ask not what your website can do for you

I was talking to an agent friend the other day, and she was asking me about her site analytics, wanting to better understand bounce rate and page views and whatnot.  Like many in the industry that consider themselves tech-savvy, she has a Google Analytics account for her business site and faithfully checks those numbers – having no idea how to get any value out of them.

So my first question is always the same: What’s your goal?

You get mostly the same answers – to get more registrations or blog subscribers or have them fill out a contact form.  Something along those lines.

And you can certainly maximize those things.  If your goal is as many IDX registrations as possible, we can cram everyone down that funnel.  We can make our goal to increase the number of registrations per 1000 visitors, or some such easily identified figure from our analytics.  I mean, hey.  Only a small portion of the visitors to your site are there to search properties.  Some want information, or the value of their home, or community data, or are checking out photos of a home their friend is purchasing.  But we can cram ’em all down that registration road. 

But I’m guessing that’s not what you really want.  Or ought to want.  Because what I hope you want is to deliver such a delightful experience for that visitor that they happily register, or email you, or download your market report with glee. 

So to approach your analytics with an attitude of whats-in-it-for-me gets you to the wrong conclusions, especially in a service based industry like real estate.

Because it isn’t about what our website does for our company.  It’s about what our website does for our customers.

When I look at a section of my site, first I want to think about who is using it, and what they want to accomplish.  And then I make those things easy to find and do.  And then I can identify and monitor metrics that measure those things.

We can discuss bounce rates and page views and whatnot, but that’s such a small part of the bigger picture.  Without the context of what those things mean in terms of our consumers’ needs and wants and goals, we’re operating in a vacuum.  We optimize for our consumers. And happy consumers take care of us.

the answer is always more data

I’m convinced the answer is always in the data.  At least, as far as generating business is concerned.

There’s a whole treasure of answers, just sitting there waiting – you just have to have the analysis cycles in place to take advantage of it. 

Do you know what people are searching for most often in your particular vertical?  Have you figured out which keyword battles are worth fighting?  Do you have a strategy in place to fight those battles – and a system in place to keep you informed and accountable to your progress?

Can you tell me, right now, without researching your analytics for an hour – which source of traffic to your site converts most often to business?  Or which keywords convert best?  What’s your most highly trafficked page, and does it support your business goals?

Are you talking to your customers using the kinds of words they prefer?

Have you checked, recently?

And if you have, what did you do about it, and is it working?  Do you know?

does anyone really get any mobile traffic on their sites?

I keep hearing how mobile is the next big thing.  And I don’t disagree.  More and more, I do everything I want and/or need from my Blackberry.  So when I hear consistent chatter about an ever increasing wave of mobile users, it makes me think:

How do I, as a business, prepare for and capitalize on these mobile visitors?

First, I wanted to see if I even had any mobile traffic.  And then I asked other real estate agents about their mobile traffic, just to compare.  I had 9 responses in this oh so scientific study.  Here’s what I found.

On average, mobile traffic accounts for 3.46% of a real estate agent’s site visitors.  Answers ranged from 0.55% to 5.98%.

For most, that mobile traffic arrives via a search engine – most answers were 50% to 80% search engine traffic.  And you know what those users were searching for?

The same random stuff they search for on their laptops.  Lots of long tail type keywords mixed with those nice juicy real estate type of phrases.  And while only one person I asked had an individual property address in their top 10 overall site keywords, nearly everyone had an address (or subdivision search) in their top 10 mobile keywords.

There were, however, 2 people that had half or more of their mobile traffic from direct visitors – people who came to the site directly by either typing in the URL, navigating to the site via some kind of saved bookmark, or possibly those who clicked on a link within a document or email.  It’d be interesting to look at those two further, to look at the behavior of those direct visitors, confirm they already have a loyal mobile user following.  Perhaps not coincidentally, those two have the least traffic by far of all the agents I asked, they target the smallest areas, and tend to cover more community type events rather than the larger ‘real estate in your area’ kind of stories.  Food for thought, anyway.

So my mobile traffic pretty much falls within the averages mentioned.  Nearly a quarter of my mobile visitors are direct traffic – Google sends the most mobile traffic, followed by direct visitors, and a distant 3rd are my RSS email subscribers clicking through from those emails on their phone.

The vast majority of my mobile users are iPhoners and Androiders.  No surprise there, as those have the best browsers on mobile devices, IMHO.  People on iPads and iPods account for twice as many visitors as those on Blackberries. 

I didn’t have a single property address in my top 10 mobile keywords, but my mobile keywords and my regular site visitor keywords were pretty much the same.  But bear in mind, these are my blog visitors.  My property search (and quite honestly, the site where I target the juicier real estate type keywords) and my indexable IDX bit live on a different domains and different analytics profiles.  So that makes sense for me.

Other than making sure my site loads quickly for mobile visitors, is clean and easy to navigate on mobile devices – what should I do?

My gut tends to think that mobile users will turn to apps to search for property and get neighborhood information, and not to individual agent sites via browser search results.  And Lord knows I don’t have the resources to compete with the larger real estate app vendors out there.

So what can I do as an individual agent?  Make sure my site is easily readable and navigable via mobile devices, certainly.  But what are my chances to capture eyeballs that lead more directly to sales if I’m competing with really slick national mobile apps, and what’s the best way to do so?

What do you think?  Comments are open, below!

(oh, and we’ll look at how to find these numbers in your analytics in the next post.)

fun with google analytics

Two cool things some folks don’t know about

  1. You can have Google Analytics email you when you have odd patterns in your analytics
  2. You can create advanced segments to look at specific groups of site visitors.


First.  Creating custom email alerts.

Ever had a day when your traffic went crazy?  Someone linked to you from a high traffic site, or an influential person retweeted your link?  Or maybe something bad happened, and all of a sudden, you have no one on your site?

