Google Ads Targeting Changes Are Coming: Here’s What You Need To Do Today

Google Ads Targeting Changes Are Coming: Here’s What You Need To Do Today

Earlier this year, Google announced that it would be making updates to targeting capabilities for ads within the housing industry. In the wake of this announcement, many real estate brands and apartment marketers have been wondering what to do about the Google Ads targeting changes and how to ensure their digital campaigns continue to run smoothly and effectively. Today, we’ll be going over what you should do today to meet those goals.

Due for implementation on October 19, 2020, Google’s update will limit the targeting options for real estate ads run on Google platforms in order to bring ads on the platform into alignment with HUD standards. The change will impact ad campaigns in Google Ads, Gmail, and YouTube, some of the most popular and lucrative ad platforms in use by real estate brands today.

Google’s announcement comes in the wake of Facebook’s decision last year to limit its targeting options after the company faced criticisms that some of its targeting options conflicted with the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and other civil rights legislation concerning housing, employment, and finance. With these two industry leaders making these changes, we can likely expect to see new updates along the same lines emerge on other platforms as well in the future, although none have been announced as of today. 

Google Ads Targeting Changes

So what exactly is changing? Google’s October update will restrict targeting options for housing, employment, and credit advertising shown to users in the US and Canada. Let’s break down what we know so far.

Broadly speaking, housing, employment, and credit ads will no longer be able to target or exclude users based on age, gender, marital status (or whether someone is getting married soon), parental status, or zip code. This policy only applies to in-scope ads targeting the US and/or Canada. These changes will bring the platform’s targeting tools more in line with legislation like the FHA, which is designed to ensure equitable conditions across the housing industry and reduce discrimination against protected classes of people.

This will also mean that any automatic bid adjustments made on the basis of any of the above targeting factors (age, gender, etc.) will no longer be possible.

Real estate marketers will still have many targeting options, however. They can continue to use all other Google Audiences, contextual targeting, automated bidding, and non-zip code geotargeting options. Let’s dig down into some specifics.

First and foremost, advertisers will still be able to target users based on browsing behavior (like what they search for and what websites they visit). This is already one of the most effective ways to reach qualified leads and this capability isn’t going away. For example, you can still target the keyword “student housing” to capture users searching for this term, even if you can’t target users between the ages of, say, 18 and 22.

Advertisers will also still be able to target based on Interests, providing the possibility of further nuance where useful. For example, if your property is located near a major stadium, you can still target people interested in sports.

Finally, let’s talk about geotargeting options. Targeting based on zip codes will no longer be possible for housing ads, which is a good thing. Zip codes are often drawn on the basis of districting practices that were (or are still) influenced by systemic racism and classism, such as red-lining or gerrymandering. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use location as a targeting factor, however. It just means that, instead of zip code targeting, you’ll need to rely on radius targeting. This will allow you to target users within a certain radius of your property, allowing you to generate qualified leads without the same risk of inequitable impact.

What You Need To Do Today

So what, if anything, should you be doing to prepare for this change? The vast majority of ad campaigns can continue uninterrupted, but if you are running ads that use any of the soon-to-be eliminated targeting options, you’ll want to take action sooner rather than later.

Once these changes are implemented in October 2020, any campaigns using the now-eliminated targeting options will automatically be paused. In order to ensure uninterrupted campaigns, we recommend you make the necessary adjustments to remove soon-defunct targeting options from your campaigns before October 2020.

Whether you’re reading this before or after October 2020, performing a self-audit on your existing ad campaigns (or having your marketing partner do this for you) is an important first step. Determine whether any of your existing campaigns use targeting options that will soon be eliminated, such as age targeting, zip code targeting, or targeting on the basis of family or marital status.

For any existing campaigns that use such targeting features, remove these targeting features. Then, if necessary, you may choose to implement other options that will have a similar targeting impact. For example, you may choose to replace zip code targeting with radius targeting.

After you’ve made the changes, keep an eye on your results and adjust as needed. Impressions, clicks, and cost-per-click are the Key Performance Indicators to focus on as you optimize your campaigns.

