Google Adwords Automated Rules for Real Estate PPC (2023 Edition)

This post is for Realtors® & marketers who are doing their own real estate PPC, are interested in learning more about doing pay-per-click using Adwords, or are current/potential real estate webmasters PPC customers.

For our customers, it’s probably most important that we get your feedback here, as it will guide how we approach paid lead generation on your accounts.

What are automated rules for Google Adwords / PPC?

Let’s start there.

One of the really cool features of Google AdWords is that they provide you with the ability to run extremely powerful and robust automation on your accounts in order to fill the gaps between manual account management, and help ensure your account does not go crazy overspending on poorly performing keywords or ads.

If you’d like to read more about what Google has to say about automated rules, and how to sent them up, you can read the Google automated rules setup guide.

Ok, so let’s say you’ve read it, or my explanation above makes sense.

This thread is about getting into the weeds and discussing/deciding on the best-automated rules to set up for real estate campaigns.

I’ll start by giving you some examples of what can be done (and some good ideas).

But then I need your feedback in the thread. Can you help me with that? (In the comments below👇🏻)

Let’s start with a few already set-up examples on my wife’s site (specifically this applies to her Nanaimo Real Estate) campaign.

In this picture, you’ll see 2 rules.

One negative or decreasing rule (set up to help us reduce spending on poorly performing keywords)

And one positive (increasing bids for keywords that are performing well (or starting to). << I’ll have more to say on why 4% in a moment.

Let’s start with the negative rule:

In a nutshell, what it says is this: If a keyword gets enough clicks (at least 20) to give us a reasonable amount of data, and it’s still not converting at “at least” 2%, then go ahead and reduce the max cost per click by 20% (spend less, it’s not performing well).

Does that make sense?

Why 20 clicks (instead of 5, or 10) - we need enough data! Just a few clicks is not enough to make a decision on a keyword. Now “technically,” they say for a sample set to be statistically significant (if we think back to University Statistic) it needs to be at least 30 data points. But I just can’t stand overspending 30 times on a poorly performing keyword :smiley:

Now for the positive rule:

The idea with positive rules is to get “more” of whatever is working. Adwords for dummies! :slight_smile:

But it is more complicated than that. And here’s why.

Sometimes, a keyword will perform really well with a small data set (again 10-30 clicks but if you increase it’s budget and get it more clicks, it might actually over time average out to much less).

Also (and this is weird I know)… sometimes a keyword performs really well in ad position #3 (let’s say you’re paying a $1 per click) but if you increase to the #1 ad position and now are paying $2 per click, all of a sudden it takes a giant turd! << That is Google adwords technical speak.

But in general - as long as you can set the guideposts correctly (checks and balances) it is better to increase the amount of budget allocated to top-performing keywords.

So let’s unpack this rule I set (hopefully get our readers starting to thing tactics here)

Again, here is the rule:

Now the first thing you’ll notice is I’ve instructed Google Adwords to increase my bids automatically until my ad is at the very top of the page (1st place)


I’ve also told them, you can only do that as long as that bid is less than $1.50. < This part is CRITICAL! Google Ads is an auction system, and if you’re not careful, inexperienced bidders could pay way too much to try to be first, and if you tell Google to beat them with no upper budget limit… the will! (That’s how you end up paying $5 a click!)

Now let’s look at the other part: Take this action at a conversion rate of 4%

Why 4%? Is that even good? Nope! It’s not really at all. 10%+ conversion rate is considered “excellent” in real estate" 5-10% is good, 3-5% "needs work and less than 3% it’s time to start evaluating your options.

So why did I pick 4%? The answer is simple. I’m trying to find top performers.

What you need to keep in mind is that Google is applying this rule to new keywords or keywords that are new to the 4%+ category. As such, it’s very possible the only reason they are not converting “even better” is because they have not been given adequate budget to attract clicks and take top spots.

