The two most hotly-contested real estate searches on Google are those searching for properties and those searching for local agents.
The problem for real estate agents is the search dominance of big players in REA, Domain, and RateMyAgent.
When buyers are looking for properties it’s REA and Domain. When they’re looking for agents it’s RateMyAgent and the gluttony of other agent review sites that influence the SERPs.
The one way of guaranteeing your search visibility is via Google Ads. Particularly if you don’t have the time to wait for organic traffic or possess an appetite for the broader investment in search engine optimisation and content.
How Does Google Ads Work?
If you’re unfamiliar with Google Ads, it’s worth noting that it’s one of the few advertising platforms that reward you for better ads. More on that shortly.
You must know that, at least in terms of traditional search ads, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. The other important note to make is it’s a bidding system – so the advertiser that’s willing to spend more on each click will likely be placed higher in the ad results. In a space with little competition, your Cost Per Clicks (CPCs) will be low but in a high-competition space, where competitors outbid you to sit higher, then you can expect high CPCs.
Then of course, the higher the CPCs, the higher the Cost Per Acquisitions (CPAs) and less room for a positive ROI.
Back to my first point about rewarding you for better ads. You see, Google wants you to serve better ads to people searching. It’s part of their search product – great results (ads and organic).
In fact, they even rate your ads, they call it their ‘Quality Score’.
“The Quality Score is Google’s rating of the overall user experience that your ads and landing pages provide when users search for your keyword(s). This is represented on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. “
If you have a great quality score, then it is likely that you can rank your ad higher than the competition, yet pay less for CPCs.
If you want to improve your Quality Score, look to improve your expected click-through rate (CTR), ad relevance, and landing page experience.
Do Google Ads Work for Real Estate?
There is an inherent advantage to search advertising. You are advertising to a user when they are searching for what you’re promoting. They are showing intent. You’re not interrupting them while they read the newspaper, browse Facebook, or simply surf the web. Smart Insights, a leading online learning platform for digital marketers published Google Ads benchmark data by industry. This is how real estate performed:
Avg Click Through Rate (CTR): 7.75%
Avg Cost Per Click: $1.40
Avg Cost Per Lead: $38.86
So what does this mean? Are Google Ads worth your consideration?
Well, I should point out that these are benchmarks only. The nature of the advertising platform, as mentioned earlier, means your local market could be hotter and you’ll have different results.
But what I take from these averages is this…
Low CPCs, so it means you have room to test and tweak your tactics. Starting at $20 CPCs means you’ll run up thousands in budget spend, potentially before you’ve found the right strategy.
The CTRs are higher than average, which is a great indication that the audience is interested in the real estate ads.
And finally but most importantly, the average Cost Per Lead is just $38.86. But this may or may not work for your agency and your objectives. It all comes down to what you can do internally with that $38.86 lead.
The other thing to note, again just using the averages to make a simple calculation, with CPCs at $1.40 but CPLs at $38.86 that means that on average only 1 in every 27.75 people who click will convert to a lead. So if this strike rate is replicated in your campaign but your CPCs are $3 then all of a sudden you’re expecting Cost Per Leads of $83.25. You can see how things escalate.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the hotly-contested searches of properties and agents are very different for your advertising. Even if we presume the average Cost Per Lead was to be the same for both campaigns, the profit you generate from the different leads will most certainly be different and this will ultimately impact your Google Ads ROI. So you need to understand the value of each lead before embarking on a Google Ads campaign.
Google Ads for Agency Leads
People are looking for agencies for a number of reasons and each will determine the efficacy of Google Ads.
But with the strong appetite of the agent review platforms, often it’s ads and the local pack where you have an opportunity to be visible in a crowded marketplace.
Here is an example when I searched for ‘Broadbeach real estate agents’.
All three ad positions are obviously taken by the review platforms. Could the CPCs be too high for agencies? If so what’s the ROI for these review sites?
Another thing to note is that each ad has ‘Broadbeach’ in the heading. So they are not generic ads targeting the entire Gold Coast. They’re structured to be targeted and they work. They’ve used the words from my search term in their description and Google bolded them, which makes them stand out more and more likely to earn a click. There are some ad extensions in place but none of them have a location or call extension because that’s not their objective, they want a website visit.
