doesn't need to be page one to generate leads. You can drive traffic in many ways that don't include the expense and pain of page one.
Blog articles are your 2nd most profitable asset and it increases SEO forever (and they're free).
Social media posts with a landing page and lead magnet are very popular in all industry's.
Online ads on Facebook marketplace or RentLinx get quick results but the quality can be a challenge.
Traffic Doesn't Matter Without A Conversion Strategy
Have you ever created a profile and searched for an apartment on apartments.com or apartmentlist.com so you can see how they convert leads? They have a proven methodology that takes each renter down a path to claim apartments.com as the lead source. They have spent tens of thousands of dollars with marketing companies to test and implement their methodology. Their entire process is conducted by sending and tracking emails. At one time Apartment List had a VIP service and one of their representatives would call and follow up, but I think they ended it.
Most apartment locators require a phone call with a prospect, but you could save time and increase revenue by mimicking your lead conversion process after theirs. Every rental website has a "pay for performance" revenue model (just like locators).
The difference is apartments.com and Zillow have figured out a better methodology that reduces friction so the renter puts their name down as the lead source more often. Their platform is easy to use so renters go back to it again and again, and they blast each renter with so many branded emails it drowns out everyone else.
Reduced Friction + Increased Tracking = More Paid Invoices