Overall, these targeting updates should still leave real estate marketers with the tools they need to see meaningful results that positively impact their bottom line. If you’re looking for more guidance on these changes and how your brand can adapt, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts at Threshold. We’re always here to help.

Top Tips for PR Communications in Real Estate

Top Tips for PR Communications in Real Estate

Whether you’re coordinating with investors or resolving an issue with your residents, how people see you matters. Public Relations (PR) and Crisis Communications can impact everything from your development schedule to your renewal rates, so you need the right tools to build positive relationships. But how can you avoid classic PR mistakes in the real estate industry and ensure you always meet the goals you’ve set out in your apartment marketing plan? Understanding these simple PR dos and don’ts could be the difference between a reputation-destroying scandal and the unwavering trust of prospects and residents…or it could just help you empower smooth and steady operations day in and day out.

Do Your Homework

Understand your stakeholders, the history of your community, and the needs of your audience. A little market research goes a long way in the world of PR. That’s because the most effective PR is proactive, not reactive. Doing your research ahead of time helps you anticipate any potential issues before they ever arise and proactively generate positive PR to offset any challenges that may arise.

Engage With Your Community

Speaking of proactive PR, taking the time to involve yourself with your local community builds brand recognition and trust, improves word-of-mouth reputation, and broadens your opportunities for positive press. Participating in local initiatives and charitable efforts can also help engage audiences looking for socially conscious brands, which is increasingly relevant for today’s renters, who have more outlets to stay connected and socially aware than ever.

Do a Visibility Audit

Understanding how and where your brand is visible is the necessary foundation for you to build on. Part of good PR is ensuring that your brand is as visible as possible—through SEO efforts, media coverage, social media activity, and so on—but it’s just as important that what’s visible represents your brand in a good light. In other words, it’s great if your brand is the first Google search result for relevant keywords, but if it’s also associated with overwhelmingly negative reviews on its Google My Business page, the harm might offset the good.

Get a holistic picture of your brand’s optics to start, then identify areas for improvement. Next steps might be a round of SEO improvements to your website, launching a paid Google Ad campaign, rehabilitating your reputation management strategy or becoming more active on social media.

Write Your Own News

You don’t have to sit around hoping for positive press—write it yourself! Writing your own blog posts and press releases allows you some control over your own narrative and helps capture your community at all its best angles. Generating positive news is especially relevant for new start communities looking to generate buzz in advance of their open date. So take the time to tell your story wherever you can—on a blog on your website or your social media accounts—and solicit good press by writing press releases showcasing updates, milestones, charitable initiatives, and more newsworthy events.

Build Media Relations

While writing your own story is part of the puzzle, the other part is getting others to share it. That’s where networking becomes important. You can write all the press releases and media pitches you want, but if you don’t know who to direct them to and how, you’re merely shouting into the void, and wasting your energy in the process.

Become familiar with the journalists, bloggers, influencers, and thought leaders on real estate in your area. Understand how you can work with them toward mutual benefit. Don’t assume you can count on them for help without first understanding what you can offer in return. In other words, try to offer content that is genuinely newsworthy, that speaks to their audience, or that offers insight on an industry trend. 

With these simple PR guidelines, you’ll expand your positive media coverage, control your story, and highlight the best features of your real estate brand. For most brands, this is enough to generate buzz and avoid snafus.

If you could use help with a more robust PR strategy within a complex market, or need help responding to a crisis, enlisting the help of a professional is often the right call. If you want that help to come from an agency with extensive experience in your real estate market, Threshold is always here to help. Learn more about our PR and Crisis Communications services to determine if they’re right for you.

How To Make Online Property Reviews Work for You

How To Make Online Property Reviews Work for You

Before signing a lease with you, your prospects are going to research your community’s online reputation on sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook,, and It’s important that what they find inspires their confidence. Incorporating a reputation management strategy in your real estate marketing plan is key, because a poor online reputation means fewer prospects make it to your website, choose to schedule a tour, or take the plunge and sign a lease with you. In fact, Harvard Business School recently published a study showing that a one-star increase in your ratings can result in up to a 9% increase in your overall revenue.

