As the owner of a marketing agency that works exclusively with real estate investors, Scott knows a thing or two about getting leads for investors. More importantly his company, Lightmark Media, will also work with investors on optimizing their conversions from those leads. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Scott Corbett Background:
– Owner of Lightmark Media, a marketing agency that works exclusively with real estate investors.
– His company does motivated seller PPC (pay per click) campaigns in about 50 different markets around the country.
– Do website design/dev for REIs that focuses on conversion optimization, getting more leads from the same traffic
– Based in Athens, Georgia
– Say hi to him at: https://lightmarkmedia.com
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff.
With us today, Scott Corbett. How are you doing, Scott?
Scott Corbett: Hi, I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me on.
Joe Fairless: Well, I’m glad to have you on. Today we’re gonna be talking about something very specifically, as we typically do on Skillset Sunday episodes. Today we’re gonna be talking about pay-per-click campaigns and how to create effective pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.
Scott is the owner of Lightmark Media, which is a marketing agency that works exclusively with real estate investors. His company does motivated seller pay-per-click campaigns in about 50 different markets across the country. He’s based in Athens, Georgia.
With that being said, Scott, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Scott Corbett: You bet, and thanks, Joe. I have to say, we didn’t start out just working with real estate investors; we’ve been doing this about a decade now… But we’ve ended up here because we found real estate investors really understand the value of a lead; you know how to make money from leads, and so that makes a great client for us, because that’s what we do. We really just do lead generation.
So it’s nice working with real estate investors because, I’ll tell you, we send out these monthly reports kind of summarizing what happened over the course of the month, and we always ask “Hey, can you tell us about any great deals you got from PPC this month?” and when we get those answers back, that’s kind of like the big “Woohoo-s!” kind of echoed down the hallways here, because that’s the payoff for us. When we hear that we’ve helped somebody do an extra two, three, four, five deals, and make a great check from them, that’s fantastic, that’s the payoff. So that’s the real synergy with the real estate industry.
On top of that, I’m also a member of a pretty high-level real estate mastermind. I love masterminding with real estate investors; they’re so sharp, they’re so entrepreneurial, they’re so driven, they’re so goal-oriented, and it sharpens me, even though I’m not a full-time real estate investor. It’s just great to be in this world, the world that you’re in, and [unintelligible [00:04:36].07] So that’s my story.
Joe Fairless: Well, let’s talk about your focus in drilling down to the pay-per-click campaigns. First off, what is pay-per-click, and then how do we set up a campaign for success?
Scott Corbett: I know a lot of people are gonna know this already, but just to make it clear – there are a lot of ways to generate a lead, and let’s maybe talk about seller leads, because that’s something most people can appreciate. So you can send out postcards that you can use direct mail, mail them out to people that you choose, with a phone number, and say “Hey, call me if you wanna sell.” That’s one really good way. So you’re sending out these things, you’re hoping for a 1% or 2% response rate, and you’re essentially putting these out based on certain criteria and you’re hoping that you’re gonna hit the right person, with the right message, at the right time… And it works. It’s just a numbers game.
Pay-per-click though is a different animal. Instead of the investor initiating the action, it’s actually the seller initiating it. So pay-per-click comes into play when somebody actually sits down at their computer or on their phone and they start to search for information or they start to find out something that can help them solve a problem.
In the case of a seller, that could be all sorts of issues, anything from “Hey, I’ve got a house I’ve just inherited from my uncle” to “Oh, we just got relocated and I’ve gotta sell this thing fast, and my agent says I can’t list it as it is. I need to sell this thing as is!”, or a distressed situation, like a foreclosure or something else. “Oh my gosh, I had three rental properties in Houston, they’re flooded now. Who buys flooded properties?”
So somebody goes to Google and they’re looking for answers, they’re looking for solutions, so I think you can see just from the two contexts of direct mail versus PPC the direct mail lead is likely to be more motivated in doing something faster. Not that you don’t get motivated sellers with direct mail, because you do, you can, but in general, a PPC lead is gonna be more motivated, because they’re the ones who took the first step. Does that make sense?