So by setting this rule, I’m saying “ok kid” (the keyword) you’ve shown you’ve got some potential. Let’s put you on the main stage and see how you perform! :slight_smile:

But what if this new keyword gets to the top and starts performing terribly?


Remember that first rule (the negative rule?)

Well, it’s there to protect us from overspending on keywords that aren’t performing :slight_smile:

So if we “promote” a high potential keyword to a top spot, and it starts underperforming, well then, your other rule just kicks in and drops the budget back down again.

It’s magic! (not really) it’s just planning and strategy.

Once I get some responses on this first part, I’m going to do a deep dive on more of the options available for Automation for those who want to learn. Or if you want to jump right in, there are lots of great articles out there like this wordstream article

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Now we get to the point of this exercise and where I need your feedback!

I’ll start by asking about the 2 examples above to get the juices flowing…

Here is my first question: If you were (or are) our customer: How many clicks do you want us to evaluate in a rule like the first negative rule before we take action (either manual or automatic)?

Bearing in mind, if you pull the trigger too fast, you could eliminate a good keyword accidentally (so you need a decent amount of clicks before making a call) but if you pull the trigger too late, then you could potentially waste a lot of money on a keyword that is never going to perform.

I would say the range is 10-50 clicks (that’s anywhere from $5-$100 spent on that keyword) before taking a call.

What do you think? Where is your comfort level?

My second question: In the positive example what are your thoughts on quite a liberal 4% qualification point for promoting the keyword to the top spot? Do you feel like it’s too low?

Pro and cons for the positive example: Pro of having it low, if gives us a lot of keywords to evaluate and won’t cause us to miss any diamonds in the rough.

Con there is a risk of spending 20 clicks at a $1.5 ($30) on a keyword and having it take a dookie on the main stage (ie not perform well).

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Next, I wanted to gauge comfort levels on your accounts themselves.

In order for automation to work (and be effective) there has to be an element of acceptable risk.

What this means is, we can’t just give Google rules that say “only give me good stuff” - or we will severely limit our potential to go out and experiment with other phrases.

So here is what I’d like to propose are “my” tolerance levels (taking the seat of Carly’s marketing manager now for a second).

Cost per lead maximum: $40 per lead
Max cost per click is $3.00
Max Click Evaluation 30 clicks (though I prefer 20)
Max Keyword Spend (nonperforming) $50
Conversion Rate Min 1%

If at first glance you say to yourself - those numbers suck! I don’t want those!

You’re right, they do suck! (No one wants $3 clicks and $40 leads)

But that’s not the point of these tolerance levels. What I’m trying to communicate to my team is the “upper limit” of my tolerance. Meaning they can feel free to experiment with my account using the techniques I teach and as long as they keep an eye on the account in a responsible way and manually intervene if Adwords machine learning tries to push past those levels, then they are safe and doing a good job.

Now what I “also” want to share are my “goals” for the account:

The cost per lead" is $10-$20 (average $15 Canadian). We focus on expensive areas, and anything in this range is perfectly acceptable to me. My math is simple 1% conversion rate (not great but realistic) of lead to sale means it costs us $1,500 CAD per sale.

We make 10x that on deals, and we’re at a 100% shop (RE/MAX) so we’re getting a 10/1 return. Even if it was half of this at 5/1 return, I will take that ALL DAY LONG! (also knowing even those that didn’t buy now are in our database, and we’ve increased our brand exposure immensely)

Max cost per click: I know the market well. If you have to pay more than $3 per click, I want you to instead look for new keyword opportunities. This does vary from market to market, but $3 is high in our market. This can only be advocated for with experience.

A general rule of thumb is $2-$4-$6 (CPC) Max $2 for average-priced markets, Max $4 for high-priced markets, and a max of $6 for ridiculous markets (Beverly Hills, certain neighborhoods in DC) etc. It all needs to be relative to your price point and conversion rate.

