Google Ads: Housing Advertising Changes You Need To Know

September 09, 2020

Google Ads recently updated its policy to prohibit advertisers that place ads for employment, housing, or credit services from targeting or excluding ads “based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code.” These changes will take effect on October 19th, 2020.

What's Going Away in Google Ads Targeting for Housing 

Unlike some other ad platforms, Google Ads has never given advertisers the option to target based on race, nationality, religion, or disability. Google Ads did, however, allow ad targeting based on sex/gender, age, zip code, and familial status. The following are going away as targeting options in October:

Gender Targeting:  Women play an outsized role in homebuying decisions. Targeting a female skewed audience is no longer an option in Google Ads for housing. The Blue Sky Marketing team agrees that this impact will mostly be felt in Community Event marketing where Display Ads are utilized. However, Google's responsive display ad programs are AI-focused so this impact will be marginal.  

Age Targeting: Age targeting will no longer be allowed in Google Ads campaigns for housing. The impact here is mainly felt in Active Adult 55+ marketing where Age-Targeting or Age-Restriction is part of the marketing. For some builders or developers who focus on life stage like First Time Homebuyers, this will have an effect so your agency needs to understand this restriction. To circumvent this, our Google Ads team has historically used match lists (IDFA or hashed data targeted lists) so we have an effective plan in place, do you? 

Zip Code Targeting: While ZIP code targeting is not explicitly prohibited per FHA guidelines, it can easily be used to target other categories indirectly, such as race or ethnicity, because some zip codes are highly segregated. It’s for this reason that Google Ads is eliminating this option, as Facebook did in 2019. We can continue to target based on a radius so identifying your best conversion zones and building campaigns targeting those areas will be critical. 

Parental Status: Although parental status is being removed, Google is continuing with Life Events which approximates this category for all intents. Parental Status was not a key indicator for results previously so we do not predict a huge impact here. 

In Good News on Targeting 

We will continue to target based on: 

  1. Radius targeting around locations down to a 1-mile radius 

  2. Household Income

  3. Homeownership Status

  4. Education and Employment

  5. Customer Match and Remarketing

  6. Life Events

  7. In-Market Audiences (Home sales or rental seekers) remain

  8. Contextual Targeting

  9. Smart Bidding is not impacted (except demographic)  

One key difference between Facebook’s and Google’s policy is that Google is NOT eliminating Household Income (HHI) targeting. Because HHI uses location-based data as a determining indicator, advertisers who effectively use HHI will be less impacted by the removal of ZIP code targeting.

What Does This Mean For You?


While the elimination of age and other demographic data points may seem alarming, due to the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the impact should be minimal as long as you or your agency are correctly leveraging Google’s AI and machine learning capabilities.

Google uses AI and machine learning to optimize campaigns with technology called “signals.” Every Google search performed has an identifying signal attached to it, just like a digital footprint. Some of these signals include age, location, gender, etc.

Because of these signals, if your Google Ads campaigns have a solid foundation and follow best practices, they will not target individuals who are unlikely to convert based on their historical data. Google Ads’ Smart Bidding ensures this by automatically bidding lower on certain users.

For example, if you are a custom home builder with prices in the $800s, the 18-24 age range will not convert into leads. After it completes a learning period of around 7 days, Google will simply stop bidding on those individuals.

On the other hand, Google knows that if advertisers stop seeing results due to this change, they will stop spending money — which Google will not risk, given that advertising is 71% of its revenue. Google might not allow you to explicitly target certain segments via the Google Ads, but its AI and machine learning will continue to use all available data points to achieve the best results possible for its advertisers so that they continue to spend. 


While these targeting options might seem like a significant loss for advertisers in housing, keep in mind what makes Google Ads unique from other platforms — keywords. What makes Google Paid Search such an effective digital marketing channel is that the phrases that people search on Google are highly accurate indicators of intent.

If someone searches “master-planned communities,” their age doesn’t really matter. Most will be of the age where they are actively searching for a master-planned community. Of course, there will also be a few younger individuals searching for their parents who we also want to reach. There simply aren’t that many teens searching “master-planned communities.” 

Having trouble navigating Google Ads?
Blue Sky Marketing can help. Contact us!


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