Editor’s note: With some three-quarters of real estate consumers going online to look for property listings, neighborhood information, home buying and selling advice, and tips on how to choose a Realtor, it’s become crucial for real estate businesses to gain a sense of where people are going, what they are looking for, and what kinds of information they are contributing to online forums and review sites. In this three-part series, Inman News looks at various aspects of tracking online real estate trends. (Read Part 1.)
Tim Burroughs, a Boise, Idaho-based Realtor with Keller Williams, recently had to get a price reduction on a listing — not always an easy task for an agent. Burroughs used a Web traffic report from his site to show the seller that while the property had been viewed 350 times in four days online, no one had requested a showing.
That was all it took to convince the seller it was time for a price reduction.
Burroughs, who heads up TimBurroughsGroup.com, was able to pull information from a report generated by the Web-based analytics service VisiStat and translate that information into an offline action that aided in the sale of a home. He’s one of many real estate brokers and agents now paying close attention to the people visiting their Web sites and reacting accordingly.
Some agents have been able to interpret and utilize their site visitor statistics to help with offline business challenges such as getting their sellers to authorize a price reduction or getting them to understand the value in having their home listed on the brokerage’s Web site.
Web analytics services can offer insight to show what’s working to keep visitors on a particular Web site, what is prompting them to take action or what is landing them there in the first place. Savvy real estate marketers know this and use these services to shape and guide their online business strategies.
The services come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from free and simple to costly and elaborate.
Some creative business uses of Web statistics include showing prospective clients the level of exposure a home will get on a particular Web site, figuring out where to open another real estate office based on the level of online interest from a particular geographic location or deciding what content to include in a real estate site.
Among the most important Web stats to track on a real estate site are the site’s referring source, keyword source, unique visitors, page views and site overlay, which shows a site’s hot spots, according to Morgan Carey, president and CEO of Real Estate Webmasters, a real estate Web site design and search-engine-optimization company.
Carey advises on some creative uses for Google Analytics, a free Web analytics program, to gain traffic to an agent’s blog. He suggests letting site traffic guide the topics agents write about in blog posts, and has a four-step plan for how to use an analytics program to do this.
Carey’s plan includes tracking which keyword searches are sending traffic to a blog and then pulling a list of the ones that your blog ranks for but not well enough to send your blog to the top of a Google search results page, for instance.
The list of keywords ultimately becomes a list of blog topics that the blogger knows are getting traffic and that his or her blog is not already ranking high for in search results.
Google Analytics is one of many analytics programs available, but Carey said it’s ideal for individual agents or small offices because it’s free.
It’s important for agents to know where their Web site traffic is coming from, he said, because if agents find that one particular site is sending them a ton of traffic they’ll want to investigate to see why or to thank them for the referrals.
Another free online analytics service, Clicky Web Analytics 2.0, launched in November 2006, and aims to serve smaller Web sites and blogs. The company has about 6,000 registered Web sites, of which about half are blogs, according to Sean Hammons, co-founder and lead programmer.
“We target small traffic sites because they are the most neglected in the analytics world,” Hammons said.
Clicky tracks tidbits of information about every click made by every visitor to a site. Information collected includes the visitor’s IP address, geolocation, Web browser, operating system, URL and page title, date and time, and the referrer such as Google, Yahoo or some other site.
Like Google Analytics and others, the service also identifies the search query a site visitor made at a search engine, which landed them on the site.
Clicky is free for Web sites with fewer than 1,000 page views per day. The company also offers premium service, which costs $14.99 per year, to sites with up to an average of 10,000 page views a day, or for those who want a few added features.
Some of Clicky’s premium service features include the ability to create an RSS feed of certain site stats and also a “Spy” feature that provides a live view of visitors interacting with the site.
But free is not always best when you end up with information that you’re not sure what to do with, say the folks at VisiStat, a Web analytics service designed for small businesses that has a strong real estate customer base.
Tina Bean, director of sales and marketing for VisiStat, periodically pulls information from the analytics program to show real estate businesses how to use the information to win listings or to convince home sellers it’s time for a price reduction.
“There are a lot of free (services) out there, but I don’t see a lot of people being able to take the information and interpret what they’re seeing,” she said. “I spend much of my time walking people through the reports and spotting the nuggets.”
Bean told Inman News she has instructed various VisiStat clients in real estate to print screenshots of search results on Google where they’ve learned their company comes up number one and show them to prospective clients when trying to convince them why their company is a good choice to list their home.
VisiStat’s entry-level package starts at $20 per month for small sites and about $1,000 per month for larger company-wide sites. Bean said that about 70 percent of VisiStat’s customers are in real estate.
The company is gearing up to release a new version in June that will include added features like touch mapping, which builds a graphic overlay of which areas visitors use more than others.
Other new features include the ability to identify specific Web site users, granular keyword analysis, user-level permissions enabling multiple people in one company to log in, an advertising campaign manager, and the ability to track the effectiveness of various search-engine optimization, or SEO, campaigns.
Bean said that thanks to the new enhancements a real estate company could track multiple office Web sites on a single system while allowing certain individuals at each office to login and see stats for their respective sites without revealing access to all sites associated with the company.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hitwise is a Web analytics company that larger brokerage companies use to track and compare their own site traffic to their competitors’.
At The Corcoran Group, a large real estate firm based in New York, Matthew Shadbolt, director of Internet marketing, said he uses Web analytics services like Hitwise, Livestats and others to help define the company’s online marketing and online content strategies.
“We do a lot of analysis in terms of what we discover to be popular on the site,” said Shadbolt, adding that the company looks beyond visitor numbers to analyze time spent per visit and which pages are being viewed. The company considers those factors when deciding to build out things like neighborhood content on the site, he said.
Shadbolt said there are four or five key things he pays attention to, including visitor numbers, page views, time spent per visit, referring domains and average length of visit, among other things.
“The more information I can have, the clearer my picture is of what’s going on,” he said.
The company uses Hitwise to monitor competitors doing similar things, he said.
Hitwise bills itself as an online competitive intelligence service and works with ISP networks to anonymously monitor people’s online behavior. The company reports on hundreds of thousands of Web sites, offering data it considers to be relevant to more than 800,000 online businesses.
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