What the acquisition of Satisfacts means for ApartmentRatings.com

What the acquisition of Satisfacts means for ApartmentRatings.com

Just before Wade Hewitt, Vice President of Apartmentratings.com spoke at the Apartment Internet Marketing Conference back in April, I was the guy in the back of the room, holding a bag of rotten tomatoes, with my hand fully loaded, ready to toss.

Ratings and Reviews
See that guy on the right? That’s Wade! Here… have a tomato… aim for the body.

“Apartmentratings.com in this very room! Can you believe our luck? As an industry, we’ve been waiting for a chance to sling our own mud (or tomatoes) at them! How dare they cause us undue stress because of their ugly website with angry rants!”

As Wade, he with his egregious wit and broken razor, began speaking, I slowly lowered my arm, came to my senses, and dropped the tomato I was holding back into the bag. “Wait”, I said to myself, “myself….. the climate against Apartmentratings.com has changed. That’s good. What he’s saying up there is the same thing I’ve been saying. There is an underlying truth to these posts. We should embrace them.” Then, just before Wade stepped down, he leaked information about an upcoming Resident Verification Program. Resident Verification program? What in the holy ugly website is that? Unfortunately for us conference goers, Apartmentratings.com was tight lipped and any further clarifications went unanswered.

Fast forward to June 28th 2012, just before NAA was due to kick off, and the Resident Verification question was answered. Internet Brands who owns ApartmentRatings.com went ahead and purchased Satisfacts Research. On one hand you have a company that has made its mark giving anonymous people the freedom to talk about their living experiences. Satisfacts has made its mark giving verified residents the chance to voice their opinion about their living experiences and provide excellent analytics to management companies.

Brothers
Introducing these Brothers from Another Mother.

So what’s the skinny on these two companies?

First, they are going to remain separate. There will be no name changes, like for instance ApartmentFacts. What will be happening is a deeper integration with Apartmentratings.com than any company has been able to do before. If desired/approved by the property management company, resident surveys completed with Satisfacts will have the ratings and comments pushed to the property’s ApartmentRatings.com page as a review.

There’s an important caveat to note here. Anonymous posts will still be allowed even if you’re in the program and will function the same. The added benefit this program gives, of course, is including verified resident reviews.

Apartmentratings.com is extending the olive branch to Property Management companies. Someone must have put something in their drinking water.

Why is this development so important?

For the first time ever, Apartmentratings.com is extending an olive branch to the industry. The decision to try to change the industry’s perception of Apartmentratings.com is commendable, if not overdue. It seems that finally, they do understand a little about how a site like this can damage the reputation of a property – often times unfairly. It seems they are trying to be our friend. Until more times passes, I think I’ll keep the friend request queued.

So everyone gets to reap the benefits of the Resident Verification program?

No. You will have to be a customer of Satisfacts or purchase the program through RentAdvisor to take advantage. For those of you who are not customers of either yet, it will be the same old Apartmentratings.com you currently deal with now. Regardless of the additional sign ups and cost, it could be the next evolution in reputation management for the industry. Adding verified residents to your review mix gives your overall property score more credibility. Just as long as the lines between resident and “paid advertiser” are clear and your product isn’t terrible, I believe it will really help boost those ratings.

I would love to hear your opinion on this.

What do you think? Good or bad for the industry? Feel free to leave a comment behind.

  • http://urbanemedia.co/ Urbane Media

    Bill, Good Morning
    More overrated brainwash propaganda that has little to no effect on leasing apartments, and is mostly about becoming a new customer by using the age old “fear factor”.

    It is fascinating that property management companies buy into this hook, line and sinker.

    • http://www.bsitko.com Bill Szczytko

      Take the selling a product part of it out (which I’m not doing – I don’t work for either) and just focus on the ratings/feedback aspect of AptRat. It’s hard for me to believe you think that people don’t find the site and/or use it. Not buying it.

    • http://mbrewergroup.com mbrewer

      I’m not sure I concur with the thought that there is no effect on leasing. I don’t think it is the end all be all – that is for sure. It is but a small piece of a much bigger experience that leads people to ink leases. But to ignore it all together is a bit short sided – in my opinion.

      • urbanemedia

        Bill and Mike,
        Perhaps I wasn’t very clear. There is clearly benefit in managing for better reviews. That said, as Mike points out, it is not the end all. The point I attempted to make was that these services dwell on the apartment operators fear of negative reviews, and are just another monthly fee based service.

        We have focused extensively on SEO and increased web site traffic. We have also aggregated all online reviews onto a single site, which is part of our web site. Residents can also leave a review and or comment there as well. We follow up with every Service Request and encourage reviews.

        In summary, it just feels like apartment venders have come full throttle with monitoring and suggesting that they can improve ratings, whicj is only a piece of the puzzle, and a smaller piece at that.

  • http://mbrewergroup.com mbrewer

    I still think people should build out their own ratings and review platform on their own website.

    They must leave the comments unadulterated save character attacks and name dropping. And, they should augment that feedback with information from the likes of apt ratings and other apartment rating and review sites.
    That is to suggest – we either create the one off relationships necessary for us to use the data they are collecting on our own site and or we point people to the data in the way of our own algorithms. But, it must present within our own site experience.

    Great piece Bill –

    Signed – Still guarded about apt ratings…

    • http://www.bsitko.com Bill Szczytko

      I think ultimately you’re dead on Mike about ratings. It would be much better to host our own as we have better control. Think about this though. To a prospect, which has more weight? Ratings on an independent 3rd party site or our own?

      The real issue is that in Google AptRat shows up organically, so people find it, and they probably use the information on there to make decisions. That’s why I feel like we have to manage them. No?

      • http://mbrewergroup.com mbrewer

        I think people who rent apartments, buy electronics, book hotels or eat at restaurants have well trained BS meters. And, as the internet has matured and ratings and reviews have become more common place, those meters have become more fine-tuned. That is to suggest that the lunatic fringe on either side (over the top great or under the bridge awful) get weeded out.

        Would the same Google organic not apply to a PM company that has a great SEO/SEM/Social strategy in place?

        I, for now, would never sign up for aptratings – not for any reason. I would spend that time tweaking my own people capturing mousetrap.

        M

    • Joe

      agreed Mike, I always push a testimonial page/ticker, and unfortunately not many companies embrace it yet. Times are changing and everyone will start leveraging their residents soon. With the changes Google made there is no sticking heads in the sand anymore.

      • http://mbrewergroup.com mbrewer

        You are correct – the time for ignoring is long gone…

  • http://mikewhaling.com Mike Whaling

    I only partially agree with @mbrewer:disqus’s idea that ratings and reviews should be on the property website. While I do think there are multiple benefits to having reviews on your website, I ultimately think Bill is right that those reviews aren’t viewed as being as objective as the reviews a prospect will find on third-party sites.

    This deal will have a huge impact on how ratings are reflected for SatisFacts (client) and RentAdvisor customers, and ApartmentRatings gets (and drives) a ton of traffic from prospective renters, but I still think the game-changer will be the first “top tier” ILS to include ratings on all of their listings. Good stuff, Bill.

    • Tina Christensen

      Well said Mike, wouldn’t “reviews” on a property’s own website actually be “testimonials?” A consumer is always going to believe reviews on a 3rd party site over those of the property website IMO.

    • http://mbrewergroup.com mbrewer

      I don’t disagree – but, I do think that if your moderation is such that the only thing that gets carved out are direct character attacks then people will take them into consideration. They won’t automatically write them off as management propaganda.

  • mark

    A majority of tenants are only willing to post anonymous negative reviews because they don’t want to deal with the backlash from landlords especially if they are still renting from them. If a user has to provide their real information in order to be a “verified renter” this will result in only positive reviewers posting reviews or negative reviews that are dumbed down.

    Check out http://www.donotrent.com in 2-3 weeks when they go live with their new site.