You’re probably paying too much for Google Ads!

Realtors: Have you ever had a call from a random sales guy that goes something like this?

Sales guy: “Hello, you already know how important it is to be at the top of google search results for “[your city] real estate”. Unlike some services that are auction based, I can get you there with for a flat fee of $XYZ [usually $50, $75, or $100].”

I’m pretty sure I already know the answer because when I asked this same question to a group of REALTORS yesterday during a presentation at a WCR event, more than half the hands in the audience of around 200 agents went up.

So here’s the deal… The only way to buy Google Ads (i.e. the ads that show up above the google search results), is through a “pay per click” (or CPC) process where Google charges for each time someone clicks on an ad. At least for ads that show up in search results there is NO way to pay Google a “flat” fee.

In every case I’ve seen of a company charging real estate professionals a flat fee for google ads, it’s ONLY because they know that the ads they are buying are MUCH cheaper than the flat fee they are charging you.   For example, if they know that “[Your City] real estate” is likely to cost them $15/month because they are likely to get 15 clicks that cost them a $1/each, then they might charge a real estate professional a  $50 “flat fee” to buy the ads for you.

In practice, this would mean that you’re paying someone a $35/month “service” fee each month and all they have to do is configure a Google AdWords campaign to run on autopilot.

Even worse (at least in this situation), Google lets the people who manage Google AdWords campaigns set a daily and monthly limit as to what they’ll pay, so the people providing you the service can KNOW they will never exceed the flat fee they are charging you.  When you pay someone a flat fee for your Google Ads, the odds are completely stacked in their favor!

Now, I probably wouldn’t have written this post, except after I mentioned this situation in my presentation I was surprised at the number of agents who came up to me afterwords just to confirm their situation wasn’t the “exception”.  I found no exception, but lots of agents overpaying for their Google Ads…

So, what’s the solution?

Buy your own ads on Google’s self-service backend called Adwords.    It’s really not that hard to set-up an ad campaign and even if you simply bought the same exact ad you’re now paying a flat fee for, you’d likely save  hundreds of dollars a year.   Not only that, when you start buying the ads yourself, you’re likely to be far more selective because Google gives you the tools (and the encouragement) to test out using different campaigns and see which ones are working best for you.

I’ve found that the main factors that determine how successful your AdWords campaign will be are:

  • The price you’re willing to pay per click
  • The keywords you target
  • The text you use on your ad
  • The landing page that you send people to

As I mentioned, if you manage your own ad campaign, google gives you all the tools you need (and many more) to experiment with adjusting all of these factors so you can find the ads that are most cost effective for you.

Who gave Roost complete MLS listings?

Roost.com is a real estate start-up that just launched their real estate search site….

I had a chance to meet the Roost.com team at NAR in Vegas and was impressed with them… so I was downright excited when they offered to give me a preview of their site at RE Connect (see comment #1).

During my conversation with Alex Chang (their CEO), he mentioned multiple times the similarities between Roost and Kayak… And I think it is safe to say that they would like to be the Kayak of real estate which would not be so bad considering Kayak’s success (and Eric at TechCrunch notes that Roost even shares a few board members Kayak. I believe they also share major investors…).

Like Kayak, Roost has:

  1. Clean “web2.0” interface.
  2. AJAX “magic” that allows for listings to dynamically change as option boxes and sliders are changed.
  3. A CPC business model that charges the brokers/airlines for hits that go back to their website.

There’s also some real estate-specific goodies, like the photos that open up “inline” and the ability to highlight only specific listings (to be mapped).

However, the real gold is that by teaming up with brokers to display their IDX feed they are able to display complete MLS listings. (The RE/MAX search site provided by eNeighborhoods does something similar, but without all the bells-and-whistles of Roost)

And while Greg is right to highlight the irony of Brokers paying Roost to send leads back to them, he’s also right to point out that “The IDX systems available at a monthly cost in many markets are so poor that Roost may prove to be a potent weapon in a broker’s arsenal.” My take is that if Roost can deliver consumers, then brokers will be happy to pay on a CPC basis… and the reality is that it only takes one broker to give their IDX to Roost for them to enter a new market, so they should be able to expand pretty quickly.

As a side note, I’ve always thought that this approach to getting listings for a real estate tech start-up makes the most sense… and I remember suggesting to Sami that Trulia should take this approach as oppose to going broker-by-broker at our coffee session in Seattle a few years ago. (I don’t care much for the CPC monetization strategy, but in terms of getting listings, it seems like a no-brainer to give a little bit to a local brokers in each market to get their listings.).  However, I can’t blame Sami for not wanting to go down this route since the various MLS’ would have put so many restrictions around what Trulia could do that they’d never been able to release some of the things that they’ve done (like mixing MLS listings with foreclosure listings and opening up an API into their listing information).

Overall, I’d say that the Roost team has done a really good job with this first release! It’s a quality product that delivers as promised.

If I have one knock on the site it has nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with marketing. I simply don’t think the site is different enough from existing search sites to warrant continued buzz.   I think they’ll get some great initial pick-up (considering it is a slick site with smart founders and investors), but unless they continue to deliver new features/announcements at a breakneck pace, I’m not sure how they keep people outside of the RE.net talking about the site beyond the next week or so.