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Guide to Google Ads for Apartments & Multifamily Complexes

Learn How to Run Google Ads for Apartments and Write Apartment PPC Ads that Stand Out

Multifamily Google Ads are a powerful marketing tool.

Imagine that you're running a lease up campaign, trying to turn some newly renovated properties, or you are taking over a distressed property that has a higher than desired vacancy level. You know you can get some leads inbound through your ILS system, but that's not quite enough. You need additional volume to ensure you don't have inventory sitting vacant costing your company money. You need more leads and signed leases… fast.

Content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing are all viable distribution methods, but there’s no quick, easy way to roll these channels out - they take time to cultivate.

So what’s the best apartment marketing channel for quick visibility, relative affordability, and longevity in effectiveness?

The answer is Google Ads.

In fact, Google ads are so effective for our clients, that leads coming from google are over twice as likely to turn into tenants compared to leads from the most common online apartment listing services.

In this article, I cover the fundamentals of Google Ads for apartment marketers. You’ll learn:

  1. What Google Ads are
  2. 5 reasons why Google Ads work for apartment marketing and lease-ups
  3. How Google Ads work (ad formats, targeting, and auction system)
  4. How to set up a Google Ads campaign for apartments
  5. 8 tips for writing Google Ads for apartments that get clicks and generate leads
  6. How to test and optimize a Google Ads campaign

By the end, you’ll know how to deploy Google Ads quickly to start generating clicks, visits, leads, and signed leases.

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 Google Ads (Formerly Google AdWords)? 

Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) is an online advertising platform developed by Google. It enables businesses to display ads on Google's search engine and partner websites through a pay-per-click model. Advertisers can choose from various ad formats and target specific audiences based on keywords, demographics, and interests. Google Ads provides tools for performance tracking and measurement, helping businesses optimize their campaigns and increase brand visibility.

5 Reasons Why Google Ads Work for Apartment Marketing and Lease-Ups

Unsure about using Google Ads for apartment marketing campaigns or as part of a multifamily lease-up strategy? Here are five reasons why it works.

1. Google is the most used search engine in the world

Billions of searches take place on Google every day. Google Ads makes it possible to tap into this vast search volume almost instantly. This makes Google ads one of the best ways to reach people that are actively searching for apartments or related information.

2. Audience and keyword targeting options are precise

Google Ads offers robust targeting options. This ensures ads get shown to the most relevant audience.

Audience targeting gets your ad shown to the right person:

You can target specific demographics such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Location 

You can also utilize more advanced targeting features like interests and behaviors. Both allow you to refine your audience reach further (more on this below).

Keyword targeting ensures they need what you have to offer (apartments).

Bidding on search terms like those shown below ensures that your audience needs what you have to offer -- why else would they be searching for it? 

  • Apartments near me
  • Apartments in (Your City)
  • 2 Bedroom Apartments with Washer Dryer
  • Best apartments in (Your City)

3. You have a variety of ad formats to match with the right audience

Google Ads offers a range of ad formats to suit your different marketing and audience engagement goals. I discuss the three main ad formats below (Search, Display, and Video).

Why is it important to have various ad formats? You can match the right audience with the most suitable ad format. The more relevant your ad is, the more likely it is to get clicks and generate leads.

4. You can track performance and optimize campaigns on the fly

Google Ads provides robust tracking and measurement tools. This makes it relatively easy to monitor the performance of your PPC campaigns and get feedback fast. 

For example, you can track metrics like:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Conversions
  • Cost-per-acquisition (CPA)

This data-driven approach enables you to optimize your ad campaigns. It's easier to identify high-performing keywords and ad variations in conjunction with new targeting strategies.

Having this kind of continuous monitoring and optimization can help you:

  • Improve campaign performance
  • Drive more qualified leads
  • Maximize return on investment (ROI)

5. Budget management is flexible and precise

Google Ads operates primarily on a pay-per-click (PPC) model. In most cases, this means you only pay when someone clicks on your ads. 

Having this kind of budget flexibility allows you to set and control your budgets effectively. 

Managing and optimizing your ad spend ultimately helps you maximize the impact of your apartment marketing.

