450 Sinclair St. Reno, NV 89501

What is PPC for Apartments? Apartment PPC How-To & Guide

Learn What PPC for Apartments is and How to Get Started With Your First Apartment PPC Campaign

Occupancy is every leasing manager’s number-one concern. When units sit empty, everyone loses.

And it’s a struggle to maintain occupancy in efficient and cost-effective ways without sacrificing on rental rates or giving up too much in concessions. 

But, apartment PPC is one particularly effective solution to this continual problem.

So what exactly is apartment PPC? Why are property managers and owners utilizing apartment PPC? What’s the best way to use apartment PPC for apartment rentals?

In this article, I cover:

  1. What apartment PPC campaigns are
  2. Why PPC apartment ads are so effective
  3. Search-based apartment PPC vs. social media apartment PPC
  4. How to get started with PPC for apartments
  5. Lease Engine apartment PPC campaign ideas you can steal from us

By the end, you’ll have a firm understanding of apartment PPC and how to leverage it for optimal occupancy levels.

Read on for more.

Schedule a Call With An Apartment Marketing Expert

Get a free expert consultation and create a roadmap to higher occupancy.

What is PPC for Apartments?

PPC for apartments (apartment PPC) is a type of pay-per-click digital advertising available through ad platforms like Google Ads and Meta Ads. Apartment PPC ads often appear when apartment seekers search for apartments or housing in their specific region or area. Unlike traditional apartment marketing methods, like billboards or TV ads, PPC campaigns for apartments can be hyper-targeted and are often far more cost-efficient.

Why PPC Apartment Ads Are So Effective

So why are PPC apartment ads so effective compared to other forms of apartment advertising like billboards or tv spots?

On a high level, it's because PPC advertising channels allow you to limit your advertising to an audience more likely to rent an apartment.

For example, with just apartment Google Ads (one of the most common types of apartment PPC) you can: 

  • Insert your brand immediately into Google search and target people looking for apartments in a specific region, city, or even neighborhood.
  • Place bids on popular keyword searches like “Student apartments for rent near me”, limiting your geography to 1 mile from your address.
  • Run ads for anyone in your geography searching for apartments, while they are searching.

And the options of what you can do with Google Ads in Google Search go on.

Several of our apartment marketing clients at Lease Engine have seen lead volume skyrocket just through the introduction of Google apartment PPC campaigns with us. One of these multifamily marketing campaigns saw lead volume jump from 20 leads per month to over 200 per month within weeks of the launch of the channel. (Read the case study here) 

Looking to Apartment Social Media ads, our options expand even more.

This placement allows you to:

  • Geographically target the area directly around a college campus via apartment social media ads.
  • Run ads to people who've already been searching for an apartment on your website
  • Geographically target the area directly around a college campus,

Beyond the basic marketing strategy of running basic ILS listings, apartment PPC is a critical part of an advanced marketing strategy for apartment lead generation and promotion.

When does apartment PPC make the most sense? 

There are a lot of use cases for Apartment PPC, but it's not a necessity for every campaign. For example, if you run a smaller operation that has no problem with vacancy, you might not need apartment PPC.

Some of the most common use cases for Apartment PPC are: 

  • Seasonal Apartments (Like Workforce or Student Housing) 
  • New builds and Lease Up campaigns
  • Promotion after renovations, remodels, or changes in management
  • One time sprints to stabilize distressed properties
  • To augment lead flow from ILS systems on larger portfolios

At Lease Engine, we rely heavily on apartment PPC campaigns during “lease-up” projects, and we even advertise available apartments well before a project is completed in pre-lease campaigns. The right combination of ad placement, headlines, images, and even video can get clicks, secure pre-leases, and fill a building fast.

Search-Based Apartment PPC vs. Social Media Apartment PPC

We hinted at this earlier, but digital advertising isn’t just limited to Google. Advertisers and property managers can run apartment PPC ads from a variety of digital platforms including:

  • Google (Google Ads)
  • Microsoft (Microsoft Ads, or Bing Ads)
  • Meta (Facebook and Instagram Ads)
  • TikTok (TikTok Ads)
  • Snapchat (Snapchat Ads)
  • YouTube

But it's important to know how all of the above fall into two different types of ad platforms - search-based and social-based. 

So what’s the difference between the two?

