Here’s a question: as a housing industry professional trying to run your business online, do you ever feel as if you’re checking off all the right boxes but still not seeing much growth in your customer base? You specialize in a particular skill set that you know homeowners can use, and you keep your website up to date and optimized so that it ranks high in search engine results. You might even manage a company blog that produces quality content regularly. In short, you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing, but even that might not be enough to attract the new customers you need to maintain or even expand your business. If this is the case, paid advertising can be a viable next step to consider.
Successful digital advertising means making your brand visible to the right customers across the Internet. This success can be reached in two ways. As we talked about in our Search Engine Optimization Guide, there are several free methods that small businesses can take advantage of in order to increase their online visibility; these include optimizing your company website and maintaining an active social media presence. However, while these methods can be effective in reaching a wider audience and are certainly easier on your budget, there are no ultimate guarantees that you will receive an adequate return on investment. Spending money on a professional digital advertising campaign, on the other hand, gives you access to tools that can target your audience and produce more concrete results.
Of course, you shouldn’t be spending any of your hard-earned money unless you have some assurance that doing so will help your company. Which is why we have gone ahead and researched a few online tools that any beginner in the world of paid digital advertising should check out. We believe that the following are great investments if managed correctly, and are the perfect introduction to the next level of online visibility.
Social Media Advertising
The first place to start with paid advertising online is an area that you have probably explored before. Social media continues to be hugely prominent platform for connecting customers and businesses, and sites like Facebook are often the first place homeowners go when searching for a professional in the housing industry. Paying for an ad that reaches thousands of customers within your targeted audience can often mean the difference between boosting your business, or losing out to a competitor. Below, we’ve singled out a couple social media sites with advertising policies that are relatively cheap and easy to manage, and are sure to get your name in front of the right people.
Let’s start with the obvious choice. As of 2016, Facebook has over 1.5 billion monthly users, easily making it the most popular social media site out there. Odds are your company already has its own Facebook page, but if you want your content to appear in other areas of the site as well, Facebook has several options available.
To begin, you must already have an account with Facebook (if you don’t have one, you can make one for free here). Once your account is created, the next step is to locate your target audience. Do your customers typically fall within a certain age range, location, or profession? Facebook has access to information like this for each of their users, and can display your ad to only a certain demographic based on your preferences; it’s as simple as checking off which types of people you want to target and which you want to avoid.
You might be thinking that advertising to a broader audience gives you a better chance of reaching as many new customers as possible, but we would actually advise you to narrow down your audience if you can. Otherwise, a majority of your viewers will be people who have no need for your services, which means wasted advertising money for you.
The next step in creating an ad on Facebook is, of course, to design the ad itself. Depending on where you would like your ad to be seen on the site, this process includes written material, images, and in some cases, video. A “call to action” element is also necessary if you want viewers to eventually make it to your own website. Facebook has several templates and advice available regarding ad design, and you can also check out the accompanying inforgraphic for an idea of what a good Facebook ad should look like (click to enlarge).
Once your ad is created and your target audience identified, it’s time to launch your ad. During this step, you can set how long you would like your campaign to run, as well as your advertising budget. Facebook allows you the freedom to choose how much you want to pay per day for your advertisement, and adjusts your ad’s viewership based on this payment.
Because so many companies may be trying to reach the same group of customers, Facebook operates on a bidding system when it comes to advertising. This means that the quality of your ad itself and the amount you choose to pay each day both affect how many people your ad reaches, and for how long. Therefore, a well-designed ad on a smart budget is crucial when it comes to navigating digital advertising on Facebook.
Here’s a final bit of advice. Facebook also allows its users to promote their own posts as ads; the process behind scheduling the length of the ad campaign and figuring out your budget works the same way as regular ads, and the only difference is that you are using a pre-existing post rather than creating a new ad from scratch. So if you have a particular post that showcases everything that’s great about your company, and you want it to reach a wider audience, then this feature might be the best option for you. Check out Facebook’s how-to guide to learn more about boosting posts.
The information we’ve provided here is enough to get you started in the business of creating and managing ads on Facebook. If you think the site may be the best platform for advertising your company, check out their business page to get started.
When it comes to social media that is specific to the housing industry, Houzz is the top dog. Customers visit Houzz to get inspiration for their own home improvement projects, or to browse through the thousands of contractors, interior designers, and other housing professionals listed on the site, often with the intention of hiring someone directly based off their profile. In short, if you don’t currently have a Houzz profile set up, then you’re missing out on what is probably the largest concentration of housing customers on the Internet.
If you do have a Houzz account already, then the next step is to make your profile as visible as possible on the site. Houzz does not offer paid advertising options in the traditional sense (i.e. you create an ad for your company and have it show up on certain customers’ news feeds and search results), but they do have an upgraded version of their standard account, called Houzz Pro+.
There are several benefits of upgrading to a Pro+ membership on Houzz. Firstly, your profile becomes more visible on search result pages, due to the fact that Houzz relegates a certain number of spots at the top of each results page specifically for Pro+ members. Also, you have the opportunity to show up on more results pages with a Pro+ account, because Houzz allows you to classify yourself into multiple housing categories (for example, “kitchen plumbing” and “bathroom plumbing”). Lastly, with a Houzz Pro+ membership, you have access to some of the data connected to your profile, including which areas of your profile receive the most views from potential customers, and which areas might need some work.
