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101 Got a Quality Paid Search Program? - Phillip Mejia

This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Phillip Mejia of Blue Tangerine joins Greg and Kevin to discuss the basics of paid search and why it should be an important part of every home builder’s digital toolbox.

Phillip begins by explaining what paid search is. He says, “So, you're actually paying to drive traffic to your site and paid search could be a combination of keywords that you're purchasing, audiences that you're purchasing, or placements, places where you're actually putting your ads, but it's basically you paying to be in a specific position or for a specific word.”

Phillip explains that paid search is an essential part of every home builder’s digital marketing strategy, “I think paid search is a huge component of the digital marketers' toolbox for home builders because what you're doing right now is with paid search, you're able to drive traffic to your website with that client's device. So, mobile devices, they're like the new digital billboard. Previously, say, for instance, home builders might put a billboard up near their communities to help make people aware of this new community. Now, you put it on their phone and that phone is with them everywhere they go. So, it's a huge part of digital marketers' toolbox. Again, because you want to be where people are, and people are always on their phone.”

Paid search is constantly evolving, so Phillip recommends hiring an experienced agency. He says, “I hate to say that, but unless you have someone that's experienced, you know, in this paid media portion, it could get away from you pretty quickly. You really need to have a number of alerts set up to make sure you're watching things. You've got to have caps on certain things. Otherwise, things can get away from you pretty quickly. Getting an agency involved is always very helpful to ensure that you're meeting the metrics and whatever goals that you have.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn how developing a quality paid search program can enhance your home builder digital marketing strategy.

About the Guest:

Phillip Mejia is an Ecommerce & Search Engine Marketing professional with 20 years of agency marketing experience. Phillip manages teams of paid search and SEO experts working with small to medium-sized companies in a variety of markets, ranging from B2B, home décor, apparel, and home builders. Whether it's lead generation or Ecommerce sales, Phillip understands the of value a qualified visitor to your website.


Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello, everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,

Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.

Greg Bray: We're excited today to welcome to the show Phillip Mejia, the Director of Marketing Services from Blue Tangerine. Welcome, Phillip. Thanks for joining us.

Phillip Mejia: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Greg Bray: Well, Phillip, I know that probably everybody doesn't know you yet. So, why don't you just give us that quick introduction and help us get to know you a little better.

Phillip Mejia: Sure. As you mentioned, I'm the Director of Marketing Services, which encompasses both [00:01:00] SEO and paid search.

A little bit about my background. I grew up in Silicon Valley, worked for a number of high tech companies, including Borland, Symantec, and Apple Computers. When I first started working, I worked company called the Telephone Auction. It was the prelude to Home Shopping Networks, and that was kind of like my first introduction to advertising on television and trying to get sales to come through and things like that, but it's what helped to build up my overall background in terms of selling to various audiences.

Getting back a little bit into some of my background and history. Apple Computers was one of my first introductions to online marketing. I worked at the Apple Store. I originally started there as a trainer and then migrated or moved up into the Apple Store Marketing Specialist, and what I did there was trying to get third-party products added to the Apple Store, working with the different [00:02:00] vendors at the time. Then, subsequently, I got moved into becoming the outbound sales manager for Europe for Apple, and suddenly, I took on a whole new role of understanding customer's needs and wants as it pertained to them looking to purchase these products.

So, that's kind of a little bit of background on where my history is. Since then, early two thousands, I started back in the US and started working for a couple of different web developers. Then, again, got my taste of all of these catalogers that were out there and them trying to create websites and started to learn more about that whole part of marketing and how to drive traffic and what makes a good website and how do you get people interested in visiting them.

Kevin Weitzel: Out of my paralyzing fear that today's episode might get a little nerdy on me, could you just pinch into a little bit of the personal life of Phillip? Like, do you ride a unicycle? What can we [00:03:00] learn about you today?

Phillip Mejia: One of the interesting things that I enjoy doing is fostering beagles. I work with the Colorado Beagle Rescue here, and so from time to time, we'll foster. Although, we've had two foster failures in the past where we ended up keeping them, but that's one of the big things I like to do...

