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How to Succeed with Google Adwords in Real Estate

Posted by Jeff Knox on Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 at 12:44pm.

Written by Jeff Knox of Knox & Associates with special assistance from Debbie Drummond, a Real Estate Agent who specializes in luxury homes for sale in The Ridges of Summerlin Las Vegas.  Debbie has run PPC ads targeting this area of Las Vegas so she offers her insight into what has and has not worked for her in past PPC experiences.

google adwords ppc for realtors real estate agents


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Google Adwords and PPC can be like the Song of the Sirens to Realtors.  For those who aren't familiar with Greek mythology, the Song of the Sirens was a story of beautiful creatures who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.  Adwords can be just as alluring to Realtors looking for instant access to willing buyers and sellers.

PPC means instant traffic to your website and the possibility of quick closings and commissions.  In theory, what could be better than advertising on the first page of Google to consumers searching for their new home?  These possibilities are often too tempting for agents to pass without at least giving PPC a shot.  However, PPC can and will eat you and your wallet alive if you don't know what you're doing.  

Don't get me wrong...the rest of my article isn't about how to avoid the temptations of PPC but rather how to make PPC actually work for you as a Realtor.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will give you a little of my own personal history -- I've been running PPC ads for over seven (7) years now.  I've made a TON of mistakes.  I'm not here to tell you that I'm a perfect PPC expert who has never faltered or lost money in this game.  But, in seven years, I've learned from my mistakes and now have the PPC game for real estate down to almost an exact science.  I'm here to stop you from making the same mistakes I made with PPC and to tell/show you the correct way of doing PPC with Google to make you money and get you real leads. 

First, What exactly is PPC?

pay per click for realtorsPPC means Pay Per Click.  All search engines have PPC - Google, Bing & Yahoo.  Now, for the purpose of this article and in an effort to be factual and realistic, when I refer to "search engines" herein, I am talking only about Google.  Google rules the search engine world with 65% of all web searches followed by Bing at 20% & Yahoo at 13%.  Combined, these three search engines total 98% of the United States' searches online.  The rest of the search engine traffic (a paltry 2%) is divided among other engines like AOL and the Ask Network.

Anyway, back to the point... have you ever wondered how Google makes money?  They obviously don't make any money from your searches, right?  I don't know of anybody who pays Google for the right to search.  Google makes money by charging for sponsored advertisements.  Have you ever noticed the ads occupying the top three positions of a given page of results?  What about the ads which fill the right sidebar of your results page?  Those, my friends, are PPC ads.  This is how Google makes their money...$43.7 billion dollars in 2012 to be exact. Each time somebody clicks on an ad featured on Google, the advertiser is charged.  Google advertises for almost all types of business in almost all corners of the world.  Below is an example of PPC.

So now that you know what PPC is and how it works, let's move onto how you have success in real estate with PPC ads.  Below, I'm going to give you the recipe to getting good leads and making money for your business using Google PPC.

#1 - You must have the right real estate website platform

 Just as if you were building a home, you need the right "foundation" for your PPC campaigns.  Anything you add to your PPC campaign past having the correct, initial website platform for capturing prospects will fail unless the foundation is sturdy, strong and able to sustain growth and generate both new leads and return visitors. 

For years, I was guilty of trying to build websites for PPC which were too complicated and too convoluted.  I, mistakenly, thought that consumers wanted a large, robust website with search abilities similar to our professional MLS systems.  For example, I thought visitors wanted websites where they could narrow down their searches to the tiniest of details like only including things like homes with media rooms, game rooms, granite counters, certain square footage, flooring types, the type of lot, etc...  I was wrong!  Consumers searching online want the easiest platform and search.  Let that sink in for a minute.... (Pause here)...  Now, say it again - consumers searching for homes online want the easiest, fastest search available.

What I learned is that a potential buyer looking for real estate wants three things in the beginning - (1) to be able to search by city; (2) to be able to search by price; and, (3) for the results to be returned at a very fast rate.  That's it.  Those are the three most important things to a consumer as they begin looking for a home.  After those three things are satisfied in their minds and they choose to use your website for their searches, they will start to sort and filter the listings on their own.  Too many search options in the beginning will overwhelm potential leads.  Trust me.  I've made that mistake over and over again.

In order to have success in the PPC game, you must provide these three things and ONLY these three things in the beginning.  Do not try and get fancy by providing too many other options.  Buyers will bounce from your site if it is too complicated.  I use my wife as a guinea pig (I hope she doesn't read this article) to test my landing pages (more on landing pages below).  My wife isn't in the real estate business so she gives me the truest feedback since she would be considered in the same category as Joe Public consumer.  She has no bias toward what a real estate website looks like.  She just knows that she likes a "simple, easy, clean website."