Joe Fairless: It does.
Scott Corbett: Facebook is kind of a hybrid of those two things, but let’s leave Facebook advertising aside, because that’s a podcast by itself, probably.
Joe Fairless: So you’re talking about Google AdWords… Is that basically it?
Scott Corbett: Yeah, Bing can be a factor, but we tell our clients, “Don’t even talk about Bing until you’ve completely maxed out what you can do on Google”, because there’s so many more searches, and in most markets they’re a better quality lead. But yeah, let’s talk about AdWords. That’s the main system we use.
Joe Fairless: All of our friends in Redmond, Washington – I hope you were covering your ears for that previous part. Okay, pay-per-click – how do we set up a campaign for success through Google?
Scott Corbett: Alright, there are some key elements with a campaign. And again, I know most people are familiar with this roughly, or maybe you’re running a campaign yourself or you’ve hired somebody else to do it, but pay-per-click is all about words; it’s a word-based system. We call them keywords.
A minute ago we talked about selling flooded properties in Houston, so that idea, like “Hey, I’ve gotta sell my flooded rentals in Houston. I can’t deal with this anymore.” That’s the thought in someone’s mind; well, that thought is gonna turn into words that they type into Google. So your first job is to make sure that the words that you imagine your potential seller will use when he/she goes to type in something into Google, those are the keywords that you’re including in your campaigns. We call those keywords, and there’s a lot of them.
We tend to group them by theme. There could be just a distressed theme; the cover foreclosure keywords, for example. You could have a whole inherited house set of keywords… But anyway, the main thing is make sure that the keywords are relevant to what you wanna do.
I could say something about negative keywords… I guess we’ll talk more about that later, but I will also just say to everybody that Google also lets you put in words you wanna exclude. And by include and exclude, what I mean, Joe, is the first thing you’ve gotta do is tell Google when to show your ads and when not to. You don’t want your ads as a real estate investor popping up when someone types in “sell my BMW motorcycle.” That’s not your thing, unless you love BMW motorcycles, but still that’s not your thing. You wanna buy houses, so Google needs to know when to show the ads, and they also really need to know when not to show your ads.
For example, a few months back Google started doing something really weird across almost all the campaigns we manage, which is they started showing ads for things like, “Hey, I wanna sell my motorcycle”, “I wanna sell my coin collection”, “I wanna sell my boat.” All these weird things that had nothing to do with real estate. So the way we stamped that out was we went into the negative keyword list in these campaigns and we’ve started adding things like “motorcycle”, “boat”, “collectibles”, things like that.
Joe Fairless: It’s more intelligent over time.
Scott Corbett: Yeah. And basically, you’ve gotta know how Google makes their money with AdWords. It’s called pay-per-click, so that means you as the bidder, you pay when someone clicks your ad, and only then. But keep in mind that Google only gets paid when someone clicks your ad. So they have a vested interest in making sure that your ad is going to show as often as possible, because it gives them more opportunity to get the click and get paid themselves.
So the negative keyword list is super-important, because you basically wanna exert control, so that when Google – like they do occasionally – errs on the side of showing your ad more often, with the hopes of getting more clicks and making more money, that that’s not counter-productive.
I’ll just say this, Joe, these real estate keywords are more and more expensive. A few years back on a good keyword you might only be spending $8-$10/click, which is still a lot of money. Now, in a lot of markets you’re paying upwards of $30, even over $40/click for these keywords, for the really good ones. And that adds up really fast, so being really sharp with your keyword list, both the inclusion keywords (the words you want your ad to show for) and the negative, the exclusion list; you’ve gotta really get that tight. That’s one big thing.
Joe Fairless: Okay, so first is identify the keywords and know what you should be including and excluding. When you’re starting out, how do you know which ones you should include and exclude?
Scott Corbett: There’s a variety of answers to that. You’re in the business, you talk to sellers often, I assume… You know the kinds of things that are in their minds, and you can just really start to create lists of all the words that the seller might use when sitting down to try to solve that problem of having a house that he/she no longer wants.
