Why Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads Usually Don’t Work for Real Estate Agents

Digital advertising on Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms is a very useful and lucrative tool that helps real estate agents to grow their businesses – when employed properly.

After all, why wait months or years for search rankings you may never quite get right when you can get near the top simply by paying.

The problem is, though, for the vast majority of agents, digital “pay-per-click,” or PPC ads, have gotten a bad name because very few providers or agents themselves can effectively do PPC ads without wasting a lot of money for very little in return.

Why? Well, do PPC poorly and the wrong customers will literally “click up” your budget or fill your CRM with garbage. It’s a shame, and often a very costly proposition in more ways than one!

However, done well, digital ads that get seen by the right home buyers and sellers at the right time can greatly multiply leads and grow revenue. Sometimes, by orders of magnitude in fact. They can also help you make sure you get your share of leads in low periods when buying and selling slow down.

So why is it so hard to do right? Here are a few reasons why most agents fail at PPC ads:

  • It’s hard to tell bad advertising from good – When it comes to running ads, agents can choose to run Google or social media ads by themselves or choose from any one of hundreds of local marketing companies or national lead generation platforms to handle it for them. To succeed with any of these options, the persons or companies pulling the trigger must understand real estate, home buyer and seller habits, local markets, the economy, the agent’s websites and more (to say nothing of the ad platforms themselves). More importantly, they must understand that all these things are in a constant state of change from day to day, month to month. That means the way the ads are targeted must constantly change too as keywords and phrases trend up and down so they end up in front of the right customers. For certain, this is not something an agent who’s running DIY ads can usually do. In fact, almost none of the other companies agents pay to run ads can do it either. Why? Just like the individual agent who would easily spend all their money and time running the ads and trying to keep them in sync, it’s also very expensive for these web, marketing, and lead generation companies too. That means they always go the “brute force” route (at the client’s expense) instead of taking the time and money to build automated ads systems based on the data and analytics required to make these processes efficient and effective. To say it another way, they’d rather ask you for more money for more ads that ratchet up the volume of “bad” leads. It’s easier and cheaper since the client is technically paying to make their problem go away just by having more of their ads run so they can be clicked up by more people who may or may not be real leads. In the end, the agent pays, but the marketing or lead generation company gets the revenue. Since all these companies pretty much look the same, it makes it seem like there’s nothing better out there when an agent goes looking to shop and compare ad vendors.
  • Their ads are not well-targeted – Virtually all ad providers target solely based on geolocation. That means if you sell homes in Portland, they set up ads that target Portland. As we all know, not everyone looking to buy or sell a home in Portland is, well, in Portland. Plus, there are customers out there to be reached based on a many more criteria than just a location. For example, Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn track user personas and profiles with dozens and even hundreds of other criteria such as interests and demographics. Because targeting your customers with ads this way is very complex, expensive and time-consuming (i.e. it costs a lot), no PPC vendor pays to provide this level of accuracy. The result? Crappy leads that miss a lot of potential customers. Most agents who run PPC ads are not getting ads that are well-targeted at all. Again, it makes more sense for the vendors to keep costs low, ask you for more money for more “bad” ads than it does to make every dollar you spend worth more through better accuracy and precision.
  • Their websites “drop the ball” – Simply put, most agents have bad websites that may look just fine, but don’t perform well in search or capture leads effectively when a lead from an ad does manage to wind up on your page. The majority of agents buy a website, it goes live and then they leave it be. For years, sometimes. The problem is that when a PPC ad does get someone to click on the ad and they arrive at the agent’s website, most do a poor job of both keeping them there (robust, functional features like search and high quality content in the form of valuable info and photos, videos) and getting them to convert (“calls to action” buttons that ask for info, forms that give the user something extra like a market report, or special offers and more). Simply put, if you’re running ads and don’t have a solid website set up to engage and convert visitors, you’re wasting your money. Period. If you’re running ads and don’t get the conversions you think you should be getting, look to your website. There’s the “hole in the net.” Another tip? If you run ads that link to your page on your broker’s site, you’re spending money to help the brokerage and other agents instead of you. Just don’t do it.
  • They give up too soon – Digital lead generation is a two-sided coin. One side is organic search (i.e. ranking well in Google for what users search for) and the other is active marketing to attract leads (e.g. PPC ads). Doing successful organic search marketing is a “long game” and takes a long-term commitment. Stop working toward good organic rankings (or don’t start at all) and your progress halts. It’s kinda like a hamster in a wheel that powers a light bulb. The hamster gets tired or wanders off and the light goes out. Active marketing to leads with PPC is the exactly the same thing. Most often, agents will try out PPC ads, get frustrated because of all the issues outlined above and quit. Thus, they end up with a bad impression of just how useful PPC can be. Many brokerages and agents go from getting no leads to digitally dominant in their areas based solely on successful PPC ad campaigns done well and persistently over the long term. It just takes finding a company that’s set up to do PPC in a targeted, continuously managed and efficient way that’s specific to your business, area and customer market.

So what should you look for when shopping for an ad provider? Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Do you target solely based on geolocation?
  • If not, how will you target my desired customer audience specifically?
  • Are you set up to continuously monitor my ad performance and make adjustments?
  • Will I get metrics and reports each month showing how well my ads are doing with my intended audiences?
  • Can you show me what ad types you’re running and which are converting best?
  • Will you identify for me what audiences are best converting into leads?
  • How will you improve accuracy for these audiences month to month so every dollar is worth more?
  • Based on the data, can I choose which audiences to target with my money? Can I choose what to spend and when? turning it on and off?

If the ad provider can’t readily answer these questions in the positive with detailed and thorough info, beware. If you proceed with them, you just might as well leave a blank check on the table.

PPC ads can be devastatingly effective. Done well, they can make your business over time and help you best competition who can’t run them well. Do them poorly, you can blow your whole marketing budget and get turned off for good from a very powerful way to get more leads over time.

Choose wisely.

Other Helpful Resources for You

A Beginner’s Guide to PPC Ads – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yog9__IJ6vY

Learn How to Do PPC Ads Right – https://www.udemy.com/ppc-training-digital-marketing/

Low-budget PPC ideas that work – http://neilpatel.com/blog/low-on-cash-low-budget-ppc-tips-that-will-bring-big-budget-results/

Realtors: Need a good website that engages visitors and converts them to leads? Look no further.


Websites for real estate agents

About the Author

Jason Polancich

Jason Polancich

Jason Polancich is a founder and lead architect of HomePocket, a data-driven, residential real estate marketing and lead generation network making big data work practically and usefully for agents. Polancich also originally created SurfWatch Labs, a cyber analytics firm founded in 2013 that provides highly accurate, timely and actionable information to businesses regarding the cybercrime threats they face. Polancich is a serial entrepreneur focused on solving complex internet commerce, data analysis, and cyber-defense problems. Novii Design, a company he co-founded in 2005 with Rebekah Lewis-Polancich, was based on his contributions to cloud architectures, distributed computing, data analysis and systems integration. The company assisted the U.S. Intelligence Community and Department of Defense in building some of the largest data warehouse and analysis systems ever put into operation within the government and defense contracting sectors. Novii Design was sold to Six3/CACI in 2010.

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