Property portals around the world are famous for talking up their numbers. Almost every week we receive press releases claiming one of two things – a portal is bigger or faster than everyone else in their market. The bigger claim is almost always followed by a Unique Browser, page view or visitor number while the faster claim is followed by some percentage growth between two arbitrary dates. This approach is reminiscent of newspapers touting circulation and readership.
While these are interesting, they are not that relevant outside of the industry and probably not that relevant to the people that matter most, the advertiser. They are measuring the inputs and not the outputs. What portals should be talking about is the number of leads they generate for the advertiser. This is the true measure of effectiveness. The problem is most portal sites just don’t know how many leads they really generate.
All portals can measure the email leads that they generate. That is easy. However the problem is portals also advertise telephone numbers and open house times and when it comes to measurement, these are far more problematic.
Here are some approaches people are taking to measure telephone traffic.
Redirecting Telephone Numbers
In the UK, it is popular for property portals to not list the agent’s real telephone number but to list a number the redirects to the agent’s real number. This allows the portal to count how many telephone leads they have sent. The approach also allows a marketing message to be played to the person making the call (e.g. “ABC portal is now redirecting you to a market leading agent”) and when the agent picks up the phone, a marketing message can also be played (e.g. “Here is another lead from ABC portal”).
This works well in the UK where this service is very inexpensive however in most other markets, the cost of implementing this approach is way too high.
Telephone Number Links
Some portals are replacing the agent’s telephone number on a property details page with a link to the telephone number. When someone clicks on the link, the telephone number is revealed. This way, the portal can count how many times someone clicks on the link to gain some idea of how many phone calls are being made.
This has recently been implemented by realestate.com.au and domain.com.au in the Australian market. Domain’s implementation is slightly flawed as you only click on the link to see additional numbers. I am sure this will change shortly.
Contact Agent Tab
Some sites split the property details page into multiple pages and have a tab system that allows the consumer to tab between the property details, the photos, a map and a contact the agent page. This allows the site to track how many time the “contact the agent” page is displayed and therefore gives the site some indication as to how many leads are being generated.
In some markets, open house or open for inspection times are very important. In this case, a consumer can see a property listing on the site and then just turn up to the property at a prearranged time. In this case, the portal has no way of knowing how many people they directed to the open house. This becomes more problematic as portals provide more and more tools for the consumers that allow them to plan their day looking at open homes.
As the property portal industry matures, the market leaders will need to find better ways of communicating their effectiveness to the market. The days of talking about unique visitors and page impressions are probably numbered and the more progressive sites will talk about the leads they generate. We just now need to find a reliable and independent measurer of leads.