Almost every apartment search starts online
It probably looks something like this: you go online, google “apartment for rent in XXX city” and click on top results. Well, the words you just typed in Google are the most popular apartment related keywords in Google keyword planner. They have more than 823,000 searches every month with very fierce competition. If you start your apartment search by words like “studio for rent in New York City”, “two bedrooms apartments in Chicago” or “furnished apartments in San Francisco”, congratulations, you are using the words marketers want you to write.
Everybody is talking about SEO (search engine optimization) these days. I’m sure you have experienced this; if someone has a website, he probably gave you an advice on how to improve your search engine rankings. Everyone has their own strategies and believe they are experts in that now. I personally don’t like the word SEO; it almost ruined the quality of useful information in search engines. Almost every single real-estate marketplace (or any other business) optimizes its site to boost the rankings in Google search results. The basic idea of SEO is to use different strategies, techniques or tactics to basically tell Google, “put me in a higher position in search results.” The first position in Google search results, on average, has more than 36% click through rate.
So the competition among different real-estate sites is not in the quality of listings or how up-to-date they are, it is only in search engine optimization. The biggest real estate site, Zillow, allows everyone to post whatever they want just by registering a simple account. Quality? It’s not a priority. They only want to keep increasing the number of listings to be higher on Google rankings.
Actually that’s also the reason why Craigslist is very popular among people, although it is known for scammers and has a bad user interface. People post everything on Craigslist: from jobs, cars, activities to apartment rentals and vacation homes. That is the reason why Craigslist has high ranking in search engines: a lot of new content every day. But as a renter, do you think you can find a high-quality apartment on Craigslist?
Airbnb: a great example for user experience
Is there any way to start apartment search without doing Google search, but to get better quality results? Airbnb shows us a great example in short-term apartment rentals. Founded in August 2008, it has over 1,000,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Only 10.9% of their traffic comes from search engine and the user experience is great. Verified apartments with high definition pictures, reviews of hosts and transparent price make this site worth more $20 billion this year.
Search engines don’t necessarily give you the most useful or beneficial results, they give you results of companies which did a great search engine optimization.