Want to know how your website and digital marketing measures up? Then this is the post for you. In this episode of Homefiniti and Beyond, we discussed 5 key website benchmarks along with our 2 digital marketing benchmarks that we’ll be using to measure our 2021 performance with. We also covered the 4th quarter numbers and gave you a glimpse of what 2021 will hold. There’s a lot to take in, so have a watch and then read on to learn where we ended up.
2020 HOME BUILDER WEBSITE TRENDS
2020 was a weird, and oddly wonderful, year for builders. The web trends tell a similar story. From the first quarter in which things seemed to be trending toward the status quo, to the second and third quarters, which were crazy-full of web visitors, and finally into the fourth quarter where we saw a bit of a return to the regularly scheduled seasonality, except that in this instance, the driving force wasn’t seasonality, but rather a covid surge and a presidential election.
Overall, the gains were huge. More traffic, more home sales, more user engagement. We saw a nearly 37% increase in sessions, an almost 100% increase in events, and an 8% increase in time on site. Not to mention an almost 40% increase in mobile visits. All of this matches up with the huge sales numbers many builders experienced and the very sudden shift towards increased use of builder websites for things like virtual tours and video calls.
However, as I mentioned above, even though 2020 saw huge gains over 2019, the 4th quarter didn’t shake out in quite the same way when it is compared to the overperforming 3rd quarter of 2020.
A decline in all metrics follows closely with current events that transpired from October through December. An extremely heated and contentious election was followed by a wildfire-like spread of Covid as the cold weather took hold across much of the country and people gathered for the holidays.
As you can see in the graphs above, traffic, time on site and events for 4th quarter 2020 closely mirrored those of builder websites in the 4th quarter of 2019. Significant dips are noticeable at Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However, as soon as Christmas passed, prospective home buyers returned to builder websites in droves, setting the stage for what could turn out to be a record breaking January.
2020 HOME BUILDER WEBSITE BENCHMARKS
Now that we’ve covered overall performance for 2020, what are some metrics you can look at on your own site to gauge user behavior and interest? At ONeil, we typically pay attention to 5 key indicators: conversion rate, time on site, pages per session, bounce rate, and average events per session.
In 2020, across a spectrum of builders, the averages we saw are listed above. Each of these numbers can not be viewed in a vacuum and most have their source taken into consideration when comparing results.
TOP OF FUNNEL
When you run campaigns that are driving brand awareness and introducing people to your brand, this is a top of funnel effort. Google Display, some Facebook campaigns, and external eblasts are popular sources of top of funnel traffic. For top of funnel traffic, you will see considerably lower than 1-2% conversion rates, higher bounce rates, less time on site, fewer pages visited and fewer events per session.
BOTTOM OF FUNNEL
As you move a buyer through the sales funnel and close in on turning them into an engaged lead, the metrics you measure success by will shift towards higher conversion rates, lower bounce rates, more events and pages per session and more time spent on your website. Bottom funnel traffic sources include Google Search, some Facebook campaigns, internal emails, organic search and direct traffic. These are people familiar with your brand who are more actively engaged in the research and information gathering process of their buyer journey.
In order to meet the benchmarks listed above as an overall average for your site, it’s important to diversify your marketing efforts and include all tiers of the sales funnel. During some periods you might be more heavily weighted towards top of funnel efforts, and in some you’ll find that you’re doing more in the middle and the bottom of the funnel. Pay attention to the ways in which these shifts affect your own benchmarks and adjust accordingly.
2020 BUILDER MARKETING BENCHMARKS
For the last couple of years, I have been using benchmarks for real estate that I sourced from Wordstream. This year, we’re shifting to using our own benchmarks as a method of measuring our clients performance on Google and Facebook.
2020 FACEBOOK ADS HOME BUILDER BENCHMARKS
The numbers above are the average performance across all Facebook Ad efforts we undertook in 2020. The average Cost Per Click comes in super low at just 34 cents. While the Click THROUGH RATE is relatively high at 2.79%. Compared to 2019 this represents a 25% decline in cost with a 7% increase in CTR. As you’ll see further down in the post, this positions Facebook as an extremely cost effective mid funnel performer. It can drive a high amount of traffic at a low cost to builder websites and deliver modest performance in conversions.
4th QUARTER 2020 FACEBOOK ADS BENCHMARKS
Between political ads eating inventory in October and retail ads eating it in December, the 4th quarter of 2020 presented a few challenges with Facebook ads.
The inventory competition drove up the costs by 8% compared to the 3rd quarter and drove down impressions overall. Clicks also declined, but overall they fell less than impressions which drove up the click through rate to 3.52%, a 32% increase over 3rd quarter of 2020. These numbers both represented an overall improvement over the 4th quarter of 2019, with a rise in click through rate of 35% and a decline in costs of 44%.
