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Australian brands spent $13bn dollars on digital advertising in 2021.

Yes… you read that right… $13bn (with a capital B).

Online advertising spend has exploded since the very first banner ad appeared almost 25 years ago but in recent years, much of that growth has flowed into the pockets of two players: Google and Facebook. In fact, almost 70% of all digital advertising dollars flow to these two platforms.

In real estate, and specifically here in Australia, there are obviously a few (well, just two really) other online platforms that have pocketed the vendor and/or agent’s marketing dollars – the major property portals.

Prior to COVID-19, the appetite for pre-portal advertising (also referred to as ‘off-market’ selling) from vendors and agents alike was on the increase and this has only become more appealing during the current global climate as vendors look to save on marketing costs and agents have adapted and trained themselves up on how to execute digital campaigns away from the major portals.

Interestingly, there are now many documented case studies of agents selling properties using Google, Facebook and their own website+CRM tools before the property even makes it to the property portals. More and more agents are now promoting this as a point of difference to vendors and outlining the obvious cost savings.

The reality is that in the olden days you had to pay the major portals or newspapers for the privilege to advertise to a significant audience. They (the media) were the only ones who had access to the audience. Now you can reach the same audience yourself using Google and Facebook – provided you know what you’re doing.

This is precisely what smart, digitally-savvy, real estate agents and marketing teams are doing and for the first time, in a long time, it’s reducing their advertising costs by not having to rely solely on the major property portals.

Where Australians Are Spending Time Online

The amount of time Australians spend on Google or Facebook platforms dwarfs the amount of time spent on other web sites or apps.

In terms of audience size:

  • 19.2 million Australians use Google Search
  • 17.3 million Australians access Facebook
  • 17.6 million Australians watch YouTube (owned by Google)
  • 11.2 million Australians access Instagram (owned by Facebook)

Source: ACCC Digital Platform Inquiry

Australian Advertising Expenditure By Media Format And Digital Platform

Dollars follow attention. And Google and Facebook have effectively monetised their massive audiences.

Over the past decade, a strong fall in the print advertising revenue of commercial Australian media publishers has been accompanied by a rise in spending on online advertising. Within the digital advertising segment, Google and Facebook have collected a significant portion of the ad dollars from 2014-2018.

Source: ACCC Digital Platform Inquiry

How Google Ads Work

There are five campaign types with Google Ads but only three are commonly used in real estate:

1. Search network: the search network allows campaigns to appear for searches based on keywords like “plumbing service.” Search network ads show up at the top of Google search results, like this:

Companies can also bid on keywords for specific brand name searches as well.

When it comes to real estate, Google Search Ads are significantly more expensive to generate a ‘click’ than they used to be. Part of the reason for this is because the major property portals and agent comparison platforms have invested heavily in creating dedicated profile pages for you and your business on their website – effectively ‘tricking’ Google into thinking their website is the most relevant place to find you, your listings and your services.

And, let’s be honest, we’ve let this happen as an industry by putting all of our data, reviews and profiles on these platforms and driving tonnes of traffic to them. Furthermore, these platforms have a pretty healthy budget to compete against you for your own name and the services you sell in your local market.

Some companies are now selling Google Ads services to help you promote your profile, but on their website.

While it might seem attractive to take the bait, you’re effectively paying for someone else’s advertising in this instance and it will likely do very little to drive business opportunities for you. Most of the advertising products offered by third parties can be done yourself or your marketing consultant, driving traffic to your site. Don’t fall for advertising services that drive traffic to someone else.

But there’s a big (massive) upside for YOU… The majority of people searching on Google skip past these ads and go straight to the first organic search result.

What this means is that it’s never been more important to ensure your website appears at the top of ‘organic’ search results and it’s a game you can absolutely win.

Tip: Don’t put all your Google advertising dollars into Search Ads. Instead, consider all of the other options available below.