How Google Ads Works

I’ve covered what Google Ads is and why it works for apartment marketing.

Google's extensive reach and popularity means you can effectively reach targeted audiences that are actively searching or browsing for apartments.

But how does Google Ads actually work? What kinds of ads and formats are available for apartment marketing?

Google Ads formats

Google Ads offers various ad formats and targeting options to help you effectively reach your desired audience. Here's an explanation of the three different ad formats and targeting options available:

1. Search Ads

Search ads appear on Google's search engine results pages (SERPs) when users search for specific keywords. These text ads display above or below the organic search results. 

These ad formats are highly effective for capturing user intent and driving a direct response. This is because they target people who are actively searching for specific products, services, or information.

These are also the most common form of Google advertising, and are the biggest driver of leads for most of our apartment and multifamily clients.

2. Display Ads

Display ads are visually engaging and appear on a wide network of community websites. This “display network” includes news sites, blogs, and other content platforms. 

Display ads render on webpages as image banners, rich media, or interactive ads. These types of ads are effective for building brand awareness, generating interest, and reaching a broader audience.

Note: Display ads are sometimes driven by impressions or views as opposed to clicks.

3. Video Ads

Video ads are displayed on YouTube and other video partner sites. They can appear before, during, or after videos. 

Video ads allow you to engage prospective lessees with compelling visual content, storytelling, and virtual tours. They’re ideal for showcasing apartments in an engaging and memorable way, and building your brand. We recommend video ads like these for larger luxury apartments and high-rises where brand is most important.

Google Ads targeting options

The above ad formats give you flexibility in reaching your target audience. They allow you to choose the ad format that best aligns with your objectives. This can be driving direct response, increasing brand visibility, or engaging users with compelling video content. At Lease Engine, our most common use case for Google ads is to drive leads, and lots of them, but having options is one thing that really helps the platform shine.

You can use the following targeting options to refine your audience reach. This ensures your ads get displayed to the right people at the right time.

Targeting option 1: Keywords and Negative Keywords

You can target specific keywords relevant to what people are searching. When people search for those keywords, your ads will appear. 

Keyword targeting ensures ads show to people actively searching for related information. 

In the apartment space, relevant searches will include phrases like

  • Apartments Near Me
  • Apartments Close By
  • Pet Friendly Apartments

When people type these terms into Google, an ad on Google will allow you to show up at the top of the results page.

You can also select negative keywords. These are words and phrases that you don’t want to appear for when someone searches. For example, if you have luxury apartments, you may want to create an exclude list of phrases like "Cheap, Affordable, Section 8, etc".

Targeting option 2. Interests

Google Ads offers interest-based targeting as well. This is where ads show to people with specific interests or affinities for particular topics. 

This targeting method allows you to reach people who have demonstrated an interest in relevant subjects.

Targeting option 3. Remarketing and Retargeting

Remarketing or retargeting is a more advanced strategy. It allows you to target users who have previously visited your community website or interacted with an ad.

By displaying ads to people who have already shown interest, remarketing helps re-engage potential lessees and increase conversions.

Suggested Article: How to Leverage Retargeting In Your Apartment Marketing Playbook

What's Not Available To Target For Multifamily: Demographics

While for many industries are allowed to bring in demographics targeting to their campaigns, it's different for Multifamily Google Ads campaigns. Due to legal intervention, Google no longer allows advertisers in the housing space to use demographics in their targeting. These include traits like income, age, gender, race, parental status, etc. Fortunately, keyword targeting is so powerful for this industry that lack of demographic options shouldn't slow you down.

How the Google Ads Auction System Works

The final component of how Google Ads work is the Google Ads auction system. This is a fundamental component of how PPC for apartments works

The Google Ads auction system’s job is to determine the placement and cost of your ads. 

Essentially, Google wants to optimize for two things: 

  1. Making money (for themselves) 
  2. Providing a great experience (for searchers) 

In order to balance their two objectives, they created an algorithm to incentivize ads that provide a better search experience for the searcher. Basically, the more relevant your ad and website is to the keyword being searched, the better price you'll get from Google.