Google Ads for Properties
You may not have the budget to advertise all of your individual property listings but could you advertise some high-end properties? Or the more likely option is to advertise listings by suburbs as is traditionally the case.
It’s important to note that competition for such listings is still hot and will likely attract high CPCs, so understand the value of a lead.
Here is an example when I searched for ‘Byron Bay properties for sale’.
My search term must be one of their primary targets for this ad group because they have it prominently in the heading. It’s interesting that their website address is also in the heading as they believe (or it’s a responsive ad and Google served it) that the brand adds extra weight and generates higher CTRs.
Like the ads above for properties, Domain’s objective is not to take phone calls, they want website visitors, hence why they’ve used a sitelink extension giving users the option to click through to other pages. Also, like the properties example above, they’ve used the words from the search term in the description triggering the bolding.
How To Get Started With Your Real Estate Google Advertising
Structure it For Success
All too often advertisers create an account and set themselves up for failure before their ads have even launched.
Getting your account and campaign structure correct is critical.
Here is what a traditional real estate structure would look like:
Account: ABC Real Estate
Campaign #1: Home Buyers Searching For Agents
Ad group 1: First-time buyers
- Ad #1:
- Ad #2:
- Ad #3
Ad group 2: Second-time buyers
- Ad #1:
- Ad #2:
- Ad #3
Ad group 3: Investor buyers
- Ad #1:
- Ad #2:
- Ad #3
Setting Up Your Campaign
There are a number of steps to run through to get your campaign set up including:
– Objectives – There is a number to choose from but you’ll want to select ‘Leads’.
– Conversions – You’ll need to set up how Google Ads will measure your conversions. Think form inquiries.
– Campaign Type – I would recommend just ‘Search’ for now.
– Ways To Reach Your Goal – Typically you’ll want to select ‘Website visits’ and ‘Phone calls’.
– Campaign Name – Add your name but remember the structure noted above.
– Budget – Simple. How much do you want to allocate for this campaign? It’s daily but Google will calculate it over the month.
– Bidding – Your max CPC is just that, so your CPCs will spend a lot of time below. What they are will be based on your bidding strategy. I would suggest ‘Conversions’ or ‘Conversions Value’. Don’t forget to add your ‘Return On Ad Spend’. Basically, this is telling Google you want them to try and achieve a conversion action below that figure.
– Networks – Again let’s deselect ‘Display Network’ and I also choose to deselect ‘Google search partners’.
– Locations – Critical step. If you’re an agent servicing the Gold Coast, you don’t necessarily want to be advertising to people in Victoria, or do you? Select ‘Enter another location’ and it will give you the option to start entering cities, suburbs, or postcodes to target. You may choose to select ‘Location options’ for more flexibility. For example, the default selection is ‘Presence or interest: People in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in your targeted locations’. You may choose to prefer ‘Presence: People in or regularly in your targeted locations’.
– Keywords – Now you’re at the stage to nominate the keywords which will trigger your advertising. Another critical step. You need to consider your campaign objective and what your audience would be searching for. Also, make sure you have a focus on relevance, this will impact your Quality Score. And understand the ‘keyword match types’ because this is another critical step. You see, when you target ‘real estate agents Broadbeach’ by default that’s not the only search term that will trigger your ad. Google’s going to trigger your ad for a whole range of terms that are broadly related. So if you want to watch your spend, then you’ll want to look at ‘phrase’ match and potentially ‘exact match’.
Creating Your Ads & Including Ad Extensions
Now to the nitty-gritty of writing your ads.
Note that Google uses what they call responsive ads, where you nominate multiple headlines and descriptions, so they can serve different variations identifying the best performing on your behalf.
But first, you need to enter your ‘Final URL and ‘Display Path’. The former is the page where you’ll send people when they click. The latter is simply the URL that will be shown in the ad. Try to get your main keywords in there.
Then you’ll need to select at least 5-8 headlines where only three will be served in any given ad. Use the suggestions Google provides you if they make sense. You can also ‘pin’ a headline to positions one, two, or three to be able to give you some more certainty about what will be shown to your audience.
