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How Google’s Changes to Real Estate Ad Targeting Will Affect Real Estate

Google Ads has officially announced they are joining Facebook in shifting their allowed targeting parameters for real estate advertising.

Google is updating its ad policies, removing certain demographic targeting criteria for advertisers operating in the employment, housing, and credit sectors. This change is not too surprising to us or to other housing, employment, and credit advertisers as Facebook created similar policies a little over a year ago when their ad targeting changed for the financial sector.

Google Ads Targeting – The Good News

Although Google hasn’t released any additional details, they have acknowledged that more information will become available in the coming weeks. #TeamCotton will remain abreast of the situation and continue to provide our clients with up-to-date information on how this affects any current and future campaigns. However, there is still a bright side to this update:

  • As previously mentioned, Facebook already implemented very similar changes to its targeting platform over a year ago and The Cotton Solution has successfully continued to take advantage of this unique advertising platform for our clients while remaining in line with all new rules and restrictions. Because of the nature of this medium, innovating our approach to online advertising has become par for the course and we are ready to adjust and adapt.
  • Over the past few years, we’ve begun using AI and predictive modeling using our first-party data. This enables our clients to reach potential buyers without relying on targeting options within Google Ads and Facebook. We also complement our digital media buys leveraging third-party data sources. While a change like this may seem daunting, it doesn’t affect the whole of our digital targeting budgets or media plans. The Cotton Solution incorporates multiple online media outlets to all of our programs and each one works in tandem with another to create an overall holistic and cohesive campaign strategy. Because some of our other digital targeting platforms and outlets do still offer geo-location targeting we will continue to use those methods where applicable.
  • A portion of new real estate campaigns run on Google’s platform focus primarily on targeting via search as opposed to interests or demographics. When someone searches for a “new home community in Naples, FL” we will still be able to bid for that result, as per usual, without restriction. This type of online advertising tends to result in higher conversion rates because we can capture users who, through their entered search terms, have already indicated a level of interest in what we are selling.

While Google’s announcement is short on overly specific detail, here’s what we know:

Google Ads Targeting Categories Affected

As the world adjusts to a new normal and just more than a year after Facebook removed certain race, gender, and age parameters from their targeting options for real estate promotion, Google is now also planning to update their targeting options to promote fair housing opportunities and address concerns about potential discrimination. Google will now be excluding the following categories: gender, age, parental status, marital status, and zip code. The existing categories that were already globally disallowed from targeting for these industries include (but aren’t limited to): religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and personal hardships. The announcement simply states it will “affect certain types of ads,” but no specifics are named.

Timing of Google Ads Policy Change

The change will be rolling out in the US and Canada “as soon as possible,” with a commitment for full implementation by end of year. Google goes on to say these changes have been in development for some time, in partnership with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They will also be working to provide advertisers with information about fair housing practices to help them ensure they’re supporting access to housing opportunities.

Technology evolves so fast, so Cotton & Company is always focused on staying ahead of the curve. One rule of thumb is that real estate development media strategies have to encompass a multi-channel approach; you don’t want to place all your eggs in one basket. When Facebook revised their targeting capabilities last year, we assumed it wouldn’t take long for Google to follow suit, but we needed to ensure our lead generation efforts weren’t negatively impacted, so we began experimenting with location-based marketing and dynamic creative. To date, our clients haven’t seen any negative blowback by the lack of targeting available on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and now Google. Let’s look at how our Social Media Conversion Rates change from 2017 to date:

July 2017–2018July 2018- 2019July 2019– 2020
5.20% 8.07%12.27%

This data consists of cumulative clients’ average conversion rates as a result of Social Media Advertising. Conversion rates have steadily increased year-over-year, regardless of targeting rule updates.

For real estate developers, asset managers, and country club marketers facing real estate and marketing challenges, Cotton & Company’s experienced team is ready to develop a program that resonates with the emerging market and takes advantage of the cost-effective and efficient online advertising opportunities available today.

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