The coronavirus housing market has been a wild ride. In the DC metro area, more homes went under contract in June than any other June in at least the last decade. Digital marketing data from SimilarWeb reveals that much of this homebuyer demand is being funneled to real estate sites by way of paid search traffic, which has jumped up by more than 15% over the past six months.
As the Google Ads platform has become even more critical to digital marketing, our strategists have put together 7 best practices we use when building and managing Google Ad campaigns for our real estate clients.
1. Start by bidding on specific product keywords such as “3 bedroom condos” or “homes with elevators” before incorporating more general keywords like “homes for sale” or “apartments for rent” into your ad groups. This ensures you capture high-intent users looking for exactly what you have to offer, and usually leads to a higher clickthrough rate, lower cost-per-click, and more qualified conversions. Only add general keywords (“homes for sale”, “condos for sale””, etc…) if specific terms are not showing enough impressions.
2. Use clear, actionable copy in ads. Users react best to simple copy that lists product information, pricing, and amenities. Avoid using all caps and exclamation points in your headlines (it looks spammy) or too much punctuation (it slows readers down). We’ve seen good results from incorporating direct calls-to-action in extensions such as “Schedule a Tour” and “Move in Today.”
3. Bid on location-specific keywords, such as “National Harbor apartments” or “homes for sale in Middleburg.” We usually test out a combination of city, state, neighborhood and zip code keywords and phrases to better understand online shopper demand and optimize our campaigns accordingly. When expanding targeting radius to reach a broader audience, nearby locations or features can also be good to incorporate here (i.e. “homes near DC” or “waterfront condos near me”). For one of our clients, The Haven, we have found that adding “waterfront/living” to the ad display URL increased CTR significantly.
4. Test out responsive ads. Responsive ads are powered by machine learning to determine the optimal combination of headlines and descriptions. Particularly at the beginning of a campaign when you’re still testing out messaging, we recommend adding a responsive ad utilizing the current copy of three text ads you have already drafted. This will give you a good idea of what copy users interact with most.
5. Monitor search queries weekly and maintain a negative keyword list. If you’re bidding on broad match keywords (e.g. “Oxon Hill Homes”), your ads may show up for related but unwanted queries (e.g. “Home Depot in Oxon Hill”). It’s important to monitor search queries weekly and maintain a robust negative keyword list to ensure you aren’t paying for retail shoppers or unrelated keywords.
6. Highlight season-specific amenities and features. The top-of-mind needs and preferences of homebuyers often change based on the time of year, and so should your keywords and ad copy. For example, an on-site pool or outdoor picnic area is smart to feature in the spring and summer, while fireplaces and garage parking may be most appealing during colder months. Right now because of COVID, we’re seeing a big uptick in demand for flexible home office spaces! Structured snippets are an easy way to highlight multiple amenities or features at once.
7. For new construction communities, update ads regularly with inventory metrics such as “Only X Homes Remaining” or “X% Sold Out.” This helps create a higher sense of urgency with passive shoppers and generates a higher clickthrough rate, especially when only a few units remain.
All real estate is different, but it’s important to use these tips as a point of reference moving forward. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your campaign performance on a weekly basis to account for seasonality, pandemics, and housing market volatility. What may be working one week may not perform as well the next.