Here's an overview of how the auction system works:

Step 1. Auction Process

When a searcher enters a search query or visits a website with ad space, Google triggers an auction. This determines which ads will be displayed and in which order on the Search Engine Results Page. 

The auction then takes place in real-time and involves advertisers bidding for ad placement.

Step 2. Advertisers' Bids

Advertisers participating in the auction set their maximum bid. This represents the maximum amount they are willing to pay when a user clicks on their ad. 

This bid can be adjusted at any time to align with campaign goals and budgets, but most campaigns we'll just set "Automatic Bid" to give us the best shot at a good placement.

Step 3. Quality Score

In addition to the bid amount, Google considers the quality and relevance of ads and websites. They do this through a metric called the Quality Score. 

The Quality Score is determined by factors such as click-through rate (CTR), ad relevance to the search query, landing page experience (and relevance to the search) and historical performance.

Step 4. Ad Rank

Ad Rank determines the position of an ad on the search engine results page (SERP) or partner website. It's calculated by multiplying the maximum bid by the Quality Score. The higher the Ad Rank, the better the ad's position.

Step 5. Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

The actual cost per click that you pay is determined by the Ad Rank. This is calculated by the ad bid divided by their Quality Score, plus a small increment.

So even if you have a higher bid, you may pay less per click if you have a higher Quality Score.

The auction system ensures fairness and relevance in ad placement. It allows advertisers with higher bids and better-quality ads to secure more prominent positions. 

However, it also rewards advertisers who create highly relevant and engaging ads, and also advertisers with engaging content on their website. This means lower costs and better positions even with lower bids.

Understanding the auction system and optimizing factors like bid amounts, Quality Score, and ad relevance is crucial because it can help you save a ton of ad dollars over the lifetime of a campaign (and keep high quality leads flowing to your leasing team for cheap).

These are the factors we help our clients at Lease Engine optimize for. It’s how we help them maximize ad placements and achieve cost-effective multifamily Google Ads campaigns.

Schedule a Call With An Apartment Marketing Expert

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

How to Set Up a Google Ads Campaign for Apartments

I’ve established the what, why, and how of Google Ads for apartments and how they work. Now it’s time to put ad formats, targeting options, and the ad auctions process into greater context.

Below is the step-by-step Google Ads campaign creation process that we use with our clients at Lease Engine.

1. Define your campaign goals and objectives

​​Start by clearly defining your campaign goals and objectives. Determine whether you aim to increase website traffic, generate leads, boost apartment inquiries, or achieve specific conversion metrics (like open house bookings, or email newsletter subscribes).

By having clear goals in mind, you can structure your campaign and measure its success effectively.

2. Understand prospective apartment renter demographics

To effectively target your audience, it's essential to understand the demographics and characteristics of your potential renters. Apartment renters can vary in age, income level, lifestyle preferences, and more. Conduct market research to gain insights into your target audience. 

You’ll want to consider factors such as age groups (e.g., young professionals, families, retirees). Income levels, preferences for urban or suburban living, and desired amenities are also demographics to consider. 

These understandings can help you tailor your messaging and keyword targeting strategies accordingly.

3. Understand your positioning in the market

Understanding how your building or complex is positioned in the market is the stepping stone to a good ad on Google (or anywhere for that matter). If you're already building an Google Ads campaign for your apartment, it's likely that you have some of your positioning figured out. What's important is that you are mindful of this positioning when you build out ad creative.

4. Conduct keyword research for apartment-related searches

Perform thorough keyword research to identify the relevant search terms and phrases potential renters are using when looking for apartments -- put special consideration into qualifiers that may narrow that to a search for your specific apartment.

Examples of qualifiers to help you narrow where you show up on search could be: "Luxury, Family Friendly, Pet Friendly, Student, etc" 

Use tools like Google's Keyword Planner or SEMrush to discover popular keywords with high search volume and moderate competition. We always try to target a mix of broad and specific keywords to help our clients reach prospective renters.

5. Consider your target geography

They say "Location, location, location" for a reason. Real estate is a local game. Fortunately, Google ads has a number of tools that will allow you to use Geotargeting to your advantage.

