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Advertising Options for Real Estate Agents: From Print Ads to Online Marketing

Advertising Options for Real Estate Agents: From Print Ads to Online Marketing

12 min read
Advertising Options for Real Estate Agents: From Print Ads to Online Marketing

There’s not much more exciting than finally getting your real estate license after passing the state exam. You’ve found a brokerage, and you’re ready to start working! Now … how do you find clients?

Most likely, your brokerage has a system to help feed you some leads while you start drumming up business on your own. To generate your own leads, you’ll need to advertise your services. And oftentimes, that means literally placing an advertisement somewhere.

If you’ve never placed an ad before, and you’re not even sure what’s possible, don’t panic! We’ve outlined everything you need to know about real estate advertising as a new agent.

What are you advertising?

Before you start spending money on ads, it’s important to understand what your real estate advertising can (and will) do for your business. What exactly are you hoping to accomplish with your ads?

Yes, you want to generate leads. But do you know where you’re going to send those leads when they notice your ad and want to learn more about you and your business, or how you can help them buy or sell a house?

If you don’t have a real estate website set up where you can direct your leads—and ideally capture some more information about them, such as whether they hope to buy or sell a house, where they are in the process, and what their needs are—then that’s “Step 0,” which has to be complete before you can start advertising your business.

Your website is like the home base for your business on the internet, and you can also make it the home base for any “real world” print advertising you decide to create. Alternatively, you can ask your ad audience to call you or email you, but giving them a website to visit is a good way to invite them into your space at their own pace, when they’re ready

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The most popular types of real estate advertisements

According to research, the average human in the modern world sees anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000 ads per day. Many of those are seen on a screen—a phone or a computer—but digital ads are not the only options for promoting your business. Still, they’re the most ubiquitous, so let’s start with them.

Text digital ads

A text ad is an ad that includes just text. You see these sometimes on Google: There’s a headline, a sentence or maybe two that explains what’s on the other end of the hyperlink, and a URL that links back to a website or landing page.

Text ads are as basic as digital advertising gets. This can be a good thing if you know your audience is searching for something super-specific, and you can allude to it or provide it outright in your text.

Text ads are also inherently pretty short. Most companies that provide text ads (such as Google) have a character limit, so you’ll need to get to the point quickly and use captivating language that gets readers’ attention. When you’re creating a text ad, think carefully about the keyword or phrase that you’re hoping to target, and write your ad to be hyper-focused on that concept.

Display digital ads

A display ad has something that a text ad does not—visual imagery of some kind to help capture a viewer’s attention. Many real estate agents default to display ads (or video, more on that below) as their go-to because, well, a photo can be worth a thousand words sometimes, and showing a house for sale is one of those times.

Display ads can be banner ads, which stretch across the top of a page; they can also get embedded into news feeds and endless scrolls on social media apps. Some display ads are pop-ups. As long as it has an image that entices viewers to click through to a website, it’s considered a display ad.

Video digital ads

Make your image move, and what do you have? As streaming and cell phone reception have both improved, video ads have become more ubiquitous, and they’re popular with real estate agents for the same reason display ads are: You can walk viewers through a house instead of describing it to them.

For the most part, you’ll find video ads on social media platforms (and YouTube, naturally). Not every website or platform will support a video ad, but they’re hugely popular on Facebook and Instagram, for example. 

Print ads

Before there were digital ads, the king of advertising was print. From daily newspapers to glossy magazines, print ads can be a form of artwork in and of themselves, with gorgeous photos and clever wordplay.

A print ad could also be a mailer that you send out to homes in a certain neighborhood, a billboard you rent on the side of a major highway, or any other tangible “real world” form of advertising. If it exists somewhere off a screen, it’s a print ad.

How to start advertising for real estate agents?

