Real Estate Marketing Defined: The Power of A/B Testing for Realtor Websites
By Matthew Bushery
About Website Design
There’s generally a five-step process agents need to put into action for their Realtor websites: Publish exhaustively detailed content your audience loves. Track the progress of your pages and posts. Determine how you can improve the process. Implement alterations to your strategy. Repeat.
Sure, this is a simplistic version of the process, but one professionals and brands in wide-ranging fields have used to grow their marketing efforts since the turn of the century.
It’s this second-to-last step — making modifications to your digital tactics and approach in general — that relates to the topic at hand for this edition of our Real Estate Marketing Defined series: A/B testing.
If you’ve ever wondered how other agents in your market — and, well, all around the country — are constantly at the top of their marketing game, it’s because they’re able to find the holes and “misses” in their online marketing and eventually fix those errors. And you identify areas of improvement when you A/B test.
Learn everything you need to know to get started with your own website experimentation so you can better your branding, drive more traffic to your digital foundation, and see improved site metrics across the board below, where we take an introductory look at A/B testing.
“I’ve definitely heard of A/B testing before … but to be honest, I’m still a little fuzzy. Mind explaining it?
We’re here to help, Realtors. Marketing yourself via your real estate website is a must, as you know — but do you know how to slowly but steadily make the right enhancements to your site (new pages to create, language to modify, calls to action to incorporate, and so on)? If not, don’t fret. It simply means you need a refresher on A/B testing best practices (well, technically we’ll cover the basics first, but you we’ll even go one step further to enlighten you).
Also commonly referred to as multivariate testing, A/B tests entail what you might already suspect: Testing one use of an element on your IDX website (“A”) against a different use of that element (“B”). The end goal is to figure out which choice helps your site succeed most.
You’d be surprised how little changes to your IDX website can have a giant impact on lead conversion.
So, let’s start with your homepage as a prime example of a place to conduct an A/B test on your website. Multimedia plays a bigger and bigger role in how consumers engage with online content. Thus, it makes too much sense not to experiment with this aspect of your site.
For the “A” portion of the test, you could try slideshow images featuring just the listings you represent (or, if you’re a buyer’s agent, the hottest listings in your market) for a pre-determined period. For the “B” side, you could change to brand-oriented images instead, like ones featuring you and your team, your office, and working on-site with clients, and see how this performs over a similar period.
You might be thinking to yourself, “But how could this seemingly minor change make any bit of difference for my website engagement?” The short answer: You’d be surprised how supposedly little alterations like this can affect your site in terms of metrics like time on page (how long you keep visitors on each page and your site in general) and bounce and rates (leaving your site without taking any action).
“I get the concept, but can you show me some proof that A/B testing will actually impact my real estate website?”
Oh, do we have proof — and plenty of it. Conducting these tests is commonplace in just about any and every industry, and the results brands see when putting these experiments in place is oftentimes notable … and sometimes quite substantial.
Here are some of the most convincing statistics from recent reports, studies, and surveys that show just how useful A/B testing is for businesses and professionals of practically all kinds:
Of course, full-time marketers have plenty of time to focus on multivariate tests for their brands’ websites because … well … doing so accounts for a significant portion of their day-to-day work. Having said that, agents such as yourself need to understand this now-universal truth for real estate pros: You, in essence, are a full-time marketer.
You focus on generating new leads, nurturing existing prospects, and converting these individuals into new business — each activity of which requires a hefty amount of time and energy on becoming proficient with modern marketing for real estate. So, basically, while you may not deem yourself a consummate marketing professional, you most certainly are — well, assuming you’ve fully adopted the inbound marketing methodology and said goodbye to the overwhelming majority of old-timey promotional tactics (*cough* bench ads *cough*).
“Ah, that makes sense: Experiment with my Realtor website to improve it. Any specific A/B tests you recommend?”