Greg Bray: Is that considered a failure when you keep the dog?

Phillip Mejia: Well, the idea is you're supposed to like take care of them until someone else is interested in adopting them, and yeah, I've failed twice at that. The personalities of those dogs are just incredible.

Greg Bray: Now, Phillip, you're into biking though, too. Aren't you? If I recall.

Phillip Mejia: I do. I do.

Greg Bray: Okay, cause Kevin's big into biking, so I just wanna make sure you guys connect on that here before we get too far.

Phillip Mejia: Yeah. Love to bike. Love to run. I'm trying to get better at swimming. I did, a couple of years ago, my first triathlon light. Haven't gone back yet to do another one, but it was definitely an experience. So, I try to get out as much as possible and Colorado affords that to me.

Kevin Weitzel: So, are you camp Shimano [00:04:00] or SRAM? There is a correct answer, by the way.

Phillip Mejia: I don't have a preference.

Kevin Weitzel: We'll be cutting that.

Greg Bray: All right. Well, Phillip, we appreciate getting to know you a little better. Tell us more, specifically though, digital marketing. You talked about working on websites and some of those things, but how'd you get into more of the digital marketing activities and things that you're doing today.

Phillip Mejia: So, again, once I got back to the US and started working with a cataloger, we started to take a look at how do we drive traffic? What was the big levers to get people in? Around that time, Google was just starting out with their paid search. I think Yahoo was already into it, but that's what got me into the digital marketing once I left Apple. What I really enjoyed about it was how quickly you could see something happening. You launched keywords and right away, you could see if that traffic was starting to come through your site, if that was matching some of the people that were [00:05:00] searching. I absolutely loved seeing that kind of response pretty quickly and ever since then, I've just continued down that path and stayed within paid search, working for different agencies.

Kevin Weitzel: Now, Blue Tangerine is more heavily vested in the home building industry. Obviously, you guys service some other industries, as well, but do you find that you coming from outside of the home building industry, you're bringing an additional talent to the table?

Phillip Mejia: You know, if you asked me that question a couple of years ago, I probably would have said, no, not really, but now they've been in this for the last couple of years, the one thing I have been noticing more and more is how closely related selling homes online is to just regular Ecommerce. They are becoming so much more entwined. I mean, the way that home builders now are starting to create promotions for online things, very much what Ecommerce has been doing for quite some time.

Now, my old skills in Ecommerce are really [00:06:00] starting to come back because, again, you really have to optimize for those people's interest in what they're looking to do. So, yeah, I think my Ecommerce background is really going to help out and it has been helping out quite a bit.

Greg Bray: So, Phillip, you used the phrase paid search just a moment ago and that's what we want to talk about today, but for those who may not be familiar with that particular term, can you just give us that simple introduction of what we're talking about when we use that phrase paid search?

Phillip Mejia: Absolutely. So, you're actually paying to drive traffic to your site and paid search could be a combination of keywords that you're purchasing, audiences that you're purchasing, or placements, places where you're actually putting your ads, but it's basically you paying to be in a specific position or for a specific word.

Greg Bray: So, then, where does that in the big picture fit into that digital marketing toolbox, if you will? Is it, just a side thing, is that the only thing? Where does it kind of fit on the strategic [00:07:00] scale, I guess, if you will?

Phillip Mejia: I think paid search is a huge component of the digital marketers toolbox for home builders, because what you're doing right now is with paid search, you're able to drive traffic to your website with that client's device. So, mobile devices, they're like the new digital billboard. Previously, say for instance, home builders might put a billboard up near their communities to help make people aware of this new community. Now, you put it on their phone and that phone is with them everywhere they go. So, it's a huge part of digital marketers' toolbox. Again, because you want to be where people are and people are always on their phone.

Greg Bray: So, let's dive in a little deeper then, what do you mean put a billboard on my phone? I'm not sure everybody's processing what you mean by put a billboard on the phone, so take it a little deeper.

