Attracting Buyers with Google AdWords (Remarketing)

Display Ads with Remarketing

Marketing your real estate listings online starts with driving home buyers to your real estate website — but it doesn’t always end there. Indeed, many prospective buyers visit a site to view or search property listings, only to move on without signing up or reaching out. Thankfully, just because a lead has left your website doesn’t mean you’ve lost them forever. With remarketing from Google AdWords, you can continue marketing directly to buyers who have viewed your listings.

Simply put, remarketing uses small files called cookies to track people who have visited your real estate website, allowing you to show banner ads to those people on thousands of websites in Google’s display advertising network. These ads can also be tailored to each user based on which pages they’ve visited on your website, enabling you to show photos of homes they’ve already viewed or other homes that meet their criteria. With remarketing, you can convince visitors to take a second look at you and your listings, giving you more opportunities to convert.

Task 1: Create Your Campaign

Log into your Google AdWords account. If you’ve never created a campaign before, click the “Create your first campaign” button near the top of the welcome screen. If you’re already running one or more AdWords campaigns, head to the Campaigns tab in your AdWords account and click the red “+ CAMPAIGN” button to begin.

Part 1:Select campaign type

To begin, enter a name for your AdWords campaign: “Listings Remarketing,” for instance. Then, under Type, select “Display Network Only” (not “Search Network with Display Select”) and click the button labeled “Remarketing.”

Note that with a remarketing campaign, you won’t need to provide keywords or narrow your audience by location. Since you’re specifically targeting people who have already visited your website, your audience has been created for you.

Part 2:Dynamic ads

You have two main options for generating remarketing ads. The first is “standard remarketing,” which allows you to manually design display ads that Google will serve to people who have visited your site. This is a quick and easy option, but also less powerful, since everyone in your remarketing audience will see the same ad.

Instead, we’ll be using “dynamic remarketing.” In this option, AdWords will use the pages visitors viewed on your website — in this case, property listings — to automatically generate ad visuals and copy. This allows you to serve each member of your audience with a unique ad featuring a listing they’ve already demonstrated interest in, without having to constantly create and update those ads manually. To activate dynamic remarketing, click the checkbox labeled “Use dynamic ads.”

Finally, in the dropdown menu, you’ll see a list of business types. Select “Real estate” from the list, then click “Set up remarketing” to continue.

See Google’s support page for more information on the benefits of dynamic remarketing.

Task 2: Set Up Remarketing Features

In order for remarketing with dynamic ads to work properly, you need three basic things:

  1. Listing photos and data.
  2. Information about visitor behavior on your site.
  3. A system for putting 1 and 2 together to create the right ads for the right people.

Part 1:Create your remarketing feed

To create dynamic ads, AdWords needs information about your listings: titles, images, attributes, and descriptions, etc. To provide this information, you’ll have to set up a “feed” to import data from your website to AdWords in the correct format.

To begin, enter your email address and click Continue to receive instructions for setting up your remarketing feed. In these instructions, you’ll find a link to download the real estate feed template, a spreadsheet that illustrates the correct formatting for your feed. Follow the link to the AdWords Help Center, then expand the “Real estate” section of the page and click “Real estate feed template (download CSV)” to download.

Row 1 of this template contains headings for each listing attribute (listing ID, listing name, destination URL, image URL, etc.), while the Column A contains recommendations for formatting the data for use in your ads. Keep this template handy — you’ll need it for the next step.

Next, you’ll need to download all the data for the listings you’re interested in using for your dynamic ads. To do this, you’ll need to log into your MLS or property database, select the listings you want, and download or export them in a .csv (comma separated values) file. For instructions specific to your system, visit your MLS website.

Finally, once you have your listings file, arrange the data according to the specifications in the AdWords feed template. Then, return to the Campaigns page in your AdWords account and select “Business data” from your Shared Library. You’ll see that AdWords has created an dynamic display ad feed for you. Select this feed (it should be empty), then click Edit and upload your spreadsheet.

See Google’s support page for more information on creating a remarketing feed.

Part 2:Add remarketing tag to your website

In addition to collecting listing data for use with your dynamic ads, you also have to set up your real estate website to track visitor behavior. This will allow AdWords to that match the content of its dynamic ads with listings and searches visitors have viewed.

