Editor’s note: Now that real estate brokers are spending more money on online marketing and advertising to drum up new business, they want to know — in a very detailed way — how much bang they’re getting for their buck. In this three-part series, we examine a few technologies offering insight into return on investment.

Editor’s note: Now that real estate brokers are spending more money on online marketing and advertising to drum up new business, they want to know — in a very detailed way — how much bang they’re getting for their buck. In this three-part series, we examine a few technologies offering insight into return on investment. (See Part 1: Brokers get inside track on Web lead investments and Part 3: Targeting the newspaper real estate ad.)

Slapping a Web site on the Internet and loading it with property listings and rich content that will keep people coming back is only part of the battle. More real estate brokers and agents want to track these investments, and figure out what lead sources and Web content are worth the money.

That’s the core thinking behind a new company VisiStat, a Web analytics service that’s geared toward real estate and small and medium-sized businesses.

More real estate advertising dollars are expected to migrate online in the coming years, with 34 percent of all annual real estate ad spend expected to be on the Internet by 2009, according to Borrell Associates. As brokerage companies decide where to put their marketing dollars, discovering what’s working and what’s just eating money is critical.

Web analytics services such as VisiStat can help brokerage companies track user activity on their sites, figure out where users are coming from on the Web, where those users are geographically and which sources of leads net the most sales.

They also can help determine what site content holds visitors attention.

Tina Bean, sales and marketing director for VisiStat, said site analytics can help Realtors gain home seller clients because it gives them raw numbers to show how much exposure their home will get on the company’s Web site, among other things.

Bean, who’s also worked as a Realtor for Alain Pinel Realtors in Silicon Valley, Calif., has used VisiStat’s site reports with her clients. “Sellers love numbers,” she said.

Bean also noted that return-on-investment becomes even more critical when the housing market slows. “If the market slows, commissions get to be more scarce. We’ve got to be smarter about how we spend our money,” she said. Industry professionals need to know they’re getting site traffic from the places they’re spending money, she added.

“Without this, marketing in general is just a toss at the dartboard.”

Analytics services have been around for some time, but VisiStat distinguishes itself by combining in-depth reports in a simple-to-understand format. It also tracks Web site activity in real time and offers its services at a price point that small companies and individual real estate agents can afford.

The VisiStat service costs $14.95 per month for Web sites that get less than 25,000 page views, according to Bean, and an extra $1 per additional 1,000 page views. Additional pricing options include paying $34.95 quarterly or a one-time annual cost of $119.95. Sites that get more than 100,000 page views per month are eligible for discounted pricing.

For an extra $4.95 per month, VisiStat will alert the Web site owner or operator’s cell phone if the site goes down.

Upon logging into VisiStat, the site first takes users to the launch pad, which gives a rolling week-at-a-glance of page views. The feature also can show monthly and annual page view reports with the click of a button.

Another VisiStat feature delves a little deeper into page views, showing which pages of the site were visited most often. And by clicking on an individual page, users can see exactly how many views that page received on particular days.

The page view function also can perform a live analysis so that brokers can see in real time what pages site visitors are currentlyviewing. To target an individual visitor, brokers can click on the “Detail” icon to view that person’s click path throughout the site.

A separate unique visitors report displays the data according to visitors rather than views, by day for the span of one week. Or users can look at a combined report of page views and visitors over the course of a week.

Page view and visitor reports can be saved from the Web to an Excel spreadsheet for printing and off-line review.

Another useful function for real estate professionals is VisiStat’s “referral links” reports, which tracks the Web addresses that direct traffic to the Web site. These referral addresses can be search engine results, banner or text ads on other Web pages.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Intero Real Estate has been using VisiStat to track its Web trends for about eight months, according to Derek Overbey, director of marketing. Intero uses the referral links reports to track the effectiveness of banner ads it has on various Web sites, rather than rely on that site’s statistics on what kind of traffic they’re pushing out, he said.

“You can really start to see an ROI on Web marketing,” Overbey said. “When you can see it in real time, you can say ‘this is not really working.'”

VisiStat has a separate report that tracks keywords used on major search engines to search for the company’s site pages, enabling brokers and agents to refine their search terms and giving them trackable indications of what search engines are ranking the site.

Overbey said this function is useful in managing the company’s search marketing because it gives instant feedback on what keywords and phrases are bringing clicks to the site and the company can react by putting more dollars into those keywords.

“It’s all real time, so I could test out a program we were using on Yahoo! and within a few days I could tell what was working,” Overbey said.

Another function Overbey noted as being useful for a real estate company is the ability to track where site users are located. For example, he discovered the company had some people in Virginia and New Jersey looking at its Web site. That may be useful information when it comes time to decide where to open the next brokerage office, he said.

VisiStat also was designed with the end-user in mind, so it doesn’t take an IT professional to set it up and track results. Initial set-up involves copying and pasting javascript into the HTML of the Web site, Bean said.

The company has partnered with Pullan Communications, a real estate Web site provider that will incorporate VisiStat into its Realtor Web sites, according to Bean.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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