Maybe you’ve noticed, but it’s hard to land a spot on Google’s first page and above the fold with SEO alone.
While Google will occasionally play with their layout and the number of organic results, if your business isn’t one of them it will seriously affect the number and quality of leads you get.
We’re not just picking on Google. This is true for other search engines.
It leaves many in the real estate industry scratching their heads and tirelessly tweaking their SEO strategy in hopes of finding the right mix.
Chances are you’re going to conclude that it’s time to invest in PPC.
Having worked at marketing agencies that specialize in real estate and now managing real estate clients of my own, I have optimized hundreds of home builder and apartment PPC accounts over the last 10 years. With that, comes a lot of trials and many opportunities for learning.
Here are some PPC strategies and tips that I’ve developed that also takes into account some of the challenges and nuances of marketing in the real estate vertical.
First, Let’s Talk Challenges
So, what makes paid search for real estate so different?
Real Estate is an Extremely Local Product
The end user must physically live in that city. So, for starters, an AdWords campaign must only target consumers who are want to live in your city.
Despite that fact, when the user starts their search, they may be planning to relocate for job, family, etc. As a result, they are currently living in that city.
Homeowners Will Not Rent
While this is a bit more unique for apartment communities, if a consumer owns their home, it is highly unlikely they will ever be a target for an apartment community.
The challenge then becomes, how do we prevent current homeowners from seeing our advertising?
Renters Are Locked into Long Term Leases
While a renter is an ideal candidate for a home builder, the reality is they are tied to 6-month and, more often, 12-month leases. This makes their eligibility hit or miss on any given day.
Not Everyone is a Candidate for Either a Home or Apartment
On top of all of this, customers need to be able to afford (and to qualify) for the products. Credit checks disqualify many hopeful candidates for both a new apartment and their dream home.
The good news is AdWords is one of the few platforms that can specifically narrow in on a qualified real estate shopper, provided the campaigns are set up correctly.
So, let’s get started with a plan to optimize a PPC campaign for your real estate business.
Bidding on Your Brand Terms is Super Important
It’s one of the industries favorite debates (or maybe it’s just the client’s favorite debate): whether to bid on brand terms.
The reality is, for real estate, the discovery process is extremely unique and requires a critical investment in branded terms.
Real estate searchers learn about the locations and communities in a wide variety of ways:
- Physical signs
- A co-worker or friend
- Apartment Guide
These sources, however, do not always provide adequate information.
The result is a branded search on Google for more information.
This also means shoppers searching for your specific brand name are more than likely also your hottest leads.
Make sure you capitalize on these lower funnel searchers!
If you elect to no bid on your owned brand keyword terms, it is likely one of the two (if not both) things will happen:
- If competitors are buying your brand name, they will likely appear above your branded organic listing.
- Real estate aggregators (both apartments and new homes) who bid broadly on brand terms by name and brand + city/state keywords, will gladly take that top spot. Once a consumer clicks through, they are now only one click away from viewing all of your local competitors.
If competitors are stealing your warm leads, you definitely aren’t doing real estate SEM correctly.
Geotargeting for the Win
Under Location Options, I like to leverage the recommended setting People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations and People in, or who show interest in, your excluded locations initially.
As the account gains data I may adjust these.
However, these recommended settings help compensate for someone who may be looking for your brand or real estate in your target locations but not physically located in that area.
Next, for city targeting, typically, I start by choosing the largest metro area around the targeted location.
Most often, people will move within the same city or suburb.
You want to avoid missing someone who is moving or relocating from one Florida suburb to the other, for example.
Pro Tip: Use city targeting with nested bid adjustments for a bigger win!
The idea is simple.
Incrementally bid down the further out from your target location and, theoretically, as the quality of the lead decreases.
When I first approached my AdWords rep with the idea, I was concerned I would be essentially be bidding against myself with overlapping geo-bids.
What I found was that Google defaults to the closest identifiable location in order to determine the bid adjustment. This provides an added layer of control when a more advanced geo-targeting strategy.
Negative Keywords Will Be Your Best Friend
Negative keywords can be defined as search criteria that will prevent your ad from showing up.
For instance, let’s say you have no interest in dealing with certain types of properties or homes types.
You would list those as your negative keywords and every time someone initiated a search using those terms, it would prevent your ad from showing.
Prevent Other City Keyword Matches
Not many city names are unique.
Unfortunately, not many community brand names are unique either.
The challenge is removing clicks generated by these different city searches.
A simple strategy here?
Set up a separate negative keyword list specifically for State and State abbreviations.
This will weed out a large number of these duplicate (and un-targeted) searches.
Important: Don’t forget to remove the state and state abbreviation of your target location before applying the list.
Removing Low-Intent Searchers
As Google has become more and more liberal with their keyword matching (even for “Exact Match”), preventing a wide variety of keyword matching has become even more challenging.
Over the years, I’ve developed a default list of negatives (which you can download here).
For each new campaign, applying this list to my campaigns along with the state negatives are part of the process.
These negatives includes everything from “craigslist”, “home depot” and “tiny” (as in ‘tiny homes’) to “zillow”, “resume”, and “section 8”.
Should you elect to download the list, be sure to scrub the list to make sure you won’t be removing anything you actually want to serve for.
ALL the Ad Extensions
Google released an Ad Rank formula update that now factors in ad extensions.
So, aside from their value for real estate, it’s a good practice to leverage a minimum of three ad extensions per ad.
A no-brainer in general for a local business, for nearby searchers, location extensions help provide the user:
- The distance to your location, and its city (mobile).
- The location’s street address (computer).
- A clickable “Call” button.
- Tappable or clickable access to a details page for the location — with information such as hours, phone number, photos, customer ratings, and directions.
There are many, many ways to leverage sitelinks in ad copy. For real estate specifically, floorplan pages are an ideal application.
Not every consumer is the same. Some may be looking for a studio vs. a one-bedroom apartment or a one-story home vs. one that has four bedrooms.
Getting a consumer directly to the page they are interested in is half the battle and can drive very high CTRs – which, in-turn, can lead to improved quality scores.
A relatively new ad extension (which has just recently been expanded from mobile-only to desktop as well) is the price extension.
If you prefer to reserve your sitelinks for the standard “Contact Us”, “About Us”, etc. this is a viable alternative and, arguably, a more visually appealing application of floorplans.
Up to eight price “cards” can be added and, once clicked, will direct users to the floorplan or model that they are most interested in on your site. These cards also expand your ads’ real estate (especially on mobile) which helps block out your competition.
With the explosion of mobile combined with the influx of advertiser investment in the AdWords platform, being able to speak to the potential lead directly is a gold mine.
A call extension or a call-only Adwords campaign is the ideal implementation for this effort.
Tip: Make sure you align your call extension day parting to align with your business hours. There’s nothing worse than sending a potential lead to a phone number that keeps ringing or gets picked up by voicemail.
The Bottom Line
Narrow your AdWords real estate campaigns to exclude as much unqualified traffic as possible to generate more qualified leads. There is a multitude of ways to accomplish this but hopefully, the above tips will help or at least spark some new ideas.
When in doubt, test. And then test again.
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In-Post Photos: Screenshots taken by Jon Clark, December 2017