Attracting Buyers with Google AdWords

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Real estate is a competitive business, especially online. Between other agents and brokers in their market and huge national listing portals like Zillow and Trulia, real estate professionals face significant challenges in getting noticed on the web.

Thankfully, online advertising offers agents a chance to boost their visibility and connect with local buyers. While there are many options for advertising your business online, one of the best ways to start is keyword-targeted text ads via Google’s AdWords platform.

AdWords is responsible for the text ads you see at the top and right of Google’s search pages. Using their AdWords accounts, advertisers choose the keywords or phrases they want to target, write ads tailored to those phrases, and define how much they are willing to pay each time their ad is clicked (their cost-per-click or CPC).

When a user searches for words or phrases, Google displays the appropriate ads. AdWords uses complex rules to determine which ads appear and in which order. But, the goal is always the same: Google wants to show ads that are most likely to match the users’ interests, are most likely to get clicked, and have the highest bids. For advertisers, the challenge is to find the keywords their prospective customers are most likely to use, to create ads appropriate to those keywords, and to place bids that at the best price possible. This Play is designed to help you do all those things.

You'll Learn How To:

Create keyword lists to target local buyers
Create ad campaigns on the Google Adwords network
Write effective text ads for attracting qualified visitors
Capture leads with dedicated landing pages
Optimize campaigns for maximum return on investment

Why Google AdWords?

Whether you’re new to online advertising or just looking to expand your marketing to a new channel, Google AdWords offers a number of terrific benefits.

  1. A huge user base. With 67 percent of the desktop market, 83 percent of the mobile market, and over a hundred billion searches performed each month, Google is the undisputed leader in search. By advertising with Google, you ensure you’re getting your message out to the largest possible audience.
  2. First-page exposure. 75 percent of searchers never make it past the first page of Google results. Unfortunately, ranking in the top ten organic search results is a long and complex process, with lots of competition. Google AdWords gives you the opportunity to put your business on the first page quickly and easily, so you can spend less time on SEO and more time talking to leads.
  3. Highly targeted ads. With Google AdWords, you can tailor your ads and campaigns to target highly specific audiences and areas, ensuring that your ads get in front of the most interested, qualified, and motivated buyers.
  4. Pay for results. Google AdWords is a pay-per-click platform, which means that you only pay when someone actually sees your ad and clicks through to your website. That means a better return on your investment.
  5. Additional tools and testing. AdWords offers users a wide variety of tools to track and refine ad campaigns in order to achieve optimal results, from tools for keyword research, to Google Analytics and incredible amounts of data.

The Basic Google AdWords Tasks

While Google AdWords is a powerful and complex platform, the tasks involved in launching a campaign are pretty straightforward.

  1. Choose Your Keywords – Create a list of search terms relevant to your business that you’ll use to create ads for your target audience.
  2. Create Campaigns and Place Your Bids – Decide how much you’re willing to pay per click for your keywords.
  3. Create Your Ads – Write the copy for your ads and launch your campaign.
  4. Optimize for Clicks and Leads – Drive searchers to your website and convert them to leads.

We’ll cover each of these tasks in greater detail below. First, let’s talk about building a list of keywords to use in your AdWords campaigns.

Task 1: Choosing Your Keywords

More than anything else, choosing the proper keywords is essential to building an effective Google AdWords campaign. Without the right keywords, you could end up wasting time on searchers who don’t click your ads — or worse, wasting money on poorly qualified leads.

So, what makes for a great keyword?

Part 1:It’s all about your customers

Many first-time advertisers choose search keywords that they believe most accurately describe their product or service. Let’s say you’re a Realtor in who specializes in high-rise condominiums. Obviously, it makes sense to include the word “condominiums” in your keyword phrase, right?

Not necessarily. Just because you, the builder, and the property manager refer to your listings as condominiums doesn’t mean the people in your target audience are using that term in their searches. Instead, they may be using “luxury apartments” — and since your AdWords ads are only displayed when a searcher types one of your keywords into the search bar, chances are these ads won’t get seen by the right people.