Phillip Mejia: So, billboard is what? Big old advertisement, and so what you're [00:08:00] doing is you're taking that billboard advertisement and you're placing it on the phone. So, as a person is on their phone, now you have the ability to place these ads on apps that they may be using on their phone, their email that they're using on their phone, the websites that they go to. You can have ads follow them around. So you really have them locked in because of the device that they're using.

The nice thing about it now, is the way that technology has improved, you're able to follow them around on multiple devices. So, if they take that mobile device home, you can still advertise to them on their desktop device, and as they're traveling outside, again, you can continue to follow them around in all of those areas with ads.

Greg Bray: So, then where does the whole idea of keywords fit into paid search? You mentioned keywords. I know it's a key part of it all. Can I say that, keywords are a key part? That just sounds funny, but okay. So, keywords are a critical part of what we're talking about [00:09:00] here, but help us understand where that fits and what we mean by that.

Phillip Mejia: So, when somebody is going to first start their research on wanting to buy a house, they will turn usually to the computer. Once they get to the computer, if they know of a location they want to go to, they may go to that place directly, but most people start with, okay, this is what I'm interested in. It might be new homes near me. Once they start that search, that's where we come into play because we will bid on that search term, and when someone types that in, we're hoping to get our ads to return and show up for that particular search query.

Greg Bray: You used the phrase, new homes near me. How is that different than actually putting in a city name, like new homes in Atlanta or new homes in Denver or something like that?

Kevin Weitzel: It's a little bit more of casting a wide net. So, you may have somebody that could be between a couple of larger [00:10:00] cities or smaller locations and things like that. You're not interested in making a big move, and by typing that in it'll return different areas that do have new homes near you. If you're looking to move to a very specific location, you're going to type in that particular location to get those items returned. You know, you want to stuff your keywords with a lot of variations. Ideally, you want to have something a little bit broad, but you also want to have a lot of very specific ones, so you're catching all of the different types of searches that people are making.

Greg Bray: What is the process then, for finding those keywords and figuring out which ones matter and which ones don't?

Phillip Mejia: A couple of different ways to find those keywords. The first primary way is to look at the website. What is the website trying to promote and what are they saying? The reason why you want to do that is Google's going to look at your website and also look at the keywords that you're actively looking to [00:11:00] bid on. If the keywords are very closely matched, you get a very good quality score for that, and your bids are a little bit lower. Google says, hey, you are doing the right thing. You're going after keywords that are very related to what your website is. If I were saying, hey, I'm looking for new homes in California, but all of your communities are in Georgia, you're going to drive traffic to your website that isn't going to be very qualified. So, you really want to be very specific and look at what it is that your website is all about and be very much in line with those particular terms.

Google also does a great job of saying, hey, this is what we've seen on your website and these are recommendations that we're making to suggest to you that you should be bidding on these keywords, because this is what we see your website as. So, you put in what you think you are. Google says, hey, this is what we think you are, and that's where you want optimize and make [00:12:00] sure that you guys are speaking the same language at that point.

Greg Bray: So, why wouldn't I just want to put every keyword I could think of into all of that process cause I want traffic, I want to show up everywhere and everything, so why shouldn't I put all kinds of keywords into my campaigns?

Phillip Mejia: Well, a couple of different things. One, you want to be conscious of the cost and what your budget is and what you're going after. The other thing is you really want to try and qualify the traffic that's coming to your website. If the terms you're going after very generic, most likely you're going to bring a generic visitor to your website, but if your terms are more specific about what it is you're trying to sell or accomplish, then the people who are doing those searches and clicking on your ads and getting to your website are going to be much better qualified.

Kevin Weitzel: Can I ask you a question? Do variations of words matter? I don't know why I asked permission to ask you a question. That's what my job is, to ask you, but Phillip I'm going to ask you a question. [00:13:00] Do variations of words matter?

Phillip Mejia: They do. They do. That's a very interesting question because in many cases Google has become smarter about different variations and returns those on their own for us, but again, depending on what it is that we want, we may want to go after those variations ourselves, just so that we can ensure that we're capturing that traffic. So, I definitely would put in the variations that you're looking for. Google, like I said, has developed a very good algorithm that understands what could have a secondary meaning or a variation of a specific term. So, that is something that does already happen, but yeah, I would still bid on those variations just to make sure you're capturing all of the traffic that you want.

