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Google Ads For Real Estate Investors 101: A Beginners Guide

Google Ads is a powerful tool that has been leveraged by real estate investors since the mid-2000s. As more and more people got access to smartphones in the late 2000s, ad usage and ROI increased exponentially. In 2018, over 84% of all households in the U.S. had at least one occupant with a smartphone, and 74% of homes had at least one computer in them.

PPC for real estate investors can be a game changer! 

"I heard it's expensive."

"Isn't it really complicated?"

"I want to get into it but I have no idea where to start."

I've been managing Google Ads accounts since 2014, and I can tell you that all of these pain points are valid. Without the right jumping off point, Google Ads can be expensive. It can be complicated. It can be hard to know where to start. This beginner's guide to Google Ads for real estate investors isn't a comprehensive "how to". It is a high level overview of what to expect from the platform, and the broad strokes of building a campaign that is focused on ROI.

Most real estate investors that I manage Google Ads campaigns for work with me because they want to be real estate investors. They don't want to be Google Ads experts. They want to leverage an expert's time in order to free up more of theirs. If that is something that you're interested in, head over to the Lead Farmers PPC home page, or hit the button at the bottom of this guide. If you're looking to gather more info on Google Ads, and potentially take the plunge into building and managing a campaign, read on!

 Why should real estate investors be using Google Ads?

Read the stat line above again! The majority of potential leads for real estate investors have access to the internet. Why is that so important? When a pipe bursts in your home, who do you call? A Plumber. How do you find them? Unless you have one on speed dial, you’re going online in a hurry to see who is available right now. When you’re on a road trip and you need gas, you can drive around and look for signs. Or, you can jump on your phone and search “gas station near me” and get routed to exactly what you need.

My point is, when people have a problem that they need fixed “right now”, they’re looking for a “right now” solution. Without exposure online, businesses lose out on a huge percentage of overall market share for their service/product. This is where Google Ads comes in.

Real estate investors can use Google Ads to get their businesses shown at the top of Google’s search results, without having to wait months, or even years, for organic SEO to take effect. With the right resources, and demand for service in your local market, Google Ads will outperform other lead sources like direct mail and cold calling.

So what does it take to get a lead machine like this up and running?

How does Google Ads work?

First, you’ve got to understand the fundamentals of the platform. The basic principle is that you choose the keywords (these are the phrases that your home sellers are typing into the search box) that you want to show up for, and write an ad for your business. Then you tell Google Ads how much you are willing to pay for an individual click on each keyword. This is your bid. These make you eligible for the Google Ads auction. How highly on the page your ad shows up, and whether your ad shows up at all, depends on your Ad Rank and Quality score. This probably all seems like nonsense at this point, so let’s demystify it a little.

The Google Ads Auction

Any time a search is performed in Google, an auction takes place. Google starts by taking the phrase that the searcher typed into Google, and matches it with keywords that are in the advertiser's accounts. For example, we’ll say that there is a motivated seller searching “sell my house for cash” online. If you have the keyword “sell my house for cash”, then Google is going to take you into consideration.

After that, Google filters through ads based on what locations they are eligible to show in, and verifies that the remaining ads are following their advertising policies. Let’s say our motivated seller is searching from San Antonio, TX. Google Ads will filter out all ads that aren’t targeted to San Antonio, TX, Leaving local advertisers and advertisers that aren’t geofencing their campaigns.

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Ad Rank

Google Ads now has a selection of ads to pull from in order to provide the best possible result to our motivated seller. Now it needs a way to determine the order in which to place the ads for this specific search result. This is where ad rank comes in.


Ad Rank is the combination of your keyword bid, the quality of your ad, the extensions that you’re using on your ads, and the situational factors surrounding the auction that were discussed above.

  • Bid: This is how much you are willing to pay for each click on your keyword. The higher the bid, the more competitive you are going to be. However, because there are a handful of factors that dictate ad rank, the real estate investor with the highest bid doesn’t always get the #1 ad spot. This is important because it means you can’t throw a bunch of money at the Google Ads platform and be guaranteed the best results. The strategy for running the Google Ads campaign has to be holistic to get the best ROI.

  • Ad Quality: Ad Quality is how well your ad relates to your keywords, and how well it relates to the page that the traffic is going to. Our motivated seller lead has typed in “sell my house for cash”. They were matched with our “sell a house for cash” keyword. To get a good ad rank, the real estate investor using this keyword should have an ad related to the keyword. This includes phrases like “sell a house for cash”, “buy your house for cash”, and “pay cash for houses”. The page that this lead is going to visit should also have language that reads the same way. Most templated real estate investor websites are set up really well for PPC because of the density and variety of keywords built into their text blocks.

  • Extensions: There’ll be a whole section on this later, but the high level overview is that Ad Extensions are add ons to Google Ads that show more information about the business. The more extensions that you have available for use, and the more useful they are, the more of an impact they have on Ad Rank.