Max click evaluation: Don’t buy more than 30 clicks on a word and have it still suck. That’s enough data to evaluate. If we can’t make it work, then it’s outta here!

Max keyword spend: Also don’t spend more than $50 of our money on any particular keyword that isn’t performing.

Conversion rate min: Kind of a no-brainer, but if you can’t get a keyword to convert at 1% after the evaluation period, no matter how logical the keyword is. I want it gone.

For Carly, she really only needs 50 leads per month (which we get organically and don’t need PPC for) but we do run PPC anyways because we use her site as a testing ground (risking our own budget on these things before bringing them to clients) but we also get a lot of great deals out of it. In fact, we’ve closed 5 deals in the first 2.5 months of the year from PPC :slight_smile:

But her conversion rate (lead to sale) is not great because she literally has hundreds of leads coming in per month, and she’s a single agent. So for reporting/feedback purposes, we won’t be reporting on that part of the process.

I’m getting ready to test some big new things, so we’ll also be upping our budget. We’ve only been spending like $1,000 per month, but I’m going to bump it to $3,000-$5,000 monthly for this evaluation period.

Should be interesting

So how about you? Give this feedback - what are your guideposts/tolerance levels?

As a client or prospect, can you copy-paste this list, and put your own ideas beside it?

Cost per lead maximum: $40 per lead
Max cost per click is $3.00
Max Click Evaluation 30 clicks (though I prefer 20)
Max Keyword Spend (nonperforming) $50
Conversion Rate Min 1%

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Pinging some PPC folks to see if they would share some feedback :slight_smile:

@staciestaub @ErinReeves @andreREW @Carly @Shaunsimpson @michellesavoie @Pozek

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Hi All, I’m not a numbers person so I don’t really dive into these kind of metrics. What I do dive into is just making the calls and getting the appointments. I’m in my 3rd year and the majority of my clients come from PPC. I just got an anther accepted offer this morning from clients that came to me through my website. As long as I get a good ROI and REW helps me calculate that then I’m happy with PPC.

I just care about making a profit from my marketing investment!

I’d love to hear from you guys who are more senior and have PPC dialled in!

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Speaking of accepted offers (and your account) this actually does tie back to why we want to experiment with markets, keywords etc.

Take for example our Ladysmith Real Estate page.

When we started, Ladysmith wasn’t really on our radar (sleepy little town, 25 mins away, didn’t have much of a luxury feel or price point)

But as you know (Carly) but I’ll share with the group - since we decided to expand our SEO and PPC there (taking a risk and making an investment) it’s turned out to be an awesome spot for us.

In fact, our most recent listing (which you just sold) was in Ladysmith AND, I just looked it up, your biggest listing sold ever was also in Ladysmith.

Ladysmith! Who knew?

And check this out (for the rest of the folks, as Carly said she leaves this stuff to me) - last 7 days, our Ladysmith leads are less than $9!

Now there is not a lot of traffic (it’s a small little town) but in a way, that’s why everyone is sleeping on it. They don’t realize how good of a spot it is, how many nice places there are and how low the competition is for SEO / PPC.

We experiment to find the Ladysmith’s of the world :slight_smile:

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That’s exciting! I can’t wait to work in Ladysmith again! I recently had clients who started looking in Ladysmith but we found a beautiful ocean view home one town over in Chemainus!

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Come to think of it! You’ve done multiple deals in Chemainus too, haven’t you?

Do you know what’s funny? We don’t even have a campaign for that!

We should add one!

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Yes, I’ve done multiple deals in Chemainus!

What a valuable and exciting topic for those who invest in supplemental traffic (PPC). Thanks, Morgan, for the initiative.

I am not an expert on the matter, and I had to go over the post twice to understand the concept and objectives. But now it all makes sense, so I am attaching my contributions. I hope it is objective coming from someone who benefits greatly from the PPC investments with REW.

I do it with the understanding that I am in a costly (or one of the most expensive) and competitive market (DC Metro) and under a projected GCI of $20K per transaction in the audience we serve.