For example, if your apartment is in Houston, you can drop a pin in Google Ads to geo-target only that city, or even specific neighborhoods within Houston. We often create multiple location layers for each of our broader ad campaigns, bidding on broader and broader keywords when the search is local, and more specific keywords when the search is from further away.

If you have an apartment in a desirable and notable neighborhood, keyword targeting that calls out your neighborhood is always a good strategy.

6. Create custom audience segments

In addition to demographic and interest-based targeting, you can create custom audience segments for your apartment ads.

This feature allows you to create audience segments based on interests and behaviors. For instance, you can create an audience segment of "apartment hunters". For this audience, you’d target keywords related to apartment searches or browsing behavior indicative of apartment hunting.

Similarly, you can create an audience segment of "recently graduated" or "got a new job" via the Google Life Events targeting tool.  

These custom segments allow you to reach individuals who are more likely to be interested in apartments based on other factors in their life.

7. Creating compelling search ad copy.

Craft compelling ad copy that highlights the unique features, amenities, and benefits of your apartments. Use accurate yet persuasive language and calls to action to encourage users to click on your ads. Ensure your ad copy aligns with the keywords you are targeting to increase ad relevance. 

Interestingly, there is a balance here to walk -- you don't want to get too crazy or use too much marketing speak on Google. We've found that accurate, descriptive ads do best.

We dive into much more detail below, so we'll cut this short here (for now).

8. Send people to your best landing pages (this may be your websites home page).

Where you send your website traffic matters a ton, in fact, a great web experience will make up for an okay ad campaign, and a horrible website experience will dampen even the best ad campaigns.

Good photography, descriptions, and strong design all come together for a good website.

For many of our ads, we're sending people to a website home page, but also use floor plan pages, unit highlight pages, and more. Occasionally for portfolios of properties, we'll use a search page as our ad link destination.

Whichever page you send people to, they should be able to find detailed information about your apartments, the amenities you offer, and give a glimpse at life in your apartment.

Pro-tip: amazing photography sells! Websites with professional photography convert way better than sites without photography.

Your landing page should also make it easy for someone to take the desired action. This might be filling out an inquiry form, visiting an open house, or scheduling a tour.

9. Set up conversion tracking to measure campaign performance

This is one of the more technical steps involved with starting a Google ads campaign, but if you are tech savvy, it's worth the time.

As management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.” It's super important to implement conversion tracking on your ads, as it will allow you to measure the success of your campaign accurately, and also optimize your ads once they are up and running. Form submissions or phone calls are great goals. You can track these actions as conversions in your Google Ads account.

Conversion tracking enables you to analyze the performance of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. This is what allows you to make data-driven decisions and optimize your campaign for better results.

Google Ad Content Length and Structure

Before you start drafting your Google Ads campaign in Excel, one thing to note is that the most common types of Google ads formats today build responsive search ads from a list of up to 15 headlines (with a max of 30 characters each) and 4 descriptions (with a max of 90 characters each). Focus on value, use keywords, leverage extensions, test variations, and be creative for best results.

8 Tips for Writing Multifamily Google Ads that Get Clicks

Every property has its own personality – quirks, charms, available amenities, culture, and leasing office atmosphere. 

However, the best amenities don't mean much if nobody hears about them.

When you're competing for traffic on Google it's important to write amazing copy that intrigues, so we can get people in the door and further down our marketing funnel.

Fortunately, there are a few tips you can follow to make your ads stand out against the competition. 

The following are Lease Engine strategies that we use with our clients to generate more engagement for their apartment communities.

1. Use image extensions to highlight apartment features

You can set your apartment ads apart by using one of Google’s newest features, the Image Extension.

The Image Extension lets you include images in responsive Google ads to showcase your property and entice prospective tenants. 

This allows you to give Google searchers a peek into what your property has to offer. It also creates interest and breaks up the wall of text that usually accompanies a Google search.

The result is more attention and more clicks.

If you need help setting up image extensions, check out this Google Image Extension Guide for some pointers.

Choosing the right images

You want to choose photos that showcase the best elements of your property and its defining features. 

  • Is the front entrance impressive and recognizable? 
  • Does the property have a luxurious clubhouse? 
  • Is there a standout feature of your units, like stunning fireplaces, or maybe marble countertops in the kitchen? 

