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The Truth About Internet Listing Services (ILSs)


Remember the days when you couldn’t live without a printed apartment guide? There was no online search, so without printed guides you had nothing but word of mouth or “drive bys” to find an apartment. Then the Internet came along and changed all of that.

Today we learn about everything online, and Internet Listing Services (ILSs) have replaced printed guides. If you’re thinking old school, ILSs make sense. They enable your prospects to search and find you and all of your competition, just like the printed apartment guides. But in today’s mobile-enabled digital world, there is no reason why you should pay someone to display your name alongside the competition when you can attract buyers directly to you.

ILSs take your leads and sell them back to you. And, when they do, those leads represent prospects who are not engaged; so they are less likely to make a decision to live at your property. Chances are, you are paying a lot of money to “surrender” your leads to ILSs. If that’s the case, you should know the facts.

Fact #1: Lead-to-lease conversion rates are much lower when you get your leads from an ILS.

Our customers tell us that conversion rates on leads that come from their own websites are three to four times higher than leads that come from an ILS. That makes sense: ILS leads have been presented with you and your competition. They have visited the ILS site, rather than becoming engaged with you by experiencing your property on your website. They have not made an emotional connection with you.

Fact #2: You pay the ILS to cannibalize organic search and drive up the cost of paid search.

Your property websites are in direct competition with ILSs for organic and pay-per-click search rankings. When you advertise with an ILS, they harvest your traffic and leads, and you have to buy the leads back (subscription or pay-per-lead model). The more leads ILSs cannibalize from your website, the higher your contract rate will be for the following year. And, because you are competing with them, they bid up your costs on paid search too.

Fact #3: “Free” listings are not free; they enable the ILS to outrank your website in search engines.

When you and hundreds of other property management companies place free listings, it makes the ILS’s websites much more powerful in search engine rankings. The bottom line is that you make the investment in building a great website, and they reap the rewards.

Fact #4: “Free” property websites are not free; they enable the ILS to siphon your leads.

One popular ILS offers free property domain names, free photos, and free content. That reads like a “can’t lose deal,” right? Wrong. When you allow the ILS to provide you with a “free” website, the ILS owns the domain name. That enables them to siphon traffic and leads from your actual property website to their lookalike site, and then you pay for your own leads.

Fact #5: ILSs are in competition with you, and you pay them to compete.

ILSs want to outrank your corporate and property websites in Google, Bing, and Yahoo, as well as outperform you in social media. The more traffic they take away, the more leads they can provide back to you at a higher cost-per-lead and significantly lower conversion rate than if the traffic flowed through your website to you.

At G5, we’re focused on giving our customers data-driven insights that will empower them to make better decisions about their marketing spend. The result is that they are able to dramatically reduce their spend on ILSs while they improve overall results. Here are just a few examples that customers have shared with us:

  • Dropped ILS spend $500,000 while tripling website leads
  • Up to four times higher conversion rates from my website leads vs. ILS leads
  • Greater than 50% reduction in cost-per-lease compared to ILS

Be sure you know the facts before surrendering your leads to old school marketing methods. In today’s digital world, you can be empowered to take control of your leads.