In today’s abridged Agent Insights post, Jeff Knox - featured Inman writer and Dallas, Texas Broker of Knox & Associates Real Estate - explains how agents can effectively grow their business and online real estate marketing strategy with PPC Marketing and Google AdWords.
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.
First, What exactly is PPC?
PPC 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.
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.
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. Do not try and get fancy by providing too many other options. Buyers will bounce from your site if it is too complicated.
#2 - You must direct visitors to the right landing pages
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. 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.
#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!
#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 can] 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.
#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.
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.
#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.
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.
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.
#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.
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.
For the full version of this article and more about Google AdWords in real estate, visit: www.knoxre.com.