If you’re already using Google Analytics to monitor traffic and behavior on your website, you can modify your existing Google Analytics tracking code for use with remarketing. To do this, sign in to your Google Analytics account and head to the Admin tab. In the Property column choose the site you want to use for remarketing, then click Property Settings. Under Advertising Features, you’ll see a section labeled Enable Advertising Features. Toggle the switch to ON to activate remarketing. (See Google’s Help Center for full instructions on enabling remarketing in Google Analytics.)

If you don’t use Google Analytics, you’ll have to manually paste the remarketing tag provided by AdWords into all the pages of your website. To get your tag, enter an email address in the overlay and click “Continue,” then check your email and copy the entire block of code provided. (You can also find the code in the Shared Library section of your AdWords account.) If you’re using WordPress or a similar content management system, you can add your remarketing tag to your admin panel, which will apply it to all of your pages. Otherwise, you’ll need to paste your code into each page of your website just before the </body> tag.

To check that your remarketing tag is active and troubleshoot any problems, add the Google Tag Assistant browser extension to your Chrome browser and visit any page of your website.

See Google’s Help Center for a complete guide to adding your remarketing tag to your website.

Part 3:Set up remarketing lists

Remarketing ads aren’t just for people who have viewed a listing on your website: they’re also for people who have performed a search, filled out a contact form, etc. With remarketing lists, you can sort your visitors according to their actions on your website and create different ads for different behaviors.

When you set up remarketing for real estate, Google AdWords automatically creates six default remarketing lists for common website behaviors, which can be found in the Audiences section of your AdWords Shared Library.

  • All visitors: People who visited pages that contain your remarketing tags
  • General visitors: People who visited your website, but didn’t view specific listings.
  • Listing searchers: People who have searched for listings on your site.
  • Listing viewers: People who have viewed specific listing pages on your site.
  • Conversion abandoners: People who started filling out a lead capture form, but never submitted it.
  • Past converters: People who submitted a form in the past.

You can also use custom lists to target more specific visitors and behaviors. For instance, you can create a remarketing list for visitors who have visited multiple pages or paths on your website—for instance, people who have viewed listings and read your about page. To create a custom list, click the “+ REMARKETING LIST” button at the top of the Audiences page.

See Google’s Help Center for more information on creating remarketing lists.

Task 3: Set Budget and Create Ad Groups

Now that your remarketing features are active, it’s time to set about defining your campaign budget and audience.

Part 1:Set bid strategy and daily budget

First, you need to decide how much you’re willing to spend on your campaign as a whole, as well as each ad placement. Remember, Google works as a “bidding engine,” where advertisers define the maximum amount they’re willing to pay per click. In turn, their ads are entered into auctions for ad positions on Google’s search results page. The higher your maximum bid, the more likely your ad will be shown to interested users and appear where they’re likely to see and click on it.

You have two options for setting bids. The first is to set your bids manually. This allows you to set your “default bid,” the maximum cost you’re willing to pay per click for ads in an ad group. (We’ll be creating ad groups in a moment.) Remember, this isn’t necessarily what you’ll be paying per click — in fact, the amount is often lower. Instead, Google will only charge you what it takes to win the best placement. For instance, let’s say your maximum bid is set to $5, but all other bids are a dollar or less. In this case, you’ll be charged just over $1 for each click, instead of $5.

The second option is to allow Google to set your bids based on a daily budget. For example, if your daily budget is $10, Google will automatically adjust which of your ads is shown and when in order to get you the maximum number of clicks for around $10. That means that if one placement on Google’s display network costs $5 per click, but another costs only $2, Google may opt to bypass the former in favor of the latter.

For first-time advertisers, it’s best to allow Google to determine your bids. This will teach you a lot about how much you can and should pay for clicks. Once you gain experience, you can go back and bid manually, setting higher or lower bids based on how certain key phrases perform. If you do choose to set a manual bid, this will simply be the default value for your campaign. You can always adjust your bid for specific key phrases and ads later.

Finally, set your daily budget. While Google may occasionally exceed your daily budget by 20% to help your campaign reach its potential, you’ll never be charged more than the average number of days in a month (about 30.4) times times your daily budget. For instance, if your daily budget is $10, you’ll never be charged more than $304 in a month.

See Google’s support page for more information on setting bids and budgets.

Once you’ve set your bid and budget options, click “Save and continue.”

Part 2:Create ad groups

Now it’s time to define the people you’ll be targeting with your ads. Unlike your standard display campaign audience, which must be researched and discovered, your remarketing campaign audience is largely defined for you via your remarketing website tag. Nevertheless, to get the most out of your remarketing ads, you still need to sort your audience into ad groups based on their specific behaviors.

