There are three metrics you need to know as an apartment marketer and a fourth that can occasionally be useful.
So hopefully we've convinced you that it's worthwhile to set up Google Analytics for your apartment community website. If you aren't measuring your market performance, you won't know what is working and what is not. Now you've set up Google Analytics for your apartment community so you can start making informed marketing decisions.
Now the question is "what are the main metrics you should be monitoring as an apartment marketer?" We believe there are four metrics apartment marketers need to know. The first three are especially vital, and the fourth is a good one to keep an eye on because it can yield several useful bits of information.
1. Average time on page
If you're using high quality visual content to attract and engage apartment searchers, you should expect them to be spending over a minute to minute and a half on your site. Many of our clients average as much as two and a half minutes on the site. If you're using walkthrough video tours, you should be hitting around two minutes on your floorplan pages because that's how long it will take to watch the videos.
If your average time on page is under a minute, that tells you that a given page of your website is not keeping the attention of users. They're finding you, but you're not engaging them, which means you're not converting web traffic into anything useful for your community. To increase engagement with users, the best thing you can do is offer them high-quality visual content that piques their interest and makes them want to learn more about your community. Specifically, you should be offering them floorplan specific photos as well as a walkthrough video tour of each unit. This sort of content engages web users because it lets them do the thing they actually want to do, which is see their apartment.
2. Visits by source
This is an important metric for apartment marketers because it lets you know what's working for you. We tell all of our clients to use Google AdWords, optimize for organic search, and post on Craigslist. But it's impossible to say which one of those three will perform the best for a given community. We have clients whose best consistent traffic source is AdWords, others who do very well on Craigslist, and still others who kill it on organic search.
Generally speaking, AdWords is the first big traffic source to kick in, but long-term you'd rather have Craigslist or organic search as your main traffic generator for the simple reason that they are both free while AdWords costs money. However, AdWords dollars are well-spent because we've seen a proven record of success for clients using Google's paid search feature.
Beyond that basic guideline, however, your results will depend a lot upon your specific community, your city, and how people use the internet in your area. If you've got a booming Craigslist, you should expect to do well on there. If people don't use Craigslist as much, organic might be your main source.
But in any event, the traffic source metric can tell you how well your marketing efforts are working and perhaps clue you in to what's not working, if anything is underperforming. (It can also help guide spending decisions--if your organic and Craigslist are doing well, you can probably afford to scale back AdWords.)
3. Mobile device usage
Are mobile device users viewing your site? Two of the most common problems we see on apartment community websites both concern mobile devices. The first problem is that the site still uses Flash, which makes it completely unusable on mobile devices that don't support it. This is especially problematic because 91% of respondents in one survey said they plan to use a mobile device next time they're looking for an apartment.
The other common problem for mobile devices is that apartment community's often do not have a mobile friendly site or a responsive design site. As a result, the mobile version of their site is simply a scaled down version of the main page. From a user experience perspective, this is a nightmarish scenario. On the mobile device, users have to use their fingers to select options, but if a site with a dozen menus is scaled down a mobile device, the buttons will be so small and so close together that selecting the right menu will be extremely difficult.
For both these reasons, you want to make sure that your device is working for mobile users. And this will be especially important if you have a lot of mobile users. Many of our clients will get 300-500 mobile visits to their site every month, so if you aren't optimized for mobile devices by using either a mobile-specific design or a responsive design, you're likely failing to get the most out of that traffic. Additionally, this recent Google study on multiscreen usage suggests that many mobile device users use their mobile device to conduct preliminary research before switching to a computer for lengthier amounts of time. Which means that if you're missing out on that 300-500 visits, you may also be missing out on 300-500 additional visits from a desktop or laptop computer. Point being, mobile can often be a place to make a good first impression. Make sure your site does that.
4. Visits by state
This one is a little bit squishier, but can still have certain useful information. If you create a map widget to show visits by state, you can see where your web traffic is coming from. While we're not as insistent on this one as the previous three, you can still find some useful information from it. One example would be if you see a spike in traffic from one state. Perhaps a job is moving from that area to your area and there are a number of people finding your site as they look for a place to live. That tells you something about who is using your website and who your potential new residents could be.
So supposing you do end up having a bunch of residents moving from one general area, that's a fact that could be useful for planning community events. Perhaps their local sports team is playing in a nationally-televised game. Show it in the clubhouse and arrange a party around it. By offering that kind of unique value, you're going to delight your residents in a unique way.
A second example might be if you have a ton of traffic coming from one state, start poking around a bit and discover that there's another community in that state with the same name as your apartment community. That's useful information because it tells you to add a few negative keywords to your AdWords campaign, at the very least. It will also give you a nudge to do more with your Google + Local page and Google SEO results because there's a chance that web users who search your keyword are finding the community in another state when they're looking for yours.
While this metric is not going to be as essential for you as the other three listed, it is still interesting information that could become useful to you in a few unique situations.