Forced vs Un-Forced Registration on Real Estate Websites

It's the next "Great Debate"...should your real estate website force registration or not?  We have struggled with the answer to this question for several years and participated in forum discussions and roundtable gatherings compiling information and opinions from both sides of the issue.  So here's the deal:  Matt is committed to the cause and a believer of forced registration on our websites.  I am not convinced.  I think forced registration is a turn off for potential buyers and they will go elsewhere to find the information they desire. Matt and I are 50/50 business partners and we have tried to convince each other we are correct for over 2 years, armed with opinions and quasi-empirical data from web posts and forum boards.  It isn't working.  With the re-launch of our 2 highest producing local websites, we have decided to put the debate to rest.  Here's the plan:

We have 2 nearly identical local websites that are the same platform and relatively the same longevity.   You are on the first website that forces registration –  it’s unforced fraternal twin brother will be located at (redesigned launch will be completed prior to test). has been forced since June 5th 2009 and has been unforced since its initial launch as a template website several years ago.

All of our leads flow into a single database and we track User traffic with Google Analytics on a daily basis.  We are going to track our "User to Lead ratios" for both sites and post weekly statistics on our blog.  In a nutshell, we hope to answer the question: do we produce more leads with forced registration or without?  I know, you cynics are already planning your attack on our theories and methods.  For those that have already put more than 2 minutes of thought into this issue, here are some details...

First, the websites are not identical:

- The content differs on each of the websites, but the design and feel are very similar. We purposely designed the two websites to look alike and will be modifying them for our target audience after the testing is complete.

- We have to account for a discrepancy in daily User traffic and report stats on overall traffic and Returning Visitors.

Second, we will post the total volume of User traffic, # of Returning Users and # of Page Views for each site.  Ratio’s will be compiled and analyzed. We will post our total # of Form Submissions for each website including: IDX registrations (yes, we get some for the unforced website too!), Showing Requests, Contact Us, etc.  We will then break it down into the totals for each type of submission.

Third, we will post the total # of Users who re-visit each website and request new information.  For example, this includes someone who initially registered as an IDX User and has now come back and requested a Showing, or someone who asked a question about a listing and now came back and requested a showing.

Forth, Matt and I will each give an analysis of the data from our own perspective.  Remember, Matt is biased in favor of forced registration and I'm cautiously optimistic, at best!

Fifth, we feel that we provide the highest level of service in our market and everyday we work to revise and improve our processes so we stay on top of our game.  We want to know whether potential home buyers and sellers in our area have a preference for forced or unforced registration Real Estate Websites. Let’s face it, at the end of the day our goal is to make sure that Home Buyers and Sellers in our market find our team instead of our competitors.  We know there are differences of opinion about forced vs. unforced Real Estate Websites so let’s try to keep this conversation to an analysis of the #’s. There are plenty of opinion formats -  and to rant and rave... we hope this platform will be civilized!

Sixth, we want to know what you think.  We are willing to share our data, but we need your help with the analysis.  If you are reading this Blog post, you have some interest and probably some experience with this topic.  What are we missing?  Do we need to report additional data?  What questions do you want answered from this experiment?  What haven't we thought of?

Ok, so that's the plan...let's see where it takes us!




#1 By Cal Carter at 12/23/2013 0:43 AM


Prepare to change your outlook and swing Matts direction!

Another good blind test would be to set up a Homegain landing page on each site and funnel leads into them. Commit $300 a month in homegain leads to each sites special landing page.

One site requires registration, one site does not, both special landing pages derive the traffic from the exact same type of searcher.

Go to analytics at Month end and compare.

Carry on through six months and then compare the dollar volumes generated from buyers registered through each landing page and compare.

I am not prepared to go through that exercise, but I will bet you a Dr. Pepper you will be telling Matt that he was right and needing to appologize for lost opportunity! Just my 2 cents.

#2 By Matt Barker at 12/23/2013 0:43 AM


Good idea on the Homegain Test. So we can keep as many variables out of the test as possible we will probably hold off on that until the other is complete. I like the concept though and we should investigate that.

We will drop you a line when we get things started. It will be soon!

#3 By Gary Ashton at 12/23/2013 0:43 AM

Forced or unforced is something I haven't really had to think about in the past few years of generating business online.

Giving away valuable information for free to the consumer in the hopes that they may actual e-mail me or call me when they want to see a home has never really been very appealing to me.

I understand the concept in that if the buyer comes to a site that gives them no reason to ever want to look at any other real estate web site. Hopefully they will continue to use the site as their only resource for thier home search.

Having a fatastic web presence and being able to dominate the organic rankings for that market will be key to the success of the site. If the number one site offers you all you would ever need as a resource for the local real estate market then unforced registration may end up delivering higher quality and very targeted leads.

One problem I see is that the life cycle of the internet buyer is, at shortest, a few days before they want to look at homes and buy to lierally years in the incubation state.

The problem becomes generating enough deals from the site in the form of users that want to buy in the next month or two. If these buyers become qualified leads and end up becoming a closed deal that generates money for the site owners then the experiment will be able to continue. If there are no closed deals then the resolve of the site owners not to use forced registration may weaken.

The timing of the release of the site may have some implications too as we are entering a traditional downturn in market activity which will add to the incubation time of the lead fom registration to close.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the site converts as ultimatley I would rather deal with 10 leads a month that close and not have to wade through 1000 leads that generates 990 unclosed leads.

Looking forward to hearing other opinions and thoughts.

Gary Ashton

RE/MAX Elite

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