The right keyword isn’t just a phrase that describes what you’re selling: It’s the phrase your target audience is using to search for what you’re selling. In some cases, that phrase may not be directly related to real estate. For instance, some buyers may begin by searching for content — for instance, city or neighborhood guides for the places they’re interested in living.

Before you launch an AdWords campaign, spend some time thinking about your customers. Who are they? Where are they from? How did they find you? What are they looking for in a home? What questions do they consistently ask? Use this information to sort your customers into segments or groups, then come up with an initial list of terms for each.

Part 2:Local is everything

With 60 percent of online traffic now coming from mobile devices, and 79 percent of mobile phone owners using their devices to conduct local searches, Google is prioritizing location information more than ever before. That means you should be incorporating local search terms into your AdWords keywords whenever possible.

Luckily, real estate is an inherently local business, so this should be fairly easy. Start by making a list of the towns and neighborhoods you serve, along with any common terms or nicknames for your area or region. Then, make a list of distinctive landmarks, attractions, and other locations people talk about when discussing your area. For instance, if you’re a real estate agent in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, your local search keyword list might contain “harrisburg,” but also “mechanicsburg,” “dauphin county,” “hershey park,” “susquehanna valley,” etc.

Part 3:Specificity is key

One of the biggest mistakes search advertisers make is choosing keywords that are too broad. Take “new york homes,” for instance. As an agent in New York City, you may think that this keyword is the obvious choice. The problem is that plenty of other agents in your market, along with big real estate portals like Zillow, are thinking the same thing. Consequently, you’d have to spend the lion’s share of your ad budget to successfully bid on that keyword.

More importantly, the quality of the leads you’d get from a keyword as broad as “new york homes” is questionable. True, you’ll appear in search results for a lot of people, and you may even get a flood of visitors to your site. But some searchers will have their sights set on a specific neighborhood in New York, while others may actually be interested in Buffalo, or White Plains, or Albany. Still, others are in the earliest stage of the search process, and may not be ready to buy. In any case, most of these people will likely refine their searches and move on, and all the money you spent bidding on that keyword will amount to nothing.

Instead, look for more detailed keywords that target a more specific audience. Not only will you pay less per click: You’ll also get your ad in front of searchers who have a clearer idea of what they want, and are more likely to take action by browsing your listings, providing contact information, or reaching out to you directly.

BonusThe Long Tail


Did you know the top 10,000 keywords make up less than 20 percent of overall search traffic? The vast majority, 70 percent, come from the long tail.

Long tail keywords are longer (4–6 words) and more specific than the average keyword phrase. In real estate, many long tail keywords refer to a particular neighborhood, property type, or industry niche: downtown columbus ohio luxury apartments.

Because they’re so specific, long tail keywords are searched much less often — anywhere from a dozen to a couple hundred times a month. While this may not sound like much, long tail keywords can be very valuable for advertisers, for a couple reasons.

  • They’re less expensive. With less competition from other advertisers, long tail keywords require a minimal investment up front.
  • They produce more qualified leads. Anyone searching a long-tail keyword as specific as “owner’s guide to preparing your home for vacation rental” already knows what he or she is looking for. That means that visitors who end up on your site as a result of a long tail search will be much easier to close.

Part 5:Using Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner

Thankfully, you don’t have to come up with your keywords all on your own: Google AdWords offers a Keyword Planner tool to help you refine your list and discover new ideas for keywords.

Before using the AdWords Keyword Planner, you’ll have to create a Google AdWords account. Once you’ve done that, you’ll come to the main page. Select the first option, “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas,” to reveal a search form.

Keyword Planner front page form fill

Start by typing in a general phrase to use as a starting point for your research. Then, in the “product category” field, select “Real Estate.” (You can also choose from some more specific subcategories, including “Real Estate Listings,” “Commercial Real Estate Listings,” and “Real Estate Agents and Brokerages.”)

