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International Real Estate Advertising : specifics & recommendations

Artem Akulov

In this article we will talk about international real estate promotions and PPC specifics (buying, renting, investing in real estate), what should you pay attention to, useful tips and insights for lead generation from different sources.

1. Set up the goals and target conversions on your website

Define your PPC goals and objectives.

It should be clear, precise, and measurable.

Example:

  • A target number of quality leads (property buyers) per month – 50
  • Target CPA (cost per action) – less than $30
  • Monthly budget – up to $10k

What is a quality lead in Real Estate:

  • Valid leads are related to the service you offer
  • Real leads are actual targeted customers, able to pay for the service
  • High budget leads – for example, property buyers with a high average check
  • Low budget leads – for example, property renters with average check lower compare to buyers
  • Leads from targeted locations where you provide the service

Define target conversions on the website.

Target actions can be:

  • Fill out the property buyer’s request form/booking on the website
  • Call directly from the website
  • Phone call
  • Using a live chat on the website
  • other

Before expecting the growth in numbers of conversions double-check if they have been set up correctly, is the website user friendly, navigation is easy and user actions can be completed. For example, you offer a call request form to a user, but the form doesn’t work correctly, you don’t receive a request and lose a client.

2. Define your target audience

What is your target audience?

Make up a portrait (avatars) of your clients, define their socio-demographic characteristics, specific interests for each category.

Basic characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Geography
  • Occupation
  • Income level
  • What requirement needs to be satisfied with your service
  • How do they find you?
  • Sales objection (the barrier the client might have before buying your service)
  • What competitors are familiar to the client

How to make an avatar?

Imagine who your client is, what is his life, his interests, what kind of situation can happen in his life to use your service. The avatar example:

John, 38 years old, manufacturing director. Married, father of 2 kids. He loves fishing and beach vacations. Values quality service and looking for the best for the family. Looking to purchase a house or villa in a southeast Asian country and a small yacht for fishing during the holidays. He wants to underline his social status. Currently researching the information about real estate properties, finding the articles and Youtube reviews, not clear with the decision yet.

We recommend creating a mindmap, locate you Target Audience groups in it, and write down the answers to the following topics for each group:

  • Service you are going to promote
  • Property units which are interesting for this group
  • The hypothesis you are going to test
  • Creatives targeting this group
  • Duration of the decision-making process

Analyze your competitors and think about how you can stand out, what message do you want to deliver to your target audience.

International real estate listing ads specifics

1. Avoid non-target audience

Check your search terms report regularly, add negative keywords, remove non-effective keywords.

Exclude the ‘refusing’ visitors from the list (duration of activity on the website is less than 15 sec)

When you promote a luxury segment listing, avoid the words “cheap” and “expensive”.

By specifying prices in your ad copy, you can cut off the low-budget audience. For example, “homes for sale starting from $100k”. In this case, it’s better to start from a trial, some of the clients don’t care about the price until they know the value.

Analyze socio-demographic characteristics of the audience, set bid adjustments for the least effective audience groups. For example, the target audience for resort properties purchase is men, age 25-55. The ads shouldn’t be shown for the audience less than 18 years old, and it should have lower adjustments for the group from 18 to 24 years old.

2. Setup local ads

Based on our experience, local and geofencing retargeting work well, as well as search ad campaigns for targeted countries.

Let’s say the client is currently on vacation or business trip in the country you sell the properties in. He is more interested in buying an apartment once he is impressed by the country, so he can inquire about your service, order a private tour of the apartment, or visit the office and meet the sales manager in person. In this case, conversion into sales is much higher.

3. Using remarketing/retargeting is a must

The decision making cycle in the real estate niche can take time. If we talk about property buying, the process can take weeks or months. It is faster for property rental. You need to remind your website users about your service if they’ve been active on your website but did not convert.

You should work with your audience. Divide it into segments and choose a relevant message for each one.

You should not only target the users who visited your website but ‘catch’ look-a-like audience. The users with similar characteristics should be united in one segment with a particular campaign setup.