Greg Bray: You said the word bid, Phillip, help us out. What do you mean by bid on those keywords? Because we were talking about researching keywords, now you're talking about bidding on keywords, so what do you mean by that?

Phillip Mejia: So, in terms of bidding, [00:14:00] whenever you are paying for a keyword, Google sets up an auction and says, hey, anybody who wants to bid on this particular keyword. In order to get into the auction we're requiring a minimum bid of 50 cents. So, everyone says, okay, I'm willing to pay 50 cents to get in there. Once you do that, Google starts this auction, and somebody else might say, hey, I'm willing to bid 55 cents for that keyword. As you're all in there, whoever has the highest bid potentially will get the better position. There are a lot of other nuances that go into whether or not you're going to get top position, but bid is definitely one of them. It's that pay to play. If you're not having a high enough bid, your ads may not show up high enough or actually get into the auction.

Greg Bray: And just to clarify, when you say 50 cents, you're talking like per click on your ad, when you talk about that.

Phillip Mejia: That is correct. Per click.

Greg Bray: So, then, how does somebody go about managing a budget? When you're doing this [00:15:00] bid on a per click type basis, you don't know who else is bidding, so you don't know exactly what your clicks going to cost you. You don't know how many times your ads going to show, so you don't necessarily know how many clicks you're going to get. How do you begin to even manage a budget towards something like this and just not have it be totally open-ended.

Phillip Mejia: So, you have to put in guardrails cause you can have an open budget and just throw all kinds of money at it, but the research that you do for the keywords that you're developing, Google will give you an idea as to what that particular bid amount will be, and you can decide whether or not you want to actively participate in that particular bid. You can also say, hey, I'm not willing to do quite a high as a bid as that, and you can still enter the auction. You just won't have the same positioning as if you did that higher bid. So, with those recommended bids, you can put together a budget based off of [00:16:00] the keywords that you're looking to bid on. Once you have that established and you can start to see some of that traffic come through, Google reevaluates who you are, what you're doing. As it identifies you as doing a very good job with the keywords, the landing page, and the ads, then it may actually help reduce your overall cost per click and allow your budget to go further than what you had initially thought with the initial bids that you had set.

Greg Bray: You mentioned 50 cents in your example. What's like a crazy expensive keyword bid you've ever seen?

Phillip Mejia: So, the bids that I see that have the highest amount generally have to do with anything related to the lawyer niche market. I can't remember what the term was. It's a cancer causing agent and a lot of lawyers will go after this. I think it was something like a $175, and this is a term that people were [00:17:00] going after with a class action lawsuits. Mesothelioma is the term.

Greg Bray: People are bidding $175 per click on a word that I can't pronounce.

Phillip Mejia: Yeah, there's lot of class action lawsuits for people who have developed mesothelioma due to working with specific products. It's a cancer causing agent and lawyers are looking for anybody who had been diagnosed or had been exposed to this type of thing. It's expensive because well, lawyers are making a lot of money off of it. So, there are terms that are out there that are that expensive. For home builders stuff right now, we're in a position where we're starting to see some of those CPC rates increase, but it hasn't gotten anywhere near the prices of $175 a click. Those are just outrageous.

Greg Bray: What would you say kind of a standard per click rate is? I'm sure it varies dramatically by area and things but what's an expectation though that [00:18:00] somebody who's not familiar with it could have?

Phillip Mejia: I would expect anybody just to see something like about a$1.50 a click.

Greg Bray: That's a little different than $175. Just saying.

Phillip Mejia: It is. It is. Again, depending on the product. If it's a very expensive product, Google kind of takes a look at that and says, okay, well we can charge a little more because we think they're going to make some money off that. Depending on the niche market, you may see certain terms be more expensive than others. You have that opportunity to improve your website, to really focus on the terms that you're going after. When Google sees the matches between what you're bidding on and what your website does, it gives you a little bit of a savings on that CPC rate, that cost per click rate.