Next, under “Targeting,” add your location information to limit keyword ideas to your geographic area. After adding a location, click “nearby” for a list of location suggestions. You can add as many locations as you want, so take care to be as complete as possible. You also have the option to filter your suggestions by language, which can be useful for agents who serve large immigrant populations.

Once you’re more familiar with AdWords, you can customize your search by filtering according to average monthly searches, competition, and other factors. You can also choose to limit your results to show only ideas that are closely related to your initial term. For now, keep your search broad to get the widest range of keyword ideas.

Keyword Planner - columbus ohio homes

After hitting Search, you’ll see a range of data on your initial keyword phrase, including a chart for displaying search volume trends, mobile trends, and other information. You’ll also see tabs for ad group ideas and keyword ideas. Click the second tab. (We’ll discuss ad groups later.)

This will bring up a list of suggested keywords, which can be ranked according to relevance, competition (High, Medium, Low), average monthly searches, or Google’s suggested bid. The higher the competition, the more you’ll have to pay per click in order to get that ad in front of your audience. Try to find keywords that are targeted at a specific audience and strike a balance between traffic, competition, and average bid.

Spend some time entering keyword ideas and exploring the Keyword Planner’s features. Once you’ve narrowed your list down to keywords for each of your customer segments, you’re ready to start building your first campaign. Save your keyword lists from the Planner — you’ll want these when you begin building your campaign.

BonusGuide to Keyword Research eBook

Want more tips and tools for keyword research? Check out our eBook: The Real Estate Marketer’s Guide to Keyword Research

Task 2: Create Campaigns & Place Bids

With your keywords chosen, it’s time to get started creating campaigns and ads in AdWords. As a very powerful advertising platform, AdWords supports myriad forms of advertising, including text ads, display (banner) ads, and even video ads. From AdWords you can place these ads on Google’s search site, along with thousands of other sites across the Internet. However, we will focus exclusively on text ads and placing these ads on either Google’s search site or on its “search partner” network.

Part 1:Choosing locations, formats, and bids

We will be creating two campaigns. The first will display ads only to users who are in your market and are searching for terms related to home buying. This campaign will be named “Local Movers.”

The second will display ads to users who are anywhere in the country and are searching for terms related to home buying in your market. This campaign will be named “Relocators.” The purpose of each campaign is as follows:

  1. Local Movers – This targets users in your market who are looking to move within your market.
  2. Relocators – This targets users anywhere who are looking to move to your market.

Let’s start by creating your Local Movers campaign. When you log into your AdWords account, choose “Campaigns” from the four menu items at the top of the page. This page will display a list of your campaigns (currently empty), with a group of tabs above them.

Click on the red button labeled “+ Campaign” to create a first campaign. You will be presented with four options of where to place your ads:

  1. Search Network with Display Select
  2. Search Network Only
  3. Display Network Only
  4. Shopping

Display ads and Shopping ads require the creation of banner (image) ads, so we will stick with “Search Network Only.” The Search Network includes Google’s search site, but also other sites that use Google’s technology to power their own search functions. For example, your favorite sports site may have a “Search” feature powered by Google. When you conduct a search of the site, Google actually conducts the search, provides the results, and displays text ads all within that site.

Including the Search Network when deploying your ads will greatly increase the number of users you can reach, but may be less effective than your ads on Google’s primary site. A good strategy is to start with both Google’s site and the Search Network. You can eliminate the Search Network later if it is not performing well for you.

Name your campaign “Local Movers,” then set your type to “Search Network Only.” Along with the type, you will have many options to the right, but stick with “Standard” for now. As mentioned, to start we will stick with the default options of targeting both Search and Search Network, and also keep the default of targeting all devices (desktop, tablet, mobile phones, etc.). Note: If your website is not optimized for mobile devices, it may be wise not to display your ads on mobile devices either.

Next we go to the Geographic targeting section. Here’s where things get interesting. When a user accesses Google, the search engine can detect where they are located. With these settings you can choose the specific area where your ad can be displayed. You can target by zip code, city, state, country — nearly any area you can define. For this campaign we’re targeting people moving locally within your market, so choose the area that best defines the area you serve.

