As builders sold out of existing inventory, managed wait lists, and worked to get costs under control, Q2 also brought major changes to the advertising and SEO landscapes. Group Two is constantly monitoring these changes and how they impact our builder partners’ accounts, as well as developing and implementing solutions to stay one step ahead. Here are the home builder digital marketing updates for Q2 2021:
SEM Update: Image Search Ads
At the end of June, Google released their new image search ads to the AdWords platform. The only difference between these and normal ads are that they include a small thumbnail image along with the text. They appear in the “images” section of Google, so as someone is scrolling images of “new homes in [city]” they could be served an ad that displays a builder’s homes. Google has been beta testing image search ads in some accounts since the first quarter; we’ve also been testing this out with our accounts and are excited to share results within the next quarter!
Digital Marketing Update: Renter Geofencing
One area that has really been successful with builders this quarter has been renter geofencing. This is where we target apartments or rental properties within the area with “why rent when you can own?” messaging and send them to our builders’ models. We have seen great success with this over some of the competitor geofencing because of how quickly homes have been selling within the competitor geofencing targeted areas. When the home sells, they can no longer be used as a target area, so we have to keep updating the campaign. Renting essentially never “sells out,” so it can be a constant campaign!
Social Update: CPM & iOS 14 and 14.5
A lot has happened on social media this second quarter! iOS 14 and 14.5 updates officially rolled out on April 26th. Since then, we’ve been monitoring ad network updates, campaign spend, and performance. While these updates may have contributed to a slight decline in traffic from paid social media, most of the decline in the second quarter can largely be attributed to the majority of builders capping sales and decreasing budget.
While the housing industry in general saw marketing budget decreases, all other industries were starting to advertise again as mask mandates were lifted and many sporting events, amusement parks, and travel began to resume. The opening up of other industries caused more of a fight for impression share on social media advertising for homebuilders. This in turn caused an increase in our CPM, a decrease in our impression share, and an overall decrease in our traffic, especially when looking at YOY. This time last year, most other industries had stopped advertising, so we were able to gain a large amount of impression share for minimum spend!
Other Digital Marketing Trends We’ve Seen:
Another reason that we have seen an increase in CPM is due to the iOS 14.5 update. Advertisers are fighting to reach users who still haven’t upgraded or opted out of targeted ads. The CPMs for devices on iOS versions lower than 14.5 skyrocketed as advertisers fight to reach those users.
What we’re doing to combat changes to ad platforms:
Using First-Party Date: We’re relying more on builders’ own first-party data, such as client and prospects lists within their CRM systems. We’ve been exporting lists of buyers from the CRM and uploading it to social platforms, then creating retargeting lookalike audiences based on these lists. We have increased the reach in lookalike audiences from 1% to 4%.
No Longer Creative Testing: Creative testing is no longer effective. Ad creative can’t be mass-tested because there’s not enough “surface area” in terms of audience to serve creative pairings to — it simply doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, we are relying more on the AI and algorithms to show us what is working or not working, then we adjust and run again.
Retargeting: Thank goodness we still have retargeting! We still have access to data on Facebook, and we can retarget users who have responded to an event, engaged or commented with a post or ad, or liked your page.
SEO UPDATE: Core Vitals and Pillar Pages
One of Google’s latest algorithms has emphasized the importance of keeping website performance in good standing with Google’s Core Web Vital metrics. Things like loading experience and page stability are going to play a much more important role in search engine ranking. We’re working with our client’s web developers, and developing our own websites, to ensure that our home builders’ website performance is up to par.
When optimizing a website for search engine visibility and user experience, it’s important to identify the pillar pages of your website. These pages are identified as highly trafficked pages, usually from organic search, that provide engaging content and/or provide an easy conversion point. For homebuilder SEO, pillar pages become especially important when developing your blogging and internal linking strategy. Determining which pages you want to direct traffic to can be a highly effective way to boost your visibility for the most important pages on your website.