How to Get Your Multifamily Organization to Rank Higher in Search Results
Search engine optimization (SEO) can often feel like staring into a black hole. You pour in time, energy, and money, and it can seem impossible to tell what (if anything) is happening with your efforts.
Building and maintaining your multifamily website with best practices in mind will go a long way toward a healthy posture in SEO, but that only carries it so far. Keeping up often seems a daunting task.
As a result, many have gravitated toward what they might call “aggressive” SEO tactics. In the marketing world, however, we call these “black hat” SEO tactics. The allure of these approaches are well documented. They’re easy. They’re pretty painless. They often even get results.
But be aware: Black hat SEO tactics are short-lived and carry hefty consequences.
So, in this blog, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most common property management SEO mistakes marketers make and how to avoid them.
Property Management SEO Mistake #1: Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is a popular practice since it was effective for so long. Think about it: if you want people to find you when they search for “affordable property management software” and you rubber stamp that exact phrase all over your website … Why wouldn’t that work?
Google’s stance on the practice of keyword stuffing is explicit: don’t do it.
One significant property management SEO myth revolves around the concept that keyword density — the number of words on a page divided by the number of instances of a given keyword — is used by the search engines for ranking calculations.
There are two types of keyword stuffing: location stuffing and unnatural repetition.
This is a popular one for businesses that service a specific area or have multiple locations. The idea is that the page will include “strategic” placements of location keywords in the content, the title tag, or other places. Here is one example of location stuffing:
Homes Available — North Austin TX, Leander TX, Pflugerville TX, Georgetown TX, Round Rock TX
When the exact same phrase appears repeatedly throughout the content, this is repetition. It doesn’t make you more relevant. It just makes you sound like a robot. And not a smart one. That might look like this:
ABC Property Management Software is the greatest property management software on the market. Our affordable property management software features easy integration, an easy-to-navigate property management dashboard, and a seamless interface. Get in touch with us to learn about our property management software and how we can help with your property management software needs.
The Telephone Test
Here’s a test. Imagine someone calls your company and asks you a question. Would your answer to their question be spoken just as you’re seeing it on your website? If it’s not natural language for a telephone call, chances are it’s not natural for the web either. Basically, if it doesn’t read naturally, it’s not legit. Think about it this way: Would you say “property management software” three or four times in one sentence when talking on the phone?
Property Management SEO Mistake #2: Branded Titles
Branded titles are not technically “black hat” (although they’re eerily close to keyword stuffing), yet it’s still something we find ourselves doing every once in a while out of habit. Branded titles are title tags that include the company name. On. Every. Page.
This is really easy to do. Most content management systems have settings to make this happen automatically. There’s no clear penalty from the search engines, and you obviously want to show up when someone searches for your company name, which is why countless SEO experts recommend it. Even still, it’s not always a good idea. Here’s why:
Your whole site is already screaming your company name. It’s in your footer. It’s the alt text of your logo image (or at least it should be). It’s mentioned in your web content, in your testimonials. It’s probably even in your domain!
A title tag is a powerful tool, but it’s not omnipotent. When the whole site is already shouting your name, the title really doesn’t contribute anything more.
But what’s the harm? Well, it’s indirect but substantial. While the title tag doesn’t technically have a limit, its application in search engine result pages (SERPs) does. The title is almost exclusively used as the large link to your page on SERPs, so we’ve got to get it right.
Moz recommends no more than 50 to 60 characters, but that’s not a fixed rule. In truth, the limit is 512 pixels, the most that Google will display before truncating it with an ellipsis.
This is problematic since different characters consume a different amount of space. Look at these examples:
- Jillian’s Little Fillies — 24 characters
- Wolfram Megamax Mustangs — 24 characters
What a difference! The latter consumes a lot more space. Jillian’s might have more room to work with than Wolfram, but either one of them could be using that space to reach other keywords. The modern importance of long-tail keywords makes this even more important. Long-tail keywords are called that because they’re long. So they need room to show up!
When your company name is already relevant for the rest of the site, embedding it in every page title just an inefficient use of prime real estate.
The Exception to the Rule
This isn’t a universal rule, by the way. Your homepage should absolutely include your company name. As should your Contact Us page, About Us page, and any other page that would be truly relevant (and not just because it’s on your website). Plus, a branded title is better than none at all. It’s not bad as much as it’s inefficient.
Property Management SEO Mistake #3: Hidden Text
Common SEO mistakes might come as a surprise to some folks. Multifamily marketers often use keyword stuffing or branded titles because they don’t know any better. Another common SEO mistake is hidden text.
The practice of hidden text involves placing content on your site that makes it seem relevant, and then hiding or obscuring that text in some way. This leverages all the power of keyword stuffing without any of the problems of actual visitors coming across this weirdly-worded content.
The Mundane Way to Hide Text
The classic way to hide text on your multifamily website is hardly subtle.
- Got a white background? Great, place some white text on it.
- Got a small gap at the bottom of the page? Great, place some tiny text on it.
- Some might just use CSS display:none to hide entire paragraphs from most browsers.
No one will see it, except for Google, so you can tell Google exactly what you want them to hear.
In the old days, you could get away with this. Modern spiders can tell what’s going on, though, and this is an easy path to SEO penalties.
The “Clever” Way to Hide Text
Some people inject pages worth of content in image alt tags or cover blocks of content with images. We hate to break it to you, but SEO just doesn’t work like that. You’re begging for a ban.
Property Management SEO Mistake #4: Manipulative Backlinking
The bad SEO tactics we’ve discussed so far (keyword stuffing, branded titles, hidden text) have been on-site SEO. In other words, they’re practices performed on your website. On-site SEO is the easiest to control, but it’s not the only option. Off-site SEO has long been a powerful tool in the optimizer’s arsenal, typically in the form of backlinks.
Backlinks are the links on external websites that link to your own. That is, they’re linking back to you. Since the early days of search engines, the power of backlinks has been held in awe. And in truth, it’s still a tool that can be leveraged well.
It just usually isn’t leveraged in the right way. You can pay companies to produce backlinks to your website by the thousands, and the work they produce can be relatively cheap and completely painless for you. Yet this is almost always firmly seated in the black hat SEO category. Why is that?
Most of the backlinking that’s been going on hasn’t kept the all-important rule in mind: relevance. Is the backlink relevant? Consider the following scenarios.
- A Yelp review for a property management software company links to a donut company amid its praises.
- A comment on a music video that links to an apartment ratings service.
If you’ve ever run a blog with comments, you’ve been on the receiving end of these. Many people who offer backlinking use software to automatically post on anything it can. Most get caught by spam filters on the comment systems, but many don’t. And so, backlinks are born. In troves.
Another reason why the mass-produced backlinks are a bad idea is that Google doesn’t just consider the number of backlinks but also the quality of backlinks.
For example, a link from an anonymous commenter is treated differently than a link from a prominent blogger who mentions you in the post itself. A blog with six subscribers and web traffic to match won’t pack as much punch as an established media outlet linking to your product or service.
The more significant the link, the better it looks for the link target. If you get linked to on the homepage of CNN.com, you can bet that means more to Google than that link your brother-in-law put in his footer.
Property Management SEO Mistake #5: Ignoring It
Many of the bad multifamily SEO tactics we’ve discussed are common because of how easy they are to execute. Branded titles are inefficient but everywhere, and keyword stuffing is far more common than it should be. However, there’s one approach to SEO that just can’t be beaten in terms of simplicity and ubiquity. It’s no strategy, though; it’s just ignoring SEO altogether.
There are a few companies out there without websites, but it’s rarely because they don’t think they need one anymore. People understand the need for websites today, but countless companies publish rudimentary websites and then ignore them because they don’t magically produce results as they’d expected. There’s no content strategy, no persona development, no keyword research, no SEO at all.
An Easy SEO Mistake
Ignorance is bliss only to those who never learn more.
The small business owner who never learns of the potential of SEO will simply see her website as a feature of her business card (just like her phone number or address). To her, any further investment in the website seems frivolous, as it’s already accomplished its purpose. Which is to be able to say, “We have a website.”
Her bliss can crumble to pieces, though, if she realizes that the true purpose of a website can just as easily be to generate business. A website can reach new customers, serve existing ones, and reconnect with old ones.
A Numbers Game
The world is a big place, and internet users are an ever-growing portion of that world. Search engine users dominate that segment, giving a vast number of people who are looking for something just like your multifamily business a medium to find you. With that many people looking, some are certain to have the resources you’re looking for and the needs you can serve.
However, they can only find it if you make yourself known, which doesn’t just automatically happen. It’s this awareness that shatters ignorance’s bliss.
Property Management SEO Mistake #6: Taking a Top-Down Approach
This highly common SEO mistake is one of the easiest to make by people who take SEO seriously. Unlike those who ignore SEO altogether, this group of companies see the value of content strategy, keyword research, and the like. They understand that the search engines hold the reins of many would-be clickers and the dollars in those clickers’ wallets.
They read books, blogs, and email blasts. They exhaustively plan out a campaign strategy, placing great emphasis on creating relevant content. They even supplement their strategy with social and paid search or PPC efforts built upon the same set of keywords. Their holistic approach is cohesive, comprehensive, and complete.
Unfortunately, it’s backwards.
In short, these companies treat searchers like numbers. There was a day when this strategy would have worked. In the emerging macroculture of the social web, that just doesn’t fly anymore.
Building a Ground-Up Strategy Through Buyer Persona Development
The keywords searchers use aren’t based on vast knowledge and expertise. For the most part, they’re not looking for the product that has Feature X or can do Task Y.
Most searchers are speaking to their problems, not to your company’s solutions. Multifamily businesses should write content and pick keywords based on how their product or service benefits the user.
Consider an apartment ratings platform that provides properties with automatic, objective ratings to improve their online reputation. A property isn’t usually going to search for “objective apartment ratings platform.” Most likely, these properties are searching for answers to their problems, such as:
- How to respond to negative reviews
- Tips for online reputation management
- Why does my property have low ratings?
The bottom line? Having a strategy isn’t enough. Strategies can easily be built top-down. However, SEO must be built from the ground up, meeting the searcher where they’re at (with a problem) and holding their hand at every step along the way toward a purchase (the solution). This is where persona development is crucial as they reveal where those users are truly coming from.
A top-down strategy properly rebuilt from the ground up can turn a reasonably profitable campaign into the cornerstone of a company’s overall marketing plan.
Practice Patience and Prioritize Results-Driven Multifamily SEO
If there is one thing to take away from this blog, it’s that there is no quick fix to SEO. You can’t take the easy way out (or you can but you will be penalized).
When it comes to your multifamily SEO you should always remember: “If it is not worth doing right, then it’s not worth doing.” Results-driven content takes time and effort, but it pays dividends in the long run.