Finally, you can choose which languages you want to target. Language targeting can be very powerful if you can serve customers in multiple languages.

Next, it’s time to set your bids. Remember, Google works as a “bidding engine” where advertisers define the maximum amount they will pay per click. If you select the “bid manually” strategy, you will be able to set your maximum bids. The second option will allow Google to set your bids, based on the goal of spending your daily budget.

For example, if your daily budget is $100, Google will adjust when your ad is shown to get you the maximum number of clicks for your budget. For example, if one key phrase you’re targeting costs $5 per click, but another costs only $2, Google may opt to bypass the first phrase in favor of the cheaper option.

In all cases, you are defining the maximum amount you will pay for a click. For example, even if your maximum is set to $5, Google will not charge you that if all other bids are lower than $1. The bidding process is actually quite complex. Google will juggle the position of your ad, among other factors, to maximize the chances of a click. At the end of the day, Google makes money when people click (and it makes lots of money) so the system is very sophisticated about ensuring the ad with the highest bid and the highest chance of getting a click “wins” and gets the best placement.

For first-time advertisers, it’s best to allow Google to determine your bids. Doing so will teach you a lot about how much you can and should pay for clicks. Once you have more 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 will be able to adjust your bid for specific key phrases and ads later.

Finally, set the daily budget for your campaign. Google will run your ads until this number has been reached each day, but not exceed this number.

One last note: In this Play we will not be using the “Ad Extensions” available at the bottom, but these can be very powerful for local businesses. Learn more about this functions here.

Task 3: Create Your Ads

Once you’ve saved your campaign, you’ll move on to creating ad groups and ads. First, you’ll enter the address for the page where users go 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.

Next, you’ll create your first ad group. Ad groups are a good way of testing different ads to determine what works best for you. Google provides a handy guide for structuring your account that you can find here.

Choose a sensible name for your ad group, and then enter the keyword list you created earlier. Note: You can copy and paste your list here, but Google also offers ways of importing your lists from the Keyword Planner because it’s not uncommon to wind up with lists that contain hundreds of keywords.

Because this “Local Movers” campaign is being targeted by geography, you can use keywords and phrases that are less specific about location. For example, instead of “Springfield Illinois homes for sale” you can use “Springfield homes for sale.” Searchers tend to be less specific when searching in their local area, omitting things like the state abbreviation. And, because your ad is being targeted by geography, you don’t run the risk of wasting clicks on user who are searching for the same town name in other areas.

When you’ve saved these selections, you’ll be prompted to create your first ad. AdWords text ads always follow the same format:

  1. A headline (maximum length of 25 characters)
  2. A display URL (maximum length of 35 characters)
  3. Two lines of copy (maximum length of 35 characters each)

One note: The display URL does not need to be the same URL that the ad links to. Often your ad will link to a long, complex URL, so the display URL gives viewers a simple idea of where they’ll go when they click on your ad.

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

Part 1:Using Dynamic Ads

One of the best ways to maximize your AdWords performance is ensuring a close match between search terms, ads, and landing pages. For example, if a user searches for the term “Chicago homes for sale,” ideally your headline will be something like “Find a Home in Chicago” and it will link to page with listings in Chicago.

Combining specific search terms with relevant ads and landing pages is the best way to reach highly qualified buyers and weed out the tire kickers. Fortunately, AdWords offers a simple means of customizing your ads to match users’ search terms using “dynamic insertion.”

To use dynamic insertion just use braces (the curly brackets on your keyboard) in your ad headline where you’d like the user’s search term to be inserted. For example, if the search terms for my campaign included:

  • homes for sale
  • condos for sale
  • buying a single family home

I could create an ad with a headline like this: Chicago {KeyWord: Listings}. This ad headline would appear as follows:

Search term entered >> Ad headline

  1. homes for sale >> Chicago Homes for Sale
  2. condos for sale >> Chicago Condos for Sale
  3. buying a single family home >> Chicago Listings

A few things to notice. First, the capitalization you use for the word “Keyword” in your ad determines the capitalization of the resulting headline. If you had used lowercase “keyword” in your ad, then the resulting headline in the first example would be “Chicago homes for sale.” Second, the word you put after the colon in your ad will be used if the search term is too long. This is the case in the third example. The phrase “buying a single family home” would make the headline too long, so “Listings” is inserted instead.