So how can you avoid the trials and tribulations of negative property reviews (and worse, fumbled review responses) and ensure that your reputation works for you and not against you? We’ve been around this block a time or two, and here’s what has always worked for us.

Ask for Honest Reviews

Having no reviews at all can sometimes be just as damaging as having a low average star rating. But you don’t have to just wait around hoping someone will share their experience online. Your average visitor or resident won’t be motivated enough to write a review on their own, but asking politely for a review can turn some of those people into your best advocates.

As long as you don’t ask too often, current residents or leads you’ve been nurturing usually won’t mind you asking for their honest review on sites like Google, Yelp, and You legally can’t (and shouldn’t) incentivize review-writing, but you also don’t have to. Providing a great customer service experience such as a well-executed tour, a prompt email response, or well-maintained amenities is usually enough to earn a few minutes of a reviewer’s time. Just don’t be pushy; a simple, “If you’re able, we’d love to hear your review of our service on Google or Yelp” will suffice.

angry person with megaphone

Accept Criticism

It’s going to happen. Sometimes it’s genuinely your fault and sometimes it may not be. But no one trusts a brand that can’t accept an honest critique without trying to brush it under the rug or rattling off a defensive response. Consumers trust a brand that learns from its mistakes and seeks to right wrongs for the good of the consumers that they serve. Speaking of which…

Learn From Your Mistakes

Negative reviews can become positive growth if you treat them the right way. Many of the common complaints real estate brands see can provide invaluable insight into how to create a better user experience for prospects and current residents alike.

For example, when a prospect arrives for a tour but feels neglected, it may be an opportunity to discuss new strategies with on-site staff (or reinforce existing ones). When a resident complains about a lack of communication from property staff, you may need to rethink your existing processes around mass resident communications or direct follow-up emails from office staff. Nine times out of ten, even a belligerent review that may feel unfair presents some valuable kernel to learn from.

angry emoji on smartphone

Respond Promptly & Honestly

When you get an online review, especially a negative one, it’s important that it doesn’t go unanswered. As often as possible, craft a personalized response to the reviewer’s specific concerns. Express that you’re sorry you’ve contributed to their negative experience and you intend to do better in the future or to rectify the situation if possible. If necessary to expedite review responses, draft a few templates for responding to common issues so that your staff has a head start on the response content (this way they’re also sure to stay on-script with PR-friendly strategies).

If the reviewer is a current resident, let them know you’ll call or email them to follow up on their concerns (and then actually do it). If your customer service response is truly top quality, they may even update their review to indicate that your team resolved this issue for them, and these kinds of review updates can inspire even more trust for those who read them than a handful of non-specific 5-star reviews.

These guidelines should help you make the most of your online reviews and even allow you to turn challenges into triumphs. If you’re looking for professional help with a particularly challenging situation or you just want to free up your staff’s time for property management needs, there’s always the option of hiring a real estate marketing agency like Threshold to help you out. Our team is here to chat if you’re interested.

Apartment Marketing Agency Talks 2020 Moving Trends

Apartment Marketing Agency Talks 2020 Moving Trends

When 2020’s pandemic hit, real estate brands all over the world started bracing for a shift. It wasn’t yet clear what the year would bring, but many were anticipating a challenging leasing season. It seemed that with the need to shelter in place would come fewer tours, fewer new leases, and more frugal prospects. On the other hand, the pandemic could also encourage more renewals as residents chose to put off moving into a new home for more stable times, or, more pessimistically, as hiring freezes contributed to less job mobility and residents were therefore less likely to move for work.

Indeed, COVID-19 has had a complex array of impacts on moving trends in 2020. But real estate professionals may actually be surprised at some of the trends that have emerged. Early research shows that the story is far from simple, especially when considering that behaviors have undergone different shifts for different markets. Let’s talk 2020 moving trends.

Likeliness of Moving

One study, called the America at Home Study, surveyed a representative group of 3,001 renters and homeowners aged 25-55+ making housing incomes of $50,000 or more per year. This group was asked to rate their likelihood to move from their current homes as a result of COVID.