Search-Based Apartment PPC (Google Ads and Microsoft Ads)

Search-based PPC ads are predominantly keyword-based. They get their ad targeting information from search phrases that people type when using search engines like Google or Bing. This type of advertising is also referred to as paid search.

Platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Ads allow advertisers to bid against competitors for ad visibility. So when apartment seekers type in certain keywords and phrases in their search bars, they’ll potentially see your advertisement embed directly into their search results.

Search campaigns allow you to target and set parameters like:

  1. Search keywords and phrases
  2. Certain locations or regions down to the zipcode, or even based on a dropped pin on a map.
  3. Creative you want to run in search.
  4. How much you’re willing to spend each day, week, or month 
  5. How much you pay for each click or qualified lead 

Search-based PPC primarily displays ads as text. But this can be expanded to include banner ads (images), videos, or a combination of all of these formats.

Google was the first to popularize this style of PPC advertising. Google Ads are still one of the most common ways apartment  marketers leverage PPC advertising.

When someone has a question or a need today the most common first step is to Google it. So when someone is interested in moving to a new city, or just a new part of their current city they often search for “apartments in X”.

A well-developed Google PPC campaign will get you in front of people in the market for a new home while they are actively doing the research. Ironically, some of the largest apartment ILS platforms are the biggest players in the PPC space. According to SEMRUSH data Apartment.com is estimated to have spent between $650k and $2.6 Million in Google ads per month in 2023.

By running ads to your own website, you can cut out the middle man and pay less per lead.

Social Media Apartment PPC (Meta Ads, TikTok Ads, Snapchat Ads)

Social media ads are a fantastic tool for building a brand around an apartment, single family rental community, or even a management company. 

They’re effective because they allow advertisers to target apartment seekers based on demographic and psychographic information, not keyword searches. This is what separates social media PPC ads from search-based PPC ads.

With social media ads, all advertisers need to do is:

  1. Select a target demographic
  2. Filter their selection using psychographic information
  3. Set a desired targeting region
  4. Upload creative ad assets 

The goal is to rationally, visually and emotionally appeal to apartment seekers and showcase your building and your brand. 

At Lease Engine, we find that social media ads work particularly well for advertising student housing and class A or B real estate. This is especially true for developments positioned toward millennials and Gen-Z. 

These generations often value their place of living for the statement it makes. So visual social ads are the fastest way to show what kinds of statements these generations can make through their leasing choices.

Search-based PPC advertising vs. social media-based PPC advertising

So which form of apartment PPC advertising is better?

It depends on your audience and goals (I’ve got more on this below). 

As with the example above, we find that social media ads work well for targeting students. But this ad strategy may not work for other generations or demographics.

The challenge with this type of ad is that recent restrictions in the platform have made advertising to certain demographics much more difficult. For example, you can no longer target age demographics through social media apartment PPC campaigns.

This means you have to choose other location and retargeting options to work with, and trust that your content, message, and apartment is properly positioned for your target audience (and cross your fingers that the algorithm picks up on that, and serves your ads to the right people).

Regardless, by setting up an integrated campaign with search PPC and social media, you can create a robust system that keeps prospective residents thinking about your property. 

Because of the challenges we now face in targeting certain groups on social media, the main boon for apartment social media ppc platforms is in their retargeting feature. This feature allows us to target people who've previously showed an interest in our website or social media page.

The combination of retargeting with the ability to leverage storytelling and brand through a visual medium makes social a powerful platform still today. While it's not always a win for every project, you simply can’t advertise in the same way on platforms like Zillow or apartments.com.

Schedule a Call With An Apartment Marketing Expert

Get a free expert consultation and create a roadmap to higher occupancy.

How to Get Started with PPC for Apartments

I’ve covered:

  1. What apartment PPC is
  2. Why apartment PPC is effective 
  3. And explored the key differences between search and social PPC campaigns 

But what are the steps for actually getting an apartment PPC campaign live?

1. Choose the right PPC advertising platform(s)

Choosing the right ad platform is the first place we see many apartment leasing and multifamily marketing firms get bogged down. They often need help with their overall ad strategy -- starting with platform choice. 

As a general rule, paid search works best for targeting apartment seekers who already have intent. These are active searchers looking for solutions. Paid search is fantastic for medium to high population cities and metropolitan areas where there are enough people searching for apartments to justify a campaign. It's typically the channel where we see the lowest cost per lead, and the highest quality leads.

