If the debate over whether agents and brokers should send their listings to real estate portals has largely run its course, the question remains: Which sites should you send listings to? And which sites are worthy of pricey listings "enhancements" such as better placement and content?

Firms such as Hitwise and comScore can provide real estate firms with a wealth of intelligence on traffic to their Web sites — and those of their competitors — and help clients optimize search campaigns.

Editor’s note: In this three-part series, Inman News takes a look at how real estate professionals can use Web analytics tools to optimize their sites, learn more about online visitors, and increase traffic. Click on the following link to read Part 2: "Woopra is in demand," and Part 3: "RE/MAX gets a boost from Google."

If the debate over whether agents and brokers should send their listings to real estate portals has largely run its course, the question remains: Which sites should you send listings to? And which sites are worthy of pricey listings "enhancements" such as better placement and content?

Firms such as Hitwise and comScore can provide real estate firms with a wealth of intelligence on traffic to their Web sites — and those of their competitors — and help clients optimize search campaigns.

But there’s much tech-savvy real estate professionals can undertake on their own to monitor who’s referring traffic to their sites and how it’s coming to them. One of the best-known tools for gathering metrics on your own Web sites is Google Analytics.

Google pitches the application as easy to use for novices, but some competitors say the biggest thing Google Analytics has going for it is that it’s free. Some users find it difficult to implement the application, though, and aren’t sure what to make of what it’s telling them about their site traffic.

At the opposite end of the spectrum there are companies such as Omniture and WebTrends that take care of the grunt work but charge more than some small- and medium-sized companies think they can afford.

In the middle ground are Visistat.com and Woopra — companies that are positioning themselves as inexpensive, easy-to-use and sophisticated Web metrics tools for real estate professionals.

Visistat.com

"So many other players (in Web metrics) get lost in complexities, and don’t understand Realtors’ needs," said Tina Bean, director of sales and marketing for Visistat.com. "I don’t even consider them competition."

Bean is a former Realtor, and real estate professionals are high on the list of users that Visistat.com caters to. In addition to real-time Web analytics, the company offers an "AdCam" advertising campaign manager that allows users to track traffic generated by all ad sources side by side — right down to conversions.

"In real estate, there is often a magic page on your Web site — a ‘Contact me’ or ‘Schedule an appointment’ page — that says this person did what I wanted them to do," Bean said.

AdCam can identify referring Web pages and top-level domains — Realtor.com, for example — generating reports for multiple sites or individual listing pages that show how much attention they are getting and from where.

The application can record the coordinates of clicks on any given page, allowing brokers to see whether users are interested in properties with a certain number of bedrooms or price range.

The ability to get such information in real time is critical when evaluating big ad spends, Bean said.

"Brokers have huge monetary plays on big sites out there — the Trulias, the Realtor.coms," she said. "Whatever they are doing to bring traffic to (their own) Web sites, waiting 30 days, a week or even 12 hours (to see the results) is sometimes too much. You’ve got to stop the bleed."

One large brokerage that uses Visistat.com was spending $5,000 a month for a banner ad on the Web site of a major newspaper, Bean said. The first week the company started using Visistat, they realized the ad wasn’t generating the traffic to justify the expenditure.

But Visistat.com is not just for determining where to allocate precious marketing dollars, Bean said — it can also help agents land and work with prospects.

An agent or broker can show statistics about their site when making listings presentations, for example.

"You can say, look, I’m paying a fortune on Realtor.com and it’s paying off" in site traffic, Bean said.

Visistat.com enables brokers to say, "This is how hard I work to get to the top of search engines, and be able to prove that," she said. "They can challenge (clients) to find another Realtor who can quantify and measure their traffic. It gives them the edge. They need to be able to not only speak to their clients about the presence they have on the Internet, but show them."

The ability to run Web analytics reports on an individual listing might also help an agent build a case for a price reduction, she said.

"The Realtor hunting for a price reduction can say, ‘Look, there were only six unique visitors’ " for a listing since it went on the market, Bean said. "They can build their story based on what they find."

The 3-year-old company has "tens of thousands" of users, Bean said, including Intero Real Estate Services Inc., Real Pro Systems, Neuman & Neuman in San Diego, and Seattle-based Beasley O’Dowd.

"Realtors know they need this kind of technology," she said. "The first year it was education; now they come to us and say, ‘I know we need it.’ "

Because it takes more bandwidth and resources to monitor sites with lots of traffic, Visistat offers several levels of pricing. Subscription fees range from $20 a month for an agent up to $1,000 a month for brokers with heavy Web site traffic, she said.

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