Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.
Tracking Visitor Behavior: How Prospects Really Use Your Web Site
By tracking each click to your site, you can find out what drives visitors to your Web page and how to keep them coming back.
December 1, 2006
Your real estate Web site is not like a “launch and forget” cruise missile that automatically seeks out its target. No matter how many bells and whistles it has, your site needs constant fine tuning and course corrections to make sure it achieves the goal of generating substantial business from online consumers.
After all, bringing new traffic to your site is not that difficult. Using “pay-per-click” search engine advertising, for example, can turn on the visitor faucet almost immediately. It’s what visitors do once they’re on your site that’s important. And if the majority of visitors are doing anything other than turning into clients then something needs to be fixed.
By analyzing visitor behavior to find out what your prospects are clicking on, you can better meet their needs by serving up more of the content and tools they find to be most valuable. Then, you’re one step closer to turning those prospects into clients.
What You Can Learn About Visitors
Any time someone visits your site, the server hosting it generates a flood of highly-detailed statistical information about the visitor and what they did while perusing.
In addition to learning what links visitors click on, you can find out what search engine phrase they used to find you, their probable geographical location. Also, you can discover whether they are new or returning visitors, how long they stayed on your site, which pages they lingered on the longest, and where they went after they left your site.
In fact, some Web analytics services can provide you with more than 500 different types of statistical information about your site visitors and their behavior while on your site.
This information is typically stored on your Web site’s server as a “log” file. For the most part, the data is completely unintelligible to the average mortal who tries to read them. Fortunately, a whole industry exists that provides software to convert raw Web site visitor information into meaningful charts and graphs that give you a better understanding of what happens when a visitor lands on your site.
Interpret the Information
One of the most popular Web analytics services is Google Analytics. This extremely powerful Web-based statistics package used to cost $400 per month before Google bought it. Now it’s available to anyone for free. You can sign up for a free account online.
Once signed up, your Webmaster will need to install a small snippet of code on every Web page that you want to track. Then you’ll be able to simply log into your Google Analytics account from any Web browser to see up-to-the-minute statistics on everything you could ever want to know about your site visitors and their behavior.
Talk about charts and graphs, there’s enough eye-candy to give you a bad case of digital diabetes. And that’s perhaps the biggest problem with Web site statistics — there’s so much information, but it’s only useful if you can understand what it means in regards to your site’s ability to convert visitors to clients, and if you know how the data can be used to create a corrective plan of action.
Refine Your Site
To put the data to work, you’ll need to get your analytical and strategic juices flowing. For an example of how to convert Web site information into a smart business plan, we look to Sharon Hodnett, a top-producing salesperson with Century 21 Mike Bowman in Southlake, Texas.
After installing Google Analytics for her primary business Web site, www.TeamHodnett.com, her Web marketing team noticed a large percentage of visitors were spending time in the “Just for Kids” section of the site. That meant her visitors were finding real value there.
Just one little problem, though. A deeper study of the statistics showed that most of these visitors were leaving her site after visiting the kids section. Upon review, it was clear that there was nothing in this section that engaged visitors to generate an inquiry — the first step in the online conversion process.
As a result, she’s working on creating a compelling offer that will be added to the kids section. If the plan works out, the offer will cause people to request more information, revealing more about themselves and forming a bond with the company.
Companies That Can Help
If you prefer to hire a company to do the analyzing and craft a plan of action, you have many options available. Shop around to find the range of services you need and prices you can afford.
Google Analytics even offers a page of “partner” companies on its Web site, although they tend to be geared more toward large companies. Among them: Stratigent, based in Warrenville, Ill.; Zaaz in Seattle; and Xooni in Los Angeles. I’ve also created a service called WebAssess to serve real estate practitioners’ needs.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
Whether you do the work yourself or you hire an outside company, it’s essential that you pay close attention to how visitors are using your Web site. Otherwise, you’re taking a big risk that the tools and content on your site aren’t clicking with prospects.
The Web is by far the richest, most interactive, and trackable form of marketing ever invented. Once you can view your site as a fluid “living” thing that constantly needs monitoring and fine-tuning, you’re on your way to bringing in more business from online customers.