Homeowners plans to move due to COVID

The segment of respondents who were 55 and over represented the majority of homeowners planning to move sooner than expected due to COVID-19.The same group also represented the majority of homeowners that had no change in moving plans, meaning that they still planned to move.

Meanwhile, respondents 35-44 were more likely to say they planned to stay in their current home longer as a result of COVID-19, while most respondents aged 45-54 were split between no change to their moving plans or a desire to stay at home longer.

Interestingly, respondents aged 25-34 were amongst the most likely to have changed their moving plans due to COVID, but like the group 55 and over, they were more likely to be planning to move sooner rather than being inclined to stay in their current home longer.

Likeliness of Homebuying

Perhaps even more interesting are the results from a question that asked renters to rate their likelihood of buying a home as a result of COVID.

Renter's Plans to Buy a Home due to COVID

Of the people polled, 50% of renters said that they have an increased desire to buy a home after living through the pandemic. Of those renters that said they were more inclined to buy, 25 to 34-year-olds represent the majority. But interestingly, 25 to 34-year-olds also represented a majority of renters that were less inclined to buy. This could simply be because this age group represents a majority of renters considering buying a home for the first time, as they are statistically most likely to be marrying, expanding their families, and growing in their career. In other words, this age group is likely to be in transition, so it’s unsurprising that they have plans to buy and that those plans are affected by the particular timing of COVID, even if they are split on the nature of that impact. Still, the relatively even split among this group between those more inclined to buy and less inclined to buy is interesting in its own right.

Meanwhile, a significant number of 35 to 44-year-olds were also interested in buying a home, but tended to be somewhat less inclined to buy due to COVID. Conversely, respondents in the age range of 45-54 were overall the least interested in buying a home, but if COVID influenced their likelihood at all, it tended to make them more inclined to buy, not less.

And interestingly, respondents 55 and up were the least likely to report being influenced one way or the other by COVID with respect to their plans to buy a home. A significant portion of this age group did have plans to buy a home. In fact, they were more likely to express interest than the group aged 45-54 and about as likely to express interest as the 35 to 44-year-olds.


While this study offers useful insights, it must be said that it does not offer a full picture. It does a good job of breaking down the data from respondents that fall into the categories it surveys (25-55+, homeowners/renters, minimum salary of $50k). However, it does not account for people 18-24 (which may include students and first-time renters) or people who earn a salary of less than $50k a year.

In other words, it excludes a lot of people from its scope, and these exclusions are likely to predominately apply to minority populations and disadvantaged groups like Blacks, Latinx folks, and people with disabilities. It’s also more likely to exclude people in lower-paying industries like retail and food service or people who may have lost their jobs and income due to COVID-19.


So with that grain of salt in mind, what have we learned from existing market research?

First and foremost, we’ve learned that people are still moving. Whether they were looking to rent or buy, folks across all age groups are not seeing COVID as an insurmountable barrier to moving. In fact, for some, it provides reasons to move sooner than they may have before. 

This isn’t necessarily surprising. After all, people will always need a place to live, and now more than ever, it’s important that they be satisfied with where they live. Among those who can still afford to move, moving may present an opportunity to find a space more suited to their needs, especially now that they’re likely spending more time at home.

Younger Millennials and older Boomers are the groups most likely to move right now, likely for opposite reasons. While Millennials may be looking to build families or find a home closer to their new job, Boomers may be looking to downsize or transition to active or assisted living environments.

Something we’re also seeing is that most rent is still being paid, in spite of COVID. One analysis showed that in June 2020, 94% of rent payments were collected. However, this data is collected through rent tracking software like Resman, Appfolio, etc, which means it only accounts for properties and property management companies using this kind of software to collect and report on rent collections. This likely excludes smaller property owners and Mom & Pop landlords and may in turn be more likely to exclude renters of minority racial or ethnic groups, folks making below a certain salary, and other groups.