Kevin Weitzel: Google obviously is the big search engine. I don't even know the percentage of people use it, but you probably know, but do you know Phillip?

Phillip Mejia: Gosh, it's been changing quite a bit. A few years ago, it was an 80/20 split. I want to say it's closer to [00:19:00] probably a 90/10 now.

Kevin Weitzel: Okay. That's a pretty big split. So...

Phillip Mejia: Yeah.

Kevin Weitzel: Would a home builder want to look at other avenues for their marketing spend for search engine optimization search, for their search spend, would they want to look at like Bing and some of the other, is Bing even still relevant? I don't know, but would they want to look at any of these other platforms, these search engines?

Phillip Mejia: Absolutely. You want to brand yourself. You want to put yourself in places where there may be a person looking for your product for your home or your community. I say, yes. You don't have to, you know, have a huge budget, but you should have a presence.

Greg Bray: So, Phillip, when you look at paid search campaigns that builders have put out there, not something that you set up, but you're brought in to kind of review something or see what could be done better, what are some of the things that you look at and where do you find some of the common mistakes when you're analyzing these campaign setups?

Phillip Mejia: Yeah. So, the first thing I always look at is [00:20:00] the location targeting. A lot of times home builders say, I want people to see my communities, and so they might go out to the full US or to the full state, and they're wondering why their budget is being eaten up so quickly. They say, I only have a few key words, my budget doesn't last very long. That's because those few keyboards are going to the US. So, you really want to be very specific about your targeting and then manage it from there. So, that's the first thing I always look at.

The second thing I look at is the keywords that they're bidding on. Again, if you're bidding on a keyword, be sure that it is targeted properly and it makes sense coming back to your website. Sometimes we get people that just type in the word homes or new homes or any type of home-related term. Well, there's a lot of negatives that go along with that. Foreclosure is a big one. Rental is another. I'll always go in [00:21:00] and take a look, do they have negatives that are taking out traffic that they don't want to see? That's definitely another piece.

Then, finally, I'm always looking at the tracking because if you can't report on the behavior or what's happening with your account, it's difficult to manage. A lot of times there's some broken pieces. Like you might have some information that you can see in your Google Ads account where you're advertising from, and maybe that connection is not made properly into your analytics, and so some of the data may not make it all the way through. So, when you're looking at analytics you're not looking at a full picture, you might be looking at just a piece of it, and may not lead you to the right decision.

Greg Bray: So, when you talk about that tracking piece, Phil ip, what are the key metrics that we need to be sure are included or that we're looking at regularly to decide if it's working or not?

Phillip Mejia: Well, there's a quite a bit. I could launch into a lot of different things right now, but I'm going to try and keep this very specific. So, for us, when [00:22:00] we're looking at performance of some of our paid campaigns, I'm going to give you like the major metrics, so impressions, clicks, clickthrough rate, , cost, average CPC, and conversion rate. Those are the big things that we look at. Impressions, how many times your ad is being shown. If your ad isn't being shown enough, you're not going to drive enough traffic. Clicks and clickthrough rate means, if your ad is being seen and people are clicking on it, then we know that it's resonating with people. So, that clickthrough rate is going to be important. If you have a low clickthrough rate, your ads, aren't resonating. You need to change up that particular piece, and then as you continue down that path, once you've got a good click through rate and people are downloading directions, looking at floor plans, filling out contact forms, then you're starting to see your conversion rate improve. Once you see those start to improve, then you know you've got a very good [00:23:00] campaign and you're driving qualified traffic to your website, but those are the things that I always look at to see are those in line. Can I do something to improve that number?

Greg Bray: So Phillip, it sounds like there's a lot of moving parts. Just listening to all the different metrics you're talking about, it almost seems a little overwhelming. If somebody's just getting started, how do they kind of get into this and make sure that they do it well without wasting a lot of money and energy?

Phillip Mejia: Hire an agency. I hate to say that, but unless you have someone that's experienced, you know, in this paid media portion, it could get away from you pretty quickly. You really need to have a number of alerts set up to make sure you're watching things. You've got to have caps on certain things. Otherwise, things can get away from you pretty quickly. Getting an agency involved is always very helpful to ensure that you're meeting the metrics and whatever goals that you have.

