Ask any digital marketing expert, and you'll quickly learn that both search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC) can be effective digital marketing tactics for real estate. After all, a beautiful, information-rich, mobile-friendly real estate website is only an asset if your audience knows where to find it!
Both PPC and SEO are geared toward making sure your website shows up in a prime position in search engine results, but they are not created equal. Let's first take a closer look at the pros and cons of SEO and PPC to help you identify the most effective marketing approach for your real estate business.
While SEO does require time to see the best results, it's a reliable, proven method for increasing the visibility of your website. In looking at the data, it just makes sense that SEO should be an important part of your overall online strategy. According to Search Engine Journal, 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine. Organic search results receive 40 - 60 percent of the total click share depending on whether the user is on mobile or desktop. Compare that to the 4 – 5 percent total click share SparkToro says pay-per-click ads on Google typically garner. From my experience in actively working with over 100 real estate firms on their ongoing digital marketing strategies, the cost per SEO-generated lead is usually significantly less expensive and better qualified when compared to PPC-generated traffic and leads.
If you're new to SEO, it can be tough to get your head around many of the nuances in doing it properly. Results aren't instantaneous; it does take time for SEO efforts to ramp up as search engines crawl and index your site's pages. Patience is key as you commit to a long-term strategy with ROI down the line. Always remember that with SEO, you're at the mercy of the search engines. Changes to indexing algorithms can have an impact on your rankings, but with a solid SEO plan in place and working with an SEO firm with a proven history, those dips will usually be temporary.
The biggest benefit of pay-per-click advertising is that it provides immediate visibility on the first page of search results. This is important for real estate firms that want to, and will, pay for immediate exposure. In addition, it provides advanced end-user targeting, which will allow you to reach the right audience with increased precision. Finally, PPC has been around for years, so it's fairly easy to find competent people to help manage a campaign.
The biggest downside to PPC is the long-term investment: To remain competitive, PPC can be very expensive, especially in the real estate market. You're not only competing with your local competitors, but you also have the major portals and franchise sites that have (and will continue) to drive up the costs. For example, I have a client whose "cost per click" cost increased 55% in the last year alone. The impact has been felt even more since their ads were actually showing less, resulting in a decrease in traffic and leads.
If you're dependent on PPC, you have to determine when the expense outweighs the benefit. The significant long-term investment has led some providers to deploy tactics such as forced registration to inflate lead totals. Unfortunately, the results are a frustration for the consumer and the sales associates who are receiving low-quality leads. In many situations, real estate firms are being forced into PPC-focused strategies by third parties because of their lack of ability to execute SEO strategies for the firm. This is not a viable long-term strategy.
Another fairly significant downside is one mentioned above as an SEO pro. PPC ads only get 4 to 5 percent of the total click-through to your site, making it even more important that you have good quality ads showing up as much as possible.
What's Better For You?
PPC is a solid channel for traffic and lead generation if this your only option, especially if you are working with a tech provider that isn't good at SEO, and you have an adequate budget to work with. However, it doesn't come close to the traffic
SEO can generate when done properly. For example, one of our enterprise clients is spending nearly double on PPC advertising when compared to SEO, and the results are telling. They're spending $28 per lead for PPC advertising compared to $1.15 per lead through SEO, they also received eight times more organic traffic and 13 times more organic leads through SEO when compared to PPC over the course of 2019.
While it may feel like you have to make a choice between PPC and SEO, the truth is that the most successful real estate businesses will see the best marketing results by combining SEO and PPC strategies. If you're relatively new to digital marketing or haven't prioritized SEO in the past, then PPC is a great way to temporarily bridge the gap while building your website's SEO footprint. At the same time, if your SEO is already in a good place, then PPC can still be a very effective tool when you want to target a specific group of prospects or stretch your influence into a new area.
No matter which option(s) you choose, find a competent partner to help you make your plan a reality. Unfortunately, many companies will claim they know SEO, but typically it's a bunch of buzz words being thrown around in the attempt to make you think they know what they're doing. The best partner will help you understand your metrics and what you're getting from the investment you're making, and how SEO and PPC are impacting your bottom line.