We know mobile technology is on the rise. The proliferation of "iDevices," apps and the ensuing hype is always there to remind us. So are the people who will help make your online presence mobile.

And the whole category of locative (location-based) media is built around being mobile and going places.

For real estate, mobile seems to make a lot of sense. A basic human behavior of people looking to buy real estate involves them traveling through neighborhoods looking at what’s for sale.

Combine this basic behavior with all the gadgets, services and specialists and you get a perfect storm for real estate mobile marketing frenzy.

But is it really important for your practice?

There’s a way to find out. Look at your Web analytics. Most Web analytics packages today allow you to look at a variety of technical aspects of the devices people use to visit your site.

This is a holdover from when Web stats were mainly of interest to the information technology department. You can look at screen resolutions, what browser people are using, and what operating system people are using, for example.

Normally, these things aren’t high up on the radar in terms of helping you make marketing decisions. Sure, back in the day the browser stats were important to help your tech team know if they had to support some flavor of Internet Explorer or not.

And it certainly makes sense to help decide if you really want to launch that Flash interface. But generally all that tech stuff has been in the background. For measuring mobile, however, let’s bring it to the front.

To measure current mobile activity on your website, you need to know how to segment users on mobile devices from everyone else. Here are two ways:

  • Operating system: Look for flavors of Apple’s operating system or Google’s Android system in your visitors’ operating system statistics. This is one of the surest ways to spot a mobile visitor.
  • Screen resolution: If operating systems don’t work out for you, look for devices with smaller than 1024 pixels of horizontal resolution in your visitors’ screen resolution. These are likely to be either people surfing on ancient computers or handhelds.

Once you’ve called out this segment of your mobile visitors, you can start learning, making decisions and taking action.

Here are four metrics you can use to start getting a handle on how important mobile is (or isn’t) for your real estate business:

1. Percent of overall traffic. How many visitors to your site are on non-mobile devices for every visitor who is on a mobile device? This metric will help you put your mobile efforts in perspective.

2. Bounce rate of mobile visitors vs. non-mobile visitors. Regular readers of my column will know that bounce rate looked at on its own is relatively useless. But in context with other data it can be very helpful. For example, if your bounce rate is significantly higher for mobile visitors, then perhaps you need to make an improvement to the mobile experience. (Use of a Flash Image Rotator on the home page is a key culprit here for many real estate sites.)

3. Conversion rate for mobile visitors vs. non-mobile visitors. Is there a significant difference between mobile and non-mobile visitors when it comes to filling out contact forms or fulfilling other site tasks? This can help you identify site experience bottlenecks or help put your mobile efforts in context.

4. Popular pages for mobile visitors. Your mobile audience will likely have different behavior from your regular audience. They’ll have different attention spans and different ways of using your site. A look at the pages they visit the most will help you learn more about their behavior so you can improve their experience.

The caveat

When using Web metrics like this, it is important to remember that you’re looking at data from today and yesterday. It doesn’t necessarily tell you what will be important tomorrow.

Looking at the trend line in your mobile segment will probably show some growth starting in 2007 or so and increasing.

By using the metrics presented above you’ll be able to put that trend in context. Perhaps you can examine how your online marketing resources are being spent in this regard as well: which experience is getting the most resources per visitor, for example. From there you can start to probe at the never-ending return on investment (ROI) questions.

Understanding how people are accessing your website with mobile devices should help inform how you approach mobile real estate marketing and determine how important it is to you today. It should also help you develop sound platforms that are useful to your mobile audience.

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