Can SEM Work in Real Estate? Of Course!

What began as a series of explainer screenshots and text message drafts, I’ve crafted into this handy blog post to address the question we get asked from time to time of how search engine marketing (SEM) works for the real estate industry. Is it feasible to even take on SEM, as a realtor? Is it possible to have success with it?

As with any industry, the best route to take depends on what your goals are for growth.

Let’s say you are a real estate agent based in Louisville, Ky.

    • So, for example, are you interested in growing your commercial real estate sales?
    • Or, residential? Or, selling more of a particular kind of residential property, like townhomes or condos?
    • Are you wanting to attract more home sellers, rather than buyers? Or, vice versa?
    • Do you want to grow outside of the Louisville market, and how far? Or, into what areas?

It’s important to get specific on what kind of growth you want.

From there, let’s talk strategy. We love a good strategy session.

Large property database sites like Zillow get a lot of attention, right? People look to them for their listings. A major opportunity that I want to emphasize, which I’ll share more about later in this post, is that:

You have an advantage in positioning yourself and your properties in front of interested people simply by keeping your listings up to date and reliable, and emphasizing that in your search engine marketing copy and on your landing pages.

Let’s explore the Google search engine scene together for a moment and the opportunities we encounter along the customer’s journey, using very general search terms.

Of course, when running ads, we’d be specific to what you’ve indicated are your growth goals, whether you want to target buyers or sellers, and to the kinds of houses or services we want to sell the most of, or be known for. We’d use the kind of terms used by customers who most want those services, when they are most ready for them. We call these your ready-to-buy customers.

Here are the results that came up when I typed in “4 br house 2 baths Louisville Ky”:

Notice that Elite Built Homes is running the ad that appears at the top of the results page. That’s the only ad, indicating that there’s little competition on these search terms. Opportunity!

Let’s look at the DC market for a moment, to see what results show up when a different major metropolitan area is mentioned.

Here are some results using the search terms “townhomes DC”. (Notice Redfin is running an ad at the top, emphasizing how often they update listings):

Back to Louisville results, using the search terms “commercial property downtown Louisville Ky” (Notice is running an ad at the top, also emphasizing how often they update their listings and how many listings they have):

Here are results that appear using the search terms “commercial property Louisville KY” (Notice there are no ads running at the top, just a Loopnet ad at the bottom). This could perhaps be an opportunity.

These are the results that appear using the search terms “condos for sale in louisville ky east end” (using a more specific location as part of the terms).

There are several ads running here (at the top and at the bottom of the search results page). These search terms may be more popular, or indicate that people are more ready to buy or look for property. And, you can also see at the bottom some related search terms that people have used.

As you look throughout the results that have come up, you can see real estate database engines like Zillow, Redfin, loopnet and Realtor  promoting themselves on how accurate and timely their listings are, and on how many they have.

It’s encouragement for you to keep your listings up to date, because that’s a major marketing differentiator in this space. Be in those listings conversations, too. It helps you be of service to your customers.

With you they’d get person-to-person contact, someone they can ask questions of, your familiarity with the area, as well as fresh listings (if you keep them up to date).

Let’s look more closely at how Redfin is using the search engine to market. Here’s a search I did simply using the term “redfin”.

Do you see how they tailored what came up for me to my location, and what they think I’d be searching them for (condos for sale, homes for sale, selling without an agent, how to stage a home). It’s useful to see how a popular brand positions their offerings on the search engine results page.

It’s also helpful to see what topics they’ve determined may be of interest to a customer who is possibly interested in buying a home or selling a home (They’re assuming that is why such a customer would be searching for “Redfin” in the first place.)

How-to articles, like the ones they offer here as part of their ad—How to Sell Without an Agent and How to Stage a Home, can be a reference as you determine how you will share your expertise in your ad copy (and any content marketing copy you’re doing, for that matter).

Ad copy that makes an impact caters to:
who the audience is that you want to share your message with;
what stage they are at in the home buying or selling process;
what questions/concerns they have (that you can deduce from your experience working with them).

It helps you showcase your expertise.

So, can SEM work in real estate? Yes, if you’re strategic about it. With study of what heavy hitters are doing in the industry, looking for opportunities and refining your messaging, you can knock it out of the park!

See to your success!






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