Personal Branding with Google AdWords

Display Ads

As a real estate professional, you’re competing with all the other agents in your area for the same pool of consumers. To be successful, you need to offer prospective clients an answer that all-important question: Why should they hire you? Your answer is your personal brand, the unique value proposition that distinguishes you and your business from competitors.

You’ll Learn How To:

Create keyword lists to target local real estate consumers
Build ad campaigns on the Google Adwords display network
Create display ads that generate clicks and emphasize your brand
Optimize ads and campaigns for maximum return on investment

Your personal brand isn’t just what’s written on your business card: it’s the sum total of your appearance, words, and actions, both online and off. By cultivating a consistent personal brand across all the platforms you use to engage your audience, you’ll create a strong and specific association between your real estate business and the value consumers stand to gain from working with you.

Of course, developing a personal brand means getting your message out to prospective clients. While there are various tools and strategies for personal branding on the web, one of best places to start is with display ads via Google AdWords. By connecting with your target audience across the web via banner ads with rich visuals that illustrate your brand and its value, you can attract valuable leads and put yourself top of mind with real estate consumers in your area.

Task 1: Research Keywords & Placements

Building a successful personal branding campaign with Google’s display network isn’t just about crafting great ads: you need to target your efforts so you can get the right message out to the right people, at the right place and time.

Where your display ads appear (and how much they cost) is based primarily on two factors:

  1. Placements: the websites, mobile apps, and videos that will feature your ads.
  2. Keywords: phrases found on placement pages that are relevant to your business.

Focus only on placements, and your ads will likely reach an audience that isn’t interested in what you’re selling. Focus only on keywords, and your ads will end up on a wide variety of sites, making it difficult to distinguish placements that produce results from those that don’t. Either way, you’ll be paying more for less.

Let’s begin by talking about what makes for a good keyword.

Part 1:Display keyword ideas

Unlike search ads, which are directed at people who are actively looking for you, display ad audiences are simply using websites and apps whose content is related to your industry or service. Because of this, it’s important to select keywords that are relevant not only to real estate search and sales, but also to interests and topics your target customers want to know more about.

For instance, while “home improvement tips” may not seem like an ideal keyword for real estate at first glance, remember that some of the people visiting sites about home improvement may be preparing to put their home on the market.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for display keyword topics.

  • Home search. A huge portion of real estate-related web and app traffic comes from prospective buyers browsing online property listings. By targeting terms related to buying in your area, you can get your brand in front of motivated leads.
  • Agent search. Some folks already know that they’re ready to sell, and are either looking for a real estate professional, or browsing advice about choosing one. Show them that you’re the right agent for the job.
  • Home values. For many sellers in the market for an agent, the first step is finding out just how much that home is worth. Many of the big listing portals offer home value calculators (think Zillow’s “Zestimate”), but these tools are often inaccurate. As a local agent, you have the tools, the records, and the know-how to offer something better.
  • Market conditions. Many consumers want to know whether the conditions in their local market are favorable prior to buying or selling. With the data and expertise at your disposal, you can give them a comparative market analysis that outlines how they might fare based on trends in their area.
  • Guides and tips. Selling or buying a home can be daunting, particularly for first-timers, and many consumers go online to find out more about the process. By creating informative content on your site about all the ins and outs of the real estate process, you can create a product that speaks to your brand and gives you something to sell in your ads.
  • For sale by owner. According to recent surveys, about 9 percent of sellers choose to sell their home without an agent. These consumers aren’t a lost cause: on the contrary, they’re sellers without agents. Convince them that they need your help.

BonusReal estate keyword tips

When exploring ideas for real estate keywords, be sure keep these tips in mind.

  • Think like a consumer. The right keyword isn’t just a phrase that describes you and your services: It’s a phrase your target audience is using to search for information related to you and the services you offer. For starters, that means no company names: after all, if consumers already knew about your brand, you wouldn’t need to build it. In some cases, a keyword phrase may not be directly related to real estate. For instance, some sellers may begin by searching for home improvement tips.
  • Be specific. Your keywords should be at least 2-3 words long and directed at a specific group of people. You may think that “find a realtor” is the perfect keyword, but the truth is that plenty of other advertisers are thinking the same thing. Instead, look for more detailed keywords that target a particular audience. Not only will you pay less per click: you’ll also get your ad in front of prospects who have a clearer idea of what they want, and are more likely click your ad and spend time on your landing page.

See Google’s support page for more information on choosing keywords for your display ads.