Hopefully, you’ve heeded our warning above and set up your real estate website so that you have somewhere to direct the people who are viewing your ads. The next problem you’ll need to solve, or question to answer, is to determine which possible leads you’re trying to reach. And then you’ll want to figure out where exactly to send those leads—a landing page on your website? A listing page? A neighborhood guide?

If you’re hoping to help buyers in your market, then your ad will likely target people trying to buy a house, and you’ll want to consider your campaign accordingly. For example, a buyer is probably more likely to be searching Google for information about how much a house costs, or how much to save for a down payment, or what houses are already listed for sale. Or they might be looking for information about the neighborhood where they want to move.

A seller, on the other hand, might be more interested in home improvement information, such as how to refinish flooring so it looks new. Creating a video ad for YouTube might be a good way to reach those possible clients.

Facebook & Instagram real estate advertising

Facebook and Instagram are two places where people waste a significant amount of time every day, which makes them prime candidates for real estate advertising. Whether you’re targeting buyers who are seeking homes for sale or information about how to buy, or sellers who want to know exactly how much they could get for their house, both groups are likely to be whiling away at least some of their time on these two social media platforms.

When it comes to visually appealing ads, Facebook and Instagram are two of the very best places you could be showing your ads. People are on those apps to distract themselves and discover novelty; your audience is already in the mood to look at homes for sale. (Are they a serious buyer? That’s a different question!)

Facebook and Instagram also have built-in messaging tools, which you can use to start conversations with page visitors and get a sense for where your lead might be in terms of buying or selling a house. Hosting a virtual open house or buyer seminar? You can create a Facebook event for those and then advertise your event on the social media giants.

Learn more about how to advertise your real estate business on Facebook, including different types of ads available.

YouTube real estate advertising

As the world’s biggest video platform, there’s a little bit of something for everyone on YouTube. Buyers and sellers might visit YouTube for a neighborhood tour (if they’re new in town as buyers), or to learn how to replace those ugly light fixtures before putting a house on the market (if they’re getting ready to sell). By understanding their needs on YouTube, you can craft video ads that entice them to consult an expert (that’s you) to help solve their problem.

YouTube also has a whole host of videos geared toward people like you—other real estate agents who want to learn how to do something. As your business grows, especially if you’re thinking of forming a team someday, you can use YouTube videos to grow your business by attracting new agents to your side.

Types of YouTube ads

Skippable in-stream ads

These ads play before or during a video (a.k.a. “pre-roll” or “mid-roll”). Their defining feature is that viewers can choose to skip them after the first 5 seconds.

Non-skippable in-stream ads (including bumper ads)

These are pre-roll or mid-roll ads that don’t have a skip button at all, and they take 15 seconds or 6 seconds in case of bumper ads.

Video discovery ads (known as in-display ads)

Whereas in-stream ads function as a traditional TV commercials, discovery ads are more akin to the ads you see on Google’s search results page. They show up alongside organic search results. So if your video looks more relevant than the organic results, people can choose to watch it instead.

Non-video ads

- Display ads: appear on the right-hand sidebar, and include an image and text, alongside a CTA with a link to your website.
- In-video overlay ads: appear floating on top of video content from monetized YouTube channels.

Google Ads for real estate 

The most powerful search engine in the world, Google processes billions of searches every day to help users find what they’re seeking—and often, to place an ad in front of their eyes in the process. As Google has grown, its ability to show ads to seekers has also expanded, giving you the opportunity to place your own ads in front of those seekers.

Most of the time, people don’t visit Google arbitrarily to waste time. They’re usually trying to find something specific, whether that’s a home for sale or a real estate agent. If you understand the search intent of people who might become your leads, and create your Google ad around that search intent, then the odds of you crafting an ad that answers a question and brings audience members flocking to your website are much, much higher.

Google is especially text-ad-friendly, which is fantastic for people who have a way with words (and maybe not so much with a camera).