Based on our experience, the following segments work well for property buying:

  • High budget leads (choose by occupation and interests, managing directors, government, yacht club members, visitors of luxury car showrooms)
  • Audience living in areas with higher income
  • Look-a-like segment based on conversions
  • Audience located within 2 miles from sales office/showroom
  • Look-a-like segment based on email and phone database

4. Test different hypotheses. Don’t stop your research

The property buyer portraits vary on my factors, and there are plenty of options on how to catch the required audience.

Don’t run many hypotheses at once. It is better to test systematically and step by step so that the results are clear and the patterns can be traced.

What can you test in Real Estate:

  • Ad campaigns strategies. Once you collect enough real performance data and conversion statistics, the smart Google campaigns will work well (target CPA). Smart bidding strategy helps control over the budget, the system automatically works towards receiving more conversions within the setup budget. So you can be sure you won’t spend more.
  • Creatives. For example, you can compare what works better – the picture showing property you want to sell, or the picture showing the people enjoying the property you want to sell. Some people like to associate themselves with characters from photos imagining their seaside vacation. For cases like that, pictures showing other people work best. The landscape and architectural features can attract other audiences, that’s why you need to use different creatives.
  • Ad copies. For example, you can compare the informational ad copy with USP description and creative emotional ad copy.
  • Landing pages. You can direct the ads to the key offers page, or real estate catalog.
Sample of the image with architectural features and landscape
Sample of the image with people enjoying the vacation

5. Website vs Landing page.

Usually, the real estate niche uses massive websites with property listing catalogs. However, there is an option to use a landing page with a promo if you have a USP or special offer for a holiday.

The more information the user needs to know about you before requesting the service, the more difficult the website or landing pages are. It’s highly important to provide the client with different points of contact. Someone prefers to call, others – to request the callback or receive the answer in messengers.

Any website should meet the basic requirements:

  • It should be loaded quickly and always accessible
  • It should be user friendly, easy to read, and navigate. The user should find phone numbers quickly, understand how to use filters and where to find a required listing
  • The information should be precise, related to the topic
  • It should be mobile-friendly, it should be possible to open websites quickly on smartphones and tablets

6. The website should have alternative ways to convert

As the decision making can be a long process, the users delay making a final choice, taking time to think about the service, compare with competitors, and research the information without any rush. It’s important to provide additional content for the users – useful insights, blog, subscription for a newsletter, or new articles. In this case, the interested user will leave the email to receive the content, and you can use it for closing the deal later.

Alternative conversions examples:

  • Subscribe to the newsletter
  • Subscribe to social media channels (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram)

Pay special attention to the conversions like:

  • Download the brochure
  • Download the property layout
  • Download a review of the Top 5 best available real estate properties

These conversions can be taken as alternatives, but actually should be the main ones. When a website user is ready to receive the catalog with the best apartments for sale, this user turns into a hot prospect. Such an audience requires immediate action, for example, they can be included in the email outreach.

7. Promote on social media

To attract your website users you need to promote your service on social media, a retargeting strategy is a minimum required for that.

Promote on Facebook. It gives a good number of conversions.

What works on Facebook:

  • Leed Ads – gives fast and high-quality results. The user clicks on the post to open the application form. The user just needs to fill it out. He doesn’t need to get to the website. Use the manual input field in the leed ads with autocompletion. This will improve the quality of applications.
  • Dynamic Ads – this format performs better than single-image ads. It does not overload your account with a big number of single ads.
  • Retargeting – the minimum requirement for effective ads. Make a few ad copy options for your website visitors, try different messages. Change creatives periodically, as people tend to stop noticing ads with the time. Exclude the list of users who have already made a purchase from retargeting.

It is necessary to maintain Facebook pages: upload useful content, engage with users, increase their loyalty.

8. Use high-quality creatives, show the best sides of the property.

We are now in the age of visual information where people prefer to look at pictures rather than read the text. Don’t leave your listing pages without great images.

Hire a photographer for a creative photoshoot of the properties you need to sell. Do not use stock images or someone’s creatives.

