One of the things I get asked about a lot is the tools I use for web analytics. I suppose it’s sort of like people asking you “How’s the market?” If someone is remotely interested or just trying to make polite conversation they’ll ask me “What do you use for analytics?”

I use a lot of things for web analytics. That’s because it’s a big part of what I do. If you’re an agent with a website and you think you might want to try this whole web analytics thing I don’t think you should use all the same tools I do. If you did, you might not have much time to sell real estate. I’m also going to go out on a limb and consider that you don’t want to pay what I pay for all of my tools either.

Here are three tools that don’t cost anything that are good for web analytics. They are not presented in order. All three are necessary to get a solid look at what’s going on with your web audience.

Google Analytics: A quantitative tool

Quantitative is just a fancy way of saying “it counts things and is concerned mostly with numbers.” Google Analytics has become the de facto tool of choice for two reasons: it’s free (in a world where tools cost tens of thousands per month) and it’s relatively intuitive (in a world where tools require statistics degrees to comprehend).

Google Analytics is going to tell you all about how people get to your website and what they do once they get there. Wondering if anyone is coming to your website and searching for property after you post to Facebook? GA will tell you. Wondering how many times people are looking at the contact page on your website? GA will tell you.

The quantitative analytics tool is a critical piece of figuring out what is and isn’t working with your web stuff. Google Analytics does the job nicely at the right price.

The breakdown:

  • Tool type: Quantitative
  • Installation: Medium (copy/paste javascript into website template)
  • Configuration: Easy-Hard (set-it-and-forget-it on up through very custom tracking)
  • Biggest mistake: Not using the “Goal” configuration capability.
  • What’s not free: Generating ability to go from data to insights about your audience…and then doing something about it.

iPerceptions 4Q: A qualitative tool

Qualitative is just a fancy way of saying “it deals with words, sentiment and stated intent.” The simple way of saying it is “a survey tool.” Gathering qualitative data is just as important as gathering quantitative data. Quantitative tools will tell you what people do on your site. Qualitative tools tell you what people want to do on your site.

4Q by iPerceptions is my favorite of this kind of tool. It’s not easy, sadly. You could, I suppose, do something like it with Survey Monkey. But it wouldn’t be as useful.

4Q is designed for the purpose of helping you answer the following questions: Why do people come to my website? Are they able to do the thing they came to my website to do? Did they like the experience? Do they have any thoughts on what they like or don’t like? Limiting the survey to these four questions (clever name right?) is why I like this tool: it prevents you from asking people 89 questions in your “short” survey.

You can set 4Q to only show up for a percentage of visitors so not everyone gets blasted with your survey.

The breakdown:

  • Tool type: Qualitative
  • Installation: Medium (copy/paste javascript into website template)
  • Configuration: Easy (pick task options and go)
  • Biggest mistake: Treating this like a lead generation form.
  • What’s not free: Generating ability to go from data to insights about your audience…and then doing something about it.

Your brain: A business tool

You probably notice some similarities in the “what’s no free” section of the breakdowns on both of the previous tools. Getting from having some scary reports emailed to you every week to actually making changes to your website is not easy. It’s also not free. It costs you time. And you really can’t outsource all of it.

Taking the time to learn how this stuff works will help you make your business better. Even if you hire someone to “do your web analytics” you’ll want to know enough about your goals (see recent Inman News column) to make that partnership successful.

Also, you don’t want to let the tool reports do your thinking for you. Google Analytics’ gigantic terrifying “Bounce Rate” number on the dashboard is the cause of more than one unnecessary sleepless night for a hapless real estate professional. If you don’t know how the numbers relate to your business then it’s not worth the effort.

Analytics tools are part of “decision support systems.” They don’t make the decisions, they just present some data. Your brain is where the decisions have to happen. Hopefully, those decisions can be based on some data and observations from these three free analytics tools.

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