If you're running a property management business in 2019, the chances are that you're old enough to remember when search engines and search methods were in their infancy. Many of us were taught to search using Boolean type search strings on older search engines: remember Ask Jeeves, Alta Vista, or Excite?
Search engine queries were driven by keyword strings with modifiers for a long time—even on search engines that still see widespread use in the present day.
Sometime in the last few years, things began to change: search engines—and the technology and techniques they use to understand and respond to queries—have improved in recent years, and users have begun to interact with them differently than in the past. As technology has become a seamless and persistent part of user's lives, interaction with it has become more natural.
Whether consciously or not, people have begun to use conversational language with their search queries. A decade ago, a real estate investor looking for some information on a local property management business may have entered the words "property manager Dallas" into a search field and thought nothing more of it. Today, you are far more likely to see the query, "Who is the best property manager in Dallas?"
Longer, conversational queries have become increasingly common; searches of four or more words make up roughly two-thirds of search engine queries in recent years. This partially due to the growth in what can be called "semantic technology," which allows search engine algorithms to parse and understand natural language.
Google made a significant update to its search engine in 2013, shifting from keyword-oriented searches to an algorithm that makes an effort to understand complete phrases and decipher the intent behind a search. Other search engines have made similar changes. This technology—though still relatively immature—is widespread.
User behavior began to change alongside technology: as the ability to enable natural and conversational interaction with technology platforms matured, users responded quickly. Around the same time, smartphones and the mobile web began to change how people accessed the internet and online content radically.
People have shifted from using desktop personal computers to mobile devices. This change has removed nearly any barrier to internet access and made the act of searching for information online much less deliberate and involved. Instead, users typically interact with content online in a far more shallow (and far more frequent) way.
What Does This Mean for My Inbound Marketing and SEO?
These fundamental changes in how users access and interact with content online are the result of trends that have been growing for years now. If you're using inbound marketing and SEO for your property management marketing (and you should be), you're probably aware of much of this. However, change doesn't slow—and you need to stay on the leading edge of trends to make the most of your marketing efforts.
The natural outcome of search queries becoming more conversational is that users will increasingly make them through actual conversation. Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Alexa (among other examples) are representative of a shift towards voice-activated technology that would once have been the purview of science fiction. This change won't spare search engine queries.
As far back as 2016, Google reported that 20% of queries on mobile devices were voice queries. The number has only grown since then. Your inbound marketing and SEO efforts need to keep up with the shifting reality of how users are searching for information if you want to make the most of your property management marketing.
How Do I Prepare?
If you aren't rethinking your inbound marketing strategy to account for these changes, you're behind the curve. If you are, there may be more work for you to do.
Voice search is poised to dominate—especially among mobile web users. Here are a few things that you can do now to optimize your SEO efforts for voice search and stand out from the crowd.
- Reimagine how you think about keywords: With ever more effective semantic technology, you should stop thinking about keywords in isolation and start thinking about questions and phrases that may be associated with them. Remember that people type very differently than they speak in most cases, and the more natural and conversational you can make your keywords and phrases, the better poised you'll be.
- Be mobile-friendly: In most cases, if your property management website and content are built to be mobile-friendly, you're on your way to being voice friendly. Most voice searches are mobile searches, so take advantage of this synergy and make sure that your site is quick to load and optimized for local search results. Google's AMP framework can be a massive help with this.
- Make your content relevant: Voice searches will only return one result to a user (rather than several pages of links), so it's essential to be that first result—you'll get no second place trophy here. You can do this using structured data optimization, which involves creating a sitemap or a structured data markup to clarify your content for a search engine.
- Rethink your content: If you've done the work to rethink your keywords as questions, you can take the next step to map those questions onto your content strategy as well. Start thinking of your content as answers to the questions that you anticipate from a voice search, and you'll be one step ahead.
- Be flexible: Voice assistant technology is becoming popular—but the framework for how people will use it is still immature. It can be challenging to predict what developments may come along as more and more users make the switch to voice. Our interactions with technology have become more natural and conversational in recent years, but this may be just the beginning.
Voice searches are a rapidly growing part of the online landscape. It's crucial to optimize your property management website and content to be ready to take advantage of this. Like all inbound marketing and SEO efforts, this will require you to work to stay on top of things.
If you find this new world overwhelming or aren't sure where to start, reach out to RentBridge. We've put an ebook together for property managers like you that answer these exact questions! It's called "The Property Manager's Guide to SEO in 2020," and it's designed to help you get ahead of the pack and take 2020 by storm. Let us help you simplify SEO by downloading your copy today!