If you still decide to use stock images, make it unique – change the background, apply filters, improve brightness, etc. This is how you stand out from other companies.

9. Create video content & setup video campaigns on Google Ads.

Start your YouTube channel, and post useful and attractive videos, which you can also use in video ads. The main ad formats:

TrueView Video Discovery – for the long videos. The ads are showing in the relevant video list, search results, and Youtube mobile app main page.

True View In Stream/For Action – for the short videos. It will be shown in the beginning/middle/end of the other’s video on YouTube or within the partnership network. The viewer can skip this video in 5 sec, so you need to keep him interested. This ad can lead a viewer directly to the website. Use an impressive call to action. It will increase the effectiveness of your ads and make them more visible.

Intro video – shows at the beginning/middle/end of another video for 6 sec. Viewers cannot miss such ads. It is important to convey information and interest them in 6 seconds.

Include the contact information in every video description so that users can quickly contact you or go to the website.

At the first stage, target audiences with different interests: real estate, travel, finance, investment, tourism. Then you can narrow or expand your targeting.

10. Work with your leads.

Collect phone numbers, email addresses.

You can start retargeting campaigns using a list of website users who showed interest in your service but didn’t convert before.

The list of users who became a client of your company should be excluded from the campaign so that the budget won’t be wasted.

Show the ads to the audience with similar characteristics. Create a look-a-like audience on Facebook.

11. Bid for your traffic.

Sometimes low bids don’t work. Real Estate – very competitive niche, it requires high budgets and high bids most of the time.

12. Consider user location specifics to adjust bids.

User location can affect the number of conversions. Let’s say you sell apartments in Spain.

If the audience is far away (out of Spain), then this is more of a “cold audience” and you can apply a lower adjustment for mobile devices. Based on our experience, mobile devices bring fewer leads compared to desktops. But the traffic from mobile devices can be high as advertising systems for smartphones work actively. Therefore, you should analyze your mobile traffic to avoid budget waste. Once you find the mobile traffic increased without conversions you need to figure out what caused a jump and add bid adjustments.

If users are in the same country (in our case, in Spain), then this is a “hot audience”. This audience will use mobile devices to access the Internet while traveling. In this case, no need to apply downward adjustments for smartphones and tablets.

Exception: if your website is not mobile-friendly at all. Better to apply the lower bid adjustments (-100%) right away and disable mobile traffic until the site is responsive. No need to lead the user to the website which he won’t be able to use.

13. Use wider semantic keywords targeting.

Collect wider semantic keywords – what else is your audience interested in? Let’s say you sell villas in Greece. Then you can try such topics for keywords as:

  1. Yachts and luxury car rental. Many people look for these services in advance, planning a trip, or being on a vacation. This is a high paying audience ready to consider buying a property in this country.
  2. Drivers, babysitters, staff hiring. This service is important and necessary for the premium segment clients.
  3. Names of popular sightseeings, attractions, excursions.
  4. Other countries/cities/regions. For example, “rent a villa in Spain”, “sale of villas in Italy”. In this case, you can influence the user and switch his attention to your country/city.
  5. Immigration process, citizenship issues, residence permit, permanent residence, visas. For example, “order a visa to Greece”, “permanent residence in Greece”, “how to obtain Greek citizenship”. People who enter such queries are interested in moving or traveling to the country may also be interested in buying/renting real estate property.

14. Set up dynamic search campaigns (DSA).

Considering that real estate websites use listing catalogs, a DSA campaign is a quick solution on how to cover the entire site in ads at once. Set up a DSA campaign with the catalog, exclude unwanted site pages. It can target both the entire website and its individual sections.

15. Consider seasonality.

Depending on the country, seasonality can hit different times of the year. For example, for Thailand, demand is increasing from November to March. Plan your budget. At this time, only effective campaigns and targeting should work. “Trim” the budget and bids for those campaigns and key phrases that spend money, but do not generate leads (or give invalid leads).

