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Maximize Lead Conversion with ILS

Internet listing services (ILS) are a key component of a varied marketing strategy. In addition to channels such as property websites, social media, and paid ads, you should be incorporating listing sites like into your rental marketing plan. These methods attract qualified prospects, who can then potentially be converted into residents.

ILS sites such as Zillow, RentCafe, and ApartmentList are vital due to their significant impact on renter preferences. According to the 2022 NMHC/Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey, 73% of over 221,000 renters used a rental listing site for their most recent home search.

As Michael Zaransky, managing principal of MZ Capital Partners, points out, ILS sites generate the most traffic and conversions compared to other marketing channels. They are, frankly, indispensable in a competitive market. Even Craigslist can be effective as an ILS depending on your property and how you use it.

To maximize the effectiveness of your listings on these sites and convert leads into leases, it’s essential to choose the right platform. With so many options, it can be hard to know which site is best for your properties. By carefully selecting and utilizing ILS sites, you can optimize your marketing investment and achieve the best results for your investments.

ILS sites are designed to generate traffic, but their effectiveness varies depending on the platform and the community they serve. As a result, some sites may be more suitable for your properties than others.

Nadia Balint, marketing manager for RentCafe, recommends selecting an ILS based on its popularity in your area. Conduct test searches to determine which ILS platforms perform the best in your cities. For instance, if your apartment community is located in Denver, search for terms like “apartments in Denver” or “studio apartments in Denver.” The ILS sites that appear on the first page of Google search results are the ones most likely to be visited by potential renters in your city. Consequently, these are the platforms you should prioritize for listing your property.

Continuous testing is crucial in any marketing endeavor, including using ILS platforms, to ensure they generate qualified leads. Otherwise, you risk wasting resources.

Meg Evans, a marketing coordinator at Bristol Development Group in Franklin, Tennessee, emphasizes the importance of monitoring the analytics of each ILS site to enhance conversion rates.

She audits the sites to verify the accuracy of listed information, such as pricing and floor plans. Additionally, Evans employs a technique called mystery shopping, where she poses as a potential renter to evaluate the leasing team’s response time and approach. This method helps identify areas for improvement and training opportunities, ultimately optimizing the team’s ability to convert leads into leases.

It’s essential to remember the fundamentals when using ILS platforms. To function effectively, ILS sites must be updated in real-time, providing accurate and up-to-date information on available apartments, pricing, floor plans, and photographs to potential renters. Although most property management platforms integrate with ILS sites, Nofel Molai, director of marketing for Cottonwood Residential, warns that there may be delays in disseminating information to prospects.

Changes made today might only take effect after two weeks when they fully penetrate the market. For example, if you post a special offer on an ILS site tomorrow, it may take a week to a week and a half to reach potential renters, as the information must saturate the market and be distributed across all channels.

Ensure your ILS listings maintain high quality, similar to your community website. Listings should be comprehensive, including floor plans, professional photos of units and amenities, pricing, virtual tours, and neighborhood information. Keep in mind that prospective renters may not be local and might require details about schools, shopping, entertainment, and recreational options. However, avoid overwhelming prospects by limiting the number of photographs to 25, as suggested by Molai.

Many ILS platforms offer the option to “boost” your ad for an additional fee, increasing its visibility by ranking it higher in search results and making it easier for potential renters to find online.

For instance, when Cottonwood’s Alton Westshore community in Tampa faced occupancy challenges, they incorporated Zillow and its premium service, Zillow Boost, into their marketing strategy. As a result, they signed five leases within a week, according to Molai.

While ILS platforms have proven successful and are heavily relied upon by apartment marketers, some industry experts suggest that alternative methods like social media ads or Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising may be more effective for specific properties.

Molai explains that PPC allows marketers more control over keywords and budget allocation, making it easier to target specific prospects. For example, Cottonwood Broadway, set to open in April 2023 near the University of Utah campus, is being promoted to students who are more likely to find properties through social media or Google than an ILS. Cottonwood targets channels students use daily.

Nevertheless, most apartment marketers strongly advocate for ILS platforms. Zaransky asserts that they are indispensable in the industry, emphasizing that there is no alternative that matches the value of leads and conversions they provide to maintain occupancy. Given the high costs of vacant apartments, the investment in ILS platforms is well worth it.

Elly Johnson stands at the forefront of content research and online branding at Utopia Management. As the Content Marketing Manager, she delves deep into understanding local real estate and rental markets, fueled by her passion for travel and keen research skills. Elly is dedicated to empowering individuals with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about where to reside. A proud alumna of the University of South Florida, located in the vibrant heart of Tampa Bay, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Her academic background and extensive travel experiences uniquely position her to provide insights that resonate with diverse audiences.

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