Related Article: How You Can Beat The Major Property Portals With Google

2. Display network: Google’s Display Network campaigns show your ads on websites and apps when your keywords are related to the site’s content. These ads can come in forms of videos, images, and more. Here is what the typical display ad looks like:

3. Google Ads Retargeting: Google allows for sophisticated retargeting so that you can remarket to that lost prospect (someone who has been to your website) and win a sale.

How Facebook Ads Work

Facebook, with its more than 17 million users in Australia alone, presents a huge audience for savvy agents and marketing teams who understand how to get the most out of Facebook Ads.

Unlike Google Search Ads, where you’re relying on someone to come looking for you, your listings or your services, Facebook Ads allow you to take your listings and services to people before they go looking for it on other platforms.

Like Google, Facebook offers a pay-per-click (PPC) ad system. However, unlike Google, Facebook Ads target users based on engagement patterns, interests, behaviour, and demographics.

So, instead of bidding for keywords and designing relevant ads that match those keywords, you can select key aspects among Facebook’s available targeting features to serve your listings and/or services to the right people.

Google’s Zero-Click Searches & Why They’re Bad for Your Business

The point of taking out a Google Ad and working hard to get it to the very top through quality and smart bidding is so users take actions — so they click.

Unfortunately, June 2019 marked the first month where a majority of all browser-based searches on Google resulted in zero-clicks. Zero-clicks searches refer to searches where the results page offers a sufficient answer to the user’s query at the top of the page, making it unnecessary for users to click through to a website to complete the search.

This is bad for content marketers who have been working hard to create content and ads leading to high-quality relevant content. In many cases, Google is gleaning the gist of what these marketers have created, and then serving it up in a stripped-down form to users without them having to interact with your website at all.

Is Google in it For Google?

When it comes to Google Ads vs Facebook Ads, one huge difference lies at the heart of the antitrust probe into Google. We know that Facebook Ads aren’t pushing Facebook platforms — the question is if Google is just in it for Google’s sake.

The investigators are starting the probe with a focus on the tech giant’s ad business. However, they could certainly end up looking at how the company has acted in specific industries involved with digital marketing. Already, the company faces an investigation in the European Union over claims that it is driving competitors out of the market with its job-search tool.

Recent research showed that about 41 percent of Google searches resulted in organic clicks to non-Google sites in the first quarter of 2019. When examining the searches that resulted in clicks, 12% went to Google-owned sites.

“If you’re in a field Google has decided to enter, like travel, hotels, flights, lyrics, etc., the search giant is almost certainly cannibalizing your market and removing a ton of opportunity,” explains Rand Fishkin, SparkToro founder and author of a recent analysis on Google clickstream data.

This means that if you are in a market that Google is competing in, you might be much better off spending your money through targeting audiences via Facebook and other social advertising rather than trying to outperform Google on its own platform.

Who knows… They might even launch their own curated property search portal one day… “Google Real Estate”?

Final Thoughts: Facebook Ads vs Google Ads 2022

When it comes to Google Ads vs Facebook Ads, the slightly better platform right now for real estate, based on conversion data and ease of use, is probably Facebook Ads.

With Google Search Ads, you’re relying on someone to come looking for you, your listings or your services. With Facebook Ads, you can take your listings and services to people before they go looking for it on other platforms and this is a powerful advantage that didn’t exist only a few short years ago.

Google search ads can be effective at driving leads at a low cost but only through lots of testing and refining of keyword selection and demographic targeting. It takes considerable time to tweak and refind Google search ads whereas Facebook Ads are much easier to get up and running to start generating feedback on your campaigns.

Google Display Ads and Google’s remarketing capabilities are powerful, but if you only have limited budget and resources, don’t be worried about putting all of your digital advertising dollars into social media. You will likely see a far better return on investment, faster.

Mastering Google Ads can take considerable time and expense. Facebook Ads are relatively easier to master and see results sooner.

Of course, you need to consider your goals, your budget and your in-house resources. By teaming up with trusted digital advisors, you’ll be able to design a fully integrated approach to digital advertising that hits your target audiences at different moments in their online experience, reinforcing your brand image and moving them down your sales funnel – and ultimately driving more revenue into your business at a lower cost.

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