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 – www.barkerhedges.com it’s unforced fraternal twin brother will be located at www.saint-paul-real-estate.com (redesigned launch will be completed prior to test). www.barkerhedges.com has been forced since June 5th 2009 and www.saint-paul-real-estate.com 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 - http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/?p=9601 and www.realestatewebmasters.com/forum.php 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!