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That’s the gist of how Google Ads works. So it’s time to get started! Right!?

Well, no. There are a few questions that you need to ask yourself before jumping head first into Google Ads, and a few things need to be put into place in your real estate investing business.

What should you have in place before getting started?

You could jump straight into Google Ads and use their automated system to build a campaign.

Real estate investors can use Google Ads to get their businesses shown at the top of Google’s search results, without having to wait months, or even years, for organic SEO to take effect. With the right resources, and demand for service in your local market, Google Ads will outperform other lead sources like direct mail and cold calling.


That is the easiest way to spend money, get no return on ad spend, and never want to use Google Ads again. Before you build the perfect campaign, before you even sign up for a Google Ads account, groundwork needs to be laid.

Do you have the infrastructure to run a Google Ads campaign?

I’ve worked with tons of real estate investors who operate solo, or with small teams. One of the surprisingly real problems that those businesses run into is too many leads at once. They take on too many projects, tie up their capital and contractors in flips for months at a time, and completely clog their lead pipeline. They had the right tools in place, but not the correct bandwidth. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many leads can I realistically handle a week? This means answering phone calls and building relationships with motivated sellers. Going on appointments. Going to closings.

  • What exit strategies are available? Fix and flip? Wholesale? Holding? Creative financing? Do you even need more than one?

  • Do you know your differentiator? Your Unique Selling Proposition? What is going to set you apart from all of the other real estate investors running Google Ads? How can you make yourself stand out as much as possible?

  • Do you have a high converting website ready to send leads to? Your lead generation website is your online sales person. How well setup is that site to sell the service that you offer? If you're looking for something that performs consistently with minimal setup, I'd highly recommend checking out Carrot Websites here. They are the most used site by my clients, and regularly convert at or above what I set for baseline KPIs. 

  • Is there an adequate budget in place to get started and have success in Google Ads? There needs to be enough budget monthly to be able to compete for each search done for the keyword list in the campaign, and enough months of budget set aside to get the campaign dialed in over time. Here is an example from a post on the Lead Farmers PPC Blog:

Let’s say you are targeting a market size of 1.5 million people. I’ve worked in tons of these markets nationwide and they are some of the most consistent ones as far as spend goes. I almost always recommend a click budget of $3,000/month to start.


Clicks in markets can range anywhere from $25/click up to $45/click on average. If I grab a number from in that range, let's say $30, then you would expect to get around 100 clicks. If we take a general conversion rate goal, mine is 10%, and apply it to this equation then we would expect to get 10 people interested in selling their house to you. At least one of those leads should become a deal that nets you a profit.”

Asking these questions is crucial to figuring out if Google Ads is going to have the best chance for success at generating leads for your real estate investing business. These are questions that I work on answering with real estate investors as part of the onboarding process, so feel free to contact me via the Lead Farmers PPC form.

Essential Tips for Setting Up a Campaign

With the general understanding of how the platform functions and what you should have in place in your business before starting, it’s time to cover some best practices for building a Google Ads campaign for motivated seller lead generation using the Search Network.

Campaign Settings

One of the first parts of setting up a motivated seller PPC campaign that real estate investors run into is setting up a bid strategy. Bid strategies are basically the spending methods that Google is going to use to show your ads in front of potential clients. From the start, there are 5 automated bid strategies and 1 manual one:

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  • Maximize Clicks: Google will use your budget to get the highest amount of clicks possible. This strategy is all about click volume, so quality and motivation are secondary.

  • Maximize Conversions: Not recommended unless you have pre-existing conversion data. Googe will take your conversion cost data and attempt to get leads at similar costs. This can work over time and with enough data, but shouldn't be used from the start.

  • Maximize Conversion Value: Also requires conversion data, and a value (normally dollar value) tied to those conversions. This is way more product related, and I don't recommend it. 

  • Target Impression Share: Great for brand building, but poor for pursuing motivated sellers. Impressions deal with overall ad views, regardless of whether you're at the top of the page or in position 100. 

  • Manual CPC: Allows you to manually control bids inside of your Google Ads campaign. Requires you to stay on top of it throughout the day, but provides the greatest amount of control over your position and ad spend. This is what I use to manage Google Ads for real estate investors because my focus is on ROI. 

    • There is a checkbox under Manual CPC that allows you to set the bids yourself, but gives Google Ads the ability to be more aggressive if needed. For investors that want to build a campaign and plan to manage it, just not daily, this is the option I'd recommend.

Ad Groups

Ad Groups are combinations of keywords and ads that are separated out in your Google Ads account. When setting up a campaign, you'll be asked to input keywords, and then to write ads for those keyword groups. The keywords that you put into groups should be similar to each other. You wouldn't want "sell my house for cash" in the same ad group as "we buy houses fast". Not only would those two keywords directly compete with each other in that group, but you would have to write lots of different variations of ads in order to maintain good ad quality. Separating like keywords allows for less competition between keywords, and easier ad copywriting. 