How do you find these defining features? A great way is to ask your leasing staff what features excite visitors when they first come to your property.

You also want to make sure what’s highlighted in the image is also part of the ad copy.

You can see how that works in practice by doing a quick search for Apartments in Reno, Nevada.

Screenshot of a google ads search result for "Apartments for Rent in Reno".

As you can see, the top ad for rent.com takes up a lot of space. But the image in the ad below commands attention. 

This is because it contrasts everything else on the page. 

One thing to note: many apartment listing services like apartments.com are starting to include images in their search placements.

This means it’s even more important to images if you want your apartment ads to stand out.

2. ‍Create a persona or avatar to describe your ideal tenant

Properties often have qualities or characteristics that draw a particular type of tenant. 

So it’s important to establish who exactly you expect to fill your units. Whether it be students, young professionals, families, or older residents.

Already have the ideal tenant in mind? Your next step should be creating a “persona or avatar” to hone in on your messaging. 

This exercise doesn’t have to be too complicated either. You just need to answer a few questions about our preferred tenant. 

Apartments typically serve multiple demographics, so it can be helpful to run this exercise a few times. 

3. Consider your target tenant’s demographic info

How old is your target? What gender are you trying to target? Are they married? Do they have kids? Giving your prospect a name is also helpful. 

Here’s an example:

To target young families, your tenant avatar might be a woman in their mid-30s. She’s a working mother, who’s married and has one young child who’ll be in kindergarten next year. 

To help empathize, you can call her Bethany. So when you write your ad, you’re writing to an individual, not just the fuzzy outline of a person.

4. Consider your target tenant’s goals and values

From the example above, Bethany values safety, security, and the well-being of her child. Bethany and her husband are currently saving for a house. 

But that might be a few years off. 

So they want a stable place for their child to make friends and grow while they figure out the next step. 

With that in mind, you may want your ad copy to highlight:

  • Proximity to a great elementary school
  • A newly built play structure on-premises
  • And a security gate that closes at 9 PM 

You might also highlight family-accessible amenities like a movie theater in the clubhouse or a pool.

5. Consider your target tenant’s challenges and how your property is a solution

Bethany might be looking to stay in shape. But she doesn’t have the budget for a gym membership. Nor does she have the time to commute with her young child at home. 

Highlighting a 24-hour gym on the premises might help entice you here to check out the property. 

Bethany is also preparing her kid for school next year. She wants to make sure he will be able to make friends nearby that are her son’s age. 

She also just needs some time to relax, so maybe you want to highlight the large bathtubs in the unit.

6. Consider your target tenant’s potential objections

Most properties have a few tradeoffs. 

Maybe you have large spacious units, but you’re further away from the major shopping centers of town. 

Maybe you have newly renovated kitchens, but the gym lacks modern equipment. 

Consider what would make your target tenant walk out of the leasing office.

Identifying these objections will help you craft ads that resonate. 

You likely won’t want to write copy to combat your property's shortcomings. But it can help you to get a deeper understanding before you start typing. 

Bethany’s objection might be that our fictional property is a 7-minute drive from the nearest grocery store. 

Knowing this, you could highlight the quietness of the property away from the traffic.

7. Add a sense of urgency and FOMO to your ads

People are, in general, reactionary. 

Promotions, giveaways, and seasonal specials all drive actions because they create scarcity. 

Call it FOMO if you will, but there is something primal about our need to capture opportunity before it disappears.

Half off the first month’s rent or a $200 gift card with a signed lease can generate leads.

So you want to make sure that you can get your offers in front of prospects as early as possible.

One other thing to consider with ad copy is whether it fits your property’s voice and tone. 

Here are some examples:

If you have a luxury apartment, you might consider shrouding the offer in a bit of mystery. 

“Ask our leasing agents about exclusive seasonal offerings” fits the tone better than “Ask about our $500 move-in special!”. 

You want to keep the brand elevated and elegant, and avoid language like “giveaway” or “FREE”. 

Writing ad copy to market a student apartment? A student might be enticed by a headline like “Free rent for a month”.

A simple “Units Are Filling Up Fast. Don’t Wait!” can also induce a similar feeling.

