Beginner's guide to PPC advertising for apartments

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Digital advertisements are the most dynamic and efficient tool for apartment marketers to drive demand for their communities.

Digital ads, or pay-per-click advertising (PPC), can be a powerful tool for getting your apartment communities in front of potential residents at crucial points in their online search process. By strategically placing your ads during these critical moments, you can increase your chances of attracting renters actively looking for apartments like yours to your communities.

While PPC apartment ads are increasingly gaining popularity, there's still a knowledge gap about digital advertising for many in the multifamily world, including multifamily marketers. We recommend starting with our complete digital advertising for apartments guide, which provides a comprehensive overview of Google, Meta, and other digital ads for multifamily communities.

In this post, we'll cover the basics of PPC advertising for apartments and show the steps for setting up a PPC ad campaign in Google.

What is PPC advertising for apartment marketing?

You bid to own specific and relevant keywords of your apartments so that when someone uses those terms on an online search engine like Google, your community's ad is at the top of the results page. 

Various factors determine your click price, most notably ad and campaign types.

The most popular PPC ad types are search, display, and video. You control what type of ad you prefer when you set up an ad campaign, the target audience, and the goals for those ads. (We'll show how to set up a PPC search ad for Google later in this post.)

Campaigns are strategies for delivering ads to users with specific outcomes in mind.

Defensive campaigns are PPC ads targeting the exact keywords of your apartments so that when someone searches for you by name online, you prevent a competitor from swiping in and stealing your most qualified leads. 

Remarketing campaigns are synonymous with display and video ads that appear on other websites to users who previously visited your apartment's website. 

Offensive campaigns are a strategy for bidding on broader terms or keywords of nearby properties, which cast a wider net and drive more visibility for your apartments.

Campaigns are a crucial component for PPC apartment advertising as they're the only marketing tactic available for putting your communities front and center during the three most critical stages of a typical prospective resident's search: beginning (awareness), middle (consideration), and end (decision).

It's also a marketing tactic that increases your community's visibility online with search, display, and video ads, making it easier for a targeted group of prospective residents to find you online (a.k.a. apartment shoppers most interested in your community or one like it).

How does PPC apartment advertising work?

PPC means you pay for every click on one of your ads rather than one lump payment. You are in total control of how much to spend (or bid) daily on your ads. 

How much you ultimately pay to run a PPC ad for your apartments depends on your purpose for those ads within your overall marketing strategy.

PPC ads targeting more relevant and specific keywords to your apartments are less expensive to bid for and generate more clicks. 

Ads targeting broader or less specific keywords are more expensive and usually result in fewer clicks.

Read how the bidding process for PPC ads works here.

The type of ad you want to run and the campaign it's a part of significantly determines the overall price. Defensive PPC ads are the most affordable; ads targeting search terms like "apartments for rent in Chicago" will be much(!) more expensive per click (and less effective for lead-to-lease conversions).

Should you use PPC ads for apartment marketing?

Yes! There are numerous benefits to using PPC ads in your apartment marketing strategy:

  • PPC ads give your apartment community the best chance of standing out in a competitive digital marketplace and staying top of mind with apartment shoppers. 
  • PPC ads guide interested individuals through the leasing funnel, where they first become aware of your apartments, convert to legitimate leads, and, ultimately, become residents faster and more effectively than most other advertising channels.
  • You gain total control of your demand with the right PPC apartments ads strategy. Multifamily marketers must recognize this benefit because that's how the industry works; a community's occupancy changes constantly, so you need a dynamic lever for demand generation to go alongside those shifts to continually get the right amount of visibility and traffic to maintain leasing success.
  • In light of the ability to generate demand when necessary, the other essential element of PPC apartment advertising is that you determine your budget and can change spending, or turn off campaigns, any time you want.  

Those are just some primary benefits. Here are more reasons why every apartment community should use PPC advertising.

What does a successful PPC apartment ad strategy look like?

Village West Apartments, a 200-plus unit community, officially opened its doors in December 2020. Only ten months later, Village West completed its critical lease-up and raised rents while only having one person on staff in the leasing office.

How? Along with owning an engaging website that featured walkthrough video tours and floorplan-specific content (allowing renters to see the inside of particular units before they were available), Village West also utilized RentVision's predictive digital advertising solution, which automates PPC ad campaigns and spending based on a community's unique Future Occupancy so that it gets the right amount of traffic at the right time to the website. Together, renters could successfully tour and apply for a lease online without seeing the apartments in person; hence, Village West signed 206 leases in 281 days with just one leasing agent.

Village West ran Google and Facebook PPC campaigns during those ten months, beginning with significantly higher daily ad budgets, standard for communities during their lease-up phase (the need for traffic generation is highest, so increased marketing investment is necessary). RentVision's automation dialed down spending as less demand was necessary, but the key benefit of the PPC ads wasn't just that they could change budgets instantaneously; it's that the PPC ads offered an unrivaled ability to reach prospective residents, create awareness of the new community, and most importantly, drive traffic to its website than other apartment marketing platforms.

