content strategy

Why Digital Marketing Is Replacing Internet Listing Services

September 8, 2017 Elizabeth Francisco

Internet Listing Services (ILS) have long ruled the multifamily industry, being the top spot for interested residents to seek out their next apartment. However, popular sites like,,, have seen a decline in users over the past few years, according to a study by J Turner Research. With the rise of the tech-savvy millennial generation, online searches and social media have taken over the rental landscape. The future (well, really the present) of apartment searches is online. Why is this?

The Fall of ILS

Simply put, marketing strategies have evolved for all industries as smartphones, social media, and search engines have affected the purchase journey. For multifamily specifically, properties are turning to digital marketing strategies over Internet Listing Services as search engines take front stage. Search engines are being highly optimized thanks to Google’s algorithms to help filter a renter’s search into articles or webpages that share the same keywords. Internet Listing Services lack the ability to highlight exactly what a renter is looking for. For instance, ILS can’t compete with a social media page highlighting a property’s personality or community events, a blog that features the resident-focused lifestyle, or a user-friendly website that portrays property amenities.

The changing landscape of multifamily comes as a result of changing renter preferences, purchase habits, and our tech-driven world. According to a Joint Study by and Google on the Online Search Behavior and Trends of Apartment Renters that was featured on Rentec Direct, renter behavior is evolving to favor these digital based preferences:

  • 72% of respondents use the Internet first when starting a search for an apartment

  • 50% of respondents search for an apartment online with either computer/tablets and 50% with smartphones

  • 71% see the Internet as the most up-to-date source for apartment vacancies

Therefore, multifamily properties that are not marketing online in some way are at a serious disadvantage. Taking it a step further from simply doing the bare minimum online, properties with strong digital marketing enjoy a competitive advantage in their dense marketplace.  

ROI of Content Marketing

The return from content marketing vs traditional marketing is pretty steep. For one, organic content and paid media are both significantly cheaper in cost than traditional billboards or magazine ads, and also reach a wider and more specific audience. According to Demand Metric, content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing and generates more than three times as many leads. Imagine what a property could do online with the same budget as a year-long billboard campaign.

While anyone can adopt a digital marketing presence, there is a strategy process involved. Let’s breakdown the process of marketing your apartment without relying on an ILS. You start by producing content on your website’s blog (content marketing), optimizing the content for search engines (SEO strategy), distributing that content online and bringing your brand’s personality to life on social media (social media marketing), targeting the content to reach the right audience (paid media marketing), and finally, analyzing the results and making adjustments.

With this process, your marketing efforts can go further and reach the right audience with a price tag that varies based on your needs. The takeaway here is to put your marketing efforts where your renters already are: online, on search engines, and on social media platforms.

Expert tip: It’s important that your property’s website is optimized for search engines so that when a prospect types in the property name directly, they are driven to your homepage, not an internet listing service which also hosts competitor properties and can distract a potential renter away.

As Internet Listing Services continue to decrease in popularity, the properties that have a clear vision of digital marketing will enjoy an upper hand. ILS isn’t gone for good, but it’s quickly dwindling into the background and being replaced by more strategic, content-focused practices that move the needle.

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