You've read the headlines — "Inventory Shortage Sends Home Prices Soaring at Record Rate," "Housing Inventory Shortage Leads to Most Bidding Wars Ever," "Explaining Today's U.S. Real Estate Inventory Insanity," and "It's crazy. There is no inventory," — and are all too aware of how low inventory in your market is impacting your business. But did you know that low inventory is also causing your brokerage website traffic to plummet?
Every website featuring property listings is experiencing lower overall web traffic because of record-low inventory. Even brokerages with top-notch SEO programs — like the SEO Delta Media Group® provides — are experiencing big drops in overall web traffic as their IDX listings fall. For brokerages in some markets where listings have dropped as much as 60% over the last few years, web traffic has also dropped upwards of 60%.
This is not a coincidence: this is pure cause and effect. So, let's dig into this deeper and see what you, as a broker-owner, and your agents need to know about declining web traffic volume, how SEO is needed now more than ever, and what you need to do next.
Real Estate Web Traffic is Down Everywhere
Research from both Zillow and realtor.com shows that their property listing inventory is down about 50% nationally.
According to Zillow, 1.788 million homes were listed for sale as of August 31, 2019. Fast forward to April 30, 2021, the most recent number available, and the total U.S. homes listed for sale according to Zillow was 949,788 — a decline of nearly 50%. Realtor.com's weekly inventory tracking reports say that total active listings as of early May were down 52% year-over-year.
When leading brokerages look at their total web traffic numbers, they are likely to see a decline in overall traffic that closely matches the decline in local listing inventory. Delta Media has seen this happen for clients across the board, nearly without exception.
But here's the silver lining. Despite the decline in web traffic, search ranking for Delta brokerage clients has not changed. In some cases, rankings have improved. This is because Delta's Search Engine Optimization or SEO and content services continue to drive traffic to broker websites, making sure brokerages continue to get their share of real estate-related web traffic.
Understanding the Cause
By digging deeper into the cause of traffic decline, analytics show that traffic landing on property listing detail pages — which are crucial to successful SEO — has dropped in tandem with the drop in the number of local listings.
Let's look at the math. A single-listing detail page for a property can generate a handful to hundreds of visits. If the average listing generates five visits and you have 1,000 active listings in your market, you are getting 5,000 visits from listings. If your average listing generates 20 visits, you are netting 20,000 visits from the listings in your market. If you average 100 visits to an active listing, that's 100,000 visitors to your brokerage website.
If your active listing inventory in your local market declines by 50%, it's likely you are going to see a comparable drop in traffic.
But don't throw in the towel and give up on SEO because your web traffic is down.
That's happening across the board. Staying with your SEO efforts is key to long-term success because SEO does a lot more than generate website traffic.
Impact of SEO
One of the misconceptions in the real estate world is that websites can't rank for IDX listings. That's simply not true. With the right SEO, traffic is generated from all the listings on a brokerage's website.
The best response by a brokerage to website traffic decline should be to stay the course with SEO. That's because, despite the declines in overall traffic, SEO still drives 50-80 percent of all organic traffic to a Delta broker's website. Additionally, more than 50% of their leads are coming from SEO.
Keep in mind that organic leads — created by ongoing and effective SEO efforts — generate both the lowest cost leads and the most ready-to-list and ready-to-buy leads. The cost per organic lead is just $5.41 for Delta Media's clients overall. For large brokerage clients, it averages $4.56 for a ready-to-act lead and $4.98 for our mid-sized brokerage clients.
SEO ebbs and flows. The key is to remain steadfast with your SEO efforts.
Why? SEO is like a company's reputation: it takes years to build and, with one misstep, minutes to lose.
The blunder that many brokerages make with their SEO happens when they switch brokerage website providers. If the proper steps are not taken by your new tech firm, you could lose all the SEO equity that your website took years, sometimes decades, to build.
We have witnessed past clients — who see greener grass — switch tech firms to handle their websites. Their web traffic falls off a cliff almost universally. During the migration process, they lose the brokerage's SEO mojo. More critically, organic lead generation from SEO efforts also takes a massive nosedive.
Most surprisingly, the tech firms they switched to are well-known website vendors. But none of these firms offer the SEO acumen that Delta does.
SEO is one of Delta Media's superpowers. It's why many of these brokerages return as clients. We know how to manage website migration without negatively impacting your SEO.
Changing website providers does not have to cause you to panic. With the right approach, you can keep all your SEO equity. But you need to work with a highly skilled website provider that understands all the steps that must be taken to correctly replicate your website's content.
The Power of SEO
The beauty of Delta Media provided websites is how well they rank for both the brokerage's listings and IDX listings. Therefore, it makes sense that the web traffic declines brokerages are seeing are most significant in the hottest markets, where the brokerage has a dominant market share. As IDX listings have dried up, so has overall traffic.
Looking further into what is happening at the brokerage level, we make sure nothing else is happening that would hamper traffic. SEO remains key to helping brokerages maintain their overall ranking, despite overall lower web traffic numbers.
SEO also can help a brokerage compete against the portals. The more dominant a brokerage is within a local market, the more favorable Google will view them when they deploy the right SEO efforts.
Google loves fresh content, and that's one of the essential services that Delta provides brokerages. We do all the heavy lifting by creating the kind of new content that Google wants.
What Else is Influencing Web Traffic?
The pandemic has had a massive impact on internet traffic. As America locked down, web traffic shot up. The New York Times reported that Facebook traffic almost immediately spiked 27% higher, with YouTube and Netflix jumping over 15%.
Studies by The Internet & Television Association show that with a surge in people working from home (WFH), peak internet usage swung from the evenings to the daytime. As a result, online retail sales were up 39% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2021. From January 2020 to March 2021, Zoom experienced over a 2,000% increase in traffic!
However, over time and as America begins to reopen coast-to-coast, the overall surge many companies experienced in web traffic has started to decline. Even mighty Google, which is still ranked No. 1 in website traffic, sees lower website traffic today than in January 2020.
The key to any successful SEO program is to remain committed, as the most effective SEO takes time. While there certainly are best practices that can help you shorten the timeline for SEO success, it cannot happen immediately. So if anyone is touting an SEO solution that promises to catapult your brokerage to the top of Google rankings instantly – walk away quickly.
Having a better understanding of why your brokerage website traffic is lower and that SEO does more than drive traffic to your website is vital to maintaining the course. The best and lowest cost organic internet leads should give you plenty to cheer about when it comes to using SEO.
If you are not satisfied with the SEO effectiveness of your brokerage website, Delta Media Group is ready to show you how we can help.