Google Ads allows us to display an ad directly in front of potential buyers searching for a home at the exact moment they are searching. This sounds near perfect, right? Unfortunately, many builders get this wrong.
Google Ads is Complex & Nuanced
Unlike its counterpart Facebook, Google Ads provides a near infinite number of ways to set up your campaigns, ad groups and ads. In many ways, Google Ads is like an assortment of building materials with no blueprints. You may know the end result you want, but you are not handed a way to get there.
After working with a variety of builders in many different markets with total Google Ad spend of over $10 million, I have found common symptoms of a poorly performing Google Ad account.
High Cost Per Click – Compared to Facebook, Google Ads does have a higher cost per click. Generally, if your average cost per click is more than $1.80 for your entire account, there could be a problem. The caveat to this is that the market and exact keyword will affect this greatly. For example, “New Homes Raleigh, NC” is typically twice as expensive as “New Homes Winter Haven, FL.”
Low Click Through Rate – The click through rate is the number of times your ad is clicked per 100 times it is shown. You want to see a CTR of at least 7 percent. This is an indicator of how relevant your ad is against the keyword it was displayed for. If the CTR is too low, then your ad is being shown to irrelevant searchers.
Poor Quality Metrics – Quality metrics are time on site, average page view, and bounce rate. These need to be within 20 percent of your organic search traffic metrics. Quality metrics give a strong indication of the quality of visitors from a traffic source. Organic search traffic is the highest quality traffic source and can be used as a benchmark to measure other traffic sources.
Low Conversions – Conversion tracking can be a very complex subject. Generally, you can test the quality of your Google Ads build with a “Coming Soon” community where the goal is to sign up to be on a “VIP List” for that community. Conversion rate is heavily influenced by where you are building, price range, and the product you are building. You can safely benchmark your performance against your site-wide conversion rate.
Ouch – this one could be painful, but is often true. If you have the wrong person managing your Google Ads, it can be a disaster. This applies to an “in-house” marketer or the agency that is paid to manage and optimize. Ideally, the individual responsible for the ads has multiple years of experience with Google Ads – even better if their experience is within the industry.
Remember Sisyphus? The “cruel greek king” whose punishment was to push a large rock up the hill, only to find it rolling back down just as he neared the top? Optimizing Google Ads is similar in that there is an infinite amount of optimizing that can be done; however, the law of diminishing returns very quickly comes into play. If your account is setup correctly there is no need to constantly optimize and test new ads, strategies, etc.
It is best to only use keywords that most closely reflect what we sell . We sell new homes. Expanding that further, we sell new homes in [insert your city here]. So what are the best keywords? Any combination and slight variation of “new,” “homes,” and the city you build in. That’s it.
When builders venture outside of this, even to “existing home” keywords, they’ll require significantly larger budgets, time and resources to manage the campaign. That time and budget should be reallocated elsewhere to content, Facebook Ads, a new website, photos, etc.
This is one of my least favorite mistakes. Not that I like any of the mistakes, but this one is so clearly wrong. Display ads on Google Display Network are great – but only for remarketing ads with a small budget. Running display ads to “in-market” audiences, or those deemed by Google to be “in market” to buy what we sell, simply does not work. Compare the quality metrics and conversion rates against Facebook Ads. The Data will guide you to the truth. There is absolutely no reason to use Google Display Ads outside of remarketing. Turn them off, now.
Ad copy can be a complex conversation, but for Google Ads, it should not be. Remember, when buyers search on Google they are looking for a quick and accurate answer. That answer should be text only, in a very specific format, and limited by the number of characters in the ad. Whichever ad has the best answer, wins. Google likes winners.
If someone is searching for “New Homes in San Antonio, TX,” what should our ad say? Your ad should show where you build, the price point and one other qualifying factor – such as sq/ft range, number of bedrooms, or another unique factor that will “make or break” the possibility of a purchase. Your goal should be to prevent wasted clicks by giving the most important information up front.
Given the context of picking only the best keywords, having ad copy that prevents wasted clicks, not using Google Display Ads – you can very likely be under your previously planned budget. That is 100 percent expected and very common. For some builders, this is uncomfortable as they have goals for the number of users on their site. Now, because their Google account is operating significantly more efficiently, these traffic goals will not be met. Keep in mind, this example is traffic goals for the website. Leads, appointments and sales will increase. However, this would still need to be addressed – so what do you do?
Do not force more out of Google than what you can get. It is very tempting to hit the easy button of increasing the bids, or adding keywords – do not do this. Shift the remaining budget to Facebook, or other areas of digital marketing that are lacking – such as content or website improvements.
In Google, bid only on “new home” related keywords, have the location and price in your ad copy, turn off display ads (unless remarketing) and do not spend more than you need to. That’s it – everything you need to do to effectively run Google Ads, without mistakes.
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