Gmail Ads for Real Estate: how to get in front of 1.2 billion Gmail users


Heat Level: Medium

Bottom Line: Gmail Ads are a basic type of display campaign. This is how you can get in front of people who have recently searched for new homes, apartments, and more.

Do This: Jump into your Google Ads account (or create one) and see all of the amazing In-Market Audiences Google provides based on recent searches and online behaviors. If you like what you see, send a GMail ad to people who are actively looking for the service you provide.

If you’re one of the 1.2 billion users of Gmail, you may have seen these ads at some point:

gmail ads

Above all of your leads and client communications, you’re getting served ads right in your inbox. Gmail ads (also known as Gmail Sponsored Promotions) are part of the Google Ads suite of advertising tools. 

If you click into these ads, you’ll see something like this:

gmail ads

As you can see, this isn’t a standard email. It’s an ad, targeted to you based on things like your area, demographics, and recent searches. I got this ad because I was researching Project Fi.

If you’ve ever wondered how these ads end up in your inbox, or want to run them for yourself, here’s everything you need to know.

Setting up Gmail Ads

Gmail Ads are run through the same platform as Google Ads, which used to be called Google Adwords. If you’ve ever run search ads with Google, you’re already a step ahead. If you haven't, you can create a Google Ads account to get started.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll create a new Campaign. Just select “Campaigns” in the left-hand panel, then click the big blue plus sign to start a new campaign.

Next you’ll get to choose from a series of goals. Hover over each one to see what they mean. More than likely, you’ll choose Leads or Website Traffic.

how to set up gmail ads

Then, select your campaign type. While Google Ads are run on Search, GMail ads are considered Display, so click that.

how to set up gmail ads

Finally, select “Gmail Campaign” and enter your website address.

how to set up gmail ads

Now you’re into the stage of setting up your campaign. Fill in the following fields:

  • Campaign name: something that describes the bigger picture, like “Pittsburgh Homebuyers”

  • Bidding strategy: Google will recommend a bidding method for you. If you’re advanced, you can set your preferred bidding method. Otherwise, make sure you can manually set your bids so you’re not charged more than you want to pay. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what a “good” bid is. It varies by target, keyword, market, etc.

  • Budget: this is what you want to spend per day. We usually start our clients with $5-15/day testing budgets, just to test the waters.

  • Ad Group name: what is the common theme for this group of ads? That’s a good way to name it. So if your Campaign name is “Pittsburgh Homebuyers” your ad group could be something like “South Hills First Time Homebuyers.”

Here comes the tricky (but amazingly powerful) part: defining who you want to get these ads.

  • Keywords: you can type in a list of words related to what you’re advertising. So if people have searched for “realtors” you might show up in their inbox later.

  • Audiences: audiences are groups of people whose online behavior indicates that they’re in the market for something. This is SUCH a rich area. There are In-Market Audiences for renters, people interested in houses for sale, people interested in new houses… are you kidding me?! This is an advertiser’s dream, especially for real estate!

how to set up gmail ads

  • Demographics: I’m a little leary about these areas (age, gender, etc.) because of HUD/Fair Housing requirements. I would leave these blank to avoid discrimination.

Next you set up your ads. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Business name (20 characters, so you might need to abbreviate) 
  • Headline (25 characters) 
  • Description (90 characters) 
  • Final URL (the webpage you want to send people to)
  • Images or videos. Google has made this incredibly easy. You can upload your own images, scan your website for images, or browse their free stock library. Use simple, clean, text-free images because they’ll get cropped and resized in all kinds of ways for different devices. 
  • More options: you can adjust colors, CTA languages, and teaser text.

The first time I explored these display campaign options, I was floored by how rich the options were, yet how simple the setup was. You can set up banner ads from this area of Google Ads just by selecting Standard Display campaign instead of Gmail, by the way, and it's no more complicated. Do you feel like an ad guru now?

The only limitation is that theses ads are super simple and barebones. You only get 25 characters to convince someone to click the ad, and then 90 characters to convince them to click or call. So put your best, most compelling offer into these short terms.

Bottom Line

Gmail Ads are just one of the ways to use contextual targeting to get in front of people searching for homes, real estate agents, apartments, and more. Unlike Search ads, these aren't wildly competitive - yet - so jump in while the water's warm!

Kate Rekrut self-portrait on Mount Washington
Kate Rekrut is the Director of Marketing and Product Development at Joyce, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA.
Kate's current work with ListingManager bridges the gap between her advertising agency experience and a lifelong passion for HGTV. When she's not skimming the web for new marketing stats, Kate enjoys cooking, crossfit, and dance classes.

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