Simply put, it’s showing up in the search results page, whether it be on Google, or Bing, or DuckDuckGo, or wherever people are searching. You’re not aiming for just any place on the search results page—you’re purchasing visibility in text ads at the top of search results.
Often, property owners or property management companies will come to us and say, “We've tried that before, it's expensive, and it doesn't work,” or, “I never click on text ads because they're not relevant, they don't work.” The point is, they do work. Paid search is the best performing digital marketing channel that exists. Of course, that also makes it the most expensive digital marketing channel. The people you’re targeting are self identifying that they are searching for something you’re bidding on. And if you do it correctly, your ads will only show whenever they’re very relevant.
When people tell us they spent money on Google ads and it didn’t work, it's generally because their targeting was not focused enough.
They were targeting all sorts of searches related to the industry, and not narrowing it down to a strategy. What it boils down to is that your cost per acquisition (how much you're actually spending to get a lead) is extremely high because you're bringing in traffic for things that are not really relevant. It's not so much about the money you're spending as the strategy that you put behind it.
When you start to dive deeper into strategy, the way that you bid, what you bid on, and what you're actually advertising impact how you are influencing people at different stages of their buying journey. So, the million dollar questions is, "how do you target people at the different levels?"
Create a strategy and figure out what your searchers are looking for at each stage of the cycle. Are they in the decision-making funnel (around 90 days or so in the multifamily industry)? Talk about your strategy and put it down on paper before you start spending money anywhere. Otherwise, you could spend essentially an unlimited amount of dollars and get zero results.
With Google Paid Search, we've found that the most effective place to spend your money is on mid and lower funnel tactics. if you focus you efforts on top-level awareness building then your potentially going to get a lot of traffic, but not a lot of conversions. Instead, try to identify the types of searches for people that are more likely to be ready to take action. Google Ads works exceptionally well for bringing people that are ready to make a decision to your website. The platform is not good for bringing people that are just beginning their research - and by "not good" we mean "super expensive."
The top part of the funnel for apartments and multifamily typically means targeting searchers in geo. If you're going to build your keywords around an awareness campaign, you’re going to target searchers looking within a broad area—for example, apartments in Chicago, apartments in South Millersville, apartments on Michigan Avenue, etc. Most likely, these searchers are going to end up on an ILS, because that is where a lot of people start their journey, especially when they're moving into a new city. A better mid-funnel strategy would be to focus on searches include neighborhoods, streets, and other places of interest.
People that are searching for apartments in a specific neighborhood or on a specific street have a pretty good idea of where they want to live. They've likely already gone through the process of city-level searches and have refined their criteria down quite a bit. This means they are more likely to be ready to make contact.
Another good example of the mid and/or low funnel paid search strategy is the unit type search. Someone is looking for a studio, perhaps, and they want specific price points. Oftentimes, the geo modifier is included here: “studios in Chicago,” etc., and if they're searching that, they know what kind of unit they want and where they want it to be. This person is clearly closer to making a decision.
It's important to consider where you're pushing those people to on your website. You're giving them a different set of information and appealing to their search in a specific way. You're answering their question of, “Hey, I'm looking for studios, but I want to know about your studio.” They want to know what amenities you have, what comes with the apartment should they choose it, what are the price points, etc. Therefore, you should direct them to a place where they can get that information quickly and easily.
TIP: If you're trying to reduce ad costs then consider adding unit-type keywords to your EXCLUSION lists within Google Ads. Exclude units you don't offer or that you're booked up on. That practice can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on your ad budgets.
What does brand mean exactly? It’s your building name, your brand name. There can be other strategies with your phone number and address, etc. but, ultimately, you should be bidding on the name of your building. You're taking people on a journey. At 90 days out, they’re just investigating. At 60 days out they're making decisions about logistics, and at 30 days out, they're signing. If we did our job, and we visualized the funnel effectively, we're touching them at each of those parts and fueling conversions.
But if they are searching for your brand, then shouldn't you show up organically? What's the point of branded search then? Though this is true in many industries, in multifamily specifically, there are other people that are going to bid on your brand. So if you aren't, they're going to take some of your business. When you do branded search, you can get the best cost per click, too. Google will favor your ads over others’ because you are the business they're looking for which means ad costs will be significantly less for you. There are other side-benefits to running branded search too like more data visibility and a more robust ad format. The bottom line is that banded search is very affordable for all of the benefits that come with it - so do it.
Have questions about paid search, or feeling ready to start visualizing your funnel? We’d love to chat! Contact us through our website or social media, or give us a call. And, as always, be sure to share this blog and our podcast with others who could benefit from paid search.