By now, every real estate professional knows the power of Google. Need to find something on the web? Go to google.com and type it in. Don’t worry about spelling (it suggests corrections if you mistype) and just use normal language. In nanoseconds, more pages than you could ever click are presented for your perusal. The same approach applies to Google News, Google’s Froogle shopping area, pictures, blogs, you name it. Search and find. And that, most of us think, is what Google is all about.
But what about the other Google? You know, the one in which the multi-billion dollar behemoth puts its marketing clout to work for you and your website in ways you could never do by yourself. And not just the search engine placement and pay-per-click stuff either. I mean the other Google – the one that makes radio ads available for as little as $2 and newspaper ads for up to 93% off.
This Jeckyl-Google is not very well known but it’s there, lurking just beneath the hype about search engines and click-traffic. Combining two powerful technologies – online reverse auctioning and demographic targeting – Google leans on traditional media vendors to “get with the program” of pricing and placing in the digital age.
For real estate brokers looking to manage multiple marketing mediums – online, offline and perhaps for the first time, radio – Google’s marketing services finally turn ad-hoc advertising into a comprehensive campaign. All of which is less expensive, do-it-yourself easy and trackable right down to the single click.
It all starts with Google AdWords, the same place many of us have been buying keywords to drive web traffic for years. Look across the menus, however, and even experienced users will be surprised to find campaign options for audio ads and print ads. Both services rely upon classic “reverse” auction systems: the user creates an ad and then places a bid on how much (or little) they are willing to pay for a placement. The bidding is based upon “impressions” – so radio stations bid according to their listener volume for a certain part of the day, and newspapers publish their circulation numbers for a section of the paper and day of the week. And why would a big radio station like Air America or newspaper like The New York Times want to place your advertising, when you might be offering only a fraction of the retail value? That’s the beauty of reverse auction: the broadcasters and publishers have open “spots” and rather than filling the space with filler (like the weather), they opt for a small fee rather than no fee. And everybody wins – the media company, Google, and of course, you.
Let’s examine both a little more closely. Radio ads require a three step process: First, you will have to create a thirty-second recording in MP3 format. This could be done directly on your computer, with a high-quality USB microphone. Alternately, Google will help you find local radio studios, writers and even voice talent if you prefer. We used a local studio that helped us produce twelve thirty-second spots in less than two hours – for under $150. Once your ad is completed, upload it into your account. It takes about a day for Google’s staff to listen to and approve the ad (to ensure it is appropriate for the auction). In the meantime, you can start setting up your radio campaign.
Begin by selecting the demographics you’re trying to reach. This is done by selecting your target audience, radio station formats (rock, news, oldies, etc.) and even the parts of the day (6am – 12, 12-6pm, etc.) you wish your ad to run. Combine the target demographics with the marketplaces by selecting from a list of cities nationwide. Not every city will feature the “major” market player, but purchasing radio time in second-tier cities is often a great way to reach plenty of listeners without multi-ten thousand dollar contracts. Finally, set your budget (daily or monthly): Google helps you decide on a reasonable budget by “estimating” the number of ad plays and potential listeners you will reach based upon different budget amounts. Put it all together and launch the campaign. In most cases, somebody is going to pick up your spot and play it instead of filler within the next day.
Audio ads are highly affordable. Here’s an example from our own experience: One campaign we are running plays a 30-second spot 4900 times in four major cities nationwide each month. We reach more than 3 million listeners for 30 days at a cost just under $4000. If we want to spend less, or try different cities or add in a new radio station format, it’s all in our control. And the reporting system helps keep us in control: each morning we receive a report of the ads scheduled to play that day, by station, city and format. We also receive a report of yesterday’s aired ads with the actual listener volume during the broadcasts. In fact, Google requires the radio stations to include a recorded copy of the actual airplay so we can hear our commercial exactly as it went out over the air. By listening to the broadcasts, we can judge the quality of the station, the other advertisers around our ad and the station format – information that helps us decide to change our ad style or content by simply uploading a new digital recording.
Metrics are critical to this kind of campaign, so Google’s integrated website tracking also helps us correlate our website traffic with our radio ad playing times. So we can see if the broadcasts lead to immediate action by listeners by visiting our website. Google will even lease you a special 800-number which you can use in the ad, to track in real time if the ad-plays cause people to call by phone instead. Needless to say, most radio stations aren’t this sophisticated, even though they usually require far more expensive ad contracts; so in addition to creating affordable radio opportunity, Google even improves the medium, by integrating real-time tracking just as it does for web traffic.
As you might expect, a very similar format works for the print advertising tools. Users upload a high-quality PDF file to start. Then, a list of publications by location, format (business, general interest, etc.) and circulation can be selected. Like radio ads, print advertising also includes targeting options. One of the nicest features is the instant comparison of print ad sizes – from the tiny 1 x 1 ad to the full-page color format. Changing selections quickly shows the effect on costs – far easier than deciphering the traditional printed “media kit” from some publishers. The last step is the bidding process, and the estimator tool is pretty slick. In addition to checking off days of the week or special editions for your ad, a “slider” tool helps you measure your estimated costs quickly. Since many publications have tens, if not hundreds of thousands of readers, even a small bid of $1.00 per thousand can result in a hefty bill. So the sliders help you slip back and forth between affordability and bankruptcy.
In an online world, real estate professionals sometimes underestimate the need and power of a multi-media marketing approach. Mistaken is the belief that marketing can be done with a webpage alone. Successful businesses use a variety of media to drive traffic to a multitude of channels – phone, website and even personal visits. Google, perhaps best known as the leader in web search and traffic generation, understands this. For example, consider how many times a month stories about Google appear on radio or in print, not just online. So it’s exciting that they are making their technology available to all of us – so we can pursue the same multi-channel strategy – and hopefully reap some of the same kinds of results. Now, if they could only do this for television advertising?
This article was authored by Matthew Ferrara of Matthew Ferrara Seminars, Inc.
Reprinted with permission of Matthew Ferrara Seminars, Inc.