The End-to-End Guide to Commercial Real Estate Listing Optimization
Commercial real estate (CRE) marketing has rapidly digitized during the pandemic and listing management is no exception. From the acceleration of the virtual touring trend to high-end research tools and the expansive range of marketplaces now available to tenants and representatives, prospecting has increasingly moved online.
In this new context, both listing creation and promotion should be geared towards establishing well-rounded digital strategies. Today, outstanding CRE listings combine valuable content with enhanced marketing materials and purposeful optimization to boost both lead counts and lead quality.
Content: Balancing Relevant Information and Conversion Techniques
Most, if not all prospects will first assess if a space meets their core needs before reading through the rest of the page, so all listings require detailed specifications. CRE teams should leverage the dedicated info boxes rather than the blurb to specify these attributes — but if a data point is missing, they can use the description to fill in the gaps.
|• Price or leasing rate |
• Available date
• Building class
• Building certifications
• Property type and tenancy
• Overall size and available space
• Average floor size and number
|• Proximity to transportation |
• Parking information
• Year built and/or renovated
• Space type and divisible space
• Lease type, renewal options, sublease option
• Opportunity zone
• Electric, lighting and fire suppression systems
• HVAC systems
While the use of gated content to acquire more leads is becoming more prevalent in CRE, the specifications above act as a means for lead qualification. By listing key details, listing agents and marketing specialists will ensure that only prospects who have an actual interest in the property will get in touch.
Furthermore, each asset type involves a few distinct specifications. For example, listings for office space should include usage types, building class and detailed transportation options. Medical offices need additional technical information depending on the sector. Industrial listings require details on technical and loading capacity, floor loads and parking space breakdown by operational requirements. Retailers are, of course, interested in location and population.
Services, amenities and highlights
Once a prospect has determined that the overall space fits their core criteria, they will consider the amenities and services. Listings should outline all the benefits a tenant might want or need — from essential services such as internet connectivity to high-end amenities such as wellness centers.
At the same time, CRE listings can be enhanced by including a highlights section where agents and other professionals can showcase the best features of a property or space. Prospects find it easier to digest this information when it’s structured in a dedicated section, so an increasing number of property websites and marketplaces are designed with this feature. Highlights can emphasize qualities such as:
- Lease and space flexibility
- Important nearby landmarks and services
- Architectural characteristics and interesting views
- High-end features such as premium construction materials
- Streamlined tenant portals or visitor management
- Planned improvement projects, nearby developments
Of course, the most sought-after services and amenities are as diverse as prospects and their needs. Office-using employers are increasingly moving to a full-service working experience and flexible spaces that can meet shifting visitor volumes. Versatile properties that include amenities such as shared event spaces, daycare centers, restaurants and gyms should highlight such features or proximity to them. At the same time, as remote employment becomes a core working model, a rising number of tenants are searching for office providers who have multiple, decentralized properties, so their employees can find workspaces in multiple locations. If present, this option should be detailed in the highlights.
Furthermore, listings should emphasize any tenant experience solutions. Employers who offer hybrid employment options want to know whether they can access visitor management systems with advanced tools for streamlined security approvals, space usage analytics, as well as employee engagement options.
While industrial listings spend less time on the market in the post-pandemic context, these tenants are also becoming more particular in their needs. As a result, industrial property listings should highlight superior security systems, energy capacity and certifications, flexible spaces and expansion or conversion options.
Additionally, both industrial and office tenants are increasingly interested in sustainability features. Whether it’s for compliance, cost efficiency or employee retention, commercial listings should specify LEED certifications or the availability of energy management software.
When it comes to retail space, commercial listings need to accentuate visibility, convenience and client segments. Besides emphasizing the storefront’s standout features, agents should also highlight any nearby anchor stores or complementary fellow tenants which have the potential to bring in customers. At the same time, retail tenants will be more interested in the area’s demographics, including income and crime rates.
While providing accurate information is key in CRE, high-performing listings also include a finely tuned description. The listing blurb should act as a narrative that ties all the benefits together, conveying a space’s unique value proposition. Exceptional descriptions represent the story of the space in as few words as possible and are in line with the overall company and property brand. Blurbs should also be tailored to the audience, which can be achieved through client and competitor research.
Furthermore, listing blurbs should sell rather than inform, so writers should avoid repeating features and benefits found in other information boxes throughout the page. Balancing powerful adjectives, verbs and punctuation is also critical to keep readers engaged and to avoid tiring them.
Visuals: Offering a Comprehensive Overview and Tapping Into New Tech
In terms of visual imagery, high-converting CRE listings have two aspects in common: detailed, varied photography and virtual tours. The visual elements of a listing should allow a prospect to picture not only what the space looks like overall but how it feels and flows.
Regardless of the asset type or potential tenants, remarkable CRE photography covers all outdoor and indoor aspects of a space. At the same time, images should be uploaded in high-resolution to ensure a professional look across distribution channels.
Excellent photography is achievable through careful planning and professional services. Team members in charge of promotion should collaborate with photographers in advance to establish the best conditions for the shoot. They can visit the space several times to outline the best lighting for the photography, as different areas might look better at different times of the day. At the same time, they should discuss how to highlight each room and which details to focus on or avoid.
