[ANALYSIS] Google's Impending Real Estate Targeting Changes - What You Need to Know

Google last week announced that it was changing the targeting options available to advertisers in the Housing, Employment, and Credit Opportunities business sectors. The company didn't get to the specifics, but said more information will be released in the coming weeks and the changes should roll by the end of the year.

From the announcement:

"To further improve access to housing, employment, and credit opportunities, we are introducing a new personalized advertising policy for certain types of ads. This policy will prohibit impacted employment, housing, and credit advertisers from targeting or excluding ads based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP Code, in addition to our longstanding policies prohibiting personalization based on sensitive categories like race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, national origin or disability."

The press release was pretty short on details but the proposed changes shouldn’t have a big impact on CINC's portfolio advertising performance and lead flow - and on Google buyer home search advertisers in general. However, there are some important things to keep in mind as more details get released.

CINC is one of North America's largest real estate advertisers, spending about $20 million in Google ads per year. We optimize our campaigns using a combination of automated and Manual CPC bidding strategies. The automated settings already prevent you from making specific demographic adjustments like the ones Google mentions above. Manual CPC bidding, however, allows you to make demographic adjustments. We generally do not focus on demographics as part of our optimizations for Manual CPC campaigns. If you are managing your real estate advertising, have your campaigns set to Manual CPC and do a lot of demographic adjustments, you will need to adjust this when the changes roll out. You may want to investigate changing to Target CPA or Maximize Conversions (or another automated bidding strategy.) This is one of Google's best practices and a key part of their optimization score. It may also help your campaign performance.

The targeting option mentioned that is not based on demographics is zip code. The release doesn't go into specifics on how this will work. One option is that you won't be able to select zip codes (and adjust bids) when targeting locations. This would not affect the CINC portfolio's performance because of how we manage locations, but could impact your advertising depending on how you target areas.

Another possibility is that Google may no longer allow you to bid on zip code-specific keywords. If that was the case, it could have an impact on our performance - we emphasize a hyperlocal bidding strategy - but it seems unlikely that Google would do that. That would mean search queries such as "Homes for Sale in 30328" would not have any paid search results. This would make it difficult for real estate agents that have a small target area to advertise on Google.

CINC - and other real estate advertisers - encountered similar issues last year when Facebook removed much of its targeting for HEC advertisers. Our Social Media Team adjusted its bidding strategy and our Facebook portfolio's cost per lead actually improved - falling 27 percent from $5.30 for the 6 months before the change in September 2019 to $3.89 for the 6 months after. Conversion rate also increased 28%, indicating increased ad efficiency even with the removal of several key targeting options.

We will continue to monitor the situation and post updates when we hear from our partners at Google.

This Blog Post was Written by Dan Lott

Dan is CINC’s VP of Client Marketing. Dan joined CINC in 2012, when he launched the online advertising department he continues to lead. He has more than 18 years experience in search marketing and online advertising, mostly developing lead generation programs for fast growing businesses, including real estate companies. Dan earned a BA in Economics from American University and an MBA in eCommerce Marketing from Vanderbilt.

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