Alternatively, paid social allows you to leverage assets like video, targeting your broader region of people geographically or via retargeting, to raise awareness on a community level.

Be advised - real estate platforms like apartments.com and Zillow also offer their own PPC ad services. For many basic marketing campaigns these services might be the way to go. If you are already using them and aren't happy with the results, additional PPC is a fantastic add on (or potential replacement).

One thing to note is that Apartments.com and Zillow use pay-per-click advertising models to attract many of the leads they generate. They then sell those leads directly to apartment complex owners and property managers. 

This means that if you’re advertising through them, it’s likely that you’re paying a premium for your leads, or getting leads that are also applying to other apartments.

In some cases, we've seen Google and Facebook PPC do so well that companies can shift their focus entirely off the ILS platforms. These platforms are great for building your own lead pipeline and for brand building. But on platforms like apartments.com your offering can blend in, as it's lumped in with all the other offerings in the area.

Still unsure of which PPC advertising platforms to choose for your company? 

You can also reach out to a digital marketing agency like Lease Engine for help. We only focus on apartment marketing. To-date, we’ve helped our clients manage millions in ad-spend, generating hundreds of thousands of leads through our apartment PPC services.

2. Create your advertising account(s)

The first sticking point for many is choosing an advertising platform. The second sticking point is having to learn how to run ads on platforms like Google Ads or Meta Ads.

Again, this is where Lease Engine’s apartment PPC services can help you.

But, for those looking to make a go of it themselves, you’ll need to create your advertising account with your platform(s) of choice.

To get started running ads in Meta, you’ll need to first set up a company business account

Once you set up your ad account, you’ll then connect it to your Facebook business page. You’ll also need to add a credit card to manage your billing.

Meta ads are organized by Campaign > Ad Group > and Ads. 

To get started with Google Ads, visit the Google Ads home page. From there you can follow the setup instructions, add a payment card, and get started.

Google organizes ads by Campaign > Ad Group > and Ads similarly to Meta Ads.

3. Choose your objective 

Almost every PPC advertising platform will ask you to choose an objective when you create your first PPC campaign.

For advertisers, an objective might be:

  • Clicks (actual clicks from an ad or call to action to a webpage or website)
  • Impressions (how many times the ad was served to an audience)
  • Traffic (unique visitors to your website from an ad)
  • Calls (phone calls placed from ad clicks)
  • Leads (lead submissions from web forms)
  • Conversions (a self-defined goal like a click or form submission)

In Meta Ads, you can choose your objective through the “Campaign” section of your ad manager. 

At Lease Engine, we often choose the “Lead” objective, with a focus on “Conversions”. This allows us to optimize ads for key events such as leasing inquiries. 

You’ll need to install the Facebook tracking pixel on your website to use the conversion event for Meta ads. This inserts code that makes it possible to track key events that are important to your business. 

Google Ads requires the same kind of configuration. This is done through Google Tag Manager and setting up a tag to link conversions.

Implementing a Facebook tracking pixel and Tag Manager can be fairly technical. It depends on your campaign needs. I recommend reaching out to your website developer or an agency like Lease Engine for help on this. 

If you’re setting up Meta Ads, you’ll also need to identify your campaign as being for Housing, Credit, or Employment. 

If you don’t have the ability to run Conversion campaigns, because you weren't able to get tracking set up, the “Traffic Objective” is typically the next best bet. This objective optimizes your audience for users most likely to click on your ads.

4. Select your audience and placements

Real estate is a local game. That's why it's essential in any apartment marketing campaign to consider a local geography when choosing your audience. When we run ads for housing on Meta, as we mentioned before, many demographic targeting factors are now limited. 

This is why we recommend using conversion events as the goal of any campaign. Conversion events also allow Meta and Google to optimize your audience for you based on who’s most likely to convert in your campaign. 

From what we can tell at Lease Engine, using broad audiences with conversion objectives are the best current way to optimize your audience on Meta. 

With audiences selected, you'll also want to specify where your ads will run. On Google, the most common types of ads are Search Ads, but they also offer display and video ads via their partner network, or via YouTube. For simple and effective ads, we typically recommend Search ads.