Another ad group organisational method is called SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Groups). Instead of worrying about what keywords go in what ad groups, just create individual ad groups for every keyword. This is super granular, and takes a lot of time to setup correctly, but can be really effective.


Sidenote: I lovingly refer to this as the SWAG (Single Word Ad Group) method. When we create campaigns and go with this method of organisation we call it "Swagging Out" the campaign. Love it!


Keywords are the fuel that make Google Ads campaigns go. These are the hand selected phrases that are used as triggers to show your ads. Depending on the types of keywords you're using, motivated sellers have to type in something very closely related to what your keyword is in order for your ads to show. There are three different match types to choose from in Google Ads: Broad Match, "Phrase Match", and [Exact Match].

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  • Broad Match: High search volume. We refer to these as "top of the funnel" keywords. They attract a lot of different searches with a lot of different motivations tied to them. Cost for broad match can get out of hand in a hurry.

  • Phrase Match: Middle of the funnel keywords. These can still be pretty broad, but the searches that these produce are much more closely related to the original keyword term. What you lose in search volume is gained in quality.

  • Exact Match: The lowest search volume but the highest quality traffic. These are bottom of the funnel keywords. There isn't normally a lot of traffic that these keywords pickup on, and in some markets they can be the most expensive to bid for.

How do you find the best keywords? By now there are a ton of lists online that can be downloaded to start with. One of my favorite methods that I've used since 2014 is to look at Google's recommended searches. Start with a keyword, we'll use "sell my house for cash" as the example again. When you type in a search and scroll down the page, you'll normally find Google's recommended searches (normally just after the first set of organic results, around position 10).

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These searches are all closely related, and are based on searches that have actually been performed in Google. Once a campaign gets to a point where the existing keywords are all dialed in on ROI, you can continue to grow your closely related keyword list based on this method.

Responsive Search Ads

Responsive Search Ads are Google's go-to ad format for search campaigns. At the time of writing, there are 15 available spots for headlines, and 4 spots for descriptions. The headlines are the attention grabbing part of the ad, and the description delivers the information. 

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The goal is to use all 19 base ad sets available to you in order to get an "Excellent" ad strength rating. Use headlines that line up with the keywords inside of the ad group that you're making the ad in, but insert some variation too. Use the city/area that you're buying houses in. Provide info about what makes your real estate investing business different. Throw in some personality! Once you insert the main keywords into the headlines, you'll have plenty left over to play.

For the descriptions, start by tying in the primary keyword from the ad group that you are writing the ad for. If you are writing for the "we buy houses" keyword, start the description line with "We buy houses...". After that, tie in some of the themes from the headlines. Who you are, what you do, where you do it, and what makes you different.

Ad Extensions

Ad Extensions are assets in your Google Ads account that are attached to your ads in order to provide additional information about your business. They assist with ad quality, and increase the likelihood of motivated sellers clicking over to your site. You can set them up during the creation of your first ad, or you can add them later through the Assets tab in the Google Ads menu. Either way, you'll see that there are quite a few extensions that are available. Only a few of them apply to real estate investing.

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  • Sitelinks: These are links to other pages on your website. When you show up in the #1 spot in Google Ads, these extensions take up the most amount of space. The more space you take up, the fewer competitors your motivated sellers will see at a glance. To me these are the most important extensions. I normally use 4 different pages: The about page, the cash offer page, how it works, and contact us. The trick us using as many characters as possible. The more characters you use, the higher the chance of showing your clients a ton of useful information and the more likely you are to get the click. 

  • Callout: These are short text phrases that you can use to emphasis different characteristics about your business. I like to think of them as keywords, and format them the same way. Some examples of callouts would be "Local home buyers", "fast closing", or "24/7 service".

  • Structured Snippet: This is basically a list. There are a lot of categories of lists that you can pick from, but not all of them will work in a Google Ads campaign for real estate investors. I'd recommend using "Type", and then listing out different types of homes that you purchase. 3 or 4 will work. 

  • Call: Probably the second most important extension. This. allows people who see your ads to click on your phone number and call you directly. Setting this up will also setup a conversion action for calls so that you can monitor the results of the extension, and of the campaign. You can choose to show your own number, or to let Google use a rotating list of tracking numbers that seamlessly forward to main number (recommended). This is a good time to point out that having a separate number for tracking Google Ads leads is also a great idea. It can be used on this extension, and also on your site to help tell the difference between organic leads and PPC leads. I highly Recommend CallRail for real estate investors because of their direct integration into Google Ads. They make tracking across platforms using phone numbers super easy.