Here at Threshold, our data confirms these trends. Across digital campaigns, impressions, clicks, and conversion results are strong and driving qualified traffic. Occupancy rates that were falling are now starting to climb again. Our clients are filling spaces where people have moved out, keeping occupancy rates strong by offering concessions and renewals with no increase in the rental rate. In other words, conditions are stable enough that properties are making it work.

Quick and Dirty SEO Tips for Apartment Marketing in 2021

Quick and Dirty SEO Tips for Apartment Marketing in 2021

Improving your visibility online has never been more important in the world of apartment marketing. According to research by HubSpot, 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search results. That’s probably not very surprising for you⁠—after all, how often do you find yourself scrolling even as far as the bottom of the first page? Real estate marketers today know that SEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies because, when done right, it costs very little to implement, leading to low cost-per-conversion and increased traffic and leads.

So what can you do today to improve your apartment website SEO? If you’re not interested in hiring an SEO expert on our team, there’s still a lot you can do to execute your own SEO services to rank more highly on Google. Here are some quick and dirty tips that can help you get started and see results.

On-Page SEO for Apartment Marketing

On-page SEO is a collective term for the ways in which your website content—from page titles to headings to alt tags to meta descriptions to site maps and more—impacts your Google search rankings. There are lots of ways to impact your on-page SEO, and it all starts with a little research.

Use Keyword Planner

Use Google’s Keyword Planner to your advantage. This tool can help you do the keyword research that will be the first step to making informed SEO decisions. You want your site to use keywords in strategic ways so that Google will deem your website relevant when a user types out those same keywords in a Google search. But in order to select strategic keywords for your property, you need to know what people are searching for. That’s exactly what Keyword Planner tells you.

There are also popular tools like Semrush with similar functionality, but Google Keyword Planner has the advantage of being free to use, so it’s a great place to start.

screenshot of Google Keyword Planner

How To Use Keyword Planner for Apartment Marketing

When you’re using Keyword Planner, start by typing in the search terms people might use when looking for an apartment in your area⁠—your common sense is your best friend here. The tool will then return suggested keywords similar to what you entered, showing the search volume and competitiveness for the suggested keywords. You’ll want to target the least competitive keywords with the highest search volume. This is the quickest way to see more organic traffic. 

However, be mindful of user intent when you’re choosing the keywords to target. Just because a keyword offers what looks like a particularly juicy opportunity doesn’t mean that users will actually click on your website in search results. Your website also has to be genuinely relevant to what they’re looking for. For example, it might seem tempting to attempt to rank for “apartmentfinder” but users typing in this search term will typically be looking for the website ApartmentFinder, which is bound to claim the first spot in Google results. Once they’ve made their search, there’s extremely little chance of them going on to click on your website, even if it claims the second position in the search results.

Always Leverage Local Keywords for Apartment SEO

You may have heard that local searches are more important than ever, and this is particularly true for real estate marketing. After all, location is one of the most important factors in a prospect’s housing decision.

For this reason, you should always include hyper-local keywords in your SEO strategy. Keywords like “apartments in [city],” “[city] apartments,” “[district] apartments” or “apartments in [zip code]” are usually great places to start. Sometimes, a keyword that mentions a particular landmark, employer, or school district can also earn high search traffic.

While you’re at it, it’s also a great idea to put your property’s street address and contact info on the footer of every page of your website and make sure that your address and contact info is also on your property’s Google My Business page. This helps your website capture more local traffic by letting Google know exactly where you are.

When In Doubt, Learn From Competitors

You can also use Keyword Planner to see what keywords a competitor’s site is ranking for. If you’re like most apartment communities, you probably have a competitor just down the street with comparable amenities and solid SEO. While you might be frustrated knowing you’re losing business to them just because they show up higher in search results, they are also the perfect example to learn from. Put their website domain name into the Keyword Planner and see what comes up. Remember to go after the keywords with higher search volume but lower competitiveness scores⁠—this could help you beat out your competitors and see lots more organic traffic.

Google Keyword Planner competitor research

Place Keywords in High-Impact Areas of Your Site

Now that you know what keywords you want to target, it’s time to put them all over your site. But there are areas of your site that will offer higher impact than others, so before you go slapping keywords throughout your site, take a second to plan things out.

