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Generating Real Estate Leads Online – Using Facebook Ads

By Jamie Richardson | September 24, 2020

Whether you are a real estate agent looking to grow the number of leads and sales that you generate and close, or you’re an entrepreneur looking to get a slice of the real estate action and grow your own lead generation company – knowing the principles of selling high-value products online will serve you well.

We look at some of the most important and fundamental laws and rules to follow if you want to create a real estate business from scratch or improve the performance of your current real estate website and digital marketing campaigns – specifically with Facebook Ads.

Build Your Real Estate Brand

There are two ways to sell products, services and to generate leads online:

1. Get in front of people actively searching to buy with a platform such as Google or Amazon Ads

2. Build a brand so that you are front of mind when people are ready to commit to buy

Method 1 is very effective, but also very expensive. According to the website UberSuggest and at the time of writing a Google Ad would cost around $15 per click for someone searching for “buy home Florida”. This is not the most expensive industry or state for Google Ads, but to be position one you’ll likely need to spend $20 to $30 per click and if your website is not optimised to capture visitor’s details and contact information, you could waste a lot of money.

Method 2 is effective, but often takes years or lots of expensive advertising. Branding often follows the ‘law of 7s’ – i.e. potential clients need to see your brand 7 times, to make it recognisable and front of mind when it comes to real estate.

“You’ll never get yourself off the treadmill of paid ads if you don’t build your brand”

Quote source

Branding goals can be achieved with advertising. Print adverts or Display adverts on the Google Display Network can be effective for branding. Print adverts, however, are very expensive, and the impact they have on branding is difficult to track (monitoring online branded searches is one way).

Branding and search engine visibility are often tied together. For example, using a blog can be an effective way to build a brand, if the content is high quality and optimised to feature on Google and Bing. YouTube videos are another effective way of demonstrating expertise and building a brand. The downside, however, is that it takes a long time!

Enter – Facebook Advertising

Although it is not as under-priced (compared to other channels) as it once was, Facebook Ads can provide a happy medium between Google Ads – which target people actively searching for your service, and branding – which targets your specific audience, but takes time to have much of an impact on sales.

Facebook Ads and social media advertising in general, is somewhere in between direct sales and branding – although it can be used to achieve targets and goals related to both.

Whilst people are actively searching for something when they use Google, people are typically not looking to purchase anything in particular whilst they are scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed. For this reason, Facebook Ads are typically less expensive in terms of cost per click at least, than Google Ads. However, with a well-designed ad creative and ad copy (or a series of ads), strategically presented to a specific audience, intelligent use of Facebook as an advertising platform can drive leads for real estate at a lower average cost than Google Ads – in my personal experience.

Whilst many people waste money on Google Ads with basic errors such as not using the correct match-type with keywords, people simply don’t understand the principles of effective Facebook Ad campaigns and waste money with poorly targeted, badly designed, generic style ads.

Special Ad Category

One thing to be aware of before you run off and start putting together your best campaign is that housing, along with credit and job opportunities, are now listed under the “special ad category”.

These special categories have been set up to prevent ‘unlawful discrimination’ and industries in this special category, will have limited targeting options compared to the standard Facebook Ad categories. This is great for people in general, as they can’t be discriminated against – but not great for advertisers who want to target a very specific market or audience!

Targeting by location is more limited in special categories. You can only target by 15 miles, instead of 1 mile. You can no longer target by age or gender either.

Tips for Setting Up a Campaign

These are tips – they may not be optimal for your specific campaign in real estate – so please take our tips with a 'grain of salt' and do your own research to confirm the best campaign settings for you.

Select the special ads category – if you try and do a housing or real estate ad, without using the proper category, your  advertising account can get banned. So use the special ads category/housing.

Under “what is your marketing objective?”, choose “Traffic” from the middle column.

Location - Next, choose your location. Choose the town or city that you want to target. Unfortunately, you can’t get any more specific than a 15mile radius.

Placements – adjust placements. Automatic Placements is normally auto-checked or auto-selected. Select “Edit Placements”, select Facebook only under “Platforms” and to begin with, select just Facebook Newsfeed and Facebook Marketplace.

Budget & Schedule – make sure “Optimization for Ad Delivery” is set to “Link Clicks” and under “Budget and Schedule” – start with a small daily budget such as $5 per day. If your ads are successful, then increase this at a later date.

Also select a start and end date, just in case you forget about your campaign!

Facebook Ad Design Tips for Real Estate

Tips on ad creative:

- Include a picture of a type of property that is most popular in the area you are targeting

- ‘Warm Up’ prospects with a free buyer’s guide

- In the Buyer’s Guide ad copy – include the city or town name that you are targeting

- In the Buyer’s Guide ad copy – include the text “FREE”

- In the Buyer’s Guide ad copy – include a line about avoiding costly mistakes. Make sure this is in the top 3 lines of ad copy text.

- Consider using emoticons – e.g. arrows next to the text ‘click below’

- Use the ‘download’ Call to Action with the free Buyer’s Guide ad

- Consider including a second ad, that follows on from the Buyer’s Guide Ad. This could be a time-restricted pre-sales offer.

- Consider a third ad, which follows on from the time-restricted offer or is listed at the same time as it. This could be a collated list of properties on offer. For example, in specific parts of California, people may be especially interested in properties under $350,000 with a pool; in New York, there may be a lot of interest for Manhattan condos that are under $500,000.

Understand the demand and interest in specific areas by using your own knowledge, your data and by searching on Google. You can use Google’s predictive search features, for example, type in “properties in New York” and see what Google predicts. You can also search for “properties in New York”, scroll down to the bottom of Google’s search results page, and see what the related searches are. Also search for “houses in New York” (or whatever state or city you are selling real estate in), and similar terms such as “condos for sale in New York”, “apartments in New York for sales” etc.

Whatever properties you make a list of – make them difficult to find properties. For example, most houses over $500,000 will have a garage, so that’s not a very good hook to draw people in and for getting them to interact with your ad.

- Use Click to Call Ads

With higher-end, higher value ‘products’ – people will want to read lots of information and speak to someone. Unlike a $9.99 product, a property purchase is a life-changing decision and process. With this in mind, click to call ads can work very well.

Simply choose the Call to Action “Call Now” in your design. If you are unable to answer the phone at specific times of the day, a call answering app or real estate phone answering service can be a great way to make sure you capture all of your leads.

- Consider Using Messenger and ManyChat

It’s a very good idea to test your ads – the formats and the creative. One good thing to test is sending users to your website vs sending them to Messenger on Facebook or their phone. Using ManyChat you can create highly engaging messenger templates to convert those who’ve engaged with your ad. 

- Don’t give away too much in the ad itself

In the ad copy and the imagery, only give a teaser of the information, don’t show all of the properties in the images, for example. Don’t include the master bedroom, the master ensuite and the kitchen – as these are the key photos for making a purchasing decision.

Narrow your Audiences & Use Remarketing

It is especially important to narrow your target audiences now that you are limited in terms of geographical and demographic targeting.

Use retargeting audiences – use them a lot – they are key to making the whole process of warm-up and conversion work.

In order to use retargeting audiences fully, you will need to install the Facebook pixel on your website.
Retargeting audiences, also known as remarketing audiences, consist of users that have already interacted with your brand in some way. For example, you could remarket to someone who has already visited your website, who has clicked on an ad or watched one of your videos for 30 seconds or more. Remarketing is key for successful Facebook campaigns, especially with life-changing purchases such as a new home.

Jamie is a 5-year freelance writer who enjoys real estate. He is currently a Realty Biz News Contributor.
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