  • 1st Question: How many clicks do you want us to evaluate in a rule like the first negative rule before we take action (either manual or automatic)? 30. - At 30 Clicks. That would get me to $100 spent per keyword.

  • 2nd Question: 4% qualification point for promoting the keyword to the top spot? Do you feel like it’s too low? I would be ok with that. I favor exploring and allowing my campaign to find diamonds in the rough.

I concur with your numbers. My cost per lead was, on average, $11. Now $19. For these projections, I’m aiming for a $15 CPL.

At 1% conversion (I personally do better), my 2022 CPD was about $1,500. Perhaps $2,000 for 2023. If one of my agents closes the deal, they take nearly half of the GCI, but if I close the deal (and I’m selective with the cases I take), the numbers are significantly more appealing. So, I concur with you; even if the cost per lead doubles, I would gladly continue investing in PPC as long as it is done with purpose.

And you’re correct. Classifying and nurturing the database accumulated over the years can drastically improve the numbers. For example, let’s say you have a soft season and stop investing in PPC; well, you could continue capitalizing through brand recognition and email conversion just by reaching out to the database. But that’s a different topic.

My Upper Limits

  • Cost per lead maximum: $40 per lead | Sounds scary and expensive, but I’m ok knowing that we’re in search of a better outcome. (my FEB was $19.72)
  • Max cost per click is $3.00. Sounds good to me, but I would be more comfortable at $2.50.
  • Max Click Evaluation 30 clicks | I agree with 30 for deeper keyword exploration.
  • Max Keyword Spend (nonperforming) $50 - Sounds good to me.
  • Conversion Rate Min 1%. | I’m comfortable with this. Although we do better, I make all my projections with that number in mind.

I hope it helps. There is a chance some of my limits listed above contradict the expectations and are senseless for my market, but I’m looking at my 2022 data, which worked well for my team’s compensation structure.

Thanks for always watching our back and efforts to outperform the standards in the industry.

Cheers to all.

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This is great stuff @andreREW

A couple of things (because I think your use case is common)

#1: Where you have a mix of areas and price points vary (some $800k price point, some $1.2M price point) like you do. It’s totally find to have different rules / tolerances for each area.

For example: We could use “target CPA” on a campaign for the $800k of $20 and target CPA of the $1.2M of $30

The point being, it’s not like we have to decide on a global account level what our tolerances (or targets) are.

#2: If you’re taking some of the more luxury leads, did you know you can set up custom routing rules in the latest REW CRM? (By agent)?

You can do it by price, property type, city, or zip code.

You can then choose specific agents that the rule applies to. So you could have a group that got all the luxury leads (or just you) and a group that got the less expensive ones :slight_smile:

#3: Also in the latest CRM (a few upgrades back) you can even auto-tag specific campaigns/ad groups to specific agents.

The use case for this would be - if you have an agent (such as yourself) who you know can convert much better, then you can up the budget, increase the target CPA or assign specific areas, just to that agent.

Another cool thing you can do with this as a team leader or broker is you can allow agents to contribute to “their” campaign, and you can assure them the extra funds will go to only their account and not to other agents. Typically in this scenario you might give them a break on the split if they are contributing to spend as well, or give them half off their 2nd deal or something.

Point being, with accounts with bigger budgets and some creativity, you can really start to sculpt what’s going on in an account.

Note to customers - you can only do these things with more significant budgets ($3,000+) if you don’t have enough budget to spread around, splicing like this will dilute way too much and provide ineffective results

Anyways, some food for thought!

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I thought I’d also share a quick screenshot on a campaign I’m reviewing to help users understand why “goalposts” or maximums are important.

Take a look at this last 7 days screen on a campaign:

In this screen we’re using the “Target CPA” (Cost per acquisition) strategy.

We’ve told Google: Along with all of our custom settings and tweaks, please allow your algorithms/machine learning to spend “up to” $15 per lead.

