Google AdWords is one of the most cost-effective tools for generated qualified leads and leases for apartment marketers, despite many myths to the contrary. It allows you to identify exactly who you want to reach by advertising on carefully chosen keywords.
However, unless you know what you are doing with Google AdWords, chances are that you are going to waste a lot of money. Google greases the skids to make it incredibly easy to begin using AdWords, but it's also incredibly difficult to optimize your campaigns if you don't have specific training to know what you are doing.
One business owner had to stop taking a paycheck because of a basic AdWords gaffe.
Take Paul Downs, for example, who chronicled his "AdWords Debacle" across five blog articles featured on the New York Times website. Paul runs a conference table manufacturing business, and for a long time, he acquired a sizeable portion of his new orders using Google AdWords.
His business depended on AdWords to generate new orders, and his campaigns were accordingly quite sophisticated and detailed:
In 2009, I replaced my site with a better designed version and replaced the old campaign with a new one that reflected what I had learned about the different types of conference tables that people buy....
For example: if people search for “black conference tables,” they are shown an ad that has “black conference tables” in the headline, and they land on a page with — you guessed it — black conference tables. We buy lots of keywords (553 as of today) and organize them into lots of ad groups (66 as of today, 59 at the beginning of the year). (Original Article)
The problem, though, was that Paul made a classic rookie mistake with AdWords—he combined budgets of campaigns for tables that generated a lot of clicks but very little revenue at small profit margins (a cheap modular table that schools and non-profits wanted) with campaigns for tables that generated the highest revenue and the highest profit margins (custom boardroom tables for wealthy companies).
What happened, then, was that a lot of schools and non-profits clicked on his ads several times early in the day, eating up his budget before 2 p.m. So, the executives who actually had money to spend began searching for conference tables late in the afternoon, when Paul's ads were no longer showing up on Google. Over the first two quarters of 2011, his profits dropped so significantly that he had to stop taking his own paycheck by April.
The entire article series is well worth reading. Paul is a great writer, and his story is a fascinating insight into the way in which AdWords propels small businesses all around the world.
Manage your campaigns carefully.
This is a hugely valuable word of caution for apartment marketers. The amazing power of AdWords to have complete control over all of your campaign settings is a two-edged sword.
On the one hand, AdWords provides breathtaking power to target only the most qualified leads for your community. Where else could you have access to advertise only when someone is looking for exactly what you are offering?
- Do you manage a luxury apartment community in your city? AdWords allows you to advertise only when someone types "luxury apartments in my city" into Google.
- Is your community located near a university? With AdWords, you can target the keyword phrase "apartments near the University of my city" on Google.
Targeting high quality keyword phrases on AdWords lets you maximize the value of your ad spend to a degree that no other ad source can touch. Even in an apartment print guide or ILS website, prospective residents are searching for wildly different kinds of properties--some for luxury apartments, some for budget apartments; some want to live near downtown, and others want to live in the suburbs.
But on the other hand, with so many levers to pull and settings to tweak, it is critical to know exactly what you are doing before you launch your campaign. Just like Paul, many apartment marketers have wasted a lot of money because they never bothered (or knew how) to optimize Google AdWords for their apartment campaigns.