Multifamily PPC: Your guide to keywords, new campaign types & what’s next

Jun 7, 2023

Collage of people on paper airplanes hitting a target as a metaphor to the accuracy of multifamily ppc campaigns

This post on multifamily PPC is a follow-up to “PPC advertising for apartments: What it is, how it works & how to measure results.”

If you’ve read that, you’ve already learned what pay-per-click advertising is, how it works and how to know if you’re getting good results. Maybe you took it a step further and set up some search or display campaigns based off what you learned. Or maybe you already knew the basics and want to go further.

Whatever the case, you’re ready for a deeper dive into multifamily PPC. So here we go!

Here we’ll discuss keywords, negative keywords, new campaign types and the evolving nature of digital advertising in today’s shifting landscape.

Keywords & queries

You have probably heard of keywords before, either in the context of SEO or PPC. Now, they’re often called queries, since you’re often targeting not just one word, but a phrase or string of words.

For SEO, the focus on keywords is a holdover from previous years where practices like keyword stuffing — putting as many keywords on a single page as possible to try to rank better — were more commonplace. Today, for SEO, the primary focus should be on robust, natural language (but still optimized) content that is beneficial to the user. If you achieve that goal, search engines will take a favorable view of your content.

For PPC, keywords are an important and fundamental component of your strategy for search ads.

Here’s how it works: When a user performs a search, that search translates into a keyword in Google Ads. You can then bid on that keyword for your ad to show in the SERP (search engine results page). There is a cost associated with that keyword which you will pay when a user clicks on your ad.

The broader and more competitive the keyword is, the more the click will cost. Conversely, the more narrow and less competitive the keyword is the less the click will cost.

For example, “apartments in Los Angeles” will be a very expensive keyword because it is quite broad, and a lot of companies are bidding on that keyword. If you’re just getting started with PPC, you might want to narrow your focus to your neighborhood if you’re in a larger metropolitan area.

It’s worth noting that your brand name is most likely going to have much less competition for the keyword and will have a very low cost per click, cents compared to dollars. Bidding on branded keywords is somewhat of a hot debate in the digital advertising world, but here at REACH, we believe in owning all the potential real estate on the page when a user performs a branded search.

Negative keywords

There is a flip side to keywords, as well. Keywords are the searches you do want to show up for, but there are also searches that you do not want to show up for.

In Google Ads, these are called negative keywords, which is a feature that enables you to exclude your ads from showing up when specific searches are performed by a user. The negative keyword list is a list of keywords that you specifically do not want your ads displaying for when searched.

For instance, if you are trying to lease expensive, luxury apartments, you don’t want to be showing up when a user searches for “cheap apartments near me.”

Proactively managing your negative keywords list allows you to better maximize your budget and drive real ROI with qualified traffic.

New campaign types

The two most basic types of multifamily PPC campaigns you can run are search ads and display ads, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for what is available in the Google Ads ecosystem.

Two more campaign types you should know about are remarketing (also called retargeting) and Performance Max.

It’s important to note that these campaigns do require a significantly larger budget than the standard campaign types. However, they have the potential to drive great returns, as well.


What’s better than showing an ad to a new user? Showing an ad to a user who has already expressed interest in your website.

Why is that? Because a new user may or may not be qualified. They might accidentally click on your ad when they really didn’t mean to, or they might just not be interested in clicking on your ad at all.

With remarketing, you can be much more targeted in your approach by showing ads to users who have already met certain thresholds for engagement on your website that indicate they are a qualified user and interested in what you have to offer.

You can set up both display and search ad remarketing lists. It’s important to note that you can’t run these types of ads right away. You have to build your active users first.  

For the Google Display Network, you must have a minimum of 100 active users within the last 30 days. For the Google Search Network, you must have a minimum of 1,000 active users within the last 30 days.

Performance Max

Performance Max is a new campaign type that uses Google’s machine learning capabilities to deliver a more flexible type of ads campaign. It is goal-based and allows you to access all channels — e.g., search, video and display networks — from a single campaign interface.

You set up a Performance Max campaign by defining certain parameters, like location and budget, then providing Google with assets like images, videos, a logo, destination URL (where you want users to go when they click on the ad), business name, headlines, descriptions and more.

Google uses its machine learning to determine the ideal ad experience for the individual user based on their unique history.

You should know that this is a very expensive type of multifamily PPC campaign, so you need to keep a close eye on it. If it is not driving quality results, you will want to consider redistributing budget to more effective campaigns.

The evolution of digital advertising as a result of shifting behavioral patterns

It will not be a shock to anyone reading this, but the post-pandemic world is a little bit different than the one we all knew three years ago. This is as true in the digital landscape as it is in the real world.

We are seeing users be more concise in their online behavior. This translates into people spending less time on site than they did before we were all conditioned to expect more effective online experiences during the pandemic. This is a global trend and not unique to the multifamily industry.

In addition to on-site behavior changing, these behavioral changes are also evident in how users are engaging with ads. Users are clicking on ads more than ever before. According to WordStream’s 2023 search advertising benchmarks, all but two industries saw their click-through rate (CTR) increase, and those increases tended to be significant.

However, according to that same analysis, 91% of industries engaged in online advertising saw an increase in their cost per lead and a decrease in their conversion rate. In fact, real estate (our industry) had the lowest average conversion rate out of all the industries studied.

That means that while ads are being clicked on more than ever before, they are converting less frequently when they do so.

Why is that happening you might ask? It is hard to pinpoint any one reason, but it is more likely the confluence of several different driving factors.

  • Throughout the pandemic, digital engagement and purchasing skyrocketed as face-to-face interactions plummeted. Collectively, we were conditioned to engage in certain online behavior, like clicking on ads to see what’s available, especially because in-person access was no longer possible and supplies were limited. This caused the buyer’s journey to evolve in many ways and for users to become more sophisticated in what they consider as part of that journey.
  • It’s no secret that inflation has drastically impacted many sectors of the economy and increased at record levels. This has most likely translated into users being more economically conscious and fiscally conservative in their daily lives, especially when considering large investments (like leasing an apartment).
  • New Google campaign and ad types are making ads more personalized and clickable than ever. Between responsive search ads becoming the default ad type for search ads and Performance Max campaigns, it’s not exactly surprising that people are more inclined to click on ads than they were a year or two ago. The quality of ads on the SERP has increased. However, while Google’s automation is easy and machine learning provides great opportunities, it has also removed a layer of control that was previously in place for advertisers and puts more in the hands of Google than ever before.

At REACH, we’ve seen these trends play out in our own data. While we consistently outperform real estate industry benchmarks for both clickthrough rates and conversion rates, we’ve also seen the cost per conversion increase while conversion rate decreases.

The good news is that our REACH PPC experts are dedicated to keeping an eye on any changes and optimizing campaigns for our clients, so they can rest easy knowing they’re getting the best performance without having to manually tweak their campaigns day in and day out.

Curious what expert PPC services look like?

Schedule a free multifamily PPC consultation and we’ll show you, no strings attached

Kyle Jones

Kyle Jones is the west region manager with REACH by RentCafe at Yardi. He oversees the search, creative and strategic marketing teams supporting REACH clients in the western U.S. Kyle is based in San Diego, California.

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