Lead tracking and SEO: What you need to know
What you don’t know can hurt you. It’s true of the foods we eat and the medicines we take. It’s also true of the decisions we make regarding lead tracking and digital marketing presence.
This may come as a surprise. While lead tracking numbers help you determine marketing return on investment (ROI), they can also be your website’s worst enemy if you don’t follow some important guidelines on when, where and how to use them.
The Lead Tracking Prescription
For years, the multifamily industry has focused on solid lead-source tracking. Before the introduction of lead tracking systems, multifamily managers and marketers relied on lead-source information entered manually by leasing agents, based on the answers given by customers, to determine marketing ROI. But let’s face it: in spite of best intentions, the data gathered was full of holes.
Enter automated lead tracking of phone numbers and emails, and the problem was nearly solved. The adoption of lead tracking services was rapid and effective. With electronically tracked lead source data in hand, marketing directors could make informed decisions on where to place money and energy to drive leads. As additional online channels entered the picture—including social media and free local business listings—we slapped a lead tracking number on them all. We have become an industry of forensic marketing examiners on a data quest.
The Side Effects
But there’s a wrinkle, and it’s a big one. It’s called Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Apartment websites depend on local search results to drive traffic. Local search results depend on SEO. And good SEO depends on domain authority driven by local citations.
So what is a local citation? Moz.com—a company specializing in SEO—defines a citation as “mentions of your business name and address and phone number on other webpages.” They go on to say citations are a key component of ranking algorithms, especially in Google and Bing. With all other things equal, websites with a greater number of local citations rank higher than businesses with fewer citations.
So what’s the conflict? All three items—name, address, and phone number—must match between your website and your web listings to create a strong citation. When we add tracking numbers to our websites, and add different tracking numbers to social listings and local business listings such as Yahoo Local, YellowPages.com, and Google My Business, we break our citations. Thus, our website authority begins to decay.
The Healthy Balance
Here are three steps to a healthy lead tracking/SEO balance.
- Make sure your marketing website always displays your local business phone number. You can add a tracking number to your website, but be careful not to replace your local business number completely with a tracking number. You should integrate Schema.org micro data for local business information, so that search engines recognize and index your local business name, address, and phone number. You may also display the lead-tracking number as an image, rather than as crawl-able text, so that search engines recognize only your local number. However, discuss your options with your website provider, to ensure your best strategy.
- Use lead tracking numbers on all of your paid advertising. If you are paying for it, you definitely want to track it.
- For all other web listings, consider the primary purpose of the listing and make your decisions accordingly:
- If the primary purpose of the listing is to drive leads, as in the case of classified advertising on Craigslist, then you will want to track the source.
- For social media, the primary purpose is resident engagement, social search signals and business citations that drive web traffic. Rarely does a customer visit a social site to look for an apartment. Social accounts typically should not include a lead tracking number, as the loss of authority from local business citations is greater than your inability to track a few leads that may come through that channel each month.
By following this healthy regimen, you will gather the important data you need to make good decisions without sacrificing search engine optimization. They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but in this case, you really can.
Esther Bonardi is the industry principal of Yardi Marketing Solutions, with over 25 years of multifamily marketing experience.