You can set up Google Analytics to email you when those kinds of things happen.  Which is cool.  I don’t look at my analytics every day, but I’d certainly like to know sooner rather than later when something out of the ordinary happens, whether good or bad.

So.  In your analytics, there’s a beta section called "Intelligence" over on the left hand side navigation.  When you click on that, it looks at the history of your traffic and identifies any days (or weeks or months) where something out of pattern happened.  Maybe your bounce rate went way up, or you had crazy referral traffic, or a whole bunch of new visitors.

Spend a little time looking at what triggered those automatic alerts.  It’s kinda cool to go back and see where the anomalies happened.

Now.  Click on "Create a Custom Alert," on the right hand side underneath the two charts.

You can create any number of custom alerts, use nearly any parameter.  I’d like to know when the number of visitors to my site either goes way up or way down. 

So now I can create a couple more alerts, and anytime something goes wonky with my site, I get an email.  Super convenient.

Now.  Let’s talk about advanced segments.

Go back to your analytics dashboard.  See in the upper right hand corner, it says "Advanced Segments" and there’s a drop down?  It probably says "All Visits" for you if you’ve never touched it.

Now’s the time to touch it.  If you click on the drop down, you’ll see you can select different options.  And you can select more than one segment, by the way.  Go ahead and play with it for a bit.

An advanced segment basically filters your analytics.  So you can look at only analytics for new visitors, or returning visitors, or mobile traffic, or search engine traffic.  Instead of looking at everyone, it filters to only those kinds of visitors you select. 

This is kinda cool.  You can look at just your mobile traffic, see how much you have, what kinds of content they’re looking at.  If you select both new and returning visitors, you can compare and contrast how new peeps to your site behave compared to those that have been there before.

Now then.  I’m trying to target local people – people in Tucson.  So often, I want to just look at their behavior on my site.  I want to make sure my local people are finding the information they need, they’re spending some time there, various whatnot.  So I created an advanced segment just for Tucson visitors.

Over on the left hand side navigation, down near the bottom, click on "Advanced Segments" and then click "Create new custom segment" up in the upper right hand corner.

You drag and drop the dimensions and metrics from the left hand side into the center to make your segment. 

So now, when I look at my analytics, there’s a "Tucson Visits" option in my Advanced Segments drop down.  So I can look at just my local traffic and see how they behave.

You can create all kinds of advanced segments and combine several parameters.  So you could just have new site visitors from Tucson as a segment.  Or people that looked at more than 5 pages.  Or you could just look at the people who visited a specific page on your site, or that found your site using one or more certain keywords.  The possibilities are endless.


Rethinking Fancy Flyers

So I had this idea the other day.

Being a data geek, I want to be able to track what does and doesn’t work in my marketing, I want to put as many numbers behind my marketing plan as possible.

Take the humble in-home flyer, for instance.  They’re usually a showy display of photos of the house with some basic information on there.  When I represent buyers, they nearly always pick one of those up, even though they have a copy of the listing in their hand from me.

And then those flyers end up abandoned in the back seat of my car with the other fourteen flyers and rejected listing printouts.  Once a flyer is gone, you have no idea if that buyer is still interested.  All you know is that the stack you gave your seller is gone, and you need to go pony up for some more fancy printing.

So I tried something different this time around – and was a bit surprised at the result.

Instead of putting flyers in the home, I made little tent cards.  It’s the size of a business card, it folds over, it fits easily in a pocket or purse.  The front is a picture of the home, the back is my name and brokerage disclosures, and inside is the address, price, and vital home facts.

And then there’s a single URL that I can track that says:

"For complete information including disclosures and recent upgrades, visit"

(You didn’t think I’d give you a real URL did you?  What, and mess up my tracking???)

People actually take that thing home and look up that URL.  I know.  I didn’t think it would work either.

By creating a BudURL, I can track how many people visit that link – and there’s IP address tracking even on the free version so I can see how many are new visits and how many are repeat visits.  And with BudURL, I can create a custom alias so I can make the link include the street name so it is easy to type in.  There are lots of other link shorteners, maybe even others that do custom aliases.  I just found BudURL first and stuck.

And then the BudURL link redirects to the single property page on my blog, which gives them the goods as promised.  More pictures, more description, and a file they can download with disclosures and whatnot.

And – side bonus – it drives people back to my site.  Which is always a good thing, in my humble opinion.

So someone took that little fold over card, and held on to it long enough to take it home and look at that link.  They were clearly already in the house, already seen what it looks like in person.  But now they want more information.  Which probably means they’re at least somewhat interested in the property. 

And that’s a whole lot more information than I ever got out of a silly fancy-schmancy home flyer.

And then I started thinking about my new listing.  It was purchased as a foreclosure last year and the owners put $50k of love into it, only to be transferred to a new city.  Since the home sold just last year, I have to have a pretty good justification for setting the list price higher than what they bought it for.

Basically, I want to arm any potential buyer’s agent with all the information that I have – the upgrades, the receipts, the inspection reports – I want to put my price justification, my marketing into their hands so that I get to influence them first as to price and condition.

But how do I make sure they get it?  I’ve got limited space in the MLS description and sure, I can upload documents to the documents section, but no one ever looks there.

Behold, the agent comment section.  And once again, BudURL to the rescue.  I made a document with all the information a buyer’s agent could ever want, uploaded it to my blog, and then made a BudURL link to that file, typed it into the agent comments with a note that says full information, disclosures, and inspection reports are all at that link.

Heck, I can’t even make it a clickable link in the agent comments.  But those agents, they copy and paste it into their browser and I have proof that I put a fabulous defense of the house and its price into a potential buyer’s agent hands.

What seller wouldn’t love that?