The State of Search: Why Mid-Sized and Midwest Markets Should Elevate Their Marketing Efforts, Now.

by May 13, 2020Blog, Search, SEO

Kristi Fickert, Senior Vice President of Engagement and Growth

Patrick Laycock, Senior Manager of Digital Strategy

Our team of strategists spend the majority of their time digging into data. It’s their job and it’s what they live and breathe, every day (even outside of the COVID-19 era). Numbers tell a story that can more effectively guide all of our marketing decisions and now more than ever, it’s imperative we keep a pulse on what’s happening in the apartment industry today. Each week we’re reviewing the ‘State of Search’. How are prospects and apartment renters shifting their priorities? What search terms are they using, and what’s happening with search volume? Are large metropolitan areas seeing a variation in online leasing velocity compared to other markets?  During this critical time, we’ll scrutinize the data, help you make sense of the trends, and more importantly, determine the exact actions you should be taking to maximize your marketing efforts (while being mindful of potential budget constraints).

This week’s state of search (reviewing data from May 3rd-9th, 2020)

The most popular search term that renters tend to type into their Google search bar when first initiating their apartment search is ‘apartments for rent’ – usually with the name of their desired city or neighborhood tacked onto the end of that phrase. Given that most customers are starting their search in this way, ‘apartments for rent’ is the search term we’ve been watching the most closely over the last 60 days.

The number of people searching for ‘apartments for rent’ is only 2% less than what it was during this same week in 2019. And, the volume 51% better than what it was during the lowest dip, which occurred during the week of March 20th – when essentially no one could be found searching for an apartment online.  In addition, another often-used search phrase is ‘apartments near me’, which has seen a 34% increase in use since the lowest point (which also occurred in March of 2020) and, like it’s buddy phrase ‘apartments for rent’, is being used at a rate that is nearly identical to this same week one year ago (in May of 2019).


Here are a few additional takeaways for this week: 

Trend One

While the term ‘can’t pay rent’ is still up by 109% year-over-year, it is down 31% from last week and down 122% since the renter’s search for this spiked between March 27th and April 4th. Given that this term has continued a downward trend, even through the first twelve days of the May rent cycle, is telling (and positive!) news for the apartment industry.

Trend Two

This week we’re adding a new search phrase to our watch list: ‘pay rent late’. As the U.S. economy begins to re-open and renters get back to work, we anticipate that their needs may shift from not being able to pay rent at all, to potentially needing options to pay rent late. And, our predictions held true. Online searches for ‘Pay rent late’ had a 31% spike last week, which isn’t surprising, given that we were in the first ten days of a new rent cycle. This is 53% higher than 2019, but down 63% from the week of March 27th – April 4th, when searches related to the inability to make payments to creditors peaked.

Trend Three

Each week we continue to report on searches for ‘open apartments’, but that’s because it’s one of the largest shifts in online renter behavior over the last 12 months. Those searching for ‘open apartments’ is up 66% year over year and continues to climb. This is most likely a combination of prospective renters looking for rental offices that are physically open and apartment communities that are simply ‘open for business’ and still allowing rentals and move-ins, even if virtually or with social distancing guidelines in place. 

It looks like mid-markets are fairing slightly better with search volume this week, with the exception of Los Angeles. If you’re marketing apartments in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas, or similar midwestern markets, now is the time to elevate your marketing efforts, as there are people online searching – and in some cases, at even higher rates than this time last year. 

Do you have a market you’d like us to take a look at? Drop us a line. We’d be happy to dig into the trends and help you make smarter marketing decisions.

Geographical Search Terms At-a-Glance
Large Market Search Terms:

“Apartments in NYC” is now down just 7% year over year and is down 8% week over week 

“Apartments in L.A.” is up 1% year over year and up 12% week over week

“Apartments in Dallas” is down 8% year over year and down 19% week over week

“Apartments in Chicago” is down 30% year over year and is down 7% week over week

Mid Market Search Terms:

“Apartments in Columbus (Ohio)” is up 32% year over year and up 13% week over week

“Apartments in Kansas City” is up 44% year over year and is up 50% week over week

“Apartments in Charlotte” is the same year over year and up 18% week over week

Looking for resources on how to handle your marketing during times like these?

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