Part 3:Using the AdWords Display Planner

Now that you understand the basics of keywords for real estate, it’s time to start building a keyword list and finding ideas for ad placements. Luckily, Google AdWords offers a Display Planner tool to help you do both.

Before using the AdWords Display Planner, you’ll have to create an AdWords account. For help setting up your Google AdWords account, check out our setup play: [Set Up Google Keyword Planner.]

To begin, head to the Display Planner and select “Get ideas and estimates.” In the spaces provided, enter one or more initial keywords related to your business, along with the URL of your real estate website.

Next, under “Targeting,” add your location to limit keyword ideas to your geographic area. Once you’ve added a location, click “nearby” to see a list of additional suggestions. You can add as many locations as you want, so try to be as complete as possible. (Be sure to keep “United States” in your list — otherwise, you may miss out on consumers outside your market who are considering moving to your area.) This section also gives you the option to filter suggestions by language, which can be useful if you serve customers in multiple languages.

Once you’ve completed these sections, click “Get placement ideas” to continue. (We’ll talk about “ad groups” in a moment). At the top of the next screen, you’ll see a breakdown of the weekly estimated impressions and reach of your initial targeting ideas, graphed by age, gender, and device. (For a broader perspective, you can also view monthly data by clicking the dropdown button at the top.)

Personal branding placements

Below this breakdown, you’ll see a list of possible placements that match your initial targeting ideas, split across three columns: websites, mobile apps, and videos. Click on a column to see these placements in more detail.

The Display Planner allows you to evaluate your placement ideas according to several criteria:

  • Ad formats: a visual representation of which ad sizes and types are available on each placement.
  • Relevance: a measure of how closely an idea matches your search criteria and how it performed in the past.
  • Hist. CPC: a range of costs-per-click that won ad auctions for your targeting idea over a week-long period.
  • Cookies / wk: a cookie is a small file saved on your computer, phone, or tablet which stores preferences and other information about web pages you visit. Think of this as an estimate of the number of different devices ads on a given placement reach weekly.
  • Impr. / wk: another “reach” metric, this is an estimate of the number of impressions (or views) ads on a given placement receive weekly.

Personal branding Interests

As you’ll see at the top of your “Individual targeting ideas” tab, in addition to placements and keywords, you can also use the Display Planner to get ideas across a few other categories:

  • Interests: using cookies, Google tracks users’ online behavior and uses that information to sort them into various interest categories. Examples for real estate include Mortgage, Residential Properties (For Sale), Foreclosed Properties (For Sale), etc.
  • Topics: similar to Interests, this option sorts placement sites into categories according to topic: Real Estate Listings, Real Estate Agencies, Timeshares & Vacation Properties, etc.
  • Demographics: this allows you to limit your audience according to age, gender, and parental status.

To ensure your ads are being shown to the right people, it’s a good idea to refine your audience by incorporating ideas from different categories. For instance, by targeting both specific keywords and placements, you can ensure that your ads only reach people browsing the most relevant and popular websites that match your keywords. Be careful not to “overlayer” your plan with too many target methods, however — you could significantly reduce your reach.

When evaluating targeting ideas, pay attention to the balance between relevance, cost-per-click, and reach metrics. The goal, of course, is to get your ad in front of the largest audience of interested users for the lowest possible cost-per-click.

See Google’s support article for more on using the AdWords Display Planner to find targeting ideas.

Part 4:Understanding ad groups

Remember, your display ads aren’t one-size-fits-all: they’re highly targeted toward specific audiences. While all of these segments are interested in real estate, each is browsing slightly different sites and pursuing slightly different goals. To reach them, you’ll need to create multiple ads that address their different needs, all while steering them in your direction. This is where ad groups come in.

Simply put, an ad group is a collection of targeting ideas around a common theme.

display ad group examples

While both of these ad groups are related to real estate, the audience for Group A is much different than the audience for Group B, and each will respond to different ads. By segmenting your targeting ideas into ad groups, you can ensure that you’re crafting the right ads for the right people.

In addition to finding individual targeting ideas, you can also use Google’s Display Planner to build ad groups. To get started, simply click the “Ad group ideas” tab, where you’ll find collections of related keywords, placements, interests, and topics. Notice that each ad group idea in the Display Planner contains several, if not dozens, of ideas. The ad groups you create for your campaign should be smaller, with just a few of the best and most closely related targeting ideas.

Keywords w-plan and charts

To save targeting and ad group ideas from the Display Planner, simply click the double arrow (») next to each idea. This will add ideas to “Your plan” on the right side of the page. Once you’ve finished adding ideas, you can see stats on your plan by clicking the “Review plan” button, or download and save it for later. Keep this plan handy: you’ll need it when it comes time to build your first campaign.

