Professional SEO vs. DIY SEO: Which one drives the most leases & revenue?

May 4, 2023

Woman working on a computer with text that reads: New SEO data

We all know that SEO is important for driving traffic to your website. But we also know that brands approach search engine optimization differently. Some choose to manage it in-house while others outsource to specialists.

SEO is a moving target with requirements that change as algorithms shift, but at the same time, a lot of elements can seem common sense.

This leaves marketers wondering: Is professional optimization really better than doing it yourself?

As an agency that offers SEO services, of course we’re somewhat invested in this answer. To find out, we studied organic traffic to 300+ properties over the course of three months. Some used professional SEO, and some did not.

Keep reading to explore the results of this study and see why professional SEO is the most efficient way to drive the most leases for the least cost.

Professional SEO vs. DIY SEO study details

Details about the size and scope of the professional SEO vs. DIY SEO case study

For this study we wanted to know: Does professional SEO drive significantly better results for apartment communities than DIY SEO? Or is all optimization basically the same?

To find out, we examined organic traffic data for 330 properties across the U.S. for a period of three months.

Of those properties, 216 used REACH SEO services while 114 did not. We used Marketing IQ to aggregate and normalize the data.

Professional SEO vs. DIY SEO data

During the three months of the study, properties using professional SEO got an average of 12.2 leases from organic search. These 12.2 leases combined to an average rental income of $222,902 per property.

By comparison, properties using DIY SEO got an average of 7.3 leases from organic search, for a combined rental income of $168,532.

These numbers show that professional SEO outperformed DIY SEO, delivering a 67% higher organic lease volume and 32.26% higher rental income.

Why is the rental income increase not on par with the lead increase? Because the study normalized the data, we can’t see the details for the leases that were contracted. Unit size, lease term and rental rates were all averaged. But what we can tell is there was notably greater rental net income among properties using professional SEO.

Ultimately, this suggests that investing in professional SEO services can lead to measurable financial gains.

Table comparing lease volume and rental income generated by professional SEO vs. DIY SEO

Professional SEO vs. ILS data

The study also found that SEO leads have a much higher conversion rate and return on investment than ILS leads.

Organic search leads had an 8.55% conversion rate, compared to a 1.45% conversion ratio for ILS leads. And the cost per lease for organic search leads was only $62.50 vs. the $1,455.90 cost per lease for ILS leads. That’s 95.7% lower!

This is similar to the findings of another recent SEO vs. ILS case study.

Table comparing conversion rate, cost per lease and ROAS of SEO vs. ILS

The takeaway

Professional SEO has a proven impact on apartment marketing results, delivering more leases and rental income than DIY SEO.

Graphic showing that professional SEO drove 12.2 leases per property and had a 67% higher lease volume than DIY SEO

Since SEO helps drive a high lead volume with a high conversion rate at a low cost, investing in professional SEO is a smart strategy for two reasons:

  • Getting more organic leases means fewer vacancies that you need to fill with high-cost marketing sources (like ILSs). When you fill more of your availability at a lower rate, you can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
  • Because organic leases convert at a much higher rate, they maximize leasing agents’ time. They also reduce the risk of agent burnout that’s associated with following-up with low-converting leads.

This study highlights the importance of professional SEO for a robust return on investment in the multifamily market. With SEO as the foundation of your marketing strategy, you will see low-cost, high-converting leads that you can build on using PPC and/or ILS advertising, as needed depending on the market or other circumstances.

“SEO is proven to be a low-cost lease source. This study shows that professional SEO drives a 67% higher lease volume than DIY SEO. With professional SEO, you can fill more of your available units for less spend.”

Esther Bonardi
Vice President, REACH

Exciting discoveries, right? Share this blog post with a friend and download a pdf version of the study.

Read more SEO articles.

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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