On the ad group creation screen, you’ll see the remarketing lists AdWords created for you in the previous section, along with any custom lists you’ve added. For now, we’ll be focusing on the “Listing viewers” list. Remember, these are people who have viewed property details pages on your website. Enter a name for your ad group (“Listing viewers,” for instance) at the top of the screen, then click the double arrow button (») next to the Listing viewers list to include it in your ad group.

Next, you can use the “Narrow targeting further” section to refine your ad group according to the traditional display parameters.

  • Placements: specific websites and mobile applications included in Google’s Display Network.
  • Topics: subject areas, as defined by Google.

While this step is optional, it may help you achieve better results by targeting your audience where and when they’re most motivated to click. For instance, you can use the topics method to limit your ads to sites related to real estate.

Finally, under “Targeting optimization,” you can permit AdWords to target high-potential users who have not visited your site, but may be interested in what you’re offering. This can help you find new prospects and attracting more traffic to your website. To set up targeting optimization, simply check the box next to “Let AdWords automatically find new customers.”  See Google’s Help Center article for more information about display targeting optimization.

When you’ve finished defining your ad group targeting, click “Save and continue” to move on to ad creation.

Task 4: Create your Ads

Finally, it’s finally time to compose the ads themselves. Unlike AdWords search ads, which only feature a few lines of text, display ads rely on a mix of graphics, photos, colors, and copy to convey your brand and message. While some of this content will be automatically incorporated, you’ll still need to choose and optimize other elements to create your ads.

Part 1:Select ad layouts

Example of a Google AdWords dynamic display ad.

With the AdWords ad gallery, you can quickly and easily create ads in a variety of sizes and shapes with minimal design experience. By default, AdWords allows you to choose a range of “preferred layouts” for your dynamic ads. When it comes time to place an ad, AdWords will then select the layout from your preferred list that’s likely to perform the best for that particular placement and viewer.

To set your preferred layouts, click the edit icon above the layout slideshow. You’ll see a range of possible layout features, along with a gallery of sample ads. By turning features on or off, you can control how AdWords will use and display the data from your remarketing feed. If, for instance, you’d prefer that your ads feature one listing at a time, turn off the “Multiple items feature.” You can also turn off layout styles by clicking the x in the top right corner of a sample ad.

Once you’re satisfied with your preferred layout list, click “Apply” to save your changes.

Part 2:Upload your logo

Whether you run your own brokerage or work for a franchise, your company logo is a crucial part of your brand identity and will bolster your credibility with ad viewers. To add your company logo, click “Select image” and choose your logo source. You can upload a file for your computer, or choose “My site” to pull your logo directly from your website.

For best results, make sure your logo image has a clear background, rather than a white background.

Once you’ve uploaded your logo, you can use the slider bar to choose how much “padding” you want to separate your logo from the other images and text in your ad. Note that the more padding you use, the smaller your logo will be.

Part 3:Compose ad copy

While your ad will automatically pull property names, addresses, and descriptions from your feed, you still need to fill in the blanks and offer visitors an overall message about what you’re offering. Dynamic ads offer a few different copy fields. (Note: not all of these fields appear in every layout. To see which copy elements are included, be sure to cycle through the previews of all of your preferred layouts.)

  • Headline: Offer some context on your listings and the value they have for viewers: “Southern California Living,” “Beautiful Homes,” etc. While there’s no hard limit on length, some layouts provide more space than others, and AdWords will shrink or cut off your headline text to fit. For these reasons, be sure to keep your headline as short as possible.
  • Price prefix: Text that precedes the home price provided by your remarketing feed (e.g., “Starting at,” “As low as”).
  • Price suffix: Text that follows the home price provided by your remarketing feed (e.g., “and up”). For best results, use either a price suffix, or a price prefix — not both.
  • Button: This is your call to action: what you want viewers to do, and what they can expect to find on your website. For example: “View Listing.” Some layouts offer one button and lots of spaces, while others squeeze multiple buttons into one ad, so you should keep this text short and repeatable.

In addition to crafting the actual copy, you can also use the “More options” section beneath each field to adjust the colors and styling of each element.

