Defensive Advertising with Google Ads Can Power Your Apartment Marketing Plan

Featured blog post image

One of the questions we often hear when we introduce someone to the idea of setting up ads on their own branded terms on Google Ads is "Why would I pay to have an ad show up when someone searches for me? If they can find me with local and organic search for free, why would I pay for them to also find me with an ad?"

We'll get to the answer to that question in a moment, but first we wanted to highlight 11 major brands that all use defensive Ads campaigns to protect their branded keywords.

The slideshow below shows all 11 of them—and it's a fairly eclectic mix of companies. Check it out:

 Why do the big brands use defensive advertising?

If defensive advertising is a waste of time, why do all of these big brands use it to promote their websites on Google? This list is an eclectic mix—we have restaurants (Arby's), retail (Old Navy), online companies (Airbnb), and a number of other companies as well. In many ways, they are very, very different companies. Yet they all share this same advertising strategy with Ads. Why?

When you use defensive advertising, it dramatically increases clicks to your website.

SEER Interactive has a case study that is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand why defensive advertising works.

Briefly, here is what they did: They ran a series of tests across all their various client sites and they found the following:

  • When the search result page showed only an ad for their client, the ad was clicked by 5.66% of all people who saw it.
  • When the search result page showed only an organic link for their client, the organic link was clicked by 6.15% of all people who saw it.
  • When the search result page included both an ad and an organic link for their client, the ad was clicked by 18.06% of people who saw it and the organic link was clicked by 38.26% of people who saw it. Combined, then, 56.32% of all people who ended up on that SERP found their way to the client's website.

Why did that happen? Well, think back through how you use search engines. If you Google something and you see an ad pointing to one site, a local listing pointing to another site, and a top organic result pointing to another site, you could end up selecting any of those three results. If you find what you need via the first result you select, then you'll be done with the SERP and may never come back.

Now think about the same scenario, but when you see the SERP the top ad, organic result, and local result all point to the same place. This does two things to you:

  • First, it reduces the number of options you have; whether you select the ad, organic, or local result you're getting the same result.
  • Second, it changes your perception of that brand. Many users will see that result and think "they seem to really be on top of things," and will be more inclined to trust them even before clicking on one of the results.

This appears to be what happened with SEER Interactive's study. When users saw both an ad and an organic result on the same page, they seemed to implicitly trust the brand much more, which is seen in the fact that the click-through rate on the ad increased three-fold and the click-through rate on organic increased over five fold when nothing else changed except the client having both an ad and organic link on the same SERP.

Simply put, defensive advertising on your brand keywords protects you by limiting the searcher's options for where to click and makes you look more professional. So you win in two different ways with this sort of advertising.

Will this strategy work with local businesses?

The obvious objection you could raise at this point is that these are all big national brands. The closest thing to a local ad in the lot is Arby's with their location extension included in their ad. So would this strategy work with small, local businesses or is it just a big brand thing?

The short answer to this question is "Yes, it works for both local or national brands."

The more nuanced answer is "It works for both local or national brands, but you do have to make some modifications to your campaigns depending on which one you are."

That said, the core principle here for why these campaigns work has nothing to do with the size of the business or its scale: The principle is "When someone searches for you, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to find you. The best way of doing that is maximizing your presence on the search result page."

That principle applies whether you are Pepsi or Lloyd and Harry's Pet Emporium.

But you will need to make some tweaks to your campaign if you have a smaller, more local scope—as you almost certainly will if you're an apartment community.

For starters, you'll need to think about negative keywords. Negative keywords are keywords you enter into Ads that tell Google when not to display your ad.

If you are Mountain Villa Apartments in Aurora, CO and there is also a Mountain Villa Apartments in Charlotte, NC you'll want to look at adding negative keywords like "charlotte," "north carolina," and so on. If you do that, then when someone searches "Mountain Villa Apartments in Charlotte" your ad will not display. You might also want to look into using other techniques to limit the geographic area in which your ad will be displayed.

So there is some work that will need to be done to hone your campaign and this work will look different than the work that you would do as a national brand. That said, none of this discredits the idea that defensive advertising is effective for businesses of all sizes.


Obviously Ads can be a bit daunting to work with when you pick it up for the first time. So before you start setting up your own defensive campaigns, take a bit of time to learn how Ads works. Wordstream is a fantastic resource for general Ads help.

If you would like to learn more about how RentVision manages Ads for our clients or our broader philosophy with managing Ads, check out our Ads solutions page or get in touch with us to set up a call with one of our business advisers.


Download Free Ebook

RentVision white outline of icon

Who We Are

RentVision enables you to generate more qualified traffic when you have a sudden increase in vacancy, and saves you marketing dollars when it’s under control.

Our articles are free to share! To learn more about sharing with your association or company, see our Citation Guidelines.