Dynamic insertion can be very powerful, but also somewhat tricky. You need to think carefully about what the resulting ad copy will be for every keyword or phrase. Also, dynamic insertion can be counter-productive if your keywords are poorly targeted. Dynamic insertion will make your ad appear to be a great match for the user’s search term, but if that search term isn’t a good target for you, that could just be a wasted click.

Part 2:Targeted Landing Pages

Just as matching ads to search terms with dynamic insertion can improve results, so can matching landing pages to ads. There are technologies that 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. If your website includes property search functions, a search results page can also be your customer landing page.

In the first case, consider creating separate pages on your site that focus on specific geographies. For example, if your keyword phrases include the names of neighborhoods within your market, pages or blog posts devoted to each neighborhood are excellent landing pages for associated ads. In the second case, simply conduct a listings search on your site for the neighborhood or property type you are targeting with your ads. Copy the resulting address from your browser and make that the landing page for your ad. When users click through they will automatically be at a page of listings consistent with their search terms.

Part 3:Your second campaign

With your “Local Movers” campaign set up, your next task is quite simple. Return to the campaign list and click the red “+ Campaign” button to start your second campaign, which will be named “Relocators.”

In the campaign setup wizard you have the option of copying all the settings from a previous campaign to the new campaign. Copy over everything from the “Local Movers” campaign into your new campaign, then use the wizard to make two changes.

First, change the geographic targeting of this campaign to something much broader, typically the whole United States. This will allow users throughout the country to see your ad. Second, use a set of keywords that is more specific than those in your first campaign. Typically, you will want to add at least city and state to each key phrase to make sure searchers are looking for homes in your local market. For example, if you used “condos for sale” in your first campaign, change that to “Topeka KS homes for sale” in this campaign.

You may also want to consider creating different landing pages for this campaign. While buyers who already live in your market might want to go directly to viewing listings, buyers elsewhere may appreciate a blog post that describes the neighborhoods in your area. The important thing is to try to put yourself in the shoes of those clicking on your ad and create an experience that best meets their needs.

Task 4: Optimize for Clicks and Leads

Your search ads are just the first step in generating leads with Google AdWords. To maximize the return on your investment, you need to consider what you want to happen after searchers click on your ads. That means deciding where your ads will take people, and what you want them to do when they get there.

Part 1:Landing Page Basics

The best ads in the world won’t help you unless your visitors like what they see when they “land” at your website. Here are a few tips for optimizing your ad 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 keywords and ads correspond to content, services, and listings you can actually offer your leads.
  • Avoid using your homepage. Sending leads to your homepage is like letting a customer walk around a retail store without asking if they need help. Your visitors don’t want a general page with tons of options: They 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 move on to the next site.
  • Include a lead capture form. Converting leads is about building relationships, and thefirst 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 AdWords 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 new listings, a free downloadable neighborhood guide, etc. Not only will leads leave your site with something tangible, they’ll have proof of the properties and expertise that only you can offer.

Part 2:Measuring Ad Performance

Finally, once your AdWords campaign is underway, it’s important that you have tools in place to 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 your ad performance. 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.

BonusAn Introduction to Google Analytics Infographic

For more advice on getting started with Google Analytics, check out our infographic: An Introduction to Google Analytics for Real Estate
Copy of google analytics for real estate infographic

Part 4:Refining Your 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 generate more clicks or better leads than others. If that’s the case, you can edit your keyword list toward the keywords 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 use one keyword to create and serve up multiple ad versions, each with slightly different copy. By tracking which version gets the most clicks, you’ll hone your messaging and gain a better understanding of what consumers want to hear.