Task 2: Create Campaigns & Place Bids

With your research done, it’s time to start creating campaigns and ads. AdWords supports several advertising formats, including text ads, display (banner) ads, and even video ads. In this play, we’ll be concentrating on banner ads for Google’s network of thousands of sites across the web.

Part 1:Select campaign type

To start, log into your AdWords account, then choose “Campaigns” from the menu items at the top of the page. This will show a list of your current campaigns. Click on the red button labeled “+ Campaign” to create your first campaign.

On the next screen, you’ll be presented with four campaign types. Since we’re not interested in placing ads on Google’s search page, select “Display Network Only.” Make sure “All features” is selected as well.

Part 2:Select targeting options

You can use the “Locations” section to target your ad campaigns to users from certain geographic areas. Select “Let me choose…”, then type in the zip codes, cities, counties, or other locations you’d like to target. You can also select “Advanced search” for additional options, including the ability to target a custom-drawn area on a map. (Be sure to include United States in your locations list so your ads will reach consumers who are interested in moving from out of state.)

Next, you’ll see a section labeled “Languages.” By default, Google’s ads are aimed at English-speaking users. If you choose, you can also target a range of other languages.

Part 3:Set bid strategy and daily budget

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 Task 3.) 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 keyword or placement you’re targeting costs $5 per click, but another costs only $2, Google may opt to bypass the first option in favor of the cheaper one.

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 bid 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 targeting, bid, and budget options, click “Save and continue” to move on to creating ads and ad groups.

Part 4:Create ad group and add targeting ideas

Next, you’ll be creating an ad group and adding targeting ideas to define the audience and placements for your first set of display ads. To start, enter an appropriate name for your ad group. (In the example from Task 1, for instance, Ad Group A could be called “Seniors.”) Then, under “Choose how to target your ads,” select “Display keywords.” Using the plan you created in the Display Planner in Task 1, add your desired keywords to the text box provided.

To refine your audience, you can also incorporate the other kinds of targeting ideas you found in Task 1 by clicking “Narrow your targeting further (optional)” below the text box. Choose your desired method (placements, interests, etc.) from the drop-down menu.

Finally, in addition to the targeting options you’ve set up, you can also allow AdWords to add high-potential targeting to your ad group, helping you automatically reach additional customers at a similar cost per customer. To set up targeting optimization, simply check the box next to “Let AdWords automatically find new customers.” (See Google’s support article for more information about display targeting optimization). When you’ve finished dialing in your targeting options, hit “Save and continue” to move on to ad creation.

Task 3: 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 beautiful graphics, photos, colors, and written content to convey your brand and message. Because these ads are more complex, and because you’re interrupting your audience, you’ll have to put a lot of thought and effort into designing your display ads to ensure they have an impact.

AdWords offers a variety of display ad options, including video ads and interactive rich media ads featuring animations. For now, we’ll be focusing on basic banner ads featuring static images.

Part 1:Display ad visuals

When designing a display banner ad for building your personal brand, you should include these essential elements.

Agent sample branding ad

Headshot or portrait. Remember, your personal brand is about what makes you unique. One of the best ways to reinforce this idea is by including a photo that showcases both your personality and your professionalism. Instead of pulling an old photo from social media or your digital camera, invest in a high-quality headshot or portrait by a seasoned photographer. Use a white or neutral background to make your photo more versatile and easier to edit.

Company 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 viewers. Be sure to display it prominently.

Style and colors. Consistency is key when it comes to conveying your personal brand, and your ads should reinforce all the creative elements of your existing presence, including colors, shapes, and font styles. That said, your ads also need to draw your audience’s attention away from the content they’re consuming on your placements, so you should feel free to tweak your colors and styles to improve their visibility. Above all, make sure everything is easy to see and read.

Part 2:Display ad copy tips

Of course, even the best ad visuals won’t mean much if you don’t convey your brand message effectively via your ad text, or copy. Here are some tips for composing ads with copy that will inspire viewers to click.

  • Include a headline and description.Your ad should feature a prominent headline that grabs viewers’ attention and introduces your brand, along with a brief description that clarifies and expands on your message. Stick with one core value proposition, and keep both of these elements short to avoid cluttering your ad with text.
  • Tie in your target keywords.While your ads don’t have to contain the keywords from the ad group they’re attached to, it makes sense to incorporate them. After all, an ad that contains words in your placement page will resonate more than an ad that doesn’t have any words in common. If possible, try to include these keywords or phrases in every element of your ad copy.
  • Use a clear call to action.Be explicit about what you want viewers to do, and what value they can expect to find on your website. While basic calls to action like “get started” are good, try to use more specific language around concrete benefits: “view our listings,” download your custom report,” “get a free consultation,” etc.
  • Highlight your unique selling point.Remember, you’re trying to build your brand and distinguish yourself from your competitors. To do that, you need to show your audience why you’re the best agent for the job. Maybe you’ve been in the business for 20 years, or your brokerage sold 100 homes last year. Whatever sets you apart, work it into your ad.

