This year Property Management Groups have started taking a real look into how their apartments’ bad online reputations are affecting their bottom line and impacting occupancy, rightfully so. Below is a solution to start fixing your apartment ratings.
A recent Nielson Consumer Study shows *nearly 70% of your potential customers are consulting online reviews and ratings before making a purchase decision and 92% of those surveyed said they have changed their minds due to bad reviews.
By now all of us have relied on reviews we see online at one time or another for some product, service, event, etc. Let me rephrase that… all of have been forced to look at reviews at one time or another for some product, service, event, etc.. How can we not? Every website has reviews pushed right in our faces. It has become commonplace.
These days, everyone has a smart phone too and they surf the web Googling “apartments + city name.” Within seconds we see reviews next to every apartments name in any city across the globe on our smart phones. It’s all pretty cool I guess. So is this online review thing just a fad or will it go away? Right now, all indicators are suggesting these review site systems are here to stay and growing more popular.
So as a landlord or property management group why should you care about these reviews?
Do the math: Losing just 1 tenant lease agreement/month due to your bad reviews at a missed rental rate of $600/month equals a Gross Revenue Loss of $46,800 in the first year… all from losing just one tenant per month due to bad reviews at one property. It’s not uncommon for some property management groups with large portfolios to realize total revenue losses in the $ millions when Googling all their properties to see which ones have a majority of bad online reviews. In this post we will show you how you can make an educated inference for how many potential customers are passing your property by and becoming missed opportunities. I’ll also show you how you can fix your online reputation for your properties moving forward and actually start controlling it.
Getting started: First thing I like to do is get a clear image of the big picture. this isn’t where we fix anything yet… we are just getting an idea of the possible loss in revenue.
1) How many of all your properties have a majority vote by the people as a “bad place to stay?” If that seems like too much work for your in-house team to start Googling all of your properties then start with one of your really bad ones.
2) Get a probability of how many people are searching online for apartments in that city where your bad reputation property is located. Ideally, you can go into your Google + page account and quickly check out your impressions in analytics, or web stats. Google has a “keyword planner” tool in adwords that can give search volume too. There are better analytics tools out there but the keyword planner tool is free and will give you a quick estimate as to the search volume per city. Type in your keyword variations + city name and Bam! Add up the search volumes for each keyword variation and you will discover roughly how many people are searching your apartment name and apartments in that city per month according to Google.
3) Once you know that level of information you can start making some conservative estimates as to how many passerby’s there might be. Keep in mind, there is not going to be a 100% accurate number for how many tenants are being scared away but we want to get an idea right? So we need to use some standard web surfing/conversion statistics, along with some recent research consumer statistics and put together a formula. There was a 2012 Nielson survey and The Local Consumer Review Survey that we can use for our formula and it gives great insight to consumer behavior when they see good and bad reviews. According to Nielsen, 70% of the respondents rated reviews as the second most trusted form of advertising besides word-of-mouth. The other 30% said they don’t care. 58% of respondents for the Local Consumer Review Survey said they trusted business by positive reviews online. And so the inverse of that is: 42% of consumer respondents did not trust/passed on a business with a majority vote of bad reviews. Make sense? Our stats won’t be 100% accurate, that’s impossible, but it will give us a good, safe estimate of how many potential tenants we’re losing opportunities on. Based on this information we can come up with a very simple formula and calculate our “passers-by” if we want to.
4) Use Formula: A typical web conversion to get a click or call from qualified traffic is 1 to 3%. Let’s keep this simple and just say a 1% success rate for easy math. So our formula for calculating “passers-by” in lost revenue looks like this:
“For every 1000 impressions, according to Nielsen’s survey statistic 70% of those people will highly trust our online reviews, 42% of those people will not trust businesses with a majority vote of bad reviews and be a missed opportunity. 1% of our prospect pool will still convert to a phone call or come into the office.”