In Meta, we have the choice of a number of platforms. We tend to gravitate to Instagram Reels, Stories for Facebook and Instagram, and of course, we love running ads specifically for Marketplace. Marketplace is already commonplace for apartment and housing searches, and we've found it to be one of the best places to run ads across all of our PPC initiatives because many people using the platform are already searching for an apartment or rental.

5. Select your bid strategy

Most all ad platforms offer several different ways to bid for ad placement or impressions. These bidding strategies come with various levels of sophistication and can severely impact your PPC campaign’s performance.

Manual Bidding

Manual bidding allows you to change bids at the keyword level to fine-tune your campaigns with the most direct control. 

Manual bidding is the most time-intensive of the bidding options. The larger the campaign, the more difficult it can be to keep track of and manage your spend. 

The benefit of this style of bidding is that you can manipulate things like how often your ad is shown, where on the search page it displays, and how many clicks you get before your budget is spent simply by adjusting how much you are willing to pay per click. 

Manual bids are great when trying to capture apartment shoppers because you can spend just enough to stay #2 or #3 on the ad rankings and catch people moving down the list of options. You can often do this cheaper than your competition who’s bidding for the #1 spot. 

Too busy to regularly check your ads? Then an automated bid strategy is your best bet. 

Automated Bidding

The two most common automated bid strategies in both Meta and Google Ads are Max Clicks ad Max Conversions. 

Max Clicks is exactly what it sounds like. You set your budget and Google or Meta will attempt to get as many clicks as possible for the keywords or targeting parameters set for the campaign. 

On both platforms, you can also set a max cost per click. Essentially this tool allows you to set a cap on the most you'll spend for a click. This makes it possible to project your traffic. But if your cost cap is too low, you’ll have a hard time generating traffic. 

With Max Conversions, you first need to set up conversion events on your website to pass back to Google or Meta. This could be something like filling out an inquiry form, or visiting a specific page on your website. 

Often you’ll need a developer or a technical marketing team to help with this. They should have an understanding of Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and Facebook’s tracking cookie to properly set up your conversions. 

Once your conversions are set, Google and Meta will attempt to generate as many “conversions” as possible with the budget you’ve allocated. You can also allocate a target cost per acquisition. 

It might not always work. But it can help signal to Google’s and Meta’s algorithms what you consider a profitable conversion cost so they can attempt to get as close as possible. 

6. Create compelling ads with relevant headlines, copy, and media

Once you’ve mastered targeting and bidding parameters, you’ll need to create compelling advertisements. This is often one of the more time-consuming aspects of setting up apartment PPC campaigns.

On Google, Responsive Search Ads are the current standard for text-based search ads. You can also run text-only ads through Meta Ads. But Meta offers far more visual ways to advertise an apartment complex. 

Regardless of your PPC platform, make sure that your ads are relevant to your audience. You’ll also want to run clicks to a dedicated landing page. This is key to getting the most out of your ad dollar. 

The easiest way to keep things relevant is by choosing a few key differentiators for your property. This can be location, unit size, amenities, or a tagline that you use regularly. 

Visual ads, like or video ads on YouTube or reels on Instagram that showcase your apartment are some common and powerful ways to showcase your units. 

At Lease Engine we’ve seen a lot of success for our clients by using lifestyle shots and videos that also showcase amenities and a sense of community at your apartment. Floor plans and high quality photographs of the unit can also do well if you don't have video assets.

You can often create a proper ad just by following all of the prompts in whatever ad platform you’re using. This helps ensure that you create a complete and compelling advertisement. 

For all ad types, you’ll also want to add a relevant call to action such as “check availability”.

7. Publish your ad 

Once all these steps are complete, you’re ready to publish your campaign. Don’t forget to double-check your budget. 

This is typically managed in the “Ad Set” or “Campaign” section of the ad manager in Meta Ads. Similarly you can manage this in “Campaign Settings” in Google Ads. 

8. Test, test, test 

Once you’ve taken the plunge into online advertising, the final step is to test! Try new creative, audiences, and campaign strategies and keep an eye on outcomes.

The more time you spend optimizing your campaigns, the better your results will be over the long term.

At Lease Engine, we often run two variants of an ad or campaign. We then see which one has a better click-through rate and cost per click. After two weeks, or when we have enough data to make informed decisions, we turn off the loser and repeat the process. 

