All posts by Jon Yonce

Impact of Coronavirus on Multifamily Property Website Traffic (March 2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how most commonplace activities are carried out. There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there. Property managers nationwide grapple with managing teams remotely, entertaining locked-down residents and now, just trying to collect rent. At Rentbot, we’ve been working hard with clients during this time in any way we can to adjust their Google Ad campaigns as well as monitor their website traffic.

Our approach

In mid March, Yardi reported that RENTCafe.com saw a 25% drop in the number of sessions in a week. With the situation changing so rapidly, I thought it might be interesting and helpful to dig into some of our Rentbot data. But instead of just looking at a week’s worth of data, I wanted to check out all of March to see what trends emerged.

So reflected in the infographic and statistics mentioned here is data for thirty (30) property websites. In order to get the clearest sense possible of what’s truly going on, we only included websites that have been around for at least a year. We wanted to compare year-over-year data and see how website sessions in March 2019 (oh remember that blissful time?) compared with March 2020.

Website traffic is down 12%

Overall, the picture we see is a different kind of March Madness than we’d been hoping for at the start of the year. Across the thirty properties, website traffic was down this year by 12% over last year’s March. This is especially grim, since this is just the start of multifamily’s busy season. 

Here’s a closer look at how the thirty properties fared:

From this, we do see that 30% of the properties in our study had either stable traffic or an increase. But for those of you good at math, you know that means…

70% of websites had worse traffic this March

Looking at the beginning of March, we actually see a pretty even start. In Week 1 we saw:

  • 11 properties with some level of traffic increase (more than 6% increase in sessions)
  • 7 properties with stable traffic (+/- 5% compared to 2019)
  • 12 properties with some amount of decrease (more than 6% decrease in sessions)

But by Week 3, the picture looked starkly different:

  • 3 properties with some level of traffic increase (more than 6% increase in sessions)
  • 2 properties with stable traffic (+/- 5% compared to 2019)
  • 25 properties with some amount of decrease (more than 6% decrease in sessions)

At the end of the month, we see a glimmer of hope with Weeks 4 and 5 (which is a partial week). There were fewer properties with substantially fewer sessions (greater than -25%) and even some who stabilized or made small gains.  Hopefully we see a continuation of this trend into April. 

You’re probably wondering how best to break down the data for your own property’s website. To provide that help, we’ll first need to look a little closer into the different types of traffic. Just like leads, all website traffic is not created equal.

Organic traffic performs worse & Google Ads provide traffic boost

Organic traffic is comprised of visitors getting to your website after typing something into a search engine and clicking on a link to your property website. This costs you nothing, and is what SEO (search engine optimization) aims to improve. We saw a decline of 22.5% when just looking at organic traffic!

Now paid traffic, on the other hand, did remarkably better. When we say “paid traffic,” we are referring to Google Ad campaigns. These also show up on Google’s search results pages – typically one to four at the very top – and they do cost money. For the ten properties we were able to evaluate, we saw an improvement of nearly 65% this month against last year’s sessions! This is fantastic and a great reminder that there are tools at your disposal to still generate interest and promote awareness of your property.

Please note: 

  • Twenty of this study’s properties were either not running Google Ads or were, but not for long enough to provide year over year data. 
  • We have not yet looked into the other major channels of website traffic, including Social (visitors coming from Facebook, Instagram, etc.), Direct (visitors coming from typing your website URL into the browser or via a bookmark), and Referral (visitors coming from another website that links to yours).

What can you do?

By nature, I have an optimistic attitude and outlook. So I knew that instead of simply presenting “bad news,” I wanted to provide some hope and some help! 

  1. Don’t freak out. This is not lead data or lease data. It’s website sessions. But website traffic is an indicator that can help you understand (and course improve) your property’s digital presence. This is especially important when your “drive by” leads are at the corner of Google and Bing.
  2. Don’t abandon ship. Budgets planned at the end of 2019 were likely already tight. Now they are in chaos. But please don’t forget that from this tumultuous time, if you can find ways to continue marketing – especially digitally – you will see your way through with minimized vacancies.
  3. Ask for help. Seriously. Ask your tenants to work with you to continue paying rent – even if not the full amount right now. Ask your fellow property managers for their ideas and methods for navigating this unprecedented situation. And please, ask us for help. Rentbot prides itself on working with small to medium size properties and portfolios to provide affordable digital marketing (Google Ads and SEO) as well as websites with built-in online payment! 

If you have any questions about your property’s digital presence, how to get a quick, affordable online payment portal, or any of this data, please contact me directly.


Post and Infographic Attribution

We truly hope you find this information helpful and actionable as the entire industry reassesses what to do moving forward.