You may be asking, "so what platform is best then?"  I can save you a lot of time, money and future frustration here.  I've been with Diverse Solutions, Wolfnet, Home Junction and others.  None of these platforms converted like the website platform in the next sentence.

Personally, I like Real Geeks Real Estate Websites for my PPC campaigns.  Real Geeks builds very simplistic, clean websites which allow very easy, elementary types of searches for consumers.  The sites are also what we'd call "sticky."  That means visitors like the Real Geeks platform so much they will return to your website time and time again to get the information they want.  I have about a 50% return visitor rate to my Real Geeks website at - www.KnoxRealtorsDFW.com.

real geeks real estate websites

One of the great features of Real Geeks is their system automatically will save the lead's first search as their default search.  It will then automatically send new listings to leads based on their saved search.  This brings captured leads back to the website time and time again.

Remember, we want to keep our website search fast and simple.  Below is an example of one of my Real Geeks PPC landing pages.  Notice the search at the top left with a very minimalist design to the webpage.  I give visitors three basic options to start their searches - (1) the search box in the top left corner; (2) a look at the newest properties listed in a certain city; and, (3) a tool to run a quick home valuation. 

At this point, you may be thinking, "OK, he likes Real Geeks for his PPC campaigns but he is using a Real Estate Webmasters website now."  Good thinking and a great question.  Real Estate Webmasters builds the best overall websites in the industry for real estate professionals.  Their platform and templates are the most SEO friendly sites I've ever seen.  In fact, Andrew Fortune, a Colorado Springs Realtor, has a wonderful article about his Journey Through IDX Options and a Quick Review of Real Estate Webmasters.  

If you search some of the most popular real estate keyword terms in your area, I guarantee you will find a Real Estate Webmasters site ranking near the top.  Real Estate Webmasters has their stuff together when it comes to SEO performance and organic traffic through very good rankings.  You cannot get a better platform for organic traffic than Real Estate Webmasters.  However, Real Geeks is a better option for PPC in my opinion.

Organic Traffic vs PPC Traffic

You'll often hear those in the SEO business talk about organic traffic.  Organic traffic is when a search user finds your results in a search.  That means you are not paying for PPC and the user has found your website in a "natural search" where one of your pages appears as part of the user's search.  The listings below the PPC ads are the "organic" or "natural" results.  Organic results have a much higher upside for continued traffic since you are not paying anything to be found in the organic results.  However, it would be practically impossible to rank well for every term you'd want in every result.  PPC allows you to be "everywhere" on the internet you want to be, provided your budget can make you last.

Again, I would highly recommend a Real Estate Webmasters website if you are trying to achieve organic results.  Real Estate Webmasters' platform has the ability to bring very strong organic results to those agents who use the template as it should be used and are willing to put in the time and effort required to making their websites rank well on search engines.  If you want the best real estate websites available, look no further than Real Estate Webmasters.  

I will also recommend you to my Real Estate Webmasters Product Consultant, Nichola.  The customer service I receive with Nichola at REW is better than excellent.  If you don't have an REW site but are interested in talking with them, call Nichola at 877-753-9893.

#2 - You must direct visitors to the right landing pages

Debbie Drummond has a great tip here - "...don't spend money on PPC without having a proper landing page. Never just send them to your home page."  Correct, Debbie!  Don't make visitors do a lot of work to see the listings.  Remember what we discussed above?  We want to make it as easy and simplistic as possible.  In my market of Dallas, there are lots and lots of suburbs & neighborhoods which make up Dallas-Fort Worth as a whole.  If somebody doing a search for "homes for sale in Frisco TX" ends up landing on my home page where they have to spend time hunting for the correct link to Frisco TX real estate listings, they are going to bounce from my website.  And guess what... that's a click that I just paid for without any return.  Or, if somebody seeking "Dallas real estate" lands in my Frisco landing page, that also does no good for me or the user.  Think about it, if you are looking specifically for a BMW and you end up on a page with GMC trucks, how long are you going to stay?  PPC is all about giving the user what they want and doing it as fast as possible.  

Design landing pages specifically fitting the search the user is conducting.  I have approximately 20 landing pages I run during my campaigns to capture specific visitors and give them the exact information they're seeking.  