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

Part 3:View ideas and create ads

If you’re not sure where to start when designing your display ads, you can use AdWords to get ideas for ad layouts, colors, images, and copy.

dashboard create image ad

To view ad ideas, click the “View ad ideas” button at the top of the screen. (If you skipped the ad creation step, you can also view ad ideas on your AdWords dashboard. Simply select the “Ads” tab under your campaign, then click the “+ AD” button and select “Image ad” from the menu provided.) Enter your landing page or homepage URL in the space provided, then add copy for your ad headline, description, and button label. Google will scan the provided URL and automatically retrieve images, colors, and font styles to create a test ad that matches your existing brand.

While AdWords allows you to save these ad ideas and use them in your campaigns, we strongly recommend that you use them only as design cues for creating your own ads. As for building ads on your own, there are a variety of suitable image-editing applications you can use. Alternatively, you might consider hiring a graphic designer to design your ads for you. While this may lead to higher up-front costs, a higher-quality ad will give you a better return on your advertising investment in the long run.

AdWords offers static banner ads in several sizes and formats to fit the various spaces provided by placements around the web, as well as the various devices people are using to view them. To ensure your ad reaches all of the highest-performing corners of the Display Network, you should create multiple versions for each of the available formats.

See Google’s support page for a full list of specifications for static image ads on desktop browsers and high-end mobile devices.

Part 4:Upload your ads

Once you’ve created display ads in each of the sizes and formats offered by AdWords, it’s time to upload them to your account. Click the “+ AD” button in your Ads tab and select “Image ad” from the menu provided, then select “Upload an ad.” Upload your ad image (make sure it’s in one of the accepted file formats: GIF, JPG, PNG, SWF), then enter a display URL you want searchers to see. While the domain of this URL must match the domain of your destination URL, the rest of the address can be different. This means you can give viewers a simple, clean idea of what they’ll find when they click your ad, instead of a long, ugly URL.

Finally, next to “destination URL,” enter the web address of the destination page you want users to see when they click on your ad — the all-important “landing page.” We’ll cover landing pages in depth in the next chapter. For now, you can enter your homepage address. When you’re finished, click “Save.”

That’s it! You’ve create your first campaign, ad group, and ad, and you’re ready to to start advertising. Of course, getting the best results is a bit more complicated, so let’s dig into some strategies for setting up your ads to maximize success.

Task 4: 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 significantly lower than those of search ads, which connect you with consumers much further down the sales funnel. This doesn’t mean, however, that display ads don’t have value. On the contrary, by raising brand awareness, display ads may contribute to a consumer’s eventual decision to click on your search ad, or seek out your website when they’re ready to complete a transaction.

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.

There are a variety of techniques for creating ad landing pages. Some tools allow you to build landing pages on the fly that automatically adapt based on the search phrases users entered and/or the ads they clicked. However, these are quite complex to implement. A simpler, but still powerful, option is to create custom landing pages for each ad group.

For instance, let’s say you’ve tailored one of your ad groups to people searching one of the towns you serve, and another to people searching for advice on preparing their home for sale. For the first ad group, you could create a landing page on your site that’s specifically devoted to describing your experience selling homes in that town. For the second, you could direct searchers to a blog post with tips for home improvements that maximize sale price.

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 placements and keywords don’t produce results, either because the ads don’t receive clicks, or because they receive lots of clicks from unqualified prospects. Instead of simply removing these targeting ideas from your campaign, you can use campaign exclusions to block your ads from showing when those ideas are triggered.

As your campaign progresses, look for targeting ideas offering poor stats — for instance, a keyword that results in lots of impressions, but offers very low click-through rate. To add these targeting 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. Just as you added targeting ideas to your campaign in Task 3, you can exclude keywords, placements, topics, and other targeting ideas by entering them in the fields provided.

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 display ads

As you gather more data on the performance of your AdWords campaigns, you can begin to do testing to improve lead engagement and conversion. You may find, for instance, that some of your AdWords keywords or placements generate more clicks than others. If that’s the case, you can edit your keyword list toward the targeting ideas your customers search more often.

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.