In Week 1, we discussed your overall brand story. Now, we need to move on to the laws of attraction in your association management company. In Brand Attraction Week, we’ll get down to some of the basics behind lead generation and digital marketing tactics to excite homeowners and future HOA clients.
Community Association board members come from all walks of life. They may be a housewife or a business owner, a professor or a mechanic. However, board members rarely start their term knowing anything about the community association industry.
According to CAI, between 30 and 40 percent of the over 360,000 community associations in the United States are self managed. Often, these community association boards are not ‘plugged-in’ to the industry in the same way that managed associations are. These board members have probably never heard of CAI, received board training, or attended an industry trade show. That means if you want to get their business, you need to find them first.
What are Keywords?
Keywords are one of the strongest tools in your arsenal to put yourself in front of your dream client. Keywords are the questions, phrases and topics that describe your content.
You may be most familiar with keywords in relation to Google Ads, which are the sponsored results that display at the top and bottom of the google search results page. But keywords are useful for a LOT more than just paid advertising.
In modern digital marketing, keywords support every aspect of the marketing process. They are on social media as hashtags; they are in your copywriting on your website; they are in your blog posts or articles; and they are in your email subjects and preview text.
Most importantly, keywords are how your dream client can find you when they are searching the Internet. (And it costs you nothing but time!)
Why You Need A Keyword Strategy
For most people today, Google Search is the fastest gateway to answer questions, look up information, and resolve disputes. Sometimes, you can type a question into Google, and get an immediate answer, for example, What is Beyoncé’s full name? (Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter) or What breed of dog was Scooby Doo? (Great Dane) .
But more often, your first search doesn’t give you the answer you were looking for – not because the answer isn’t out there, but because you asked the wrong question. You may have to try several different questions until you land on the right wording (or search phrase) to find the answer you need.
Keyword mismatching is why there is often a disconnect between management companies looking for clients and board members looking for help.
Let’s take something like automated payments of assessments. As a management company, you may refer to this service as “Automated ACH Payments,” so you talk on your website about how you do Automated ACH. But a board member searching for that service may not know that term. Instead, they may be thinking of it in the same terms they use to pay their electric bill. So they may be searching for “HOA Online Bill Pay”. That board member’s community may be a perfect match for your management company, but they will never find you because your content doesn’t match the question they are asking.
The process of optimizing your keywords to match what people search for is called SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Good SEO starts with keyword research.
Keyword research helps you identify the keywords that people are searching for so that you can make sure your website or blog or social media post gets found when a board member goes looking for help.
There are entire careers made out of doing keyword research and optimizing content to match the right keywords. However, you don’t need to go that deep to get started on SEO for your brand.
Your first step is to figure out what keywords people may be searching for. There are some free tools that can help with this – we have listed some at the end of this chapter. But because the search volume in our industry is often lower than the minimum threshold for many keyword research tools, they often return few to no results.
For our industry, the best solution is generally to build your keyword list yourself, or find an industry-specific marketing agency to do the work for you.
There are a number of different types of keywords that you can identify to find the right keywords for you. Start by going through each of these keyword types and listing 5-10 of each type for your business. At the end of going through this exercise, you should have a list of 50 or more phrases covering all of the above categories. Now you are ready to prioritize them and build your keyword strategy.
Types of Keywords:
Your Keyword Planner
Keyword planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Download this worksheet to create your keyword strategy over your lunch break.
Developing Your Keyword Strategy. Keywords should:
The trick, once you have your list, is to combine them into longer phrases. These are called Long Tail Keywords, and they’re very valuable because it’s a lot easier to rank on page one of the search results with a longer phrase than it is with a short phrase. “HOA management” is pretty generic, but “Charlotte NC best condo management company” is extremely specific.
Easily rank high.
Ranking matters. A lot. Think about the last time you went to page two or page three of the search results when you searched in Google? It’s pretty rare, right? The difference in traffic between a page one search result and a page two search result is HUGE, and the difference between position 1 on page one and position 8 on page one is significant as well. The goal is to be at the top of the search results page when the board member types in their search query.
Receive decent traffic volume.
The more traffic a keyword gets, the more competitive the keyword becomes, and the harder it is to rank on page one. Identify keywords that will get at least some traffic that you can direct to your site. If nobody ever searches for your awesome 12-word long tail keyword, it’s not actually that awesome. On the other hand, even an extra 20 visits a day could result in a few solid leads every month. For many management companies, that’s a significant increase in their leads.
Test Your Keywords
Now that you’ve got your long list of long-tail keywords, you need to test them to see which ones are a good fit for you. There are some pretty pricey tools that the big boys use to do this, but you really don’t need them. You can get a pretty good idea of what keywords are a good fit by giving them this free ‘sniff test.’
When you look at the search results, you want to evaluate what’s showing up. Are you seeing any other sites/companies that are similar to yours? If so, that is good – it means that people searching for this keyword are already finding results that are relevant to your site.
Next, you want to look at the titles of the pages that appear in the search results for this keyword. Do they match the keyword phrase word for word? [not good] Are they some close variation of the keyword phrase? [neutral] Or are they only loosely related to the phrase? [great!] The further away the results are from the exact phrase you searched for, the more likely you are to be able to take top billing in this keyword just by using the exact phrase in your content.
If your keyword passes the sniff test, it’s probably a decent fit for you. Compile a list of no more than 10 keywords that pass the test that you want to rank for. We’ll start with these when implementing your SEO.
In the long run, you can add more and more keywords to your SEO strategy, but you don’t want to overwhelm yourself right out of the gate. Because we are such a niche industry, even a small number of extra visitors a month is fine, as long as they are the RIGHT visitors.
Helpful (Free) Tools
When you do a google search and scroll to the bottom of the search results page, there is a section that says “Related Searches.” That list is Google’s algorithm giving you suggestions for long tail keywords on the topic you typed in. This can be an easy way to find long tail keywords you may not have otherwise thought of.
This research tool lets you type in your own domain to see what keywords you are currently ranking for (scroll to the bottom of the page after typing in your website’s URL.) You can only do three searches a day with the free version, but it’s still a very powerful research tool.
Type a keyword into the search box and Wordstream’s tool will show you related keywords broken down by their search volume, cost per click (for paid ads) and level of competition for both Google and Bing. This is a quick way to judge if a keyword will pass the sniff test.
Don’t be creeped out by the weird head on the landing page. This is a very powerful tool for finding answer-based keywords. Type a generic topic (such as community management) into the search and the site will serve up a visual breakdown of all the questions people have typed into Google on that topic.
Implementing Your Strategy (How to do your own SEO)
Now that you have your keyword strategy, the hard work is done! All that’s left to do is to implement your keywords into your content. Remember that keywords aren’t limited to ads or articles. You can (and should) optimize your primary website pages around keywords as well.
Google’s algorithm is a complex and many layered thing. One of the things that Google prioritizes very highly when it comes to ranking a page in the results is context. So when you add your keyword to your page, you never just plop it in. Type your keyword phrase as a heading, then in the copy under that heading, write a paragraph in natural language. It needs to look like a human wrote it – complete sentences, proper grammar, etc.
You can get penalized for keyword stuffing; instead of using the same keyword more than once, think of a few other ways you can say the same keyword phrase, and use several of them in your copy. By mixing up the keyword phrase and using it with other content that Google identifies as relevant to the keyword phrase, the content will get a high contextual score, leading the page to rank better in the results.
Once you have a few keywords under your belt, it’s easy to pick a page or two a week and optimize them with your keywords. As you go down the list of keywords, your site will become more and more optimized, and you will start to see the results – more traffic from actual board members ready to make a decision.
4 Keyword Mistakes to Avoid
Generic keywords may help you get a lot of visitors to your site, but they are the wrong visitors. For example, if your keyword is “HOA Services” you are competing on that keyword with every other management company, bank, lawn care service and accounting firm in the searcher’s area. Depending on where they are, that can be a LOT. The likelihood that your result shows up on page one of the results is slim to none.
Let’s say your management company’s name is Tampa Bay Cares Management. If you attempt to rank for Tampa Bay Cares, you are going to be competing with BayCare in Tampa, a much larger company with a whole lot more budget and site authority than you do. Your search results will wind up buried on page 3 or 4, and visitors may leave as soon as they realize your site is not related to their search.
Beware of putting the same keyword too many times on a page, or doing other ‘gray’ behavior such as listing keywords in white text on a white background, or listing a keyword several times in a row. Google penalizes this ‘black hat’ behavior, and instead of getting a better ranking, your page will disappear from the rankings altogether.
Ideally, you only want one page on your site to rank for a keyword. If you have 3 or 4 pages all ranking for the same keyword, it means Google is splitting your context score for that keyword among all those pages. This is cannibalization because all of the pages suffer by eating up each other’s traffic. Pick one page and make it the best representation of that keyword as you can, instead of spreading it out among a bunch of pages.
In our last chapter, we talked about how keywords are a critically important aspect of your marketing strategy. They help guide the right prospects to your website and therefore generate the kind of engagement companies need to turn those prospects into clients. But keywords aren’t the only way to drive good traffic to your website. Generating content that zeroes in on your specific location is one of the most effective ways to get on the radar of nearby community associations, and is called hyperlocal marketing.
Think about the last time you traveled somewhere unfamiliar. At some point, you probably had to find a place to eat or grab a coffee. Unless you’re someone who likes to drive around aimlessly hoping they stumble across a hidden gem, you probably pulled up Google and searched, “(insert area here) coffee shops” or “restaurants near (insert area here),” right? Hyperlocal marketing is how every business on that first page of search results got there.
When users type a phrase into Google Search, the Google algorithm prioritizes results that are local to the user based on their GPS positioning data. This means that different people see different Google results pages based on where they are in the world. But the winner is the small, local business. You may not have enough clout to rank on page one for a nationwide search, but Google’s algorithm makes sure that you can still rank in your neck of the woods.
With hyperlocal marketing, you can take what Google is already doing, and take it a step further.
Hyperlocal marketing is a tactic often employed by brick and mortar retail locations and restaurants. It’s especially effective for them because their business hinges on customers finding them, not the other way around. The goal is to use language that specifically talks about the area being served.
This is so that when people are trying to find your type of business in your particular area, your business page doesn’t get lost in a sea of unrelated, but highly-ranked search results. It’s the difference between getting a result about a mom-and-pop coffee shop a half a block away versus a global coffee producer who doesn’t even have a store in the area, but who pays a lot more for the keyword ‘coffee.’
Hyperlocal marketing works great for management companies because your service area is typically fixed to a geographic location. With hyperlocal marketing you can zero in on specific towns, districts, neighborhoods, or even single communities within your service area who you want to bring on as your client.
Where to Start:
The first step that you absolutely need to take is getting your Google My Business page set up. This is how results are aggregated for any “near me” searches. Your GMB profile also shows up in the info panel on the right of the browser window when people search for your business by name. This is a nice large profile that includes your logo and profile information, so it’s a good advertisement for the company.
If you already have one, then you’re ahead of the curve! If not, you’re almost guaranteed to see a massive boost in website traffic once your Google My Business profile is claimed.
To get your Business Profile started, click here and follow the instructions Google provides on signing in to claim and manage your company. To verify your address is actually local, Google will send you a postcard via US Mail. It generally takes around 2-3 weeks to arrive after you claim your business. The card will have a code for you to input on the site so you can get started managing your account.
Once you’re set up, you can start optimizing your Business Profile to reflect the area you serve and the services you provide.
Start with the basics:
One quick way to increase engagement is to add posts in your business profile. The latest post will display in your profile in the Google Search Results, as well as when someone clicks on your profile from the map. Because this is all about building up local business, locally focused content is a great choice to include here – like congratulating a client on a win, announcing new employees, advertising a local trade show, or bragging when you win a new client.
Adding quality photos* should also be on your list. (Start with your logo and a banner for the profile page!) Photos help validate your prospects and give your Business Profile a professional look and feel.
*Beware that other Google users can post pictures of your business as well, so if a homeowner is unhappy, they can post pictures of your perceived wrongdoings. The best way to deal with negative content like that in your feed is to drown it out with positive content. Hold a best decorated yard contest in a client community and flood the photos area with pictures of beautiful years, or throw an office party and post pics of your team’s smiling faces.
While you shouldn’t localize all of the language on your website to talk specifically about your area, you should be generating different types of content that have hyperlocal phrases and information to help rank on searches for your area. Here’s how you can do that:
Imagine that your Community Manager is working their way through a neighborhood when they hear fellow homeowners discuss your HOA to a family who is considering purchasing a house.
“The pool amenities here are great,” they hear the homeowners say. “Services are regularly updated and it’s easy to get in.”
“That’s great, but we heard that it’s hard to pay HOA fees online,” they hear those prospective homeowners say. “We’ve been burned by HOAs for bad payment systems before, and we don’t want to deal with that again.”
Your Community Manager may be wondering, does everyone feel this way? Does our payment system hinder our homeowners’ experience, and does it in turn hinder our ability to add new HOAs to our portfolio? Should we be worried about this?
Perhaps – because of this information – your Community Manager begins to ask around. They want to see if this is a one-time complaint or consistent issue. After discussing with homeowners, they realize that there is indeed a payment issue, and your company decides to improve payment capabilities. Suddenly your homeowners are more satisfied, and you realize that your team is focusing more on building up communities and less on answering payment questions over the phone.
This is exactly what social listening is, and it can be done in person or virtually. Social listening gives brands the ability to track, analyze, and respond to conversations about them on social channels – from social media outlets such as Facebook to hyper local outlets such as Google My Business.
It’s Your Brand’s Reputation
Let’s say you’re planning an exquisite date night for your significant other and you want to pick a new, five-star restaurant for the evening. You want a fantastic experience and you plan to spend more than the average fast food meal, so how do you pick the restaurant? Of course, you are probably going to look at reviews on Google or Yelp. In fact, when was the last time you purchased something without reading a peer review?
It’s the same concept for HOA/COA boards who are choosing an association management company. They are going to look for reviews of your company on Google, Nextdoor, or your own social media accounts. A negative review can be harmful, sure, but a non-response or poor response from you can be detrimental.
It’s very hard to know how to break up your daily routine when you’re running a business. As we’ve heard from some of the most successful owners of community association management companies, we know that adding 10-15 minutes on the schedule each day to complete tasks that could be easily forgotten can go a long way. Taking 10-15 minutes each day to sift through new reviews of your company and respond can go a long way in upholding your brand’s reputation, helping you acquire more clients.
Where are people talking about me?
Google My Business
Google is the most popular review site for services. Once you claim your Google My Business, you can also claim your reviews! Be sure to take time to answer reviews and questions and connect with your board members and homeowners on Google – after all, it is how most potential clients will find you.
One in four homeowners are using Nextdoor to stay connected with their neighbors, and we can all but guarantee that they are talking about you! Creating or claiming your Nextdoor Group and ensuring your Community or Property Manager is an admin will help you stay connected with homeowners, improve engagement and communication, and quickly answer questions (especially urgent ones!)
Your Own Social Media
64% of customers would rather message than call a business, and this is especially true of younger homeowners. If they can’t remember how to get to their homeowner website or have a question about a violation, chances are that they will send you a tweet or Facebook DM before picking up the phone. Facebook also scores you based on your response time for messages, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on your inbox.
How To Create your Content in Canva:
Click on the link above to download your custom social media assets, copy, and Canva links to customize your design.
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