Part 4:Enter ad URL

Next, decide where your ad will take users who click. There are two different URLs here:

    • Display URL: This is the web address users will see in your ads, though not necessarily where your ads will take them. Because of this, your display URL can be cleaner and simpler than your landing page URL (e.g. ApexRealty.com instead of http://www.apexrealty.com/listings/ca/los-angeles/54412675960df96f9b000401/). Note that your display URL must match both the domain name (apexrealty.com) and top-level domain (apexrealty.com) of your landing page.
  • Landing Page URL: This is the page people who click on your ads will actually “land” on.  (This is different from the listing URL provided by your remarketing feed — more on that in a moment.) AdWords is retiring the Destination URL option, so be sure to select Final URL from the list. If you’re using third-party URL tracking, enter your tracking template in the space provided. Check the box if you want mobile users directed to a separate, mobile-optimized landing page.

Finally, at the bottom of this section, you’ll see “More options.” Here, you can decide what happens when users click different parts of your ad.

  • Navigate to a product URL: Users will be sent to the page of whatever listing that’s displayed in the “product area” of your ad, no matter where they click. (This essentially disables your landing page URL above.)
  • Navigate to an ad URL: Users who click in the product area will be sent to the page for that listing, While users who click outside the product area will be sent to the Final URL you’ve entered above.

See Google’s Help Center article for more on using Final URLs.

Part 5:Advanced options

Under “Show advanced fields,” you’ll see a few more options for customizing your dynamic ads.

  • Background: Choose colors or select an image for the background of your ad. As with your logo, you can upload your own image, or pull one from your site. AdWords also offers a wide selection of stock images, including dozens related to real estate.
  • Item settings: Customize the look of the listing details that are automatically incorporated in your dynamic ads.
  • Disclaimer: Add “fine print” at the bottom of your ad to clarify or qualify the offer you’re making (e.g., “Availability subject to change.”)
  • Ad name: Give your ad a title within AdWords for easier reference.

BonusColor and style tips

When it comes to dynamic ads, an attractive, eye-catching design makes all the difference. Here are a couple tips for optimizing the look and feel of your ads.

  • Colors: The more consistent your ads are with the colors and styles users see on your website, the more professional you’ll look and the better their experience will be. That said, your ads also need to draw your audience’s attention away from the content they’re consuming on the sites where your ad is placed, so feel free to tweak ad colors, particularly for your call-to-action button. In general, green, red, and orange stand out and encourage action, while shades of blue are common and may cause your ad to blend in.
  • Text styles: While you should feel free to experiment with the size and styling of your ad copy, AdWords’ default settings are generally optimized for its layout offerings, so try not to get too far away from them. When in doubt, keep your styling simple and readable, and let your listings speak for themselves.

See Google’s guide for more tips on designing effective display ads.

Part 7:Preview and save your ads

Once you’ve reviewed your ad design, click “Preview and save” at the top of the page to continue. On the following page, you’ll see a variety of ad shapes and sizes, corresponding to the various slots and spaces available on placements in Google’s Display Network. The more formats you select, the higher the chances of having your ad shown.

When you’ve selected all the formats you want, click “Preview and save” again to finish. Your ads will be sent to AdWords for review, and should receive approval within one business day. To see the status of your ads, head to the Campaigns page on your AdWords admin panel and select the Ads tab.

For more instructions on building up an AdWords remarketing campaign, see Google’s dynamic remarketing setup guide.

Task 5: Optimize for Clicks and Leads

Once you’ve created your first campaign, it’s time to start thinking about how you can optimize your AdWords ads to achieve the best results.

Remember: your display ads are interrupting your target audience as they go about their digital lives. Because of this, conversion rates for display ads tend to be lower than those of search ads. Thanks to remarketing, however, you have an audience that’s already shown interest in your listings, as well as the data to customize your ads for each user, increasing your chances of getting clicks.

Part 1:Landing pages

Your ads are just the first step in attracting seller leads with Google AdWords. To maximize the return on your investment, you need to consider where your ads will take people, and what you want them to do when they get there. While your homepage is a great general introduction to your business, people who click on your ads are looking for something more specific. That is, these people want answers to the questions that made them click your ad in the first place. If they can’t find them right away, they’ll simply leave.

Instead, you should be using targeted landing pages with content that’s tailored to each ad. Luckily, you already have highly tailored landing pages in the form of your listings. If you’ve chosen to have all sections of your ad point to the listing URL provided by your remarketing feed, you don’t need to do much more. If, however, you’re also using a separate landing page for non-product sections, make sure your Final URL is as specific to your ad as possible. For instance, since this is an ad for listing viewers, it makes sense to send them to your property search page to view more listings.

