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I Spent $800 on The Wrong Keywords! How to Perform Keyword Research for Real Estate PPC to Find the Highest Value Keywords

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Keyword Research For Real Estate PPC_ How to Find the Highest Converting Keywords

“I spent $800 last month on the wrong keyword. What the he** did I do wrong?!”

Those are the exact words from a Carrot member who chose to allow Google Ads to find motivated seller keywords for him. Google added “real estate” industry keywords that led to a month of worth of wasted spend. 

The goal of this post is to help you stop wasting time and money on the wrong keyword research for your real estate PPC campaigns.

Just the term itself, “keyword research”, sounds complicated, confusing, and exhausting.

Who wants to scour the internet looking for keywords to target? And why is it so important, anyway? Even if you are going to target specific keywords in Google or Bing with your paid ads, can’t you just trust your instincts to know which keywords are the best?

After all, you know your market better than anyone.

Well, take it from someone who’s done loads of keyword research over the past years for terms related to the real estate industry: your instincts aren’t always right.

Fortunately, keyword research doesn’t have to a painful and grueling process — it can be simple, quick, informative, and even fun. I’m going to show you how to do keyword research for your paid advertising campaigns in this post.

You’ll be able to move quicker and save money by only using the keywords that matter. Let’s dive in, here are the steps to find the right keywords for your real estate PPC campaigns.

What Is Keyword Research For Real Estate PPC?

First, PPC, or “pay-per-click” is when you pay when someone clicks on your ads. Typically, you want to be on the top or first page of Google or Bing results for your target keyword phrases.

When your prospects search for a phrase such as “sell my house fast” in Google, you want your ads to be shown at the top of the first page. Otherwise, searchers probably aren’t going to see your ads. People rarely click ads on the bottom of the search results page.

google search results for sell my house fast

Keyword research for PPC, then, is researching, finding, and targeting the most profitable keywords for your business.

You can use Google and Bing Ads to start generating leads while you’re investing in SEO and Evergreen content.

Why Is Keyword Research For Real Estate Important?

It’s not unusual to waste loads of time and money on the wrong PPC campaign. With the Carrot member in the opening paragraph. They allowed Google to create their motivated seller keywords. They didn’t realize it until burning through $800 without a lead.

Anyone who’s used Bing or Google Ads for more than a month knows all too well how quickly budgets can be spent.

The truth is, your PPC campaign is only going to be as good as the research you do beforehand.

  • Which keywords are people searching for?
  • What’s the competition like for those keywords you’re going to target?
  • Which keywords do you not want to target? Turn those into negative keywords!
  • What’s the intent of the people typing the chosen keyword into Google — are they just browsing or are they ready to commit?

All of those questions, and more, need to be answered before you pull out your wallet and launch a campaign.

Don’t be a perfectionist. But also don’t jump on your horse before you’ve prepared the saddle. Of course, doing keyword research is easier said than done. Which is why I put together this article to walk you through the process step by step.

Here we go… Five steps to conducting PPC keyword research.

Step #1: Brainstorm Keyword Ideas

The first step is to sit down with pen or pencil, paper, and brainstorm ideas. You probably already have some sense for what your target market types into Google.

Here are a few ideas for investors:

  • Sell my house fast in [market city]
  • Buy land in [market city]
  • Evict tenants in [market city]
  • Deal with foreclosure in [market city]

And here are a few ideas for agents:

  • Best real estate agent in [market city]
  • Real estate agents in [market city]
  • Sell my house for top dollar in [market city]
  • Sell my house real estate agent [market city]

Those terms are all related to what you do and where you’re located — those will likely be really valuable for your PPC campaign targeting. But what about the name of your business? When people search for your brand name, it might be a good idea to put some budget toward ranking for that in Google Ads, especially if you’re not yet ranking for your brand name organically.

You might also consider targeting competitor branded terms, although that will usually cost you a lot more per click than targeting less competitive phrases (only do this if you have the budget for it).

Bidding on longtail keyword phrases (such as “I want to sell my house quickly in [market city]”) can be a worthwhile strategy for leveraging low competition phrases with the right intent. Similarly, targeting commonly misspelled words relevant to your market and service can sometimes be profitable.

Right now, the goal is simply to make a list of all the ideas that you have. Write them down or put them on a spreadsheet. You can even use this tool to come up with more ideas by merging different market-specific words together.

I’ll use a land buyer website as an example. Here’s what a list of potential keywords might look like:

  • Buy land in Douglas County
  • Buy cheap land in Douglas County
  • Buy discounted land in Douglas County
  • Buy buildable land in Douglas County
  • Best land in Douglas County
  • How to buy land in Douglas County
  • How to build a house on land in Douglas County
  • Can I build a house on my own land in Douglas County
  • How to drill a well in Douglas County
  • How to do a perc test in Douglas County

Step #2: Refine Your Ideas With a Keyword Research Tool

More than likely, not all of the keywords that you wrote down will be a good idea for your PPC campaign. Some keywords are better suited to an SEO campaign than to a PPC campaign.