The result? Through combined optimizations, we’re actually getting leads at $11.34 instead :slight_smile:

By giving Google permission to go a bit higher, they are able to experiment a bit more and find diamonds in the rough as it were.


Great info, @Morgan ,

#1. Yes, my areas fluctuate drastically. Therefore, It will be great to have different rules/tolerances. I can easily end up with 2 or 3 tiers.

#2. Yes, I’m aware of the custom routing rules in the new CRM. However, I haven’t needed to set this up because I have an ISA who manages my team’s lead flow and distribution. Great feature!

#3 I wasn’t aware of the auto-tagging of specific campaigns/ad groups assigned to particular agents, though. This is something I will have to research and perhaps implement ASAP, as I like the idea of allocating a budget to specific agents that have a good conversion rate or that know (and are willing) to contact leads right upon registration, regardless of the day and time. An allowance or budget (reward on performance) can drastically increase accountability and performance.

I agree with you on the budget. It needs to be reasonable to have enough data points to measure results.

Thanks for the advice and initiative.


Great thinking BUT… I think it is the same issue (or solution) as you have for #2 since if you have an ISA, this isn’t really needed. You can simply instruct your ISA to redirect more leads to performing players and it accomplishes the same thing without having to make any process changes.

But OF COURSE, I’m always there for the increasing budget part. But only if:

A: ROI is positive
B: (this is critical) neither your ISA’s or your agents are at max capacity.

If B is not in place, then additional leads are not a value, they are overhead. So you need to make sure you have the ability to handle the throughput before injecting more into the system.

Here is my first question: If you were (or are) our customer: How many clicks do you want us to evaluate in a rule like the first negative rule before we take action (either manual or automatic)?

  • I would say 50 clicks is too low to get enough data related to their registration and conversion. At least for generic area search terms. We would want data on iff they signed up and engaged with the agents and potentially closed more than just the click data I think.

What do you think? Where is your comfort level?

My second question: In the positive example what are your thoughts on quite a liberal 4% qualification point for promoting the keyword to the top spot? Do you feel like it’s too low?

  • I think 4% is great. This helps bring top clicked ads into the lead, but will still need to be monitored for ultimate conversion actives like registration and search and closings.

Cost per lead maximum: $25 per lead
Max cost per click is $3.00
Max Click Evaluation 25 click
Max Keyword Spend (nonperforming) $50
Conversion Rate Min 3%

Awesome feedback, thanks Greg!

you make a great point about evaluating deeper (did they engage, or potentially even close?)

You can already do some interesting things in the REW CRM around keyword data and activity

(example query below) “Of the keywords containing waterfront, how many replied to texts”?

Cool right? You could do the same for emails replied to, repeat visits (whatever engagement metrics you wanted to track)

Now for “closed” - pretty simple too. Just make every deal that is closed is put in a “deal won” group (or whatever you call it) or you could make sure you update the stage of the lead to “client” or many other ways to decide to denote a transaction done with a lead.

The holy grail though is actually logging the deal itself, which you can do right now in the REW CRM, but most folks don’t use it (which is too bad), but we’re revamping the entire transaction tracking pipeline (including new reporting features) so I think people will start actually logging their transactions far more often in the system once that comes out.

Let me know if you have any questions on this stuff - I love geeking out on datamining in CRM :slight_smile:

@Morgan do you have a DEMO website for clients to play with the new CRM enhancements? Cheers

Yes, we do, but it’s not as powerful when it doesn’t have your real data in it.

I think the team has an estimate ready to upgrade your sites, I don’t think it’s much so hopefully we can get rocking on that (or maybe there is hours left from your big 50k retainer prize win :slight_smile:

But ideally, we get your actual live site upgraded since it has real agents, real listings, and real leads in it. Way more effective that way

Makes sense. Thanks for the feedback Morgan. Is the SEO keyword search filter good for SEO and PPC (paid and organic words)?