For example we can say out of 1000 potential customers surfing the web this month for “Property X” in “City Y” 700 surfers (70%) will pay attention/check our reviews and 42% of those 700 surfers will pass us by if they see we got a majority vote of bad review (294 surfers lost). According to the Neilsen survey 30% of those 1000 surfers don’t check consumer reviews… so we have a given 300 prospects already. But because we have a bad reputation property our bad reviews shrank our prospect pool by 30% so we now got a total of 406 + 300 = 706 possible prospects for our “Property X in City Y.” 1% of those 706 possible prospects should convert to a phone call or come into the office… that leaves us with seven prospects. But the flip side to this is if our property showed as a good reputation property online what would this do for buyer confidence? Would seem mostly positive reviews sway our potential customers into buying more easily? YES… According to The Local Consumer Review Survey 58% said they trust the business that has positive reviews. So in turn, you should see closing percentages go up or properties that show a clear “good reputation.”
I think this seems a logical and safe way to calculate “passers-by” because we’re using conservative web conversion statistics and analytics we have available to us and not simply pulling numbers out of thin air. I’m interested to read others’ insights too.
All right, so how do we actually begin fixing the property’s bad online reputation?
Step 1: Identify all keyword triggers showing bad reputation. (Ex. Apartment + city name, Apartment name reviews, Apart name ratings, etc.”
Step 2: Optimize your own online Assets for those keyword triggers. Create your own Review site for the apartment, Social Media Profiles, Press Releases, Articles on the first two pages of search results. Push down those bad review sites on your own keywords. Take back your good name!
Step 3: Initiate feed back from your tenants using postcards, emails. Direct the flow of feedback where you want it to go. No more defense, time to play offense! New feedback gets directed to your own review site and good feedback is targeted virally to fix bad ratings on the worst rating sites.
Step 4: Monitor your feedback, have management handle bad feedback submitted on your own review site.
Step 5: Refine as needed. Continue to optimize.
The solution is both online and off-line. The main idea is we want to start controlling the first two pages of search results when someone is Googleing your property name. There are tons of review sites like ApartmentRatings.com, for example, that might show a majority vote of bad reviews on your property. We need to push those type of sites down on the search engine listings using organic search engine optimization. To do that we can create social media profiles with the apartment name, a blog, our own review site, put press releases, articles, etc… to take up the first two pages of search results. But that is only part of it… New reviews are going to keep showing up right? We need to control that. So how do we control reviews? We initiate the feedback request. We need to start influencing when and how the reviews are made by tenants… we want to control the flow and direction of where the reviews are going. To do that, we begin initiating reviews from the tenants. We can send them postcards, e-mails, call them up. There are several ways but postcards and e-mails seem to do the trick and will get a response if worded correctly. Below is an example for a postcard an e-mail you can use in-house.
When you send out postcards and e-mails for a response do an easy QR code scanner option and direct them with a review link where you want them to go… like your own review site. The basic idea is we want the tenant to post their bad review on our own site we can control so our management knows about it and can deal with it first before the tenant decides to post it publically on a review site like ApartmentRatings or Google +. but if the tenant chooses to leave a good review we want the exact opposite. We don’t want positive reviews contained on our own review website, we want those to go viral on the top rating sites and show up naturally on Google+, ApartmentRatings.com, CitySearch, etc… We want to target the good reviews to go to our sites where we have a bad reputation so the bad reviews can start being pushed down. Make sense?
So bad reviews get directed to management on your own review site, good reviews go public to repair the bad reputation on other rating sites Google+, ApartmentRatings.com, CitySearch, etc…
You should have an organic system in place to generate positive reviews and control the flow of bad reviews as well as optimize what is seen on the first two pages of search results for your bad reputation property. Something I do highly recommend is you make your own property review site show on the first page of Google and includes the “star ratings” in the search results… this is done in the code. Ask a web developer to do this for sure. This way it looks very official and authentic.
So how long does it take to see the results? Search engine optimization could take several months, depending on your competition maybe a little more if you’re in a big metropolis. Don’t expect a huge response from your postcards and e-mails, maybe you can get up to 5% to respond out of 1000 postcards, so it’s good to do emails too. It’s cheap and easy to do every few months plus you are training your tenants when and where to complain/leave feedback… you are not stuck playing only defense and finding the bad press later. You can expect better results managing their feedback for sure and the tenants will appreciate that you’re taking an interest in their opinion. As time goes by they’ll be more receptive and you’ll generate positive reviews.
There you have it, a reputation management solution for apartments and property management groups. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found it educational and helpful.
So What do you think? Will you start employing a reputation management system of your own?
by Scott Andreasen.