LinkedIn real estate advertising

Unlike Facebook or YouTube, people visit LinkedIn for a specific reason, and it’s usually job-related. So while you might find some success with LinkedIn advertising, you’ll want to craft it around a career path in order to maximize your results.

What does that mean? Well, for example, you’re probably going to find more real estate investors looking for opportunities on LinkedIn than just about any other type of buyer or seller, so if you work with a lot of investors (and want to work with more), then LinkedIn is probably a good place to start. On the flip side, if you’re hoping to set yourself up as a high-end real estate agent in an area with a lot of generational wealth—LinkedIn might not be the best place for you, unless you’re networking with other service-providers to that particular segment.

Join some groups on LinkedIn for real estate investors, and maybe offer some advice (if you have any) about how to navigate a home sale or purchase while moving for a new job. Find some way to tie your business back to everyone else’s 9-to-5, and you’ll find opportunities on LinkedIn.

Print real estate advertising

A print ad is typically considered an ad in a magazine or newspaper, but a flier that you print up and mail out to your farm is also a print ad. These ads usually include a combination of text and images (though most are more image-heavy) with a call to action to learn more—usually on your website.

Some popular print ads include homes you’re currently listing for sale, a list of recently sold homes (and how much they sold for), or simply an ad with your photo that explains your specialty. If you don’t have a niche yet, that’s okay, but once you develop one, don’t forget to think about how you might reach your target audience in print. For example, if you find yourself specializing in divorce sales, then advertising that fact in your local business journal or state legal magazine can get your name in front of a lot of divorce lawyers!

Print Real Esatte Advertising - Flyer Design Service Task

Outdoor real estate advertising

By “outdoor” advertising, we mean billboards, bus benches, and the like.

One big advantage to outdoor real estate advertising is the same as print real estate advertising: Many agents eschew these “older” forms of advertising in favor of digital marketing. That means you might have less competition when it comes to the best outdoor advertising real estate and how much it costs.

The disadvantage is probably obvious: You can’t click on a billboard or bus bench to get to a website. Your audience will have to remember your website and visit it later. A QR code (on a bus bench) can be a solid investment to help your audience get from point A to B.

Do real estate agents pay for advertising?

Like most things in life, advertising is not free. But who pays for an agent’s advertising? Is it the agent? Or their brokerage?

Generally speaking, real estate agents are responsible for their own advertising budgets and costs. Because you are using advertising to (presumably) generate leads for your business—leads you aren’t sharing with other agents at your brokerage, or the brokerage itself—paying for those ads is your responsibility.

How do you set a budget for advertising? It helps to first choose one or maybe just two ad platforms to start, but no more than that. You don’t need to take over the entire internet as well as all the bus benches in town tomorrow! Start by pricing one campaign on one platform, investing in it, and tracking any return on investment (so you can decide whether you want to do this campaign again exactly the same way, tweak it somehow, or drop it in favor of a more lucrative channel or campaign).

When one of your campaigns generates some success (and it will!), and you’re able to iterate on that success and repeat it several times (and you will!), that’s a good time to consider branching out into a new area of real estate advertising, if you feel so inclined. There’s no rule that says you have to advertise everywhere, after all.

Can I use the word ‘Realtor’ in my advertising?

The National Association of REALTORS(NAR) has specific rules about when agents may (or may not) refer to themselves as REALTORS, in advertising or business cards, among other usages.

The term “REALTOR” has been trademarked in all of its iterations by NAR in order to protect the brand. If you are a current member of NAR, and you would like to refer to yourself as a REALTOR in your advertising, then you have the right to use the term.

If you are a state-licensed agent but are not a member of NAR, you should not refer to yourself as a REALTOR in your advertising or business materials. You can learn more about NAR’s logo and trademark guidelines.

Ready to get started with real estate advertising? Set up your website, determine what kind of campaign you want to run, create a budget, and figure out how you’re going to track the return on your investment. You’ll never know which is the best form of advertising for you until you start experimenting, so don’t hold back!


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