Aimco, the seventh biggest apartment owner on last year’s Multifamily Executive Top 50, completed its marketing with the launch of a new website this week. To get precisely what it wanted in its digital persona, it tapped into examples from hotels, cruise lines, as well as focus groups.

In June, Aimco released a new logo, tagline and messaging for people it targeted to live in AIMCO properties and work for the Denver-based REIT.  “At the end of 2010, we identified that now that we had this in place [upgraded operations],” says Keith Dodds, senior vice president of marketing. “We needed to tell the story.  We spent first half of year defining requirements. Second, we needed to present it to the public. This is the capstone of that story.”

Aimco built the site by looking internally and externally. It benchmarked its old site against its peers in the industry and against hotels, such as Hilton and Marriott, which it, like many other operators, sees as a step ahead of the multifamily industry. It also looked at cruise lines and Internet Listing Services for cues and functionality.

“As people do things in apartment searches, there are standard expectations on how to look for things,” Dodds says. “Websites are evolving into what the customer wants and customer standard expectations are based on their interactions of other websites like Amazon. We wanted to design our navigation and the presentation of content based on what the customers expect.”

Research shows that when customers want to lease, they zero in on an individual property’s website. When they we look for a job, or if they're existing residents, they go to the corporate site. Drawing from this insight, the company gives “AIMCO Careers” a prominent presence on the site, taking a page out of a hotel industry approach to a corporate portal. Right now, a customer service portal, where residents can login to submit service requests, also plays a key role.

“We did a lot of end user testing before we created the site,” Dodds says. “We didn’t ask what people wanted. We asked what resonated with them.”

Ultimately, Aimco wanted simplicity and, looking, at the site, that’s what it got.

“If you put more things on the homepage that’s distracting,” Dodds says. “People get really confused. If you put other images on, they want to look at the images and get really confused. They want to spend less than half a second on page and go straight into where they want to go.”

Social networking options also stand out on the site, which the company says it will upgrade constantly. Dodds says getting mentions on these platforms help increase a property’s ability to show up on Google searches. “I want to dominate first ten links on a Google search for each property,” he says.