Then enter 2-4 descriptions of which two will be used. Again view Google’s ideas and use them where appropriate. And ‘pin’ them to positions one or two if you wish.
These are optional extras you can add to your advertisement and they will use more space and will give you a good chance of improving your CTR. There is a number available and I can make a case on many of them depending on your campaign objectives.
– Sitelinks – Links to up to four other pages on your site. They stand out but only use these if they complement the ad experience and your objectives, otherwise, they may just be a distraction.
– Callout – Add short callouts below your ad description but note each one is capped at 25 characters.
– Call – A link to call your office.
– Structured Snippet – Similar to callouts but you can only use predetermined headings and for real estate, there are ‘Neighbourhoods’. This may be a great opportunity to include suburbs that you serve as an agent or surrounding suburbs with properties for sale.
This is the page where you are sending the person who clicks your ad. Remember, this is part of Google’s Quality Score. But even more importantly, at the moment that the person lands on this page, they’ve cost you anywhere between $2 – $10, so you want the best possible page to convert them, so you don’t leave that money on the table.
It should make sense for the user from the search terms they used and the copy in the ad. It should be clear what you want them to do when they get there. Do not send them to your home page. If you’re promoting your properties for sale in Broadbeach, then send them to a page that lists each of your listings in Broadbeach. If you’re advertising to people looking for real estate agents in Broadbeach because you have an office there, then send them to the office page with all the relevant details.
Refining Your Ad Delivery, Devices & Negative Keywords
Once you’ve published your ad, I would recommend that you make some refinements to improve your performance.
– Ad Delivery – This is where you can choose to show your ads at different times during the week. Whether you have assumptions on when best to advertise or not, it’s always a great idea to target different days and hours instead of a blanket approach. Doing so will allow you to continue to monitor the campaign performance across the times and bid appropriately.
– Devices – You may not have any reason to adjust bidding on desktop, mobile, or tablet yet, it’ll likely be something to monitor and adjust based on performance.
– Negative keywords – You can add negative keywords so that Google knows for certain that if they are searched, they are not to trigger your ads. This is particularly important if you’ve chosen to use broad keyword match types.
How to Measure Your Real Estate Google Ads
If you’ve set up your conversion actions properly then this is the first item to monitor. How many conversions have you recorded? What is the Cost Per Conversion? These are critical goals to monitor. Keep in mind, that you should have an idea of what each ‘lead’ is worth to the agency.
There are a lot of other metrics that I monitor but a few that you should keep a close eye on include:
– Calls – If you’ve chosen to add a ‘call extension’ to your ads, then users will be clicking on this without even visiting your website. Again you should understand what value you can place on a phone call. Call tracking is a great idea.
– Cost Per Clicks (CPCs) – With increased competition, you may see increased CPCs. Know that it will more than likely lead to higher Cost Per Leads. So monitor it closely and make adjustments if need be. For example, try to drill down when and where the CPCs are increasing. You might find that they’re on Saturdays only and your historical performance on Saturdays hasn’t been great anyway, so you choose to reduce your bidding. Or alternatively, it might even be a specific suburb or postcode where you’re seeing higher CPCs, so look to make a judgment call on those too.
– Click-Through Rates (CTRs) – It’s an indication of the performance of your ads. If one ad has a much lower CTR than another, then you should look to improve that ad. There may be other circumstances but the ad itself is obvious. And remember, your ‘expected CTRs’ make up part of Google’s Quality Score for you, so poor CTRs can hurt your score and your performance.
Do You Need Agency Support?
We’ve shown how Google Ads can bring you to the table with the other big players in guaranteeing your search visibility. And if you have a full-time marketer in-house then you may prefer to give them the responsibility of managing your Google Ads campaigns. But note that you really should allow them sufficient time to learn the skill and maintain the knowledge base, in addition to 3-5 hours a week to measure and manage the campaigns.
If you don’t have a full-time marketer on staff, then all bias aside, I can wholeheartedly tell you that you should hire agency support or at least a credible freelancer. Too much money can be left on the table if you’re not managing your campaigns to their optimal level. And if you’re spending between $5k – $10k a month, then it can really add up.