That’s the basis of a very simple but effective A/B test. 

9. Optimize your Ad Rank/Ad Score

Ad Rank in Meta Ads and Ad Score in Google Ads determines where in the ad order yours will display. 

A good ad rank can also mean cheaper clicks when using automated bid strategies. Your score gets determined by several factors including:

  • Ad relevancy
  • Landing page relevancy
  • Expected click-through rate
  • Your bid

When someone searches for a relevant keyword or matches your targeting parameters, Google and Mata calculate your ad rank against your competitors. Ads with higher scores get displayed (ranked) from highest to lowest on the page. 

So how can you optimize your ad score or ad rank? You need to take extra time to dial in the details.

This means:

  1. Create highly relevant ads that people click
  2. Build relevant landing pages aligned with your keywords or audience

Focusing on both of these factors can help you bring down your cost per acquisition. It can also give you an edge over your competition. 

10. Set up retargeting

Are you familiar with ads that seem to follow you around as you surf the web? Google is one of the biggest players in this space. These types of ads are fantastic at generating exposure to your brand. But always in moderation (too much of this can be seen as invasive or annoying).

With the new responsive display ads on Google, it’s easy to set up a display ad with nothing more than a few phrases and value statements. All you need is a couple of images and a logo. 

For pennies a click, they’re often an effective option for apartment advertisers that want to stay top of mind with their more expensive search traffic. 

Note: retargeting campaigns do require an understanding of Google Analytics to implement. 

Types of Apartment PPC Campaigns 

Example 1. Local search campaign

This is a PPC campaign focused on people looking for housing in your area. 

Keywords like:

  • “apartments near me”
  • “2 bedroom apartments” 

Are all relevant search phrases for this campaign. 

These campaigns aren’t fancy, but they tend to be the easiest to spin up and provide solid return on investment. They make it possible to get in front of people right when they’re looking for a solution you offer.

Bonus points if you can target even more narrow keyword options like “student housing” or “apartments with a pool near me”.

Example 2. Meta Retargeting 

Spending a lot of time and energy getting prospective tenants to your site? Consider developing a strategy to stay top of mind for that web traffic. 

Retargeting campaigns on Meta, the platform behind Instagram and Facebook, are a great way to stay engaged with your site visitors. 

First you’ll need to install the Meta pixel so you can start building your audience in the meta platform. Then you will need to craft some compelling content. 

Video is fast becoming the preferred medium, but if you’re just testing the waters, a simple image with a value statement about your property works. 

Since you know that the audience has already visited your site, you can be more creative with landing page copy. Consider presenting a special offer to entice visitors who weren’t sold the first time they visited your marketing website.

Example 3. Statewide Search Campaigns

Targeting your state with a narrow keyword focus can draw in leads moving to your area. 

This type of campaign might not drive the same volume of traffic to your site that a local campaign will. But keywords like “apartments in Chico” or “3 bedroom apartments near Sacramento” allow you to extend your reach beyond your local geography.

The best part is that all of this happens without wasting budget on people searching for homes in nearby locations

Keep in mind, the cost-per-click can be more expensive for these campaigns. This is because your audience size is actually smaller, as we'll only be bidding on highly specific searches calling out the neighborhood your community is in. 

So if you’re finding these campaigns to be too expensive, you may want to narrow the keywords you shoot for, or simply adjust your CPC with manual bids. You can also try adjusting your CPA for Conversion Max campaigns.

Schedule a Call With An Apartment Marketing Expert

Get a free expert consultation and create a roadmap to higher occupancy.

Looking for a trusted apartment marketing PPC company?

We know that taking the plunge into PPC advertising for your multifamily portfolio can be a daunting task. It’s why working with a trusted marketing company is often your best bet, unless of course you have someone in-house with relevant experience and the know how to take it all on.

If you don't have access to a seasoned vet, experienced PPC apartment marketing companies like LeaseEngine can give you a major advantage in speed to launch, campaign effectiveness, and the intricacies of a Multifamily PPC campaign.

You’re always free to reach out to Lease Engine's apartment PPC team. We’re happy to offer you more information about working with a trusted PPC marketing service, and will even go as far as offering to plan out your lease up or other marketing budget and expected ROI free of charge.

Read next

Recommended read


Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.