Key steps to launching and running ads

Phase 0. Audit current campaigns, make an action plan

If you already running ad campaigns, you need:

  • Check ad account setup and analytics systems.
  • Identify the weak and strong points of ad campaigns.
  • Analyze competitors (their keywords, websites, creatives, etc.).
  • Create a table of your USP, conversion table.
  • Form a complete list of recommendations and make an action plan based on that for the nearest month, and more.

You can audit yourself or hire an expert.

Phase 1. Setting up analytics, the initial launch of ad campaigns.

Before you launch a new ad campaign or start its optimization, you need to debug analytics, connect the necessary tracking tools, set up all conversions, and, if necessary, connect call tracking systems. Analytics should be configured at the very beginning to see real indicators and conversion data.

At the same time start optimizing the current ad campaigns. If the ad is launching from scratch, then we prepare the first campaigns.

Phase products:

  1. Correctly configured and tested analytics.
  2. Primary traffic for new ad campaigns (adjusted ad campaigns).

Phase 2. Test basic ad campaigns and reach target CPL.

If you have ad campaigns running. We continue to make changes to the current campaigns and launch new ones. Based on the data accumulated by this time, we get an understanding of the cost of a lead, the quality of traffic. We optimize advertising and reach target indicators.

If you start from scratch. We continue to create new campaigns, receive primary data on main indicators, which we will use as targets.

Phase products:

  1. Found basic ad campaigns that have the potential to scale
  2. Target CPL achieved

Phase 3. Scale ad campaigns.

Once we achieve CPL, we can start scaling ads to increase the number of leads.

Possible expansion options:

  • Connect new channels or instruments. For example, set up ads on Facebook, set up a smart campaign in Google Ads, etc.
  • Expand semantics: use new keywords from search query reports, test broad match keywords without the (+) modifier in Google Ads, view suggested keywords from Google Planner, search suggestions, look for synonyms, etc.
  • Expand your advertising campaigns to the areas that you haven’t covered yet, use wide semantic keywords, research competitors.
  • Start a partnership with other sites (collaborate on a content project, place your banners on an external site), etc.

Phase product:

  1. The target number of conventions with target CPL.

How to organize ad accounts

Split ad campaigns by:

  • Ad placement, Google Ads Display Network, Facebook, etc.
  • Type of your service: real estate sales, real estate rent, real estate investments, etc.
  • Type of real estate properties: houses, apartments, villas, townhouses, penthouses, etc.
  • Location, you provide the service in several regions, or you work with clients from other regions. For example, local campaigns (country or city where the apartment is sold), target regions (for example, if clients from the US, UK, AU  are a priority for you, then you can make separate campaigns for each target country), the rest of the world (all other countries where you can find your client)
  • Language: If you are working not only with an English-speaking audience, it is important to set up separate campaigns with ads in other languages for them.

How to choose the right keywords

Collecting keywords should be started with a semantic map that helps you sort things out. Use mapping programs (for example, Xmind) or Excel. On the map, mark the intersections and define the basics for parsing.

Semantic-mind-map-example
Semantic mind-map example

Sources for key phrases:

  • Keyword planner (for example, KeyKollector).
  • Suggested search terms.
  • Competitor keyword collection services such as Serpstat.
  • Google Ads Keyword Planner.
  • Synonyms.
  • Web analytics systems (Google Analytics).

To launch ads it is better to use the most targeted keywords (reflect a clear demand for the service). Launching the necessary semantics will save time and give the first statistics. Collect negative keywords. They can be different for different areas of real estate.

About ad copy

Consider your audience specifics and informational style when writing the ad copy. Point on the strong sides of your USP that differentiates you from your competitors and meet the clients’ needs. For example, if you offer to buy an investment property, it will be important for the client to have guarantees of return on investment, percentage of return, etc. If you sell real estate properties remotely (targeting global), then it is important to be able to close the deal remotely too. You should use more facts and try to stand out.

Conclusion

I hope you found this article interesting and helpful.

You can audit and optimize your ad campaigns yourself or order our service.

If you have questions or want to share your experience on the topic, write in the comments to the article, or use a special form to send a question on our website.