Village West Apartments' PPC Ad Results
Google Facebook
Impressions: 454,704 Reach: 858,345
Clicks: 14,066 Clicks: 17,621
Total Cost: $8,386.51 Total Cost: $7,095.13
Average CPC: $0.60 Average CPC: $0.40

In total, the community invested just over $15,000 on PPC ads during its ever-critical lease-up, which is roughly $35,000 less than the average salary of a leasing agent. Village West consistently gained the right amount of highly qualified visitors to its website, leading to more engaged leads ready to rent an apartment—this is what a successful PPC ads strategy can do for multifamily properties.

See the complete case study for Village West Apartments' lease-up

How do I budget for my apartments' PPC ads?

As was stated earlier, a key benefit of PPC advertising is that every apartment community can afford them. Unlike other static marketing tools, which can lock you into long-term contracts that level out the number of leads you receive each month (regardless of your community's occupancy), PPC ads have no fixed cost.

Still, you need to be smart about setting your ad budgets. You want to make it possible to dynamically change spending according to your community's unique supply and demand to save money when your occupancy is strong.

Begin by asking yourself these five critical questions before establishing your PPC budget:

  1. What kind of apartment property do you have? A-class, luxury-style communities must be willing to spend more on PPC ads because prospective residents have a longer leasing cycle than a C-class property. 
  2. How many units do you have in your apartment community? The more units you have, the more you must spend on PPC ads because that creates a greater need for website traffic (demand) to sustain higher occupancy.
  3. What is your community's average rent price? Apartments with high average rent need to spend more on PPC ads because a) they likely are a luxury community, b) the digital marketplace for higher-end communities is more competitive in gaining prospective residents' attention, and c) they accumulate more lost rent than other communities when units are vacant.
  4. What's the most you can spend on PPC ads each month? Every apartment experiences unique seasonality (busy and slow leasing periods) annually, so you'll need flexibility in your marketing budget for months when spending more on PPC ads is required to generate higher demand. Can you determine the maximum amount you can spend on PPC campaigns in those circumstances? 
  5. Can you eliminate other marketing sources to free up your marketing budget? Spending most of your marketing budget on PPC ads is a better investment than portioning it toward underperforming lead generation sources that aren't resulting in leases. By using a performance metric like lead-to-lease conversions to assess the effectiveness of each source, you can feel more confident about cutting a marketing channel and using its funds toward PPC ads instead.

Need more help budgeting for PPC ads? Read our PPC ad budget guide here. In it, you can download a free tool that helps you set a budget that fits your community's unique needs. 

How to Get Started with PPC Ads for Apartment Marketing

Research potential keywords to target

A PPC campaign is only effective by correctly identifying the keyword(s) to target. After all, Google decides what ads appear on the SERP based on the keywords someone enters in their search, so you must be careful in selecting keywords as that directly determines the visibility, performance, and cost of your apartment's PPC campaigns.

To underscore the point, say someone enters a search like 'apartments for rent in Dallas'—targeting those keywords will be much more expensive because hundreds of other competing properties will likely be bidding for their ads to appear, too.

The other issue with targeting those keywords is that they're too ambiguous, affecting a search engine's ability to determine search intent or select the right ad to show at the top of the SERP. 

Thankfully, Google lets advertisers help them determine when their ads appear by offering four keyword 'match types.' 

  • Broad Match is advertisers saying their ads can appear whenever any target keyword is used in a search query. 
  • Modified Broad Match limits the range of keywords that trigger an ad, meaning the advertisers only want an ad to appear when a specific combination of targeted keywords is entered in a search. 
  • Phrase Match your ad shows when someone enters a search that includes your keyword phrase in the order you specify but may also include additional words before or after the phrase.
  • Exact Match triggers an ad based on an exact keyword phrase or grouping an advertiser has chosen (i.e., an apartment's name + location).

If you think of match types like a bullseye, you should begin by targeting Exact Match keywords for keywords most specific to your apartments. They're more affordable and necessary for defending your community's name or likeness online.

As you expand your target keywords and apply your preferred match types, it's essential to understand that search terms like '2-bedroom apartments in Lincoln' or 'apartments near the University of Nebraska' may be slightly more expensive to bid for. Still, they can effectively capture more prospective residents looking for an apartment community like yours. 

Again, you get to choose your preferred match type. So be strategic and careful, or you may end up bidding on more expensive and less fruitful keywords.

We'd recommend using tools such as Google's Keyword Planner (free) or SEMRush (free-ish) to help you identify the keywords you should target for your apartments.

Video: Step-by-Step Process For Setting Up A PPC Campaign in Google

Google Ads is relatively user-friendly; the tool provides helpful tips, recommendations, and other features to help you set the best PPC campaign. But for somebody new to the digital advertising game, it can come off as daunting initially. It’s best to follow a simple written or video tutorial to learn the basics when getting started. We like this one from Santrel Media, but there are thousands more just like it. 


PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is an essential tool for apartment marketers. They put you in control of your communities' visibility in search engines and can help you create a competitive advantage by displaying search, video, and image ads that capture prospective residents' interest and attention during each stage of their apartment search process. 

Additionally, PPC campaigns are dynamic. You can use them to generate demand at the right time for your communities and safely dial down your spending when your occupancy is stable. PPC advertising is the only marketing strategy that allows you to make intelligent adjustments alongside the frequent changes to your communities' seasonality. 

Ultimately, a great PPC strategy is essential for sustaining your occupancy year-round. You can get the right qualified visitors to your website precisely when needed, at costs every apartment community can afford.

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Make renting your apartments easy

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.