This article is not about teaching you to set up your first PPC campaign.  Andrew Fortune has done a great job of explaining that in his article - How to Setup a Google Adwords Campaign for Realtors. If you need help setting up your first campaign, read that article.  It is a great piece with step by step instructions.  Once you do that, return to my article to see how you can squeeze the most out of your new Adwords campaign.

*** A quick thank you to Andrew Fortune for assisting with this article as well.  Andrew is a top real estate blogger and a professional Realtor helping residents sell your home in Colorado Springs.

#3 - Gearing your Adwords campaign for high keyword scores

Adwords works on a system of "quality scores" for each keyword or keyword phrase.  The rankings on Adwords go from one to ten.  The higher your keyword score, the lower the cost per click.  So, you want a high score.  There are three factors Google rates while figuring your keyword scores: (1) the expected clickthrough rate; (2) the ad relevance; and, (3) the landing page experience of the user.

  • The Expected Clickthrough Rate is figured by the structure of your ad, the text you use to entice a user to click your ad, your bid amount and where your ad position might fall on the screen.  My Expected Clickthrough Rate is rating at "Above Average" which is perfect.
  • The Ad Relevance is simply the relevance of the ad to the search term the user types into Google.  For instance, how relevant is your ad to the example term above - "condo for sale dallas texas."  Google obviously feels as if my ad is relevant since I get an "Above Average" score on this factor by using the correct keywords a user is seeking.
  • Landing Page Experience tells you how high or low your bounce rate might be for that particular landing page with regards to the keyword.  My landing page for "condo for sale dallas texas" is, again, "Above Average."   This means users are finding what they want when they land on my page, spending time on my website and giving me a low "bounce rate."  In order to get an "Above Average" rating, your bounce rate must be very low.

By combining all of these factors, and with all "Above Average" ratings, I have a perfect 10/10 Quality Score.  This means my ad is getting the lowest possible cost per click for this keyword.

*** "Bounce Rate" is when somebody clicks on your website and leaves without clicking deeper into your site.  Meaning, they leave after only looking at the landing page.  We do NOT want this!

How do we achieve great keyword scores?

First, you must bid enough money so your ad is appearing in search pages for the specific search terms.  I like to bid an even $1.00 in the beginning.  Generally I will have to raise my bid a bit to rank well in Adwords, but it won't be substantial.  

Next, I have to write an ad which will apply to both the keywords a search engine user is wanting and describe my landing page with good keyword density to achieve good scores.  There are several tricks to this which will give your ad great keyword scores.

We are going to use phrase matches with our keywords.  Phrase matches are where we require a search user input our exact search phrase within their original search.  For example, we will use the term above - "condo for sale dallas texas."  By adding quotation marks around our keyword, it means the user must search Google with the exact phrase within their search text to make our ad appear.  We will pretend a user searches for - condo for sale dallas texas.  Of course that search term will pull our ad because that matches our exact keyword phrase.  But, if a user searches - condo for sale dallas texas area, that will also pull our ad because it includes "condo for sale dallas texas" within the user's search string.  The user may add another word or two like "area" but since our main keyword phrase is within their search, we will appear.

So, why do I use phrase matching?  Because I don't want to appear for search terms like condo for rent dallas texas.  I don't generally work with lease properties.  Therefore, I don't want to pay for clicks in an area where I do not work.  For visual learners, see the example of my keyword phrase matches for my Dallas Condo Campaign below.

realtor keyword examples

The next trick to achieving high ranking keywords is using "keyword insertion" within the text ad.  Keyword insertion means the text ad you write will exactly match the user's search term.  If the user searches condos for sale in dallas, the top line of our text ad will appear with Condos For Sale in Dallas.  This little trick will give your ads very good relevance and result in higher quality scores.

#4 - Getting the most out of your ads using the "keyword insertion" tool on Adwords

When creating a new text ad for your campaigns, you will typically see the box below this paragraph.  It will allow you to create the header in the the top line of the ad.  Advertisers generally use something of keyword value to try and attract clicks to their ad.  If I was writing this ad in typical fashion without using the keyword insertion ability, I would probably style the top line something like - Dallas Condos for Sale.  However, if I used that term and used only that term instead of the keyword insertion, my top headline would NOT match all variations of that search term.  For example, by having Dallas Condos for Sale as my headline, the quality scores would suffer as a result of users searching for other terms like - condos for sale in dallas, condos for sale dallas texas, dallas condo for sale, dallas tx condos for sale, etc... Without using keyword insertion, my add would NOT match the exact search of the user.  See the typical text ad structure below...

Setting up keyword insertion should look like the image below.  We use { } brackets so our ad will pull keywords from our keyword list & your title line will exactly match a user's search.  If the user's search is too long for the title line to exactly match, the ad will revert back to Dallas Condos for Sale as shown below within the brackets.

