Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile is one of the most important marketing channels in the multifamily industry. Unfortunately, this is devalued a lot, but we’re here today to show you the value in optimizing your GMB listing to rank better for local search and compete against industry giants.
The screenshot below is for an apartment complex where GMB optimizations were performed in the middle of June 2020. An increase of over 2,500% in Users, a 3,500% increase for New Users, and Goal Completions (form fills, phone calls, scheduling tours, etc) increased from 35 to 1,007 for the compared three-month period.
In this post, you will learn how Google My Business is such an important marketing channel and how to start getting results similar to the above data.
The Evolution of Search
Google has undoubtedly evolved over the years. In the early days, you only had one type of result return for your search query—the blue organic links we all recognize as they are still iconic to this day.
As you can see, this is a basic Search Engine Results Page (SERP). There are no ads, no images, and no local business listings. Boring! So glad Google has evolved as our search habits have to provide a better search experience over the years.
Even though those results are plain, they are still used to this day and are a prominent product of Google’s search algorithm. The difference now is that for many commercial queries we see organic results being surrounded by more and more ads.
Why Are There So Many Ads Now?
Google and other search engines are businesses, and they need to make money in order to prosper. The days of the plain search results were doomed from the start as it cost nothing to get your website seen by people using search engines, other than the fees of a professional SEO service to get you there. Thus, the birth of ad revenue from search.
Across industries, businesses of all sizes find themselves competing with large companies. Everyone wants a slice of the paid advertising pie. These large companies appear to have endless amounts of money invested in paid advertising on search engines like Google, making it difficult to compete for visibility.
The multifamily industry is no exception. Perform a basic search for “apartments in (location of your choice)” and you will likely see ads by industry giants such as apartments.com, apartmentfinder.com, and apartmentlist.com. This is a big challenge because many apartment complexes are now forced to not only compete with the big listing websites but also, the competing businesses using them. Sizable businesses like apartments.com and apartmentfinder.com tend to have the budget to spend on large paid search campaigns. Meanwhile, many multifamily properties may not have the budget to keep up and therefore, will have difficulty competing against these businesses for visibility.
So, how can multifamily properties compete with these industry giants when there are so many ads now?
Introducing Local Search
Desktop Search View:
The Google My Business Tool
Google My Business (GMB) is basically a Yellow Pages directory built into Google. It has its own unique search algorithm and uniquely ranked “maps” results. Google’s enhancements to local search have progressed to the point that they no longer want users to filter through several results for an online query—it wants to provide the perfect answer or result for the query.
That’s becoming increasingly evident with the features provided by Google My Business listings such as search, maps, products, services, and knowledge panels, which are serving a wide variety of consumer needs. That includes those of potential renters, who are regularly searching through GMB listings rather than organic listings. In fact, a recent study found that 63 percent of Google clicks are happening apart from organic search for apartment listings.
On Google, these listings have gone by many names over the years:
- Google Places for Business
- Google+ Local
- Google Places
- Google My Business (Current)
As with most things Google, the local search result algorithms are complicated. But they are intended to provide us with a more personalized and better search experience, so things like searcher proximity are factored into the search results provided. For example, people in NYC searching for an apartment in their area don’t want to see apartment complex listings from Chicago.
Search engines needed to return local results that serve location-based intent. Many users search to serve their immediate needs; think search queries such as “product near me” or “service near me” although most do not include their actual location. In a very broad observation, these searches have the “intent” of learning about, purchasing, or obtaining something that is in close proximity to them. This is one-way local listings are becoming a front runner in the way Google searches can meet searcher intent.
Google Maps Search Results
Here is the same search query from above for an apartment in Gowanus, NY but on a phone.
See anything different? The second listing is different on mobile versus desktop. These differences are dependent on many different factors like the device or browser type, user location, and the perceived intent behind the search. Google uses artificial intelligence and machine learning in their algorithms in order to serve us the results that will best answer our queries.
The map and the results shown in this image are specifically what we’re talking about when we refer to local SEO. Local SEO refers to optimizing your online presence so that you appear in the location-based search results built around Google’s local business database. Optimized websites and Google My Business listings allow you to be more visible in these “local” search results; an area where competing with the big apartment listing sites is much more achievable as opposed to paid advertising. Thus, this is why Local SEO is so important.
What can apartment communities do to rank well in Google’s local results?
As with organic listings, ranking well in the local search results comes down to how trustworthy your content appears to be by Google, which is based largely on how easy-to-use and trustworthy it is for humans. What can you do to make your local listing seem trustworthy to Google?
Optimize Apartment GMB Listings
First, it’s critical you claim and optimize your GMB listing by following the steps bulleted below.
- Verify and claim your business listing
- Link the listing to your community website
- Add images and videos
- Write a full description of the property
- Add floor plan images to the “Products” section
- Add your amenities to the “Services” section
- Create local citations to improve your Name, Address, Phone (NAP) Score
- Create GMB Posts (Promote special offers, events, and more)
Next, make sure you have updated the content on your website to reflect the same information as your GMB listing. Google is trying to establish if your community’s local listing is consistently maintained, optimized, and updated. Creating a truly local experience on your website with information that lines up with your GMB will pay off in dividends.
To improve your ranking ability in the maps section, creating consistent local citations is very important. This increases the consistency in which your brand is represented by your NAP and improves your brand’s authority with Google. For example, if Google sees one address listed on your Google My Business apartment listing and a different address when it crawls your listing on an ILS, it might say, “Huh, that’s odd. This listing doesn’t seem to be trustworthy. Why are the addresses different?” The same applies to the community’s phone number and name.
Get More Reviews
Unlike Yelp, Google does not restrict you from asking for reviews. In fact, they encourage it. Here are a few tips to increase your Google review interactions.
- Make a review request part of a successful/positive move-in or move-out process
- Request reviews from current tenants
- Reply to positive and negative reviews in a timely manner. This should be part of your reputation management plan also.
You have control over the cover photo and the logo photo which are usually the ones that show up next to your map listing in search so make sure they are high resolution. People can upload pictures themselves also as part of a review or just an image of the property. A truly interactive way for people to relate to your property.
Google My Business listings round out your digital marketing strategy and make it easier for people to find your community. If used effectively alongside Google Ads and a well-designed website, Google My Business can drive engaged leads to your leasing office. For this reason, your business listing in Google is an essential tool if you want to make it easier for prospects to lease an apartment.
Are you looking to boost your business’s online visibility? Learn how Results Repeat can help with a free SEO evaluation.