There are also lists available online that certain people had put out over the years. Some are better than others, I’ll say that, but you can at least use it as a starting point. So just do a Google search for “real estate PPC keyword list” and you’ll have a leg up, for sure.
Now, guys like me, just because right now we’ve just done this long enough, we’ve learned from experience… So that’s another thing I’d say to you, whether or not you’ll hire a company like me – learn from experience. There’s a way to go in and actually, from inside AdWords, to tell what keyword people actually typed in that triggered some activity, and look at those reports, because not only are you gonna be able to identify new keywords to use from those reports, but you’ll be able to figure out new ones to exclude. That’s kind of like a weekly hygiene that we do on our campaigns, to let the actual searchers and the keywords they’re using over time, let that teach you. Because the name of this game is just getting a little bit of an edge over your competition, particularly now that there’s a lot of venture capital money coming into this space, with OpenDoor and OfferPad and others, and the incremental edge is what’s gonna allow you to continue to compete with these guys who are backed by VC money, and it’s not easy. So that’s what I would suggest for the keyword list – either do it yourself, use online lists, or get a consultation from someone who’s been doing it for a while.
Joe Fairless: Once we have our keywords identified, what we’re including and excluding, then what?
Scott Corbett: The other core pieces of this are — I’ll try to keep it fairly high-level so it’s meaningful for most people… You have to clump those things in what we call ad groups, and then you have to write ads that are [unintelligible [00:13:44].08] into those ad groups. Google’s whole thing – not just for PPC, but the whole thing about their search engine is relevancy first. So with the organic search results, they screen first the relevant website to show, and second by authority. Well, it’s kind of the same thing with PPC.
Google wants to see that when someone types in a particular keyword, like “sell my flooded home”, that your ad is also going to have something to do with the intent behind the keywords. So does the ad address the searcher’s intent? Obviously, you’ve got a wide variety of regions someone would want to sell a house, so you wanna group those together in ad groups and then you want your ads to be relevant to the intent that matches up with that.
I’ll even maybe take it a step further, Joe, and say that once they click, the landing page they land on needs to continue to be congruent or consistent with that intent, the keyword to the ad, to the landing page. The best case is when all three of those things line up.
Joe Fairless: The keyword, to the ad, to the landing page, and it’s a consistent theme throughout, and it’s all addressing the theme that you identified when you first were talking either “foreclosure” or “inherited house”, or whatever.
Scott Corbett: Exactly. All the main reasons why someone would sell their house to someone like a cash buyer.
Joe Fairless: Okay. That’s fairly intuitive, but I imagine, like a lot of things, it might be intuitive but in reality people don’t execute on that… So where do you see people miss most often when they do it on their own?
Scott Corbett: Yeah, good question. I’ll say this, I know there are always some hardcore do-it-yourselfers out there – to those people I’ll say Google has really good training on how to use AdWords that’s free. If you’re one of those hardcore do-it-yourselfers, take advantage of it. But with that, there are some other common mistakes that we’ve seen… For example, most real estate investors only wanna buy within a certain area. That could be something as big as like the Phoenix Metro area, or it could be something as small as a particular set of zip codes, and it could be everything in between. In fact, some people wanna buy across an entire state, for example. But know what that is, that’s my point. We call this geo-targeting or geofencing your ads.
Clearly, if you wanna buy houses in Augusta, Georgia, you do not wanna buy houses in Augusta, Maine, right? And you also don’t wanna buy houses in Fresno, California. So when you go to set up your campaign in August, you can tell Google in a variety of ways – probably a little too techy to get into – which zip codes you do and do not want your ads to show to… And maybe I should just say this, too – every time you sit down at your computer, Google can kind of get a read on where you are, through a variety of signals; I’ll just leave it at that. Google thinks they know where you are when you search, so what you’re doing with this geofencing is you’re essentially guiding Google to say “Hey, when you think someone’s sitting in downtown Augusta, Georgia, show them my ad, but if they’re sitting in August, Maine, don’t, and certainly not in Freno.” So the geofencing question is a biggie.
