In today’s saturated real estate market, if you’re not monitoring your real estate digital marketing metrics and using them to make key business decisions, you probably aren’t growing online.
Being a real estate agent just isn’t enough. You also need personality, a great marketing plan, and time – lots of it. You need technology, a website, consistent web listings, and most of all, connections to verify your credibility. And, this is just scratching the surface. Paid advertising starts to become necessary, as does social media, search engine optimization, and blogging…you get the picture.
But, what if we told you none of those items matter, unless their performance is rigorously measured? Would you stop spending money in one area versus another? Would you tailor your marketing strategy differently and adopt a more agile approach? Would you segment your customers and become more niche?
The latent reply to these questions is likely a resounding yes. So in today’s article, we want to prepare you with a short list of top market metrics the team at Ray Gernhart and Associates recommends monitoring often to gain a better understanding of both online performance and customer acquisition.
Geography / demographics
This may be appear to be self-explanatory, but in our experience, many people grapple with understanding the geographical regions from which people are arriving to their website or social media page. Although we use a more robust analytics platform that helps us pinpoint visitors down to the neighborhood, there are free tools out there that will show you website visitors down to the state and city, which helps you measure who is engaging most with your company or brand and their specific location. We recommend using Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to not only aggregate traffic related to geography, but also to understand age, gender, and social interests. Do this right and you’ll have a lucid picture of the market and your immediate target audience / segments.
Direct / referral / organic
When a visitor comes to your site, they do it in one of three ways. By typing in your website address – direct, coming from email or social media – referral, or by searching on Google or Bing (or any other search crawler) and clicking the link that corresponds to your website / page – organic.
Direct traffic is often the result of a potential customer seeing a physical advertisement, business card, or word-of-mouth (physical referral), and typing in your web address. Monitoring your direct traffic sources, at the fundamental level, can provide you with insights regarding direct mail, advertising, and word-of-mouth campaigns and their effectiveness. So be intentional about when you “do” and “do not” do a marketing campaign, and be sure to monitor differences in direct traffic volume quarter over quarter, month over month, week over week.
Referral traffic is often generated by driving people from social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, to your website. This is often done through blogging or promotional marketing. Monitoring and analyzing referral traffic will give you a clear understanding of social media effectiveness, and tell you what type of content folks are enjoying most – and frankly, the ones they aren’t. Knowing this information will give you more insight about your customers and what type of articles and social media posts they want to see most. We suggest monitoring this traffic each week.
Organic traffic is produced by visitors coming to your website after performing a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine. When you monitor organic traffic, you can see what keyword people used to find your page, what search crawler they came from, along with each of your pages rank. Doing this should give you enough information to decide how to improve your search ranking or whether to hire a marketing or public relations consultant to help you. Since crawlers are slow to pick up new pages and website changes, we recommend monitoring and measuring this traffic month over month.
Page views / unique page views
Increasing page views is the primary digital strategy for most companies. Knowing how to monitor this metric will help you build and design a website that people will want to visit again and again. With many leading analytics platforms, visitors are tracked by their unique IP address, so they can be identified when visiting.
Page views refers to the number of times visitors look at all of your pages, no matter if they are a first time visitor or repeat, whereas unique page views refers to the number of individual visitors (counted once). In example: Joe Schmoe visited your website yesterday, he then came back today – page view count would be 2 and unique page views 1.
Monitoring how many people are “returning” vs. “not returning” will give you an idea of how engaging your website and content is. If the visitor is only visiting your site once and not coming back, there is a high probability that this person and others aren’t interested in your content or services enough to come back. Your ratio to page views vs. unique page views in this scenario would be close to 1:1. Contrastingly, if the person (or group of persons) is coming back for more content, you’ll likely see a ratio closer to 2:1 or higher.
If you have a lower ratio, we suggest abandoning “out-of-the-box” real estate website solutions, and spending the extra marketing dollars to hire a professional designer to help you build something unique, fresh, and engaging – ultimately differentiating you from the competition.
According to author Sean Work at KISSmetrics, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. 40% will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. That said, we recommend testing your websites’ speed with tools such as Firebug and YSlow. If your website performance is sluggish, consult with a professional to remedy the problem areas or build a website written in simpler code altogether. On a more granular level, use Google Analytics to aggregate page load times over a sustained duration and monitor which are consistently causing your customers to abandon pages (e.g. high exit percentage, high bounce rate, low time spent on page)
Note: upgrading your hosting plan doesn’t usually do the trick – what slows websites down is generally poor HTML/CSS code or restrictive out-of-the-box real estate software, such as PropertyMinder. Find a marketing or digital professional to look under the digital marketing hood to help ensure you’re getting the most performance for your buck.
Goals / funnels
Say you’ve just designed a new banner image for your homepage gallery, or recently put a photo of a recent property there. You would want to see if the visitor clicks the photo, right? After they click the photo, you want to know if they scroll down to the contact form, yes? And, if they submit the contact form, you want to know exactly where the person came from, correct?
Tracking the goals and funnel path of a visitor can drastically improve the performance of a certain behavior. Knowing if people are choosing to follow the path you’ve set up for them, or not, is a surefire way to nurture or pivot the online user-experience. Maybe you aren’t getting any clicks from the homepage banner, therefore needing to change it immediately to something that will perform better. Alternatively, the image may be performing very well, and you want to keep it up there longer until you start seeing less funnel paths being taken. Whatever your needs, goals and funnels are essential to understanding customer behaviors
If you have any questions about how to improve online performance and customer acquisition through analytics, please leave your questions in the comments below – our marketing consultant Joseph Orr will respond to inquiries up until May 9th, 2014, 5:00 PM.