Finally, you may consider changing ad copy to reflect seasonality. 

“Now Leasing For Summer” or “Find your new home before Christmas” can work as headlines. 

So using the ad description in the right way can help you stand out. It’s a great strategy for getting prospective residents to think about where they are today. 

This can be particularly important for certain markets like student apartments. In this case, you most likely want to capture leads before Spring and Fall semesters.

Bonus: Ad example

Once you have your avatars, you can start writing copy that better speaks to the audience. You can feature the things they care about, and leave out extra information that adds noise to your messaging.

You want your messaging to be clear, concise, and compelling. It should speak to what your prospective tenant cares about in the voice they would expect. 

Here is an example ad written for Bethany, promoting a fictional property: 

  • H1: Welcome to the Western Village
  • H2: A Quiet Community in Houston
  • H3: Ample Family Amenities
  • H4: Move-in Ready Units Available
  • H5: Ask About Our Move In Specials

Description 1: Enjoy a quiet community with schools within walking distance. Only 5 blocks from I-10.

Description 2: Family-friendly 1-3 bedrooms available. Ask us about our June move-in specials.

Call Out Extensions: 

  • Rentable movie room
  • Luxurious baths
  • Quiet community
  • Renovated play structure
  • Close to schools
  • Monitored security gate
  • 24-hour gym
  • Hot tub and pool
  • Welcoming staff 
  • Spacious rooms
  • Luxurious amenities
  • Vibrant community

How to Test and Optimize a Google Ads Campaign

You’ve written your ad and it's live. Testing and optimizing your apartment Google Ads campaign is the crucial next step to maximizing your performance. 

By following best practices you can maximize the effectiveness of your apartment Google Ads campaign and drive better long-term results.

Here's the approach we use with our clients at Lease Engine to test and optimize campaigns:

1. Conduct A/B testing on ad copy and assets

Intuition is a great starting point, but finding your optimal copy is going to take time. 

This is where A/B testing can help you compare different variations of your ads. You can test elements like:

  • Headlines
  • Ad copy
  • Calls-to-action
  • Images

Optimizing each of these ad components can help you determine which variations resonate best with your target audience.

Key metrics like click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, and cost per conversion can also help you identify your winning variations.

2. Refine your audience targeting

Audience targeting is a continual process that helps you reach the most relevant audience. 

Consider experimenting with different demographic segments, geographic locations, and interests to identify the segments that generate the highest engagement and conversions. 

Then, focus your budget and efforts on high-performing segments and continue to optimize your campaign's performance.

3. Watch how your keywords perform 

Just like refining your audience, it’s important to regularly review and optimize your keyword strategy. 

Start by identifying high-performing keywords that drive relevant traffic and conversions. Then remove low-performing or irrelevant keywords. 

Keyword match types (broad, phrase, exact, negative) can also help you refine your targeting and improve the quality of your traffic.

4. Optimize and split-test your landing pages

You’ll want to ensure that your landing pages align with your ads and provide a seamless user experience. 

Landing page optimization best practices include:

  • Improvising mobile page speed and mobile responsiveness
  • Adding clear calls to action or contact forms

You can also conduct A/B split testing on different landing page variations. This can help you identify the most effective design, layout, and content that drive conversions.

Suggested Article: Apartment Lead to Lease Conversion Guide + Free Calculator

5. Ad schedule and bid management

Analyzing the performance of your ads based on the time of day and days of the week is another optimization hack.

Consider adjusting your ad schedule and bidding strategies. You’ll want to allocate more budget during peak times or days when conversions are more likely to occur. 

Continuously monitoring and optimizing your bids helps you maximize your return on ad spend (ROAS).

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?

Taking the plunge into Google Ads for your multifamily portfolio or lease-up can be a daunting task. It’s why working with a trusted apartment marketing company is your best bet. 

Experienced Google Ads apartment marketing companies like LeaseEngine also give you a major advantage in speed to launch. 

We have direct experience in marketing strategy for apartment leasing.

You’re always free to reach out to Lease Engine's apartment marketing management team

We’re happy to offer you more information about working with a trusted apartment marketing service. Our PPC and website design experts are ready to help you hit your leasing goals.

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