You are encouraged to share, reuse, reference or repost the image in this article. When doing so, please link back to either www.GoRentbot.com or this blog post directly. That way, those seeing it can learn more about this study, the research that went into it and our methodology. Thanks!


Additional Demographic Data

Here’s a breakdown to give you a better sense of the properties included in Rentbot’s study.

  • Location: 25 Virginia & 5 non-VA
  • Property Type: 26 Conventional & 4 Tax Credit
  • Class: 11 Class A & 19 Class B/C

A Virtual Tour Done Right – Despite Coronavirus

It’s been a wild few weeks as all properties are dealing with the evolving COVID-19 situation, and the related regulations that continue to disrupt our everyday lives and businesses. But one thing remains the same: throughout it all, you need to keep an eye to the future. And that means marketing to fill vacancies.

But with most leasing offices reducing in-person contact or closing altogether, we wanted to provide an outstanding example of one that is working hard to adapt to our present circumstances, while helping potential renters overcome their own feelings of uncertainty during this difficult time: 

The Seasons Apartments in Laurel, MD Logo
(Please make sure you turn on the sound – the background soundtrack is what truly puts this video over the top!)

The Seasons Apartments shared this creative virtual tour that not only showcased a floor plan for one of their units, but introduced potential renters to the property’s team in a fun way as well! 

This video was shared to a private industry Facebook group by Casey Perryman, District Manager with GoldOller and is shared here with her permission. 

Virtual Tour: Behind the Scenes

So how exactly is their team using this video? Casey said, “We are sending [the video] as a means of follow up from previous leads and new leads coming in. [The] purpose is to highlight the home but also the team before they move in. Hoping that we make a connection.”

When deciding to create this video, she thought: “What better way to not only show the home but who will be here for them when they call us home. Everyone has been on edge about losing the connection with prospects during this trying time- so I racked my brain to figure out how to make the connection while keeping everyone safe and while having fun!”

Make a Virtual Tour for Your Own Property

Casey described her process of creating the video too: “I wrote the dialogue ahead of time [and] we had a dry run first. But the team was so engaged and it broke up all the worry we have just for a small period of time.”  

Let this example inspire your property to create your own solutions and certainty during a time where both feel in short supply.

The video clearly spoke to the multifamily community. After posting it just before 11am on March 25, 2020 it racked up over 200 positive engagements and over 180 comments within a little more than a day. And I’m sure when prospects see this, that The Seasons will certainly stay top of mind during their apartment search!

Status of Rentbot Operations Regarding COVID-19

As people across the US and around the world continue to experience  disruptions and upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to check in with you to let you know that Rentbot still hard at work! We are maintaining our normal 9am – 5pm schedule to meet your needs – we’re just doing it from the safety of our own homes. We plan on providing you with

Multifamily Marketing Tips During Emergencies

  • Update your hours. If you’ve reduced hours or closed your leasing office for now, make sure that’s reflected on each property’s Facebook page,  Google My Business listing and anywhere else you know leads may see. Accuracy is key in times of uncertainty.
  • Update availability. Similar to your hours, make sure you’re communicating consistently across Facebook, Instagram, Resident Portals, your websites, and Google My Business (through posts and updating your property’s business description – just make sure to change it back when things change!). If you’re closed for tours, let everyone know quickly so there’s less confusion to them and headaches for your staff answering emails and phone calls. Let your digital presence do the work for you!
  • Prioritize video tours. If you need to create one from scratch, now is the time to do it – even if it’s just with your own smartphone. If your leasing team isn’t touring in person, then creating and promoting your vacancies with video tours is a safe way to keep leads looking. Set yourself apart from other properties in ways that help!
  • Maintain (or Boost) Your Marketing. Remember, many apartment hunters are searching for 45 to 90 days out. While no one can predict where the world/country/multifamily industry in that time, normalcy will return eventually. And for those wanting or needing to move this summer and fall, they may have a lot of extra time right now to be searching. You want to make sure that your properties can be found most conveniently and convincingly.
  • Ask for help! Multifamily is a tight community with big hearts. Property managers are used to going above and beyond for their residents. Our business is literally providing homes to millions of people. If you need some extra help, like updating Google My Business listings or business hours on Facebook, let us know! 

How Can Rentbot Help You?

Until the end of March, Rentbot will provide your properties with one-time admin updates to Facebook pages, Instagram pages and Google My Business listings at no charge. We’re all in this together and we know our favorite clients are the ones who run with small staffs and tight budgets.

Reach out to Jon Yonce (jon@rentbot.net) directly to let us know how we can help you out.

Resources for Multifamily During an Emergency

From NAA: Video guide to Working From Home
From Wordstream: What to expect digitally from COVID-19
From AMA: Marketing in a crisis
From Social Media Today: Avoiding “Virtue Signaling” in brand communications
From Chatmeter: Yelp & Google Disabling Reviews