Staging is also vital in CRE photography, so CRE teams should ensure both the inside and the outside of the property are decluttered. Furthermore, indoor spaces can be rearranged for shoots and, if missing, furniture can be brought in to showcase rooms’ size and possible configurations.
Finally, some properties may require reshoots. If a space is first listed during the winter months, outdoor images should be replaced when the weather is better — in areas where this issue is applicable.
Leveraging new technology
Professional CRE photography services provide an added benefit: they can help owners leverage the latest technology in terms of visuals.
Virtual 3D tours have become an integral part of CRE marketing. They allow prospects to view a space on their own terms and at their leisure before deciding to move further in the process. If a lead books a tour after viewing the space through a virtual experience, they are considerably more likely to convert into a tenant. These leads have already gotten all the information they need and have previewed the space, so their intent is more explicit. In addition, they will have built a certain level of trust in the brand, as virtual tours are a sign of professionalism.
The same is true for video tours, which are an engaging opportunity to tell the story of a space in a more controlled manner. With video tours, brands can lead prospects through a property dynamically while crafting a predetermined narrative for the space. Video tours should be short and emphasize only a few key features to keep viewers interested.
Last but not least, drone technology is a highly potent means of showcasing a property’s outside appearance and location — especially in the case of large structures. Aerial videography and photography can capture the size of a property and how it fits into a particular area or neighborhood. At the same time, drone technology provides a wealth of opportunities for flattering outdoor angles that would be inaccessible from the ground level.
Cornerstone visual collateral
While stunning photography and virtual tours are essential in optimizing CRE listings in an increasingly technological context, the basics remain equally important:
- Floor plans are vital in helping prospects visualize how a space flows, how it can be used and repurposed and how it can grow with them.
- Maps are also a core step in showcasing location. High-converting property websites and marketplaces have built-in interactive maps that pinpoint surrounding services, amenities and neighbors.
- Brochures may seem outdated, but representatives will appreciate an easily readable and saveable sales presentation they can share with their teams and clients. For all downloadable content, CRE teams should ensure files are named appropriately before upload.
Managing content with ease
Overall, investing in a dedicated service is the more efficient option for listing visuals. Specialized marketing services will not only collaborate on planning and staging but also suggest interesting highlights. To simplify this process, the Yardi Elevate asset management suite includes a listing marketing platform and a full-service marketing team.
Edge Marketing can produce all the advertising collateral needed for high-converting commercial listings across markets. First, the in-house marketing team will coordinate a professional shoot and capture all relevant imagery. Then, they will process the content to produce 3D tours, brochures and high-quality presentation shots. Of course, CRE firms retain full ownership over the raw and end promotional materials to use them at any time and at will.
Promotion: Leveraging SEO and Dynamic Marketing
The bulk of listing promotion relies on purpose-built property websites and a multi-channel distribution strategy. Attractive property websites include all the elements listed above and are optimized for search engines (SEO). At the same time, CRE companies should establish a presence across top internet listing services.
As the first step in upgrading any marketing funnel is visibility, the most efficient means to manage the listing promotion process is dynamic, centralized marketing.
“Broader sales strategies are adapting to changing market conditions and listing management is no exception. Tailoring digital marketing systems for commercial real estate is crucial in maximizing exposure and improving ROI, while tying into broader asset management structures for unified reporting and streamlined team collaboration.”Matthew Gleason, sales manager, commercial division at Yardi.
High-converting property websites
Property websites that convert leads are attractive, user-friendly and easy to search. On the listing page level, the information and visual elements are best structured in a narrative form that flows easily. Content should be spread out evenly on the page through uncluttered, clearly outlined sections. Furthermore, persuasive listings highlight contact details and forms at least once throughout the page.
Listing pages that convert users into leads load easily and are mobile-responsive. On the one hand, development teams should test listing page speed, while team members in charge of uploading visual imagery should ensure files are compressed. Websites should also be thoroughly tested on mobile devices, to ensure content is displayed properly across screen sizes.
At the same time, high-converting CRE listing pages include calls to action or contact forms. Call-to-action boxes need to stand out from the rest of the page and be easily accessible. Forms, meanwhile, should balance qualification, lead enrichment and ease of contact. Besides basic contact information, forms can include fields such as the number of employees of a potential tenant or the square footage required. This type of information helps agents get a better overview of prospect needs and ensures only quality leads get in touch. To ensure forms are still easy to submit, certain information can be non-mandatory after the first one or two qualification fields.
If the size of the asset portfolio permits it, the bottom of the listing page can include similar or related spaces, so prospects are incentivized to search for another viable property if the one they are currently viewing doesn’t fit their needs.
The Yardi Elevate full-service marketing team is specialized in creating high-converting websites that expertly showcase spaces and brands. Edge Marketing property websites feature optimized user experiences, customized graphic design and integrate seamlessly with property management and accounting software Yardi Voyager.
Furthermore, as up-to-date space availability is of utmost importance in high-performing listings, Edge Marketing enables the automated publishing and removal of spaces. Without added overhead, the platform synchronizes availability across websites and portfolios based on unit occupancy in Yardi Voyager.