Here are the criteria you should use to determine whether or not a keyword phrase is ideal for PPC:

  1. Is the keyword phrase high conversion intent? — When people search for that phrase, what do they want? Are they ready to take action? Or are they just doing preliminary research?

    Your PPC budget is best spent on keyword phrases where people are ready to take action. “Sell my house fast for cash” is high conversion intent. But “How to fix up my distressed property” isn’t; that’s probably better suited to SEO targeting.
  2. Does the keyword phrase have decent search volume and low competition? — The sweet spot for a keyword phrase is to have a decently high search volume (at least over 100 searches per month, say, depending on the size of your market) and to not be remarkably competitive.

    Ideally, you want to find a few keyword phrases with low competition and decent search volume, but in most major markets competition can be strong.
  3. Does the keyword phrase have a cost-per-click price that’s within your budget? — The bigger your budget, the more competitive keyword phrases you can target. So you’ll have to adjust your campaign based upon how much money you can spend. Make sure that the phrases you choose do fit within your budget by looking at the average cost-per-click of the phrase.

If you say “no” to any of those questions, then remove the keyword phrase from your list for now.

You can use the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool to do your keyword research and answer these questions for yourself. If you want to take it one step further and do competitive research, you can use a tool like Spyfu.

Here’s what a list looks like after it’s refined.

  • Buy land in Douglas County
  • Buy cheap land in Douglas County
  • Buy discounted land in Douglas County (Search volume too low)
  • Buy buildable land in Douglas County (Search volume too low)
  • Best land in Douglas County (Targeting the wrong market — I sell cheap land)
  • How to buy land in Douglas County
  • How to build a house on land in Douglas County (This would be better for SEO since it’s low conversion intent)
  • Can I build a house on my own land in Douglas County (Better for an SEO campaign)
  • How to drill a well in Douglas County (Better for an SEO campaign)
  • How to do a perc test in Douglas County (Better for an SEO campaign)

Step #3: Organize Your Keywords

The next step in your PPC keyword research journey is to organize your chosen keywords on a spreadsheet or somewhere that you can group them, track their results, and easily reference that data.

Here’s what a spreadsheet might look like:

Keyword Research For Real Estate Template

You can group your keywords by branded, market-specific, competitor phrases, and general. Then, at the very least, you’ll want to track cost-per-click, search volume, and intent for all of those keywords.

I know it might seem silly, but don’t skip this step. I like the way that Wordstream explains the importance of organizing your keywords:

The tighter and more focused your ad groups are, the easier it will be to:

  • Measure the performance of each keyword
  • Prune or expand your lists if necessary
  • Create highly specific and relevant ads

This last point is especially crucial. Small, tightly organized ad groups have multiplying beneficial effects on your account. Well-organized campaigns have more relevance, and higher relevance leads to higher Quality Scores, which (as we’ve told you many times) simultaneously increase your ad rankings and reduce what you pay for each click and each conversion. Healthy PPC accounts always have healthy Quality Scores, and strong keyword organization can go a long way toward improving your scores.

Step #4: Choose Your Negative Keywords

When you choose which phrases to target with your PPC campaign, let’s say “sell my house fast in [market city]”, Google Ads aren’t going to only show your ad to people who type exactly that into Google, it’ll show your ad when there’s a similar search as well, something like “sell my house fast with an agent in [market city]” for instance.

If you’re searching for motivated sellers, the problem becomes, you don’t care about people (probably) who want to sell with a real estate agent, you’re looking for people with distressed properties who need to sell fast.

That’s where negative keywords for real estate come in.

When you choose which keywords to target, you should also make a list of similar but irrelevant keywords not to target (these are called “negative keywords” in Google Ads).

Here are some examples.

PPC Negative Keywords

The intent on those negative keywords is a little off and it’s a better use of my time and PPC budget to target keywords with the right intent (the ones that might actually convert when they click on my website).

Same goes for you.

Check out our free negative keyword list and more tips on doing negative keyword research and excluding money-wasting keyword phrases from your PPC campaigns.

Step #5: Test, Test, And Test Again

Even after you hit “launch,” the research doesn’t stop.

In fact, that’s where the real testing beings. All of this keyword research work, this was just the pre-research to give your PPC campaign the best chance of success. It’s not until you run a campaign and watch the results roll in (or not roll in) that you can measure how profitable certain keywords are for your business.

If you’re a Carrot member, you can even use our UTM tracking links to determine the effectiveness of your PPC campaigns.

Carrot Campaign Tracking Links


Keyword research for real estate is one of the most important pieces of your PPC strategy for search ads. Take your time and get it right.

Don’t stop testing. Don’t stop iterating. And don’t stop learning. The people who win — the ones who make the biggest ROI from their paid ad spend — are the ones who learn from every campaign they launch and refine the next campaign before it launches.

What do you think? How do you conduct your keyword research? Which keyword research tools and strategies do you use? Share your thoughts, knowledge, and questions with us in the comments below!

Brendan Holmes

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