#5 - Where you should advertise your Adwords Ads - Mobile, Desktop, Tablet?

One of the biggest fails I see with agents who advertise on Adwords is where they choose to run their ads.  Most agents go full steam ahead, 100% advertising on all and any platform Google allows.  This is a HUGE mistake.  Turn off the cell phone searches on Adwords!  Searching for homes on a phone is a miserable experience anyway.  If you try and advertise on the mobile platform of Adwords, you will get a bunch of worthless clicks and spend a lot of money.  Once I turned off my mobile platform for ads, my signup conversion rate increased to an average of 15% to 20% per day.  Industry averages are around 4% signup rate. Concentrate only on tablets and desktops.  In the real estate business, pictures count for more than words.  We all know the full power of our image-heavy websites are not as strong on a mobile platform vs a full screen.  So, cut out spending money on small cell phone screens all together.

To turn off your mobile ads on Adwords, go to a specific campaign, click on settings, then click on devices.  Go to "mobile devices with full browsers" and reduce your bid to -100%.  You are telling Google that you are not willing to pay any money for a mobile ad on Adwords.  Without money, Google won't run your mobile ads.

Again, remember, PPC is about making it enjoyable enough on the user so that he or she will give you his or her information in exchange for getting use of your website.  As I write this article, I've had 27 clicks to my website today with 7 registered leads for a conversion signup rate of 26%.  I've spent $40.  My cost per lead is less than $6.  Again, no mobile ads!

#6 - Forced Registration vs Open Search

My opinion is as simple as this - if you are running PPC, you need to force registration from the very first property the user tries to view.  There are no if, ands or buts to the direct correlation of forcing registration and success in PPC.  You are spending money to promote your website and, in turn, you want something of value from the consumers.  You want their contact information as potential prospects and they want to look at the homes on your website.  It is a fair trade.  

Debbie Drummond, who ran PPC ads for close to ten years, says, "I would keep the forced registration on.  Sorry, but you're spending money on PPC.  Letting them view your site for 'free' is wasting that money.  I know, people will put in bad numbers and emails.   The serious buyers and sellers will give the accurate info."

I study PPC habits of competitors within my market and I can tell just by looking at agent's landing pages as to how successful their PPC campaigns will be.  If you do not force a registration, you are just wasting your Adwords budget.  I know you think that people will continue to come back to your website if you don't force registration, but the reality is the exact opposite.  By forcing a registration, you will begin to show those who register how valuable your website and drip campaign content can be to their home search.  In addition, by not forcing a registration, there is a 99.9% chance you have lost that potential client and they will never be back.  How many times have you been browsing the web, looking for something particular, opened a ton of pages and 5 minutes later you've forgotten what page you were on when you saw something you liked?  It happens to all of us.  5 minutes after leaving your website, that user won't remember you or your website domain...unless they entered their information and you are there to "remind" them of who you are through a series of good content and drip campaigns?

#7 - What to do once a lead does register on your website

Make contact!  Yes, you must make contact quickly with the lead and establish yourself as their "go to expert" in the local market.  Statistics tell us home shoppers will register on an average of six real estate websites while searching for a property.  Statistics also say most clients end up using the first Realtor with whom they have substantial conversation.  Why not make that you?  You've got the contact information and you should use it!  I cannot tell you how many leads will thank us for calling and tell us we are the only agents who actively reached out to them to assist with their home search.

Debbie Drummond says her firm, "follows up on those leads right away.  There are too many websites that consumers visit.  If you don't get them asap, someone else will and you will have just wasted the cost of getting them to your site...I also have a drip email campaign for the bad phone numbers.  On top of the drip email, I save them a search that sends homes in the areas/price ranges they viewed on my site.  And they get my monthly newsletter.  The monthly newsletter gets responses from folks who gave bad phone numbers.  They seem to lurk in the background.  They read the newsletter and go on the site to view homes until they're ready to make their move.  Then they get in touch." 

Drip campaigns are a very important aspect to success with internet leads.  A drip campaign is a series of emails that continue to "drip" on prospects with the idea of keeping you at the top of the lead's mind. A drip campaign can also be part of a CRM.  I use a CRM like Infusionsoft to run my email marketing campaigns.  Infusionsoft has been described as the closest thing to artificial intelligence you can get right now with marketing.  