There’s a subtlety around this too, Joe, where you can tell Google “Only show my ads when people are in this area.” Or you can open it up a little bit and say “Hey, what if somebody’s sitting in Macon, Georgia, but they type in ‘sell my Augusta, Georgia home for cash.’ Do you wanna show them the ad?” Well, that’s a judgment call, right? It’s the whole out-of-state landlord question. Do you want to actually try to include these out-of-state property owners? And without getting into it, I’ll just say this – it’s a judgment call and you can do it either way. If you open it up to those people, you’re inviting a lot of leads that you’re not gonna want, but it may be worth it. So it’s just a judgment call.
And there’s even a third way you can target things based on interest, but I won’t get into that. That’s too esoteric. The geofencing though, that’s critical. Think about the potential to waste money with AdWords is just huge. The wrong keywords going to the wrong people in the wrong places – you can waste a lot of money, so geofencing is one thing that can help tighten that up.
Joe Fairless: That does make sense. What’s another common mistake you see?
Scott Corbett: Probably two biggies come to mind. You know how we talked about in the best case that intent is represented by the search term, it matches up with the ad that someone sees, which then when they click it, it matches up with the theme or the language on the landing page they end up on? So that third piece is a common mistake, the landing page. I say landing page – that’s kind of jargon, but it makes sense here. I click the ad, and you have to land somewhere, you have to go somewhere.
A common mistake is people run PPC traffic back to a homepage of their website, and some websites are better than other websites. Some of them are optimized to generate phone calls and web form submissions better than others. But even a website that’s well-optimized, it’s typically gonna have some things on it, like navigation links, too much stuff…
Joe Fairless: Yeah, distracting, shiny things…
Scott Corbett: Right, exactly. And the last thing you wanna do is let that really valuable lead you just paid $20, $30, $40 for to get distracted by some extraneous element on your homepage, start clicking around and pretty soon they’re looking at the properties you have for sale, because they’ve gotten pulled into that side of your website.
So that’s probably the most common problem with do-it-yourselfers, sending traffic to a page – usually it’s the homepage of a website, or it could be that you have some interior page, but it’s still likely gonna have a lot of distracting elements. So a good landing page is actually going to be really focused, it’s gonna have clear and obvious directions for how to get in touch with the buyer, through “Call this number” or “Fill out this form.” It’s gonna be unambiguous about what to do if you want an offer on your house. It’s also not gonna give them a lot of options for escaping that little ecosystem of the landing page, so once they landed they should either take the action you want to, click the Back button, or just close the browser. Those should really be the only three options.
Joe Fairless: And I get that and I totally understand that’s the right approach… The hesitation that I’ve had – I don’t have a lot of experience in doing PPC campaigns; in fact, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve done that, and it’s a big fat zero for how successful it’s been, so here’s a cautionary tale… What I thought when I did my PPC campaigns was that I wanted to send them to my website, not some lead pages/landing page that’s specific t the offer, because I wanted them to get to know me more, because on my website I’ve got all these “About Me” and “Here’s my blog”, so I thought I would establish more credibility that way, but the reality is I wasn’t getting any leads at all to opt-in, because I think they were getting too distracted. So I understand where you’re coming from, but I didn’t get it whenever I was doing it for myself.
Scott Corbett: Well, that very well may be. And heck, there could even be a case for a brand-building campaign where getting the lead isn’t necessarily the name of the game. Maybe you are trying to drive traffic to your blog, for example, and you really just want them to hang out on your blog, click around and listen to your podcast. So everything I’m saying is really from a pretty hardcore direct marketing perspective, where all that really matters is the lead… So I hear you.
There may have also been some mismatch, Joe, between what they’ve searched for, and then what they’ve found on the other side. I don’t know, but it’s possible.
Joe Fairless: Anything else that you wanna mention as it relates to pay-per-click campaigns that we haven’t discussed?
