State of Search – May 2020
Kristi Fickert, Senior Vice President of Engagement and Growth
Patrick Laycock, Senior Manager of Digital Strategy
The month of May indicated it was the start of a return to normal in the search world after the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic threw the multifamily industry into a state of uncertainty. As a result, most of the multifamily specific terms we track have rebounded from their lows in March and April. As COVID-19 restrictions began to loosen and the weather warmed up across the country, people have started to search for their next home. Overall trends show a very steep uptick in search volume compared to March and April, however, they are still lagging behind May 2019’s numbers.
Trend Data Highlights
Trend: “Apartments for Rent”
Our main search term, “apartments for rent,” shows decent growth this month. In fact, mid-month saw about a 10% growth from April and a 40% increase from the lowest point of the COVID-19 crisis. Because users’ behavior is still somewhat altered from the pandemic, overall search volume is behind last year by about 2-3%.
While previous months indicated cash-strapped uncertainty, this is a good sign that the economy is rebounding from COVID-19. The Washington Post states that once states started opening their stay-at-home orders, nearly 2.5 million jobs became available, making unemployment rates begin to decline and we believe this is a reflection of that.
Trend: “Luxury Apartments”
Data around “Luxury Apartments” is much of the same story as “Apartments for Rent” albeit with smaller overall volume. Because of this, the numbers are prone to more fluctuation but the trends remain the same. Although search volume has come down a little, it actually peaked at the end of May for all of 2020 so far. This search term is definitely one to watch and use in SEO efforts if it qualifies for your brand & marketing.
While March and April were fraught with uncertainty and many search terms indicated people were nervous about being able to pay their rent, this search term has a positive ring to it because it indicates that apartment seekers are back into the market, looking for their next home and they aren’t skimping on the rent.
There are a few data points from May that might have some very big repercussions going forward for the multifamily industry and SEO, PPC, and additional marketing efforts.
Trend: “Open Apartments”
Originally, we decided to track this phrase to gauge prospects’ interest in move-in ready, available apartments. At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, search volume was sparse and probably wasn’t worth the marketing effort. As time goes on though, the search volume has skyrocketed for this term. It hit the highest volume it’s ever seen in mid-May and hasn’t gone down since.
This signifies a shift in renter behavior to a more virtual marketplace speeding up the adoption timeline for technology the industry has been talking about for a while. Technological tools like virtual tours, email drip marketing, chatbots, and pop-ups will become more effective marketing tools due to this rise in prospect demand.
More specifically, this search trend also opens up new opportunities in the SEO world. There isn’t a lot of content out there focusing on “Open Apartments” as a keyword, and the sooner that content gets created, the faster websites will start ranking in Google, Bing, and other search engines.
Trend: “Can’t Pay Rent.”
We began tracking this term due to the expected economic ramifications of COVID-19. Fortunately, May’s volume for this term has dropped significantly from April, when it was almost 1000% higher than at any point in the year prior. The bad news is that this term is still over 40% higher in search volume than it was in 2019 during the same time period.
For apartment marketers, this means there is increased scrutiny on rent prices, especially for apartments at higher price points. Curbing wording like “Free Rent” unless you really mean it is very prudent during times like this.
Any rent forgiveness that we can offer during these times will become amplified, generating goodwill and positive reputation. This can significantly boost website performance down the road.
These last few months have been nothing if not eventful, and it’s reflected in the way people are searching for apartments. We feel that 2020 has made it very clear that it’s imperative to stay on top of the trends so you know when and where to strike with your marketing.
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