Drip campaigns should be educational in nature and not "sales" oriented.  Potential clients are not going to call you because you tell them how great you are as an agent.  Prospects and leads will, however, respond to you when you provide value to their home search and they see you as an expert who can assist in their purchase.  My drip campaigns last for over two years.  I also incorporate video using Bombbomb in my drip campaigns embedded into Infusionsoft.

I believe video is too powerful of a tool not to include in drip campaigns.  My goal with video is for a prospect to begin to identify me as the expert agent within the market and to start building a connection with me and my messages.  Bombbomb is a platform which allows me to send video emails as they are recorded.  I use equipment as simple as a Logitech webcam & a Yeti microphone or my iPhone 6 to do my videos.  I combine my videos with my educational drip campaign content.  See an example of what Bombbomb allows me to do with video below.

 

 

#8 - Don't expect instant success from PPC

PPC is a marathon, not a sprint.  Many real estate experts in the industry believe in a "buying cycle."  This means buyers start searching months or years ahead of their possible purchase.  What we've found is the leads who register on our site are either instant buyers - meaning they're planning to purchase in the next 30 to 45 days - or, in complete opposite contrast, are 9+ months out from purchasing a home.  A much larger majority of leads fall into the 9+ months category.  I would venture to guess only around 20% fall into the buying range of the next 30 to 45 days.

So, what does this mean for you as an agent?  You'll have to work and stay in front of the 80% of leads who plan on purchasing a home in 9+ months from their registration.  These leads are like sheep.  Meaning, you will have to continuously "herd" them to keep them with you.  "Herding" means phone calls, emails, drip campaigns, video emails, educational content, sending new listings to leads, etc...  You have to stay in front of these leads to convert.  These are basics of marketing in any business and they're no different in real estate PPC.

Final Thoughts

PPC absolutely has a place in real estate if executed correctly.  PPC also has the ability to drain your budget very quickly if done in the wrong way.  Yes, it is a lot of work.  Don't go into PPC thinking the instant traffic means instant riches.  It absolutely does not!  Making PPC work for you isn't easy, but it does have a huge upside if you are committed to the work.  And, truthfully, any success in any business is going to mean hard work and commitment -  PPC is no different.  But, I hope this gives you hints and tips you need to make PPC a success in your business.


More awesome articles for REALTORS®. Click on the images below to read the articles.

  • how to become a new realtor real estate agent
  • how to chose sponsoring real estate broker
  • trulia and zillow against realtors
  • listing with realtor or fsbo
  • 12 days of christmas for realtors
  • should i use a realtor to buy a house

 

jeff knox dallas realtorJeff Knox is the Broker Owner of Knox & Associates Real Estate and his team of Dallas Realtors assists both buyers & sellers with homes for sale in Dallas, Frisco, Plano, Southlake, Highland Park, McKinney, Prosper, University Park, Colleyville, Dallas Condos, Grapevine, Coppell, Lantana, Allen, Flower Mound, Keller, SMU area, M Streets, Lake Highlands, Bluffview, Lakewood, White Rock Lake, Westlake, Wylie and all DFW real estate areas. Call us at 972-342-0000 for additional information on any of the areas mentioned above.

6 Responses to "How to Succeed with Google Adwords in Real Estate"

Debbie Drummond wrote: Excellent article Jeff. You've given useful info for anyone considering PPC. Love your BombBomb video too.

Posted on Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 at 2:11pm.

Xavier wrote: Thanks for providing this PPC info, Jeff! Most of this stuff is new to me (call me old fashioned) and I'll give it a try :)

Posted on Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 at 2:17pm.

Jeff Knox wrote: Thanks, Debbie. Bombbomb is a platform I'd absolutely recommend to agents who want to build better existing relationships with current and past clients, as well as form new relationships with prospective clients.

Xavier, it is my pleasure to share what I have learned over seven years for doing PPC. Feel free to reach out to me if you need some help or advice. I'll be glad to help if I can.

Posted on Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 at 4:20pm.

Tyler wrote: Wow Jeff, It's my first time here and I'm totally impressed.

I really learned something from your talk about Google Ads. Thanks for the detailed writeup.

-Tyler

Posted on Friday, August 21st, 2015 at 11:23am.

Brent Germany wrote: Awesome article Jeff! I'm a former web developer turned Realtor, but I still something new every day. I am using REW right now to connect to my PPC, but I will certainly look into Real Geeks.

Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2015 at 9:36am.

Joe Manausa wrote: Jeff, thanks for a superbly written and content rich article! I have a question for you regarding keywords ... how many keywords do you typically put per article. Using your example above, where you included 3 keywords, how many others would you include? Would they all be phrase matches?

Thanks again for a great read.

Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 at 3:02pm.

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