I was on the eCommittee at a large property management company and we were given the task of rebuilding the company website. It’s no easy task. What seemed to be ultimately the most difficult and challenging phase of this project was the home page. After all, this was the first impression an investor, or owner or resident or prospect would have of the company. After several designs and modifications, we eventually agreed on a home page that we all felt best represented the company’s personality, but also served as an easy way for a prospect to find an apartment.
For purposes of this discussion I reviewed the landing pages of the NMHC Top 50 Apartment Managers for 2008. As you look at the top 5 companies you can clearly tell they are large companies by their home pages. You will find scrolling news updates regarding the industry and company news, stock quotes, mission statements and even pitches for property management deals. For the most part these are big companies with a big company feel as a first impression. However, AIMCO has a clean professional feel and a simple tool to find an apartment. They nailed it. A prospect can go to their website and find an apartment quickly and easily. From a professional perspective, the primary focus of AIMCO’s home page is renting apartments.
The Lynd Company has a very high tech look and feel, but it is very simple to use. I’m going to call and tell them that… if only I had their phone number… oh wait… it’s on their home page. Bold move, but very smart. Sometimes you just want to reach out and touch someone and it can be very frustrating to find a phone number on a website. Make it easy for your customers to reach you in their preferred manner. Not yours!
Visually, I love the Gables Residential website. Simple flash technology and beautiful photography combined with ease of use make this an excellent website that I want to take a bite out of. I would love to see their bounce rates.
The last example I want to highlight is how The Irvine Apartment Communities chose to create their home page at the simplest level of the url. They chose to use the web address rental-living.com. This is a great move on their part. How many people actually know the names of apartment management companies outside of our industry? I don’t have a figure, but I would guess it’s a lot less than we hope. By using a name that has nothing to do with their corporate identity, The Irvine Apartment Communities are putting the focus on finding an apartment and not on their company. Brilliant move.
In summary, make sure your home page is targeted to the audience to which you are promoting it. If you are promoting your website to investors, have investor info. If you are promoting it to prospective renters, have an easy apartment search tool. If you are promoting it to residents, have resident resources and online rent payment in an easy to find location. If you are promoting it to all three, then you might want to develop a different url for each. Link them all together and you’ll automatically increase your SEO.