Larry Satkoski: About Those Ad Word Buys…

by Katie Sloan

Restoration Hardware’s CEO, Gary Friedman, made a startling revelation that should be a warning sign to all property owners and managers bidding for key words on google. He describes a recent meeting with his online marketing team with regards to increasing ad word spending: “We’ve found out that 98 percent of our business was coming from 22 words. So, wait, we’re buying 3,200 words and 98 percent of the business is coming from 22 words. What are the 22 words? And they said, well, it’s the word Restoration Hardware and the 21 ways to spell it wrong, okay?“

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Google would refund advertisers who bought ads on its platform that ran on sites with fake traffic. This is just the tip of the iceberg when one takes into consideration the number of click bots out there costing companies millions by continuously clicking on high dollar words and phrases purchased by uninformed marketing teams. We’ve all learned via declining actual tours and traffic that today’s students are spending the majority of their screen time on mobile applications. Any companies still counting on clicks and website traffic are living in a time warp.

Is the answer what’s known as ‘geo-fencing’? This involves triggering ads to appear on a mobile device when it enters a geographic area. In student housing, this usually involves the few blocks surrounding a certain property. While the technology is interesting, it can be perceived as a little creepy and invasive.  Have you ever intentionally clicked on a random ad that mysteriously pops up on the side of your screen promoting a business within shouting distance?

In advertising, the challenge is to utilize timeless principles in a technologically savvy manner that will reach prospects and influence consumer behavior. Often, marketers assume creating accounts on the latest social networking applications will somehow appeal to current and future prospects.  While this may look ‘cutting edge’, how many students are following your Instagram feed besides the three current residents who are always first in line for a free food giveaway? Word-of-mouth will always be the most powerful determinant of prospect behavior. Positive peer-to-peer publicity cannot be manufactured, it must be earned. Providing a useful, first class service that integrates mobile technology is the surest way to impress current students and reach qualified new prospects:  their friends! And the best part of this strategy is that the acquisition costs plummet when compared to online ad word buying. 

In the case of Uhouzz, of our 7,500 rental inquiries in the month of August, only 705 of those came from the website The other 90.6 percent came through our Uhouzz APP, WeChat and previous customer referrals. I’ll leave you to be the judge as to whether you’d rather your message reach students perusing your app and chatting with friends who have used your service; or automated bots and baby boomers mistakenly clicking on your pop-up ads as they eat pizza down the street from your property! We encourage our competitors to continue spending their time dreaming up magic words to bid on rather than implementing a mobile strategy that reaches students where they are: on their smart phones. 

Larry Satkoski, Business Development Director at Uhouzz Inc., started in the rental business as co-founder of apartment locating service zRent in Chicago. While in LA, he backed into student housing with ACC as the LM/AGM of West 27th Place then spent 2 years with Peak Campus as Senior Leasing Manager of University Gateway, being named LM of the Year 2016 while at Peak.  

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