October 24, 2014

Measuring Online Success Part 2

In my first post on measuring online success I covered website statistics.   If you’ve just started collecting visitor data, you’ll need to wait a few months to see trends.  But the real fun comes once you’ve go a year or two worth of data.  You’ll be able to compare month to month or year to year performance right down to the individual page, look for browser trends (especially mobile), see if your visitor source mix has changed and more!

There’s one thing missing, though – context.  How do you stack up against competitors?  Now maybe that’s the wrong way to look at this.  If you’re happy with your results – and not just the visitor numbers but your sales – who cares how anyone else is doing?

But in case you’re interested, here are some tools you can use to compare.  Just make sure you pick like companies – if you’re a single office broker in a secondary market, don’t compare yourself to a national broker even if that national broker is in your market.  The national broker website is for the entire franchise – not the individual office – so it’s not apples to apples.

Compete, Alexa, Quantcast and many of the other third party web aggregators have comparison tools on their websites.  There’s also several sites that mash them up in one tool (AttentionMeter is one).  Only problem with these is that your site has to be pretty big. For large market brokerages – if you’re not ranking but your competitors are, you have some work to do to drive more traffic to your site so you’ll rank.

For smaller brokerages, if your competitors show up and you don’t, use your own stats to compare against their data.   And understand that these third party sites are not entirely accurate, especially for smaller websites.

Blekko – This is a great search engine.  It uses slashtags to target what you’re looking for.  Type any URL in the search box, then a space followed by SEO (yourdomain.com /SEO) and get a stats summary.  Your site’s overall “score” is referred to as the host rank.

Page Rank Checkers –Lots of these on the web but most are full of misleading input boxes so try this one .  Your page rank is calculated by Google and indicates your site’s “authority” based on age of the domain, traffic estimates, inbound links and so on.

The highest ranking is 10 but commercial real estate sites in general don’t get that high.  I couldn’t find a national broker with a ranking over 6.

Influence Scores – Sites like Klout or Twitalizer try to measure your “influence” online.  Since they’re based primarily on your Twitter activity you can compare your competitor’s score against your own if you all have Twitter accounts.

But what is online influence?  It’s based on the premise that you can predict the likelihood of a purchase by having a “leader” recommend it to his/her followers.  It’s really a marketers dream to be able to target influencers so they don’t have to use a scattergun approach when pushing a product online.

Take these with a grain of salt since the methods behind these are too broad to provide any real insight.  They don’t take context – particularly industry – into account nor do they do any quality or tracking analysis of followers.  And there are no hard numbers comparing influence to revenue generated.  As they start adding metrics from other social networking sites and other “big data” sources, though, they might morph into something useful…and probably not be free anymore.

Website Analyzers – Most search engine optimization (SEO) firms have “website analyzers” in hopes that you will see how desperately you need their services.  Try Website Grader which will show some key SEO elements you need to work on.  Find a way to fix them either by hiring a pro, getting your webmaster involved or do it yourself.

BTW – just because I mentioned Website Grader doesn’t mean I endorse Hubspot, the SEO firm that runs it.  In fact, using SEO firms in general can be risky so before you sign up, do a lot of research and ask around for referrals.

And for commercial real estate in particular, find someone who understands the business.  CRE searches – especially ones targeted for smaller markets – do not have big traffic numbers.  Paying thousands to grab what amounts to 2 visitors a day probably isn’t worth it if you all ready rank well and come up on the top for your market city.

Keep an Eye on Stats

Whether you do any SEO work or not, make an effort to regularly check your website statistics.  Watch for fluctuations like losing search engine traffic or low new visitor numbers.  These could be the result of search engine algorithm changes or changes you made to your site that are having an adverse effect.  Also look for downward traffic trends especially if Google Trends shows an uptick in the keywords that normally drove visitors to your site.  Having this knowledge is power so don’t forget to use it.