Scott Corbett: Well, one common mistakes I’d say is not doing retargeting. Retargeting basically is — you know how if you go to Amazon and you look at a set of golf clubs, and then lo and behold, the next day when you’re on ESPN.com, checking sports scores, you see an ad right there for those exact golf clubs that you looked at yesterday?
Joe Fairless: Yeah.
Scott Corbett: That’s retargeting. They cookied you and they’re reminding you about what you were interested in yesterday. You can do the same thing with this. If somebody hits your PPC landing page… A typical landing page for us is gonna convert like one out of every five people, so it’s gonna convert at about 20%. So what about the other 80%, right? Well, retargeting is a way to get a second bite at the apple, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and a thirtieth, because you can continue to show them ads after they’ve come to the PPC landing page… Because they got there for a reason, right? But maybe life intervened, or it wasn’t the right time, so retargeting allows you to follow them around the internet and remind them that you’re there. Like, “Hey, we’re still here, and if you still wanna talk about selling that house, here we are.” And you can also retarget them on Facebook, so it’s not just on the Google network of websites.
So not retargeting is a big mistake. Another one is not supporting your campaign with the right budget. Joe, I don’t know, when you were doing PPC, back then if they actually had what we call the Right Rail… Your ads could appear at the very top, but then they also had that thing that went down the right column, with a bunch of other ads. That went away a couple years ago, and you can really only count on three ad spots at the top now.
AdWords is an auction system — without getting into the nuances of how you get in the top three position, you’ve gotta have good, relevant ads that go to good landing pages, but you’ve also gotta bid enough to be there.
We talk about the average position of an ad… We like to say that your average position needs to be 2.5 or higher, because that more or less guarantees that you’re in those top three spots… And occasionally there’s a fourth spot, but for people who are too conservative with their bidding and they drop down to position four, five, six, seven, that’s way down at the bottom of the page now, and quite honestly, most people aren’t gonna scroll down far enough to even see your ad. So you’ve gotta support these things with the right budget, so that your ad actually shows at the top of the page. That’s a big mistake.
Joe Fairless: These are a lot of good lessons that we could probably talk an episode about each of these. I wanna ask you a really quick question on retargeting – how do you retarget? How do you actually implement the retargeting?
Scott Corbett: What’s the strategy for it?
Joe Fairless: No, I mean… I get the concept – you really laid that out really well, but specifically… I’m on my computer, how do I retarget?
Scott Corbett: The short answer is AdWords makes it easy to set up. You go and you actually create a separate campaign for just the retargeting, and AdWords allows you to do what they call “building an audience.” So you build an audience of people who land on your PPC landing pages, or by the way, you could build an audience of people who land on your website. It doesn’t just have to be on your landing pages. Then through some settings you basically tell Google, “Hey, show these ads to this audience.” Then it’s the usual kind of bidding and create good ads and everything, but that’s basically the process. It’s all inside AdWords.
Joe Fairless: Easy enough. AdWords is the way to go, and you are our guide to navigate the process, and I’m grateful that you’ve spent some time with us. How can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you?
Scott Corbett: Well, it’s been a lot of fun. I do love this stuff, and I’m having to hold myself back from going on and on about it, because I get way too technical too fast, but thanks for asking. Probably the best way is through our company website, which is LightmarkMedia.com. You can find me there, there’s phone numbers, web forms; read more about us, read more about PPC, and we’d love to talk to you.
Joe Fairless: Well, this was certainly a crash course on pay-per-click advertising, and that is an effective way for us to get more leads, that’s for sure. I love how we… Well, “we”, I can’t take credit for — YOU talked to us about the common mistakes that the investors tend to make, and that is we’ve got to geofence our ads, make sure we’re geofencing our ads. Also, identifying what is the theme throughout, and making sure that when they get to our website, that it’s a dedicated landing page, or at least there’s not a lot of shiny objects that could distract the person who you’re paying your precious marketing dollars to acquire, for that person to then go click on other stuff.
Plus, just how to do the PPC campaigns, from identifying the keywords, to making sure that you have the right theme throughout, and the right landing page… So thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever Sunday, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Scott Corbett: It was a pleasure, Joe. Thank you so much.