Developing An Effective Apartment Community Web Site
Beyond the goal of realizing 100% occupancy is a responsibility of ensuring tenant satisfaction. Your apartment community?s web site may be able to inform or attract new tenants, while serving as a tenant retention vehicle.
An effective apartment community web site prequalifies new tenants and offers existing tenants communication, information, and payment options on-line. As the Internet increasingly integrates on-line functionality into the daily lives of participants nationwide, web-based interaction between the marketplace and businesses, property managers, and even between neighbors will increase proportionately.
Each component of your web site ? style, content, and searchability ? must strategically address your target market and make the biggest impact possible, on the greatest number of potential clients.
Style and Navigation
The web site?s style should be kept simple, avoiding use of Flash to ensure compatibility and easy to browse. Style may be enhanced by the use of custom graphics or stock photography, illustrating the unique features or ambiance of a particular apartment community.
The navigation menu should be clearly defined and make use of simple terms to accurately identify menu options. Sub-navigation menus and hyperlinks should be clearly identified by color or hyperlink underlines. Hyperlink special effects, such as mouse rollovers, are acceptable.
Regardless of the value of your content, if your web site?s style and navigation make browsing difficult, the site?s productivity and recurring user base will suffer.
Site content should be divided into two areas: new tenant information and services for existing tenants.
In general, text content must be relevant, as well as optimized for search engine review. Providing thorough, effective information for both new and current residents will ensure your web site experiences a steady flow of new and returning visitors regularly.
Content geared toward new tenants should include:
* On-line and PDF-download residence application form(s)
* Apartment tours, including photos, floor plans, room dimensions, pricing, and optional 360-degree room tours
* Community amenity descriptions, such as on-site laundry facilities or swimming pools
* Office hours, name-specific contacts and complete office contact information, as well as an on-line information request form.
* Community contacts for municipal services such as electric and telephone companies
At minimum, content for existing tenants should include:
* On-line debit/credit card rent payment options
* Monthly newsletter
* Community discussion forum
* Live chat features
* Community event photo album
* Monthly or seasonal activity or announcement calendar
Premier sites may also offer user registration, allowing tenants to keep contact information up-to-date, as well as live support chat features during office hours.
Search Engine Optimization
As you develop your own web site content, it is important to ensure text blocks are ?optimized? for cataloging by major search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. Many of today?s major search engines determine a web site?s placement by key terms found in a web site?s text.
Because content for each page of your web site is unique, search engines treat each page as an individual web site. To maximize results, optimize each page using specific key terms, phrases, and descriptions that relate to the individual page?s content. This will ensure each page of your web site is indexed independently, resulting in greater visibility to a much wider number of prospective visitors.
It is also important to ensure your site?s META key word and description tags are properly configured. For example, repeating key terms in META tags may be considered spam by some search engines. Be sure to review the site submission rules for each search engine.
For faster results, you may consider hiring a competent search optimization specialist who will be able to provide knowledge, guidance, and services to ensure your site is correctly submitted to each search engine.
An effective web site can promote tenant retention, serve as an informational reception area for prospective tenants, and increase occupancy. Positioning your web site as a knowledge source for tenants will increase the value of your community, long-term.
About the Author: Jim Ray is a seasoned web developer and president of Web Presence, a national web design firm serving the small business market sector. To learn more, or for a free quote for your own web site, visit the Web Presence web site at: http://www.web-presence.net.