Here are a few more tips for building great landing pages:

  • Invest in a great website. A real estate website that’s ugly, outdated, or not mobile friendly won’t win converts. Before you spend money on advertising, make sure you have a professional-quality real estate website with IDX search and a mobile-friendly design.
  • Don’t bait-and-switch. Don’t promise anything you and your business can’t deliver: make sure your landing pages contain content about services and results you can actually offer your leads.
  • Include a lead capture form. Converting website visitors into leads is about building relationships, and the first step to building a relationship is getting a visitor’s contact information via a lead capture form. Be sure to place your form “above the fold,” so that visitors don’t have to scroll down to see it. Don’t ask for too much: Stick with a simple form that asks for basic details like name, email, and phone number.
  • Provide a clear call to action. The goal of any landing page is to convince your visitors to perform a specific action: sign up, log in, fill out, download, call, etc. When building your landing pages, make sure that your call to action is simple, concrete, and prominently displayed. (For more on how to craft an effective call to action, check out our Academy post: Calls to Action That Generate Real Estate Leads.)
  • Create value for visitors. If you really want leads to create an account on your website or provide their contact details, try giving them something valuable in return: an email newsletter with your best real estate tips, a free downloadable guide, etc. Not only will leads leave your site with something tangible, they’ll have proof of the expertise that only you can offer.

For more insight on landing pages, check out our guide at the Academy: 12 Real Estate Website Lead Conversion Tips and Tricks.

Part 2:Campaign exclusions

A large part of achieving success with display ads is finding out which targeting options don’t produce clicks or conversions. Instead of simply removing these ideas from your remarketing campaign, you can use campaign exclusions to block your remarketing ads from showing when those ideas are triggered.

As your campaign progresses, look for targeting ideas and audiences offering poor stats — for instance, a keyword that results in lots of impressions, but offers very low click-through rate. To add these ideas to your exclusions list, head to your campaign on your AdWords dashboard, select the “Display Network” tab, and click the “+ EXCLUSIONS” button at the bottom of the page. You can exclude keywords, placements, topics, or entire remarketing audiences.

See Google’s support page for more information on excluding targeting ideas from your campaigns.

Part 3:Google Analytics

Once your AdWords campaign is underway, it’s important that you track the results of your advertising efforts — after all, you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

For starters, create a Google Analytics account and add your real estate website. (Check out Google’s Analytics Setup Checklist for full step-by-step instructions.) Next, head to your Google AdWords dashboard, click the Tools tab, and select Google Analytics. A setup wizard will guide you through the process of linking your accounts.

Once you’ve integrated AdWords with Analytics, you’ll be able to evaluate the performance of your display ads. For starters, you’ll be able to see how many people have clicked on your ads; but more importantly, you’ll get insight on visitors’ behavior after they’ve arrived on your site. A few key metrics include:

  • Pages / Visit – This is the average number of pages viewed during a visit to your site. A high average could mean that visitors like what they see on your landing page, and have decided to explore more of your site.
  • Avg. Visit Duration – This is the length of time the average visitor spends on your site during a particular visit. As with pages per visit, a high average visit duration is generally a positive sign. Alternatively, it could mean visitors are struggling to find what they’re looking for.
  • Bounce Rate – This is the percentage of visitors who come to your site and leave without viewing any other pages. A high bounce rate is generally a bad thing, as it indicates that your landing page isn’t giving visitors the information they’re looking for.

For more advice on getting started with Google Analytics, check out our infographic: An Introduction to Google Analytics for Real Estate

Part 4:Refining your ads

As you gather more data on the performance of your AdWords remarketing campaigns, you can begin to do testing to improve lead engagement and conversion. You may find, for instance, that some of your AdWords audiences or options generate more clicks than others. If that’s the case, you can edit your settings toward these groups, behaviors, and targeting ideas.

In addition to managing your AdWords keywords, you can also refine the ads themselves. With A/B testing, for example, you can serve up two versions of the same display ad to an ad group, each with slightly different headlines, colors, or layouts. By tracking which version gets the most clicks, you’ll hone your design approach and gain a better understanding of the message your prospects want to hear.

For more information on AdWords remarketing, see Google’s comprehensive guide, Remarketing Right on Cue.