  • Image and Dynamic Image: Google Ads now has the ability to show images on search ads. This means you can show your logo, houses that you've purchased, your office building, or your team! The difference between the two is that the Image extension requires you to upload images, and the Dynamic Image extension will take images straight off of your website and place them into ads. 

  • Location: If you have a Google Business listing (and you should) then you can show your location on the ad. This is something that not all businesses take advantage of, but can really help to show that you're local. 

Negative Keywords

If keywords are the phrases that allow your ads to show to motivated sellers, think of negative keywords as the opposite. These are keywords that prevent your ad from showing in searches. Once you have your first ad group running, Google Ads will have you setup your billing info and then launch the campaign. After that's done, you can add in negative keywords using the "Negative Keywords" section in the Google Ads menu

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There isn't a set number of negative keywords that you have to have in your account. I started with around 100 in 2014 and have grown that list of words and phrases to nearly 600. For a real estate investor Google Ads campaign, you'll want to exclude anything agent related, searches related to people buying homes, other states and their abbreviations, and anything related to renting.

Conversion Tracking

Tracking form fills on your motivated seller site is going to be the last crucial component of setting up a Google Ads campaign. Tracking form fills and phone calls will tell you what keywords and ads are performing well for you, and allow you to see what's just eating up ad spend in your campaign. 

Once you get your campaign organised and Google gives you a tour of your dashboard, head to the upper right corner of your account page.

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After following the steps above, you should see a blue "New Conversion Action" button. Press that, and then on the following page click on the "Website" button. That will take you to a page where you copy and paste your URL into a bar. Do that and then press the "Scan" button. Google Ads is going to prompt you to use a universal tracking feature that prompts you to enter the URL that you want to use to count conversions. For Carrot sites, this is the "/Step-2" page. For other sites, it might be the "/thank-you" page. Sometimes this feature works, and sometimes it doesn't. If you wish to try it, your conversion setup will be done if you click on the "Add" button, and then "Save and continue" at the bottom. You can skip to the next part of this beginner's guide to Google Ads.


I use the manual placement method, which I'll highlight now.

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For this next part, What we're doing is telling Google more about what this conversion action means to us. We're setting up a Submit Form Action, naming it, and setting a value for it. I use non-currency values because for real estate investing, everybody has different values for each lead that comes in. So I assign form fills a value of 10, and phone calls a value of 1. This way, Google knows I value form fills over phone calls. If phone calls are a bigger value to you, just flip those two numbers!

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Before placing the code, the Count needs to be changed to "One" instead of "Every". This tracks the initial form fill as the conversion that counts, so there is less likelihood that an individual can blow up your conversion count by filling out multiple forms. The last part of configuring the conversion is setting how long the conversion window is open for. Since we're looking for customers to take immediate action, leaving it open for 3 days is more than enough time. The Google Ads defaults for this are actually what I would set them to if I had the chance anyway, so they can be left alone. 

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From here you can press "Done" and then "Save and continue". This will take you to the tag setup page. Select to install the code manually, and then copy the code that Google Ads generates for you. On most websites, in the settings section, there is a spot where you can place header scripts. You'll paste this code in there, and then save/re-publish your site. That will put the code in the header section of every page of your site. If this isn't an option, you can send the code to your web admin and they can set it for you.

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Once that code is pasted into place, come back and press the "Done" button. On the next screen you'll see the "See Event Snippet" button in blue. Click on that and it will generate an event code. This is the code that Google Ads uses to tell when somebody has filled out your form. You'll need to paste this into the page that motivated sellers are sent to after they fill out your initial form. This could be a long form page, or the "thank you" page. There should be a page scripts section that this code will need to be pasted into for that specific page. If not, it just needs to be pasted in the header section (normally just above the body paragraph).

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With that code pasted, you can come back and hit "Close", and then "Done". You should already have a Phone Call conversion action setup from creating the extension. You can open it and change the value of it and then resave it. That action is way less fussy that the form one. 

Ongoing Google Ads Management

The campaign is build. You've got an adequate budget. Your site is setup to convert. What now? Now, the real work begins. Whether you're using completely automated strategies, or you're manually making changes to your Google Ads campaign, there has to be ongoing management to really get the best bang for your buck out of it. Negative keywords have to be added. Ads have to be re-written and changed based on what is working for you. The website needs to be improved based on conversion data and user feedback. Keyword bids and budgeting need to be revisited. It's a full time job!

As I said at the top, most investors (regardless of operation size) aren't looking to pick up another job. They already have one. When Google Ads gets 100% attention, the potential for massive ROI increases exponentially. Motivated sellers are online searching for a solution to a problem that they have right now, and Google Ads is the bridge between your business and their needs. If you're going to give it a shot, be aggressive, give the platform your full attention, and you'll have a great asset to add to your marketing funnel!

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