ILS best practices: Increase your conversion rates with these 4 apartment listing features

Jan 10, 2023

Woman with laptop learning about ILS best practices

If you’re like most apartment marketers, internet listing services (commonly called ILSs) are a significant part of your marketing strategy.

These are sites that aggregate listings for available rentals and then display them so consumers can see what they can rent in any given area. For example, RentCafe.com is an ILS.

ILS marketing features vary from site to site, but basic listings are often free and can be updated automatically, making them relatively easy to manage from a marketing standpoint.

It’s important to realize that, to get the highest return on your ILS listings, you can’t just set them and forget them.

Data shows us that certain apartment listing features increase conversion rates, making you more likely to get leases if you implement these features.

(Data also indicates that you can get even better conversion rates elsewhere. We’ll talk more about that later in this article.)

These four ILS marketing best practices will set your listings apart and, more importantly, are proven to be effective at turning lookers into leasers.

Infographic explaining the 4 must-have ILS listing features for apartments

Download or share the ILS marketing infographic here

Tour scheduling

Listings that allow renters to self-schedule tours have a 71% higher average conversion rate.

Renters want to be able to book appointments instantly. They don’t want to have to wait for a call, email or chat response before they make their next move.

If you’re not providing this option, you can be sure they’re booking tours with competing listings that offer self-scheduling convenience.

Virtual tours

Listings that include virtual tours have a 57% higher average conversion rate.

If a renter is interested in an apartment, they want to see more of it right away. Not tomorrow, not next week. Virtual tours make that possible, making your listings more likely to convert casual lookers into engaged prospects.

Reviews

Properties with 10-20 reviews on ILSs have a conversion rate that’s three times higher than listings without reviews. And properties with 30 or more reviews have an eight times higher conversion rate.

Reviews influence customers’ decisions. If they can see reviews from other people who have lived in the community, they’re more likely to trust and interact with your listings.

Online leasing

Listings that allow renters to lease online have a 5.5 times higher conversion rate than those that don’t.

That’s because if you see something you like (like an apartment), you want to immediately take the next step to acquire it. If you can’t, you’ll probably keep looking until you find something else.

ILS marketing takeaways

The lesson here is to make it easy for renters to move from looking at your listing to leasing at your community. Use all online leasing features available to you in the ILSs you choose. If there aren’t any online leasing options, are you sure you’re getting results from that ILS?

Bottom line: Improve apartment listing performance using data-driven ILS best practices. Add tour options, reviews and leasing tools to get the best results.

Extra credit: Review your data

It’s a plain fact of marketing that you need to gather data and review results regularly to see if your strategies are working.

When was the last time you did a deep dive into your ILS marketing performance data?

Look at your ILS marketing spend and results then ask yourself if you’re doing ILS advertising because it works or because “we’ve always done it this way.”

In some cases, you may find opportunities to get the same or better results while reducing spend.

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

For example, Wieman noticed that data at one property showed an annual spend of $54,000 for one ILS and $6,000 for another. These ILSs were delivering a cost per lease of $4,000 and $3,000 respectively, while PPC ads for the same property delivered a much lower $905 cost per lease.

“It wasn’t hard to see where we could cut a chunk of the budget after looking at those numbers,” she says.

After doing a similar review for properties across the portfolio, Wieman has pared back ILS spend in many cases.

“We don’t need every property to be on every ILS. We just want each property to be on the right ILS for them. In some cases, we had properties on four or five ILSs. Now many are on just one or two, and we’re able to rebalance spend in favor of strategies with a lower cost per lease, like PPC and SEO, while still staying in front of customers at the beginning of their leasing journey.”

Sarah Wieman
Vice president of marketing, Northland

To appeal to those renters, “We ask ourselves how we can differentiate our product? What makes us stand out?”

Using a combination of creative content and ILS best practices like those listed above, Wieman and her team make sure they’re doing everything they can to catch renters’ attention for the right reasons.

Get the ILS listing data update

We recently completed a new study of 50,000+ ILS listings over the course of a year. The updated study spanned from November 2022-October 2023. See it here:

New ILS listing data: 5 ways to lease more apartments

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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