Home Builder Marketing: SEO or PPC? Both. Here’s Why.

Which online marketing strategy should you invest in: pay per click (PPC) or search engine optimization (SEO)?

PPC advocates say that paid search gives builders immediate visibility on page one of Google, provides instant website traffic, and is less time-intensive than SEO.

SEO devotees talk about higher conversion, lower cost, and the fact that SEO delivers new leads for weeks, months, and even years after your original investment.

Each strategy has pros and cons. For years many marketing professionals took sides on the issue, choosing an either/or approach. Some still do. And that can be dangerous for your online marketing.

Here’s why:

SEO v PPC: Then & Now

Several years ago, a heat map was published around the web that demonstrated how people use Google when searching for a specific keyword or phrase. At that time, it was estimated that 80% of people who used search engines to research a product clicked on the first three organic search results, and about 20% clicked on paid ads.

People listened. Including people at Google.

Several years ago Google added a section of paid ads to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) where people were most likely to click, and distinguished this section with an easy to identify yellow background box. Many people who search the web were wise to this and continued to bypass paid ads in favor of organic search engine rankings.

Over time, however, the yellow box became larger and less distinctive. This makes sense for Google, since it means more people will click on prominently displayed paid ads. And it worked. So well, in fact, that many people can no longer tell the difference.

According to a recent study of 1,000 searchers, 45.5% of those surveyed could not distinguish between a paid ad and an organic search result if there are no ads in the right column. 37.1% were unable to tell the difference between paid and organic if paid ads appeared in the right sidebar.


But wait, there’s more.

The Rise of Map Listings

When it comes to search engine marketing (paid or organic), research has shown that the majority of people who use search engines will click on the first 3 search results. This is known as “above the fold,” and it’s prime real estate for search engine marketing.

Today, Google has added Map Listings for many high volume search terms. This pushes organic search results even further down the page. Now you can achieve the number one spot in organic search and still be below the fold. This means fewer home buyers will see, and click through to, your website.



Based on these facts, it may be tempting to think that SEO is not as relevant as it was a few years ago. Nothing could be further from the truth. But like paid search, SEO has also changed significantly. Strategies that worked well a few years ago have all but been eliminated by Google updates, leaving content marketing as one of the few viable strategies left to achieve and maintain organic search engine ranking.

So if organic search results are being pushed further down the page for many high volume ketwords, what’s the value of a content-based SEO strategy?


Reach: When was the last time that someone retweeted your paid ad? Content-based SEO strategies extend beyond the SERPs to social media audiences that share your content with their networks, who in turn share with their networks, and so on. Paid search works independently of your other online strategies and that increases cost and reduces effectiveness.

Return: Visitors who come to your website through organic search results are more likely to spend more time on your website, view more pages, and opt-in with at least a valid email address. If you spend $2,500 on a paid ad campaign that attracts 1,000 visitors and a conversion rate of 2%, that’s 20 leads, or $125 cost-per-lead. If you invest the same $2,500 in a content-based SEO strategy that converts at 5% of the same 1,000 visitors, you would generate 50 leads, or $50 per lead.

Remarkability: You may have the biggest paid search budget of all the builders in your market, but when you drive potential home buyers to your website you will still need to something interesting to say. Content of all forms (blogs, photos, videos, infographics, virtual tours, news, social media) that solves a buyer problem, communicates value, and inspires action will differentiate you as a builder in a crowded market more than a thousand paid ads ever will.

2009 Marketing for 2013 Buyers?

In the last few years, many builders have migrated toward SEO or paid search. Today, builders and marketers need to take a more balanced view.

If your website traffic is low but you do not run a paid search campaign because it did not work in the past, now is the time to consider paid search again.

If you’ve relied entirely on paid search to drive traffic to your site but have continually seen conversion rates below 3%, now is the time to consider investing in a content-based SEO program that attracts and converts high quality leads.

When it comes to the question of SEO vs SEM, marketers can no longer afford to be one or the other. The lost opportunity cost is too high.

The real estate market is different today than it was 2, 3, or 5 years ago. Has your marketing adapted, or are you still relying on 2009 strategies to influence 2013 buyers?


Dawn Sadler

Dawn Sadler is the Founder and CEO of Builder Target. She is also a speaker, author, and content strategist.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.