By now, virtually the entire apartment industry understands the importance of monitoring ratings and reviews. Residents are offering unsolicited, genuine feedback on review sites and prospects are utilizing it to help make their decisions on where to live.
Many apartment operators are already engaged in the recommended practice of responding to all reviews, whether positive or negative. But few recognize the opportunity that exists to optimize review responses and improve Google rankings.
In addition to the ability to address any concerns of existing residents, review responses can be leveraged to increase traffic to community websites and garner more qualified leads.
Utilizing review responses to increase SEO rankings on Google
The first thing marketers should recognize is that what’s best for the consumer is always best for SEO.
Google, and search engines in general, build their business models on providing users what they want. In survey after survey, consumers demand ratings and review information to support their purchasing decisions. This is certainly the case when deciding on a rental home. With the abundance of information available today, what renter is going to sign a lease without hearing from at least one other resident about their experience in a given community?
From the perspective of multifamily properties, encouraging more resident reviews is the best way to ensure that prospective renters have access to this coveted information. Increasing online reviews leads to more content with the potential to rank in Google search results for common topics of renter concern. According to a study of search engine ranking factors by Moz, online reviews compose 7 percent of the criteria used in local search rankings.
When properties become proactive in cultivating reviews and responding to them, they consistently experience an increase in traffic and lead volume. While multifamily marketers might be hesitant to publicly expose themselves to the “wisdom” of anonymous internet users, data shows that a strong review-building strategy is a smart SEO tactic.
Best practices to enhance that SEO value
Marketers should think of responses from the perspective of both the resident leaving the review and the potential resident reading it. While every response ultimately depends on the substance of the original comment, there are a few good rules of thumb:
- Anything is better than silence: Just responding is itself a key separator between good and bad reputation management. Consumers tend to respect properties that respond to reviews because it sends a signal to prospective renters that the business is attentive to its residents.
- Promptness matters: We live in the always-on age. If a response can be posted within 24 hours, fantastic. But in general, any response within the first two or three days after a review is posted is probably best. After a week, most commenters have moved on.
- Adopt a positive attitude: Having a friendly and positive tone, especially in response to an angry or frustrated review, conveys professionalism. Arguments or combative stances will give prospective renters pause.
- Always offer a follow-up action: It’s unlikely that a multifamily marketer will solve many problems on a public review forum. And in the case of positive reviews, there isn’t much to discuss beyond thanking the reviewer. But providing some outlet for further inquiry demonstrates that there is a recourse for further discussion.
More reviews = higher performance
In general, the presence of online reviews correlates positively with higher performing properties. More reviews tend to mean more exposure, more on-page engagement and better conversion.
While the precise reason for this might not be readily apparent, it might be because more time spent online with a property increases a renter’s comfort and familiarity with that property. Or, it could be due to the positive impact reviews have on SEO which can increase online traffic to that property.
When a renter starts looking at reviews, that usually means they’ve reached the point in their search where they’ve narrowed down to a few communities in a certain area. For most renters, it’s a small leap from reading a review to making a final decision.
The message is pretty clear: if a property wants to be competitive in today’s online marketplace, outside of a larger marketing spend, one of the best ways to do it is more review content.
Long-term effects of review-site content
The long-term effects are not vague. Increasing the number of reviews about a property over time—even when many of the reviews are negative—leads to more traffic, more satisfied users and more leads.
With that said, freshness of reviews is important. A multifamily property with dozens of online reviews, but none submitted in the past year, may send some questionable signals to prospective renters. Freshness of reviews can have a positive impact on organic search traffic and lead conversion.
With all things being equal, if two properties both have the same number of reviews, the one with the most recent will tend to outperform the other in terms of search traffic and leads.
So, while the effects are indisputably positive over the long haul, the job is never really done. The best user experience demands that marketers make an ongoing commitment to pushing for new resident reviews—and continue to respond to them.
Review responses as a lead generator
Review responses offer an opportunity to demonstrate to prospective renters their customer service and attention. Doing it well means more satisfied renters and more interested prospective renters, who submit more leads.
This exchange, in turn, generates more rich content that potentially leads to higher search rankings on queries related to the range of topics being discussed in the reviews. Higher rankings mean more people finding your property online.
It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop. More reviews mean happier consumers. Happier consumers mean more traffic. More traffic reads and leaves more reviews. Wash, rinse and repeat.