When Google indexes a site for search, it pays particularly close attention to page titles, headers, and alt text on images to determine what your page is about. When you can, incorporating keywords in these areas can have a higher impact on your ranking than putting them in the body copy. That’s not to say you shouldn’t put them in body copy too, just don’t neglect the sections of your site that offer the highest SEO impact.

Add a Blog to Your Apartment Website

Adding a blog to your apartment website is one of the easiest ways to expand your SEO opportunities. That’s because the more words and the more pages your website contains, the more space there is to incorporate those keywords. 

Including keywords in your page titles and headers is great, but these areas represent precious little real estate on your website. To provide more opportunities to enhance your SEO, you need more space to incorporate keywords. But nobody likes a cluttered homepage and absolutely no one wants to sift through a bunch of paragraph copy while they’re just looking for a list of amenities.

That’s why adding a blog is a great way to have your cake and eat it too. You can preserve the streamlined usability of your main site while still incorporating plenty of copy where you can drop in those keywords without seeming spammy. Try writing a post about the top restaurants near your apartments or the best ways to keep your in-unit laundry machines running smoothly. You’ll find it easy to drop local keywords into this kind of content, plus your residents and prospects can genuinely benefit from the information.

Posting fresh content to your blog consistently also makes Google’s algorithm happy and makes your site more likely to rank highly in search results. That’s because it prioritizes fresh content to ensure it’s providing up-to-date and hyper-relevant results for its users.

Add Video to your Apartment Website

Google’s algorithm likes websites with content that sees high engagement. That’s why it tends to favor websites that include video as part of their user experience.

Video offers the opportunity to communicate a lot in a short amount of time and users love that. A user is a lot more likely to watch a 1-minute video than to read through your paragraph about all your top amenities. Since Google’s mission is to connect users to content they’ll find valuable, it tries to deliver sites that offer great UX, and video is just part of that equation, but a powerful one.

Wondering how you can incorporate video on your website? A virtual tour is the perfect place to start. An impressive fly-over video that acts as the hero image for your homepage might also be a great option. 

Whatever video assets you implement on your site, always ensure that they have a full description and meta data included. This is necessary to tell Google what the video is so it can index it properly.

Improve Your Mobile Experience

Most apartment websites are built first for desktop, then optimized for mobile, which is a fine strategy. But with more than half of all internet traffic now coming from mobile devices, it’s essential that you don’t skip that second step. It’s bad UX, and Google will fault you for it.

Having a responsive site⁠—i.e. one that looks great on a variety of screen sizes, including mobile⁠—will not only make users happier (which leads to more conversions), it will also help you rank more highly in Google’s search results by showing Google that your site can provide a great experience. While ensuring your site design is optimized for mobile, it’s also important that you minimize load times for your site. A slow-loading website will result in high bounce rates—especially for mobile users—which hurts your SEO rankings.
student apartment mobile-friendly website

Off-Page SEO for Apartment Marketing

Off-page SEO refers to the ways in which content elsewhere on the internet (i.e. not on your site) can impact your website’s Google search rankings. While you have less control over these factors, there are still steps you can take to improve your off-page SEO.

Manage In-Bound Linking

In its effort to deliver relevant and up-to-date search results for its users, Google takes cues from other pages on the internet to determine how credible and how current your site is. Social media pages and reputation management sites are likely to comprise the majority of in-bound links to your site, so this is what Google will pay attention to.

To enhance your off-site SEO, ensure that all these pages list the correct URL for your site so that Google sees these in-bound links and deems your website that much more important. It’s also worth ensuring that these off-site pages are up-to-date with the same phone number, address, office hours, and other information listed on your website. This further demonstrates to Google that your site is credible and current.

Invest in an SEO Audit

If you’re doing all of the above already, or you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, an SEO audit can help you identify what’s contributing to your SEO woes. There are lots of SEO experts out there who can help, and we’re one of them. Our SEO services range from a simple SEO audit to full-service SEO overhauls and SEO blog writing. If you’re interested, you can learn more by viewing our SEO product slick or chatting with a team member today.

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