Is Google Scamming Real Estate Agents?

Is Google Stealing the Money of Real Estate Agents?

Real estate agents who choose to use Google AdWords to increase their business had better be careful. A recent in-depth review of our Google marketing campaign recently revealed that we have spent $76,136 marketing to “potential home buyers” or better yet, “home owners” in countries such as Afghanistan, Albania, Bulgaria, Russia, China, Uganda, Congo and more. It seems deceptive on behalf of Google that a real estate agent marketing campaign specifically setup to target home buyers or sellers in US cities such as Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis, St. Louis or San Francisco, could be targeting “clients” in far off corners of the globe. In fact, it almost seems like Google is using its vast worldwide search network to drain the bank accounts of unsuspecting business owners in the United States in order to boost its bottom line. 

An internet search user in a poor country such as Uganda, would in theory provide minimal revenue for Google. Consider that According to Wikipedia, 37.8% of the population lives on an income of less than $1.25 per day. What should the average click cost be in Uganda, $.01 or $.02? Not much of an opportunity for Google, however, if you can trick US based companies into accidentally competing for keywords, you can turn those users into a profit center. The unfortunate side effect of this is that local businesses in these poor parts of the world are unable to market their local businesses because the accidental bidding from US based companies is inflating the proper local keyword pricing.

Consider that we paid $4.24 per click in Uganda for real estate keywords, nearly equivalent to three days’ worth of wages for many people living in the country. We pay less than this for many of our clicks in competitive real estate markets in the United States including Los Angeles, Seattle, Charlotte, San Diego and many more.  How many real estate companies do you think are intentionally marketing to the people of Uganda? Based on what we paid per click, it would appear that there are a lot of real estate companies and agents who fallen for this same trick. 

When analyzing our real estate marketing campaign, we pulled our historical results, so it is difficult to know how many real estate companies are still being affected by this issue and how many have figured out how to properly setup their campaign. We did a quick search using the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool in our AdWords account and set the location for Uganda. Our search for the term, “hire a real estate agent” resulted in a real estate company targeting people in the Mississauga area of Canada. We’re pretty sure that they are suffering from the same setup issue we experienced. The likelihood of this real estate company purposely targeting this area is extremely low. 

hire a real estate agent search

A Google Conspiracy?

Is this intentional on the part of Google? We believe it may very well be. We have worked with various account managers from Google over the years, yet, here we are having thrown away more than $70,000 of our marketing budget. The mere fact that Google makes it so difficult to exclude clicks from third world and developing countries, make us think this is part of their business strategy.

Google provides three targeting options to choose from when setting up your marketing campaign. The option recommended by Google is, “People in, searching for, or who show interest in my targeted location”.  The other choices are, “People in my targeted location” and “People searching for, or who show interest in my targeted location”.  One might argue that a real estate agent should choose, “People in my targeted location”. The problem with this option is that you would likely exclude relocation clients. For example, if you are a Denver real estate agent and you chose this targeting option, you would exclude potential buyers from anywhere else in the United States who might be considering a move to Denver. The goal is to target potential relocation clients, while excluding countries such as Uganda and Albania (we’ve even had some of our ads display in Antarctica – probably some penguins looking for a beachfront condo in Miami). 

Google gives the option to exclude locations that you don’t want to target, however, they force you to list every country in the world that you don’t want to target individually. Although, there is a bulk locations tab, our efforts to copy and paste all non-us based locations did not work. It would appear, that you can enter locations by bulk within a country by entering the country code and then listing the locations within that country, however, for a US based real estate agent, this doesn’t help. The simple fact that they don’t offer an easy way to exclude non-US locations, leads us to wonder if Google is purposely steering US based real estate companies into a setup that results in wasting money marketing to people who aren’t real customers. 

Proper AdWords Settings for Real Estate Agents

We found that by choosing, “People searching for, or who show interest in my targeted location” and then manually entering more than 400 excluded locations around the world, we have been able to almost completely eliminate the junk clicks from around the world. The real issue in our minds is how difficult Google has made this. 

google adwords country code


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