Kevin Weitzel: Let me get this straight. You're telling me [00:24:00] if I'm Builder X and I've got my nephew, Billy, that just graduated out of high school and he needs a summer job to work on, I shouldn't just set him loose on this? I should actually hire a professional that knows what they're doing?

Phillip Mejia: Billy might have some really good internet search skills, so I don't know that I would throw him out completely, but I would definitely think that you'd want to have somebody with some experience in the area because there are a lot of moving pieces. Since I first started in paid search, what you have to do today versus what I had to do 10, 15 years ago is the difference between night and day. It is just so many more moving parts, so many variations of different types of ads, so many different types of audiences now that you can go after. We have to regularly go in and recertify ourselves in paid search because it changes so often.

Greg Bray: So, Phillip, what are some of the places that [00:25:00] you go to get, you know, the latest and greatest information and to keep up to date, what are some of those resources?

Phillip Mejia: No surprise. I do listen to a lot of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. That is a big thing there.

Kevin Weitzel: I love a shameless plug.

Phillip Mejia: You guys have had a couple of really good people on recently that I really want to talk to personally, but I know that probably won't happen. Boca Group is another one. PPC Town Hall by Optimizer is another one. Obviously, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal. Those are a couple of other areas that I'm always taking a look at. They seem to be very helpful in telling us what's the next upcoming trend or changes that are on the way.

Greg Bray: Well, Phillip, we do appreciate you spending some time with us today and giving us just a taste, at least, it sounds like we didn't get very deep into it yet. There's a lot there but a taste of what goes into a quality paid search program. Any last pieces of advice that you'd want to share today that we didn't get a chance to touch on yet?

Phillip Mejia: There were two pieces I really wanted to touch on. I know we [00:26:00] didn't get a chance to, one is store visits and Google signals. I think it's a big piece that home builders really haven't taken advantage of. This all operates within Google. If you have a Google My Business account, a Google Ads account and a Google Analytics account, make sure all three of those pieces are connected. That kind of reporting goes into Google Analytics and it gives you a 360 degree view of that customer's journey.

Store visits will help track people who visited your locations. They may not have clicked on the ad, but Google knows they saw it. They may have gone to your Google My Business to identify directions and then driven to where your homes are, and you may not see any of that in any of the data that you're currently looking at, but Google has figured out a way that says, hey, we're on their mobile device. We know they looked at it and we can see that mobile device getting [00:27:00] close to your community. In fact, we see them walking into that community. That I think is a big piece that a lot of home builders haven't started taking advantage of for sure.

Then, the other one is closing the feedback loop. From my perspective, and my team, when we're working on home builder accounts, the one piece that I think is still missing is getting feedback from that end sales person, or even the online sales counselor. Understanding the leads that they're getting. Is the paid search or organic or even direct traffic, is it driving the quality traffic that they need? What kinds of questions are they getting at that final person that maybe we could have answered further upstream either on the website or through our advertising? Is our advertising resonating with what that salesperson is also doing? Do our ads reflect the tone of the builder and their website? So, I think that's a big piece [00:28:00] that we don't get a lot of that end user feedback from our home builders. We think that's the next piece that, if we can get on a call with people on the floor, that are talking to the people who are trying to buy that house and get feedback from them, I think that'll improve our overall marketing.

Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, thanks, Phillip. We really appreciate you spending time with us today. If people want to reach out, talk more and get to know you better, what's the best way for them to connect?

Phillip Mejia: At my local bar. No. I'm just joking. No, they can reach me directly at phillip.mejia@bluetangerine.com. If you go to the Blue Tangerine website I think I have a picture up there. You can click on me and email me there. Also through LinkedIn.

Greg Bray: Or just stare at the picture, I guess if that's what they want to do.

Phillip Mejia: There you go. There you go.

Greg Bray: All right. Well, thanks, Phillip, and thanks everybody for listening today to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,

Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.

Phillip Mejia: Thanks, you guys.

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