If you’re ready to upgrade to a Pro+ account with Houzz, check out this page for more information, and to get in contact with a representative who can get you started. It is important to note, however, that upgrading your Houzz account must be taken with a grain of salt, as several sources believe that a well-maintained regular account with Houzz can be as effective as an upgrade, without the added price. This article from web marketing company Blue Corona goes into a little more detail on the effectiveness of a Houzz Pro+ membership, as well as the types of companies that should be taking advantage of the upgrade.
Our advice? Try Pro+ for a month and see if it makes enough of a difference in your customer lead generation to make up for the cost of the service. And regardless of whether or not you choose to upgrade, make sure that your profile remains up-to-date and populated with relevant information and media showcasing your work experience; a high-quality profile will ultimately be what seals the deal with customers, regardless of visibility.
We mentioned above that video can be a contender when it comes to digital advertising; in fact, if you commit yourself to it and take advantage of the right platforms, video advertising can become the strongest link between you and your potential customers. And if you’re ready to branch out into video and want to reach the highest amount of viewers, YouTube is your safest bet.
Video ads on YouTube are usually set at 15-, 30-, or 60-seconds in length, and can appear before regular videos start playing, on the side of regular videos, or on search results pages. Much like Facebook, YouTube hosts a massive amount of users every day (over 6 billion hours of video are viewed every month, according to a recent study). And also much like Facebook, YouTube’s advertising policy allows companies to target certain viewer demographics within a set budget.
Here’s how it works. YouTube allows you to choose how much you want to pay per day for advertisements, starting as low as $10. As an added bonus, the site only charges you when someone watches your ad in full; skipped ads are free. They then allow you to narrow down your target audience using such filters as age, gender, or location. Once these elements are in place, you can choose how long you want your campaign to run, upload your video, and begin advertising your company. Once your campaign is in motion, YouTube allows you to view behind-the-scenes analytics on how many views your advertisement gets, how many of those views lead customers to your site, and a number of other useful statistics that can help you run future advertising campaigns even more efficiently.
All things considered, video ads can contain much more energy and information than regular ones, and YouTube has the audience and the affordability for any small business to succeed. If you want to move forward with video ads, there is, of course, one more question you have to consider. How exactly do you create the video?
Making a high-quality video for your company can pay big dividends in the long run, but the creative process can be expensive and time-consuming. Which is why we have some options we think might help. If you already have the experience and the hardware necessary to create a video, but are simply lacking the inspiration, YouTube has some ideas for different types of company videos that you can check out. On the other hand, if you don’t really have the time or the technology to create a good video ad, then a site like Viddyad might be the right choice for you. Viddyad makes it easy for small businesses to create short, quality ads using a range of preexisting clips, graphics, and templates. Plus, the site has both paid and free video options based on your budget.
Your first video advertising your company doesn’t have to be the most well-made work of art ever created, but keep in mind that the higher the quality, the more likely you are to attract the eyes and ears of potential customers. Once you have your video created, navigate over to YouTube’s advertising page to get started on your first campaign.
Paid Search Advertising
When advertising your business online, you need to be where the traffic is heaviest in order to reach the maximum number of viewers. And at over 40,000 search queries per second, the Google search results page ranks as the most popular real estate on the Internet by far. You’d think that advertising on such a page would be extremely exclusive and expensive, but thanks to the massive amount of unique search pages generated each day, Google offers several affordable options wrapped up in a program called Google AdWords.
The premise behind Google AdWords is simple. Google designates small amounts of space at the top and on the side of each search results page for advertisements related to the search result in question. Companies who wish to appear within these advertisement spaces simply “bid” on certain search query keywords, and the company with the highest bid is often the one featured within the ad space when that keyword is entered into the search bar. We use the word “often” here because, although money is an important factor in determining whether or not your ad appears on the results page, it is not the only one. Google also takes into account a “quality score,” which essentially calculates the quality of whatever page you are linking to within your ad, and how useful that page will be to the searcher. Using this score and the amount you have chosen to bid, Google determines how often and how high your ad appears on the results page.
Perhaps the best part about advertising on Google is how easy it is to create the ad itself. Google ads look almost exactly like their search results, meaning no images or videos are required; simply create an eye-catching title and a small blurb for further explanation, set which keywords you want to target, set your daily budget (you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad), and get started. Once your campaign starts, AdWords provides comprehensive insights into your ad’s performance, allowing you to view how many people click your ad, and which keywords are the most effective.
Google reaches more people on the Internet than any other site, and with an advertisement policy as affordable and potentially far-reaching as their’s, you’d have little to lose and a lot to gain in trying them out. If you feel like Google AdWords is a safe bet for your business, get started here.
Next Steps with Paid Advertising
In this article, we’ve provided several platforms you can consider if you think your company is ready to venture into the world of paid online advertising. If, however, you are still unsure about whether or not the potential for new customers will make up for the cost of ads, then there are a few resources you can review before getting the gears in motion. For smaller businesses, we recommend checking out “5 Things You Must Do Before Jumping Into Paid Internet Advertising” from the Kissmetrics Blog. And if you want a simple yet informative overview of the pros of online advertising in the housing industry, take a look at G/O Digital’s “Why It’s Essential for Home Improvement Companies to Use Digital Marketing.”
Lastly, throughout this process, make sure to keep in mind that the content of your ad is just as important as where or how many times it appears online. Make sure that your ad is attractive, informative, and catered to the needs of your target audience; otherwise, you’ll be paying good money to have potential customers associate your name with low-quality work. Need some inspiration? Check out the deck below for some examples of online ads that know their target audiences, and know how to appeal to those audiences a wide range of media.