Over the summer, Google announced that it would be introducing a policy for certain types of ads, preventing employment, housing, and credit advertisers from targeting or excluding searchers based on their gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code. The new Google Ads Housing Policy presents tremendous challenges for home builders who depend on local relevancy. The change will impact how advertisers now target audiences, but fear not – there are still ways to bring in qualified traffic. We’ve rounded up the five best practices to acquire qualified home builder leads amidst these ever-changing conditions.
5 Ways to Still Generate Qualified Leads for Home Builders
1. ) Target County Level Geo-Targets
Though ZIP code targeting may no longer be available, home builders can still reach relevant leads using county-level targeting. After adding county-level targeting, we saw a 10% increase in goal completions over a 45-day period for a mid-size homebuilder client. For many of our home builder clients, we find that people will most often move within the same city or suburb. Understanding moving trends is paramount to a healthy home builder digital marketing strategy. According to Joshua Green at MyMovingReviews.com, in 2019, household moves within a 100-mile radius were at an all-time high at 45.5%, with the continued development of local communities and the expansion of the digital workforce as major contributors.
With that in mind, we predict another jump in local moves in 2021 as the work-from-home culture continues to expand. People are now seeking homes that serve multiple functions—office, gym, school, park, sanctuary—without the hassle of a long-distance move.
What does this mean for home builder marketing? Get local. Using city-level and county-level targeting will capture surrounding suburbs, maybe even better than ZIP codes could have. Additionally, granular county- and city-level targeting will allow you to adjust bids based on performance. And who among us doesn’t like more control?
2. ) Layer Housing Related In-Market & Affinity Google Audiences
Google Analytics provides excellent insight into the types of audiences that are already converting well on your site. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the In-Market and Affinity audiences that serve you well and apply them as a remarketing list for search ads(RLSA) within your campaigns to boost leads. You can increase bids on these audiences and boost your chances of bringing in more qualified leads.
Some of our top-performing housing-related audiences include, but are not limited to, ‘New Houses for Sale,’ ‘Mortgage Affordability Calculator,’ and ‘Home Improvement.’ Try them out and let us know how they perform for you.
3. ) Get Hyper-Personal & Targeted in Ad Copy
With Google’s Housing Policy changes in place, it’s crucial to message local-level attributes and benefits in the ad copy. For one of our clients, we are testing different ad variations that message the local area’s name differently. These ad variations aim to test messaging the targeted location using local vernacular. The test has increased relevancy, and we’ve seen it increase CTR, too.
Think about where you live. How would you actually search for new homes in your area? Are there specific area names that are part of the local vernacular? Given the local move trends we are seeing, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with how people actually refer to their area. The likelihood of local traffic to your website—and your homesite—is relatively high.
4. ) Take Full Advantage of Ad Extensions
Though some of the targeting related to gender and age are going away, there are still ways to pre-qualify searchers using thoughtful extension copy. Make good use of site links and callout extensions, for example.
For our retirement community home builders, we have started to use callout extensions mentioning ‘55+ Active Adult Community’ and site link extensions that highlight ‘New 55+ Communities’ as a way to pre-qualify the traffic. In theory, only searchers interested in that type of community would click on the ad.
Google Ads recommends at least eight site link extensions and at least four callout extensions per campaign. Take full advantage of that carousel of messaging, and speak to your target audience in bold ways.
5. ) Use Negative Keywords to Filter Non-Qualified Leads
It may seem obvious, but negative keywords are an easy way to say “not you” to irrelevant traffic. Now more than ever, robust negative keyword lists serve as a worthwhile layer of defense against needless clicks. As Google continues to increase limits on search query access, it is vital to harvest good negative keywords—while you can—from the available search query reports.
For example, while renters may seem like ideal potential customers, many are not in a position to buy a home. Some renters may be tied up in long-term leases, and others may not be qualified for the loan necessary to buy one of your homes. If you are not actively marketing to renters, make sure to include negative keywords for terms related to ‘rent’ and ‘rental.’
Also, because Google has become looser with their keyword matching, it is increasingly important to be strategic with negative keywords even if using exact match keywords. Be sure to include terms like “home depot” or “steakhouse” as negative keywords, too.
Creating one general Negative Keyword List that includes common negatives for your account (like “home depot” and “steakhouse”) is an easy way to maximize your efficiency and cover your bases. Once you’ve generated a list of negative keywords that you want to block overarchingly, you can upload them to your new Negative Keyword List via Tools & Settings and apply the list to as many campaigns as you like. With a few clicks of a button, you’ve set up an extra layer of defense for all your campaigns.
Taking these five steps will help buffer your home builder marketing efforts from the aftershocks of Google’s new Restricted Housing Verticals policy. Home building is one of the most resilient industries. Whether during the real estate decline of 2008 or the present COVID-19 pandemic, the homebuilding industry proves time and again that it is indelible, relevant, and flexible.
We love working with home builders. Their ability to pivot and think of ways to bring value to customers, no matter the circumstance, is both admirable and savvy. Any smart advertiser would jump at the opportunity to partner with clients who demonstrate that mindset. Perhaps that’s why we are so sold on home builders. Owning a home is such a monumental milestone in a customer’s life journey. As digital marketers, we get to work alongside an equally innovative industry to help make home-owning dreams a reality. If you’d like help with your digital marketing program, reach out and let us know!