Online Advertising: A Beginner’s Guide to Internet Listing Services

June 14, 2019


Rent Manager

Apartment Building


This post is Part Three of our Four-Part Marketing Series. This sequence of articles will dive into four key aspects of marketing your residential property management company. Whether you’re just getting started or you’re looking to take your marketing to the next level, this series will provide you with actionable insights and takeaways.

Did you know that more than half of the world’s population is now online? The 2018 Global Digital reports revealed that the number of people using the internet surpassed the 4 billion mark. Not only are more people using the internet than ever, we’re also spending more time online than ever before. We kicked off this marketing series discussing the importance of digital curb appeal through your company website, where we covered what type of content your website should include to communicate your property’s brand in the best way possible to attract potential residents. However, a website isn’t the only digital presence you can utilize to grow your portfolio.
For any business in any industry, it’s important to “be where your customers are”—and when it comes to leasing units at a rental property, chances are this means being on an Internet Listing Service (ILS). According to a 2017 NMHC and Kingsley Renter Report, 70% of renters leverage an ILS during their search­­—making internet listing services a vital marketing tool for property managers.

What is an ILS?

ILS stands for Internet Listing Service, an online real estate search database,
showing properties and units that are available for rent and for sale.

In today’s landscape, internet listing services are no longer just for the multifamily community. Most ILS services also feature single-family homes, student housing, and commercial properties. For the manufactured housing industry, there are sites like MHVillage, which has the largest selection of manufactured homes, communities, and retailers.
As you can see, there is no shortage of ILS sites you can turn to for attracting more leads. Deciding which site(s) you want to advertise on depends on your industry, market, and property size—among other factors.

Reach More Prospects

The main reason to use an ILS database is to get your property in front of more prospects. Internet listing services like Trulia and should be used to supplement—not replace—your website presence. Remember, because the internet has made it easier than ever to find information—the search for a new home begins online. Listing services play a key role in the “top-of-funnel” phase, as potential renters begin their research on what is available in their desired market.
ILS sites allow renters to filter their search in a number of ways, from specific neighborhoods, price range, property type, and features. Once they find your property, you should still have a link to drive them to your website or online application portal. Internet listing services are a great way to get in front of potential residents in your area. By using these sites to drive traffic to your website, prospects can get to know more about the property and your management company, as well as read potential testimonials from previous residents.
The cost of advertising your units on internet listing services may vary, but most will offer pay-per-lead pricing, as well as monthly subscription packages.

Optimizing your ILS presence

Making sure you’re optimizing the way your property is presented on an ILS site follows the same guidelines as creating a good first impression with your website design.

  • High-resolution photography
  • Competitive pricing
  • Floorplans
  • An overview/description
  • Amenities and features

The biggest key to an internet listing is strong visuals. A picture really is worth a thousand words—we cannot stress this enough. Just as photography landed at #1 on our list of must-haves for your property website, high-quality images and videos are a must when it comes to capturing the attention of potential renters on an internet listing site. After all, renters spend 60% of their online search looking at photos. When trying to attract a prospect via an ILS site, an even greater emphasis should be placed on the lead photo.
The lead photo is the first image a viewer will see when they click on your listing. To capture their attention and pull them in for more information, your lead image needs to showcase your property. Good lead images are a wide-angle exterior shot or an image of the main living space. A bad lead image is dimly lit, a hallway, the bathroom, or other photos that don’t capture the essence of the property.

Tips and Tools for Better Real Estate Photography

Pricing is another top component of a strong ILS listing. Remember, prospects will be able to quickly compare your unit to the competition in your area on ILS sites, so making sure your units are competitively priced is important. Searchers will most likely be using the filter capabilities of these platforms to select their preferred price range, so be sure to always have the most up-to-date information on your listings to attract qualified prospects.
The other aspects of your display include floorplans, an overview, and amenities and features lists. The floorplan and overview help give viewers a more holistic picture of your space and will allow them to imagine it as their own. Use the overview to communicate an engaging description of the neighborhood and any nearby attractions. Why should someone want to live here? Why your property? And lastly, the amenities and features lists help you show up when users are filtering for something specific. This is another area that helps the right prospects find your property.
The search for a new home begins online and today’s renters turn to internet listing services for their early stage research. These can be a great way to get more eyes on your property and help you grow awareness for your rentals. Combine your ILS presence with a well-designed, user-friendly website and you’ll be on your way to finding your next resident.

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