PPC advertising for apartments: What it is, how it works & how to measure results

Apr 5, 2023

Surreal collage of man going through ppc advertising process

Curious about pay-per-click ads for apartments? Do you feel like you know just enough about PPC advertising to be dangerous — but not enough to be successful?

We’re here to help.

Here at the agency, we manage PPC advertising for a lot of multifamily brands, and we’ve seen great success. So much so in fact, that we’ve been named a Google Premier Partner six years in a row. That means we get results and retain our clients.

If you’re interested in PPC advertising but want to find out a little more before you dive in, this is the article for you. Keep reading to discover what it is, how it works and how to know if you’re getting good results.

What is PPC advertising?

You no doubt already know that PPC stands for “pay-per-click,” but what you may not realize is the wide range of ads and actions it covers. PPC is not limited to the ads you see at the top of search results. There are many types of ad placements that are considered PPC advertising, like pop-ups in apps and on maps.

The important thing to realize is that the acronym is extremely literal. You pay for every click your ad receives.

The most common PPC strategy is to pay for clicks on an ad that drives users to your website. If you want more traffic, you have to pay for more clicks. Or pay more money for higher quality clicks from a more targeted audience.

On the plus side, it’s pretty straightforward. Want more traffic? Pay more money. But most of us do not have endless marketing budgets. That’s why PPC makes sense as part of a holistic marketing strategy that should be balanced by other strategies, like SEO.

How does PPC compare to SEO?

Compared to SEO, PPC drives higher quality traffic to your website more quickly at a higher cost. For example, you are likely to see results from your PPC efforts within a month or two, whereas it might take four to six months to see results from your SEO updates.

Here’s a fishing analogy you probably weren’t expecting.

Think of SEO like fishing with a net. It’s kind of easy and you can catch a lot of fish, but you can’t control the quality of the catch. You might end up with a lot of fish you don’t want.

PPC is like fishing with a rod and reel, going to a specific place with specific bait to catch exactly the fish you want. (In this case the fish are, you guessed it, renters.)

PPC can guarantee traffic quality and volume, but it can get expensive quickly. SEO is more sustainable and low cost, but there’s no guarantee of traffic volume or quality. Used separately, you are either spending too much or leaving too much to chance. But together, they’re a powerful team.

How do PPC ads for apartments work?

At the most fundamental level, there are two types of PPC ads: search ads and display ads.

  • Search ads show up on the search engine results page (SERP), usually above and below the top organic results. Search ads usually require only copy. You pay for more prominent positioning, as the ads closer to the top tend to get more clicks.
  • Display ads are the ads that follow you around from website to website (or app to app) after you look at something, like a pair of shoes or, in this case, a new apartment. These ads require different assets. Not only do they need ad copy, but they also need a visual element, usually a static image but video is a possibility, too. Display ads tend to get more impressions than search ads, but they have a much lower click through rate.

You pay for every click you get on ad, and many factors contribute to how much you pay for different clicks: the keyword, the type of keyword, the type of campaign the keyword is associated with, your demographic targeting, the type of action you want the user to conduct, etc.

When starting a PPC campaign, the first thing you need to do is determine a budget. The budget you pick will determine the types and number of campaigns you run.

While $500 a month might seem like a lot of money, if you’re in a metropolitan area or a growing or saturated market, $1000 a month is much closer to the entry point for competitive apartment PPC. Google breaks out your monthly budget into a daily budget. So that $500 a month is really only about $16.45 per day. If you’re paying $1-$2 per click, that could be only 8 clicks in a day.

The campaigns you run will depend on the goals you are trying to achieve with PPC. These goals will also impact how you measure results. Knowing what you want to achieve with PPC will help you define the targeting and bidding strategies you apply to your campaigns and ads.

  • Are you trying to fill your most expensive floor plan, or are you trying to fill a large volume of more basic studios?
  • Are you trying to drive leases? Are you trying to build brand awareness for a new development not yet accepting leases?

For example, if we are trying to fill our most expensive floor plan, a prudent approach would be to adjust income targeting. Since the vast majority of renters simply cannot afford that apartment, we need to use Google to target the users who can afford it.

But if we’re trying to fill a high volume of lower cost apartments, we want to open up that income targeting, start retargeting users as soon as possible and even consider display ads to maximize the number of people seeing your PPC ads.

How should you measure PPC results?

There are many ways to measure the results and impact of PPC advertising for apartments. How you measure results will be influenced by what you are trying to achieve.

You will be able to track the impact of your PPC strategy on your website traffic. You should also be able to attribute new leads and leases at your property to that traffic.

Start by looking at the metrics provided by your campaigns and website analytics platform:

  • Place the most emphasis on volume metrics like impressions, clicks and conversions. You can’t get a click without an impression first, and you can’t get a conversion without a click first.
  • Your click-through rate will help you determine how effective your ads are at speaking to your audience and driving action.
  • The big other metric to consider is conversion rate. That will help you determine how effective your ads are at driving conversions, and subsequently leads, to your on-site staff.
  • Should you consider other engagements as a barometer for success? Not really. PPC is much more targeted to a specific action than other forms of marketing, so it will inherently have lower engagement metrics, e.g., pages per session, time on site, etc.

Then, look at your lead, lease and on-site metrics. Ultimately, in terms of apartment marketing, it all comes down to getting heads in beds (which is a cute way of saying turning prospects into renters). In order to do that, you must drive high qualify traffic that converts on the website into qualified leads which then convert into leases.

The qualification funnel looks like this:

  • Conversions (Google metric) > Prospect (either becomes qualified and moves forward or is disqualified) > Qualified Lead > Lease

Another important factor to consider when assessing the success of your PPC campaigns is the time saved for on-site staff by driving higher quality leads in the first place. Some sources, like ILSs, tend to drive a very high volume of leads that convert into low lease numbers. That requires a big investment by on-site staff to go through the qualification process.

Good PPC drives higher quality leads, so your staff spends less time following up with leads that don’t result in revenue.

Still have PPC questions?

We’re hoping to expand on this topic with new articles in the future, but for now, you can schedule a free consultation with one of our experts. We understand that creating successful PPC campaigns is a complex process, and we’d love to talk you through it. Happy advertising!

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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