Now, this is where your split testing (another name for the A/B Testing) can go in a million different directions. The sheer number of possible experiments you can run for your website — and other marketing activities (more on that below) — is astounding … but there are definitely some clear “winners” in terms of tests to run first and most often for your IDX website.
Page and Post Headlines/Titles
Often the first thing a visitor will notice on your real estate website, your headers need to stand out and grab your audience’s attention right off the bat. Some specific tests you can conduct could relate to length (“The Boston Agency for You” vs. “The Boston Agency to Help Your Housing Needs”) or completely different copy (“The Boston Agency for Your” vs. “Learn About the Best Boston Residential Agency”).
Lead-Generating Calls to Action
Calls to Action associated with your lead capture forms (more on those in a moment) — as standalone text on a page or in a “button” — can make a big different in getting visitors to take action on your site. ConversionXL goes into lengthy detail here about best practices regarding color, length, and location, so use this as a guide to test yours site-wide.
Types of Lead Capture Forms
Given the plethora of lead capture options available to agents for their Realtor websites, it can certainly be difficult to pinpoint one type that works best for one’s site. However, the best experiment to run regarding these forms relates to timing: Try a test of Aggressive forms (those that appear the instant a visitor lands on your site and when they click through to other pages) versus passive forms (ones that don’t pop up until after a certain amount of time has passed or a certain number of pages are visited by a given user).
Copy Length for Certain Pages
Over on the KISSmetrics blog, you’ll find an in-depth, psychological analysis of several brands’ website pages that gives some solid insights into how to create a high-converting page — and length is definitely one of the major factors. While other page traits are mentioned, its length that’s noted to be one of the biggest influences on users’ conversion, so this means it’s more than worth your while to experiment with different lengths. For instance, try community pages with 500 words of copy against one with 1,500 — keeping all other variables the same, including CTAs included and their location — to see which leads to more clicks and/or form fill-outs).
We could go on and on and on about the seemingly endless number of A/B tests you can and should run for your marketing, but start with these ones, then, over time, you’ll get a clearer notion of how to efficiently execute and analyze them and, in turn, figure out which website adjustments are most pertinent (and necessary) for the long-term health of your site (that is, ensuring it helps bolster your ongoing traffic goals and progressively improves your lead conversion totals).
As far as measuring your success goes — in other words, determining if “A” led to better metrics than “B,” or vice versa — there are many variables to consider.
At the end of the day, though, the best way to discern which site trait worked better is to take plenty of time to conduct the actual A/B test (VWO has a handy testing calculator that can help you determine just that) and ensure no other variables can play a role in the desired outcome, like other site elements that could impact the metric in question (e.g. you can test one page header versus another, but all other page elements need to remain the same during the experiment).
“That sounds amazing! I’m going to test my site ASAP! Are there other marketing tactics and channels I can test too?”
You most certainly can … but, we strongly advise starting with A/B testing your real estate website before any other aspects of your marketing, since it’s the unquestioned center of your digital universe and, thus, the most important part of your marketing strategy.
Let’s fast-forward, though: You’ve been testing your site for several months — maybe even a year — and have seen steady growth from your experiments and optimization choices. Now, you can turn your attention to other marketing outlets and activities.
One area to administer some A/B tests is with drip email marketing. Try sending new kinds of emails to your lead lists. Experiment with when and how often you send drip emails. Investigate whether emails with images and/or videos leads to more click-throughs to your IDX website than without.
And on and on you can go — but just be sure you build a thriving real estate website first and foremost. Otherwise, any other marketing tests you run will be all for naught and lead to wasted time and dollars, neither of which you want to occur.
Also, discover even more website optimization tips and tricks in this special Placester webinar for Realtors.
What are some other niche marketing topics you’d like us to talk about in this Academy series? Share your preferences below!
Published on April 11, 2017
Written by Matthew Bushery
I'm the Sr. Content Creator for Placester, where I educate real estate professionals about modern marketing and, in turn, help agents and brokers make the most of their online presence, earn more traffic, and generate more leads and business.