How to Market to Qualified Prospects Using Google Adwords

Scott Huber on the Zillow blog takes an interesting look at the value of cost-per-click advertising programs and explains that not all clicks are created equal:

Audience and messaging are huge factors for what you pay for Web traffic. The reason that Google appears to be cheaper at the $1 to $4 cost-per-click (CPC) for many real estate terms is that Google has tremendous reach to an extremely wide audience. The one reason a Google click costs $1 CPC, or less, is due to the fact that with limited text, you might not get a qualified click. In the end, you purchase many more clicks to get the audience you need. Remember: You pay every time someone clicks on your Google ad, whether they are person you want to attract, or not.

Based on the analysis of traffic across the sites we manage at, we couldn’t agree more. People using the web for real estate research vary tremendously in how motivated they are and how qualified they are to buy a home.

In Huber’s example, he suggests that traffic from Google may not be as qualified as you may expect. I presume he means that someone searching for the term “real estate” may not be the most motivated buyer in the world at the time they conducted that search. If that’s the case, agreed.

But Google does have a lot of qualified traffic, and people don’t continue to pay $1 or more per click for traffic for the fun of it. So, how are businesses doing it? Here are a few tips on on to make the most of ad buys on Google AdWords.

1. Have a site worth marketing. This can’t be emphasized enough. If your site doesn’t offer valuable content to prospective clients, what reason to they have to stick around? In some cases, the “bounce rate” can be higher than 90% for real estate sites. Bounce rate is a measure of what percentage of people click the back button after visiting. If your site has a 90% bounce rate, at $1 per click, it will cost you $10 just to get one visitor to visit more than one page of your site. That’s rarely sustainable.

2. Send traffic to relevant pages. If you’re advertising on location-specific terms, send people to pages related to that location. If you’re advertising on terms like “home buying tips” send people to a blog post or other page that helps answer common questions.

3. Get specific. People searching on terms like “homes for sale” or “real estate” are in the “just browsing” phase of their search process. As people get closer to making a buying decision and are ready to contact an agent, their searching behavior changes as well.

4. Geotarget your campaigns. While you can advertise to people around the globe using Google AdWords, you’ll probably see better results if you advertise to people who are already in your city or state. Google lets you choose where your ads will be displayed.

5. Use negative keywords. If you advertise on the term “homes for sale” in quotes or without quotes, it is considered a phrase match or broad match. This means your ad will be displayed when those words are used in that order (phrase match) or in any order (broad match). So you may be advertising to people you’re not interested in working with. For example, “mobile homes for sale” may not be a valuable term for all agents and brokers. You can prevent this by adding negative keywords to your campaign like:

-bank owned

Google AdWords is a powerful tool, but like most powerful tools, it’s only valuable if you know how to use it. The five tips above should help improve most campaigns.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest


  1. Scott Huber June 23, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Ed you hit the nail on the head and I appreciate you reading my post. You do an excellent job in your post taking my comments to the next level. I love “Have a site worth marketing.” That is really the essence of it all. If your site can’t engage the audience with your business, it doesn’t matter the cost of the click because it was a wasted click. Nice work.

  2. Hamza Davis June 23, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Google Adwords Traffic Estimator is also a great tool when targeting local search. What an excellent way to drill down when considering your campaigns.

  3. Ed Kohler June 23, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks Scott. In general, I see too much focus on quantity rather than quality when it comes to traffic. Big sites throw around big numbers regarding national traffic, but agents and brokers need to focus more on what percentage of that traffic is in-market for them and how qualified is it in order to make informed ad buying decisions.

    ABT: always be testing.

  4. Ed Kohler June 23, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Good point, Hamza. Although, I often see people focus on quantity rather than quality when paying with Traffic Estimator. They’re often better off building a portfolio of tougher to estimate but highly valuable terms.

  5. Brell - Brenda Elllis July 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Great work Ed!

    Part of the success in any business comes from knowing what to measure – and I certainly # of hits or clicks .. is not the metric that we really should be focusing on in all cases.

    Good tip on the negative – I did not know that! Thanks.