Search engine optimization
To attract users to a property website, individual CRE listings should be optimized to rank higher in search engines such as Google. Prospects use keywords related to location and the type of space they are looking for to find properties for lease, so listing headlines should be written for this purpose.
Since in-house marketing teams and outside services can both perform SEO, the best approach is a matter of balancing cost and efficiency. The first option is effective when websites are fully managed within the company. But when using an end-to-end solution such as Yardi Elevate, search engine optimization is part of the package. Property websites generated through the Edge Marketing team are search engine-optimized out of the box, powered by comprehensive keyword research at the market level.
CRE marketplaces and syndication
A commercial listing is a core marketing asset that should be promoted both through the property website and listing platforms. As marketplaces are specialized in attracting leads to their platforms through paid marketing and search engine optimization, they will naturally rank higher on Google and reach more prospects through targeted advertising.
As such, spaces for lease should be published across a range of marketplaces. And since centralization and visibility are critical in a well-rounded marketing strategy, next-gen listing networks streamline the process. Edge Marketing features an expansive listing and syndication network that provides maximized exposure across commercial markets.
The CommercialEdge Listing Network empowers CRE teams to:
- List spaces easily and automate availability based on occupancy changes in property management software Yardi Voyager.
- Promote spaces to CommercialSearch, CommercialCafe, PropertyShark, 42Floors and Point2 Commercial with a few clicks.
- These five marketplaces rank on the first page of Google and bring in more than 300K yearly quality leads, growing by 540% over the past year.
- Syndicate to the largest commercial marketplaces and property websites with ease.
Paid digital advertising
Competition for the top spots on search engines is fierce, so a well-rounded paid advertising strategy can significantly impact listing promotion. Pay-per-click advertising platforms such as the Google Display Network enable swift, targeted promotion for relevant users based on their internet search and browsing habits.
At the same time, these platforms allow marketing professionals to target people who have visited commercial listings without providing their contact details, offering a valuable opportunity to reconnect with users who might have converted to leads with an extra push.
Paid advertising is also available as an added service on most commercial marketplaces themselves, enabling CRE teams to boost listing visibility through featured ads and strategic placement among search results.
Optimization: Tracking Results and Improving Conversion
While the purpose of marketing is to acquire leads, successful marketing acquires quality leads at a continuously diminishing cost. At the listing creation and promotion level, this translates into tracking results and testing channel and content quality.
Monitoring channel efficiency
With the extensive range of promotional channels and marketplaces available to CRE companies today, selectivity is key in ensuring cost efficiency. Teams can focus their efforts on the channels that bring in quality prospects by monitoring where leads come from on a global level. This process involves analyzing:
- Which listing platforms bring in quality leads
- Which paid advertising campaigns convert the most quality leads
- How much a lead costs for each of these channels
Platforms such as Edge Marketing provide a detailed breakdown of lead source for individual marketplaces. To finetune efforts across channels and marketplaces, lead analysis should be expanded with a bird’s eye view of resulting leases. The Yardi Elevate asset management solution enables complete sales pipeline visibility through Deal Manager, a dedicated CRM software that features lead attribution and seamlessly integrates with the rest of the suite.
Gauging awareness and traffic
At the property website level, marketing teams should track users and their behavior. Google Analytics, a website traffic monitoring platform, provides visibility into how many users land on a website and its CRE listing pages, where they reach it from and how much of the traffic was paid or organic.
Property websites powered by Edge Marketing feed directly into CRE firms’ Google Analytics accounts, so their teams can monitor how much traffic each listing receives granularly. Coupled with Google Search Console, a platform that offers visibility into how pages rank for individual keywords, traffic analytics can inform better search engine optimization strategies, bringing in more visitors for no added cost.
Boosting conversion through testing
Commercial listing pages have the potential to convert more leads with structure and content adjustments. To this end, optimization tools empower CRE teams to try different configurations and wording by stacking them against each other through A/B testing. Pages can be enhanced to acquire more prospects by testing:
- Headlines, from language to length
- Property descriptions
- Featured photos
- Amount of information
- Page structure and user flow
- Colors and shapes for design elements
The results of these tests should inform continuous change and adjustment to ensure listing pages are user-friendly and convert as many leads as possible.
Additionally, behavior analytics tools can guide on-page optimization by revealing if users move through the page as desired and highlighting where their interest is piqued or drops off. Solutions such as Hotjar provide visibility into:
- How far a user scrolls through a page and what areas they spend the most time on
- What elements of the page viewers click
- How they view or feel about a page (through surveys and screen recordings)
To sum it up, effective CRE listings expertly balance quality content, outstanding visuals and well-rounded promotion and optimization strategies. To convert more quality prospects, CRE teams should:
- Produce attractive, informative content informed by customer and competitor research.
- Showcase spaces with comprehensive images as well as leverage the latest touring technology.
- Promote spaces through multiple channels and optimize property websites for search engines.
- Centralize, track and test marketing efforts, from finetuning advertising channels to listing content.
Tight competition for industrial space has accelerated deal cycles, prompting operators to emphasize automation and portfolio visibility.