Which apartment marketing source drives the most leads & leases: SEO, PPC or ILS?

Jan 18, 2023

Hand holding magnifying glass looking at apartments

Wondering how your properties can get the most leads and leases?

The REACH by RentCafe digital marketing agency was wondering the same thing, so our data analysts did a little research.

We studied leads and leases from 212 properties across the U.S. over a period of three months. The goal was to see how three of the most prevalent apartment marketing sources stack up: SEO, PPC and ILSs.

Did we have a hunch about which marketing source would perform best? You bet!

But marketing strategies have been dominated by suspicions and hunches for way too long. Now we have real data, so we decided to put it to work.

Here’s what we found:

3 boxes showing data from an SEO case study about apartments

Top source for leases: SEO

On average, SEO drove 82 leases per client, representing significant revenue for the period.

ILSs generated an average of 17 leases per client during the same date range.

Lowest cost per lease: SEO

In terms of cost per lease, the nationwide average for SEO was $95.28.

PPC delivered the second-best cost per lease at $588. And the average ILS cost per lease was $607.

Most significant presence: SEO

Looking at the lead-to-lease journey, SEO was also the most effective. Slightly more than 32% of leases touched organic search at some point in the journey.

Comparatively, just under 10% of journeys that results in a lease including ILS listings.

Hunch confirmed!

Ultimately, SEO brought in 382% more leases than ILSs. SEO had an average cost per lease that was 84% lower than ILSs.

Does this mean you should stop listing on ILSs? No! Although not the most cost-effective apartment marketing source, ILSs remain an important part of the rental journey.

But you should pay closer attention to your ILS data to make sure you’re only spending time and money on sites that get results for your properties.

“ILSs have a positive impact on awareness but often have a higher cost per lease than other sources,” says Sarah Wieman, vice president of marketing at Northland. “If you carefully consider the numbers, you can be strategic about the ILSs you choose to use without wasting precious marketing budget.”

Learn how to increase your leads and conversion rates using four critical ILS best practices.

Note: PPC was not used by all properties in this study. Accordingly, PPC could not be assessed in terms of total lease volume or percent of lease journeys.

View the infographic for snackable, shareable data points

View the case study for more detailed information and regional breakdowns

Making a case for SEO in your marketing budget

This data proves that it’s time to make a case for professional SEO in your budget — if you haven’t already. While it can be possible to do SEO in house, the ongoing SEO required to drive results like these needs monthly, weekly and even daily attention. Do you have that kind of time?

Outsourcing your SEO to professionals can help you win at search without wasting time or money. Leverage the expertise of dedicated professionals whose sole focus is optimization.   

REACH SEO gets results:

“REACH SEO delivered 191 leases across 13 properties in one quarter. That’s an average of 15 per property with a $55.13 cost per lease.”

Madison Scharf
Roundhouse

“In just three months, REACH SEO resulted in 836 leases across 60 properties with a cost per lease of just $52. That’s $400 less than our second-best source — an ILS — at $452.”

Susie Dwinell
Priderock Capital Management

Request a free consultation to see what’s possible with a little expert help.

Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives is the manager of marketing content at Yardi. She leads content initiatives for REACH by RentCafe. Writing may be her first love, but data is a close second. Geneva is based in Santa Barbara, California.

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