RentConfident’s Top Content of 2018

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It’s that time of year again when bloggers engage in a bit of navel gazing. We jumped on the year-end bandwagon last year and we’re going to do it again this year. You know the drill. We’re going to list the 10 most popular posts in this blog from the past 12 months based on traffic, and then we’re going to throw in a few which we really enjoyed in-house but the rest of the world slept on.

To all of you who have supported us through the year by reading our articles, sharing them, subscribing to our newsletter or, of course, by buying an apartment safety report, thank you! We hope this retrospective is a fun walk down memory lane for you. Let us know your favorites in the comments!

Your Favorites

We track our stats using Matomo, which is similar to Google Analytics but it lives entirely on our own servers. We do this because we don’t like sharing our own data with Google and we figure you don’t either. The articles in this list were the ones we published last year that saw the most traffic. They are not the absolute top performers, as those are all from previous years. (If you’re curious, our top two articles are “How to Rat out a Bad Landlord in the City of Chicago” and “Is Your Grill Legal?“, which doesn’t surprise us at all.)

Normally we’re a little surprised to see which of our posts manage to excite our readers or capture the attention of wanderers from the wider web. This year we’re not as surprised, which means we’re either getting better at gauging interest or you’re getting better at sharing what we create. Or both. Let’s say it’s both.

  1. New Laws for 2018 Affecting Chicago Renters. We’ll be doing this one again in 2019 but, as was the case this year, it will go out in our newsletter first this coming Tuesday.
  2. Dear RentConfident, How Difficult is it to Break a Lease in Chicago? Some of our posts get popular because of social media shares. Others by email. This one, as you might expect, got a lot of hits from search engine traffic. While we can’t see the queries that sent renters to this article, we can probably make a safe and accurate guess.
  3. The Chicago Renters’ Guide to Window Air Conditioners. Another one that saw a lot of traffic from search engines, peaking at the end of June when weather reports were calling for a weekend with heat indexes exceeding 100 degrees.
  4. The Predatory and Abusive Industry of Rent-to-Own Furniture. One of two articles on the list that our authors would also put in the list of our own favorites below. The topic of this one was outside of our usual sphere. It got a solid amount of traffic from our own newsletter and from shares on Facebook.
  5. Good Cause Evictions: The Law that Didn’t Happen Yet. Covering a matter that was heavily discussed within the industry but largely ignored elsewhere, this examination of an early-stage Chicago law was tweeted out by our open data industry friends at Chicago Cityscape. Thanks, guys!
  6. Eviction Lab: What Chicago Renters Need to Know. There was no central driving force behind the traffic to this look at a new project aiming to statistically analyze evictions across the country. Some came from search engines, others from its sister article about the annual report from DePaul’s Institute of Housing Studies.
  7. Watch Your Head! Viaduct and Bridge Clearance in Chicago. Our first piece of original research to make the top 10, and it pretty much deserves it. Written in response to a friend’s Facebook post about moving trucks getting stuck under bridges in Boston, her share of our article was enough to put its views in our top 10. Never underestimate the power of a single social media share or retweet when you’re dealing with smaller blogs like ours.
  8. Calculating the True Cost of Moving. Facebook and LinkedIn both really liked this one, but most of the traffic came because we put in a link to a moving company that was opening a franchise in the greater Chicagoland area, and they in return shared the post on the social media accounts of all of their franchises nationwide. Was it worth it? Probably not, and I doubt we’ll do it again. (And yes, we get a lot of requests, upwards of three per week, to put in links like this that we have refused.)
  9. Ghosts of Old Chicago: Our Oldest Surviving Apartment Buildings. Chicago Cityscape knows how to pick them. They also tweeted out this photoessay after spotting it in our newsletter, and we’re grateful as we think it’s one of our best.
  10. Is it Time to Ditch the Keating Memo? We were surprised that this thought piece from early in the year performed as well as it did. We were also surprised to see that most of the hits came from search engines, rather than the newsletter which lands in the inboxes of real estate industry folks who normally are interested in this sort of topic. Based on what we can see from the search engine info, most of the traffic came from new landlords and we’re cool with that.

Our Favorites

Sometimes our personal favorites are not picked up by our audience. We’re totally cool with that – after all, if everyone shared our interests then there would be no need for the company nor the blog to exist. But we do like to give these favorites as much of a chance as possible to get seen by our readers, mostly because they tend to be the ones that took a lot of research on the back end, or the ones where we learned a lot during the writing process.

If you haven’t seen these yet, maybe give them a try? Thanks!

  1. Why are there no Mobile Home Parks in Chicago? This one sat on our to-do list for a very long time before it finally made it to publication. It took a visit from a traveling friend to make it finally gel enough to write. We like it because it’s thorough, informative, and covers the far South Side. The subject matter is a bit outside of our wheelhouse, so we also learned a ton writing it.
  2. The History of the Lead Based Paint Disclosure. It’s no secret that we love writing history articles. If our research takes us all the way back to the Romans, so much the better. We had intended to follow up on this article with one about the Radon disclosure, and we may still do that in 2019.
  3. 10 Innovations that Changed the Chicago Apartment Industry in a Big Way. More history. Quirky history with a lot of our own opinions. Chicago-specific history, which is new to us as transplants from New England.
  4. Wolf and Jay: Two Landlords’ Approaches to a Troubled Neighborhood. Every once in a while we write something for which we press the “Publish” button nervously while peeking through our fingers. This was the first time we’ve really focused on specific individuals from the Chicago industry, and that’s always precarious turf even if both parties we covered are deceased. We’re happy with the artwork, we’re happy with the outcome. Of course, it was also a history article. But more importantly, it’s a drama.
  5. Classified History: Housing Ads in Chicago 1849-1871. Funny story about this one, it was supposed to run a week earlier but we couldn’t do it because our library card had expired. Either way, this is our favorite from this year, hands down. It appeared very late in the year, late enough that it hasn’t even made it into our newsletter yet. The research process was surprising, as we went in to prove a hypothesis that was so severely disproved as to not even be mentioned in the final draft. The resulting article has very few of our own words (which may be why we like it so much), letting the landlords from the Civil War era speak instead with all of their old school phrasing and grammar. We really want to make this one a series but that depends on how it performs in the next few months.

Again, big thanks to all of you who have made this our best year yet for readership. The coming year we’ll be dealing with the Mayoral election, a government shutdown, Rahm’s five year plan for Chicago housing and the first year under Governor Pritzker. We’ll see the continuation of some of our ongoing series and maybe we’ll finally take on the whole rent control issue. (Yes, we know you want us to cover it. We’re not ready.) Our newsletter will continue to cover the activities of the Illinois General Assembly, the City Council and the County Board, since you guys seem to like that. But all of this is for 2019. For now, have a happy new year and please celebrate safely!

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.