SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a tactic that can increase traffic to your property management website. Ideally, you want your website to show up at the top of the first page of Google or other search engines when potential customers type in keywords that matter to your business — since most users will never make it to page two.
Although there are many search engines, including Bing, Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo and others, Google is the biggest player by far with 90.1% of the total search engine market.
Since 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, it’s important to understand a few basics about SEO so that your website makes the best possible first impression for customers-to-be.
Here are a few of the most common SEO-related issues we’ve seen on property management websites, along with tips on how to improve them and increase your search traffic.
1. Search Engines Cannot Easily Crawl Your Site
Search engines need to know what your site is about, so they know how to categorize and rank the site. Search engines do this by using “bots,” or “spiders,” that visit your website and catalog details about your site in a database. This is known as “indexing” or “crawling.”
Your site’s “crawlability” is important if you want to rank highly on search engine results pages. To make your site easy for search engine spiders to crawl, be sure to avoid broken links, and make your URL, meta descriptions, and titles and content keyword-rich.
Keywords are phrases that users might type into a search engine, such as “property management companies in San Francisco” or “apartments in Miami.” To give your site a better chance of showing up when someone searches for these terms, include them in your site content.
A page title is what shows up as the main headline if your site is displayed on a search engine results page, and it’s also what shows up in the browser tab when a page on your site is open. It should describe very briefly what the content of your site is, and each page on your site should have a unique page title.
A meta description is a shortened version of what your site has to offer to anyone who clicks on its URL, and is typically limited to a set number of words or characters. Meta descriptions show up beneath the page title on search engine results pages. You can optimize your meta descriptions to encourage clicks from users and include important keywords.
Both meta titles and descriptions should be specific to the location of your property or company.
When you put images on your site, create alt-tags that describe the image, so the search engines understand the image properly. That can go a long way toward a higher ranking, and can help keep your site at or near the top of Google’s search results for your chosen keywords.
2. Your Site Isn’t Mobile-Friendly
Today, more than 64% of people use their smartphones to access the internet. That means your site has to be mobile friendly. Since mobile devices have smaller screens, and users navigate with tap of a finger rather than by clicking a mouse, mobile-friendly websites incorporate design elements that are easy to use on any device.
For example, mobile-friendly sites have straightforward main navigation options, streamlined form entry, and scalable design elements that will display better on small screen sizes (this is known as mobile-responsiveness).
Google’s UX Team has published excellent guidelines for mobile website design principles that you can read here. If you already have a website, you can even use this tool to determine whether your site is mobile-friendly.
3. Your Site Takes Too Long to Load
Site speed also matters, for both mobile and desktop visitors. According to a study by Kissmetrics, 40% of people will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. A high abandonment rate alone can hurt your SEO rankings, but on top of that, Google’s algorithm rewards fast site speeds, which means sites that load quickly tend to rise to the top of Google results pages. You can use this handy tool from Google to get insight on the speed of your website.
To ensure that the property management websites we build for AppFolio customers are always fast and mobile-friendly, we use fully mobile-responsive templates that are optimized for page speed and audited using Google PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse, an automated tool for improving the quality of web pages.
4. Your Site Isn’t Geared Towards Local Users
For property management websites, local SEO tactics are especially important.
Since so much search engine traffic comes from users on mobile devices, the results that a search engine displays can change depending on the where the user is located. For example, search engines will avoid showing results for apartments in Los Angeles to users who are located in San Diego, even if they both search for “apartments for rent near me.”
“One of the most common mistakes we see property managers making with their SEO strategy is that the location they are targeting is too broad, especially for companies with listings in multiple regions, ” says Greg Azbell, the Manager of Websites Onboarding at AppFolio.
“To make sure that your property management website shows up for users who are searching in your area, the content on your website should be specific to the region or city, your properties are located in, even down to the neighborhood level.”
Typically, you should have a separate URL on your website for each listing or property so that the content on that page can be highly targeted to the location.
In a recent test run by the AppFolio websites team, including specific listing details about each vacancy on its own page resulted in a 37% increase in search traffic tracked across all AppFolio websites.
Be sure to also make the most out of your free business profile on Google My Business — making sure that your business details are accurate in this listing can help Google determine what kind of searches your website should show up for.
5. Your Site Isn’t Trustworthy
A site that is not credible is not going to rank well. Search engines understand credibility by looking at a few factors, including the security features of your site, user signals such as a high bounce rate, and authority conveyed by external links from quality websites to your domain.
You can link out to other sites to give your visitors more information, but for credibility, you want authoritative sites to link to your site from theirs. These external links are not always easy to get, but they are valuable. You can earn these links by being mentioned in the press, securing referrals from other local businesses, or creating content like blog posts or local guides that are valuable enough for other websites to share them.
Make sure you never purchase links. It can be tempting, but search engines may also penalize you heavily for it. Once you have been penalized, it can be difficult to get a good ranking from them in the future, even after you fix the problem. Make sure you start out on the right foot and stay in the search engine’s good graces.
Another important way to establish credibility on your website is by purchasing an SSL certificate. Essentially, this certificate creates a secure connection between your visitor’s browser and your site. SSL certificates are so important that Google actually penalizes websites that do not have them — and many browsers will display a security warning to users who visit your site.
Purchasing and installing an SSL certificate can be confusing if you are not a webmaster, but all AppFolio websites automatically include an SSL certificate to avoid the algorithm penalty and ensure a secure connection for visitors.
6. Your Site Content is Too Generic
At the end of the day, content is still one of the most important aspects of your website. If you have badly written content, or text that is simply stuffed with keywords, potential customers will turn away quickly. Your property management company needs both owners and renters to find the website and be able to easily navigate it to get the information they need. Poor content or an inability to find what they want to know can lead owners and renters to move on and choose to work with another property management company, instead.
Ready to Boost SEO for Your Property Management Website?
If you’re ready to start growing your online search traffic, remember this advice from Greg Azbell, our Manager of Website Onboarding:
“SEO isn’t a magic wand, and you can’t force your way to #1. If you want your site to be on the first page of Google search results, you need a multi-pronged approach that includes thoughtful content that’s valuable to local users, a mobile-friendly design optimized for speed, and a website solution that is aligned current web standards like SSL Certification.”
If you’re interested in boosting your online search traffic, AppFolio’s website team builds professional, mobile-friendly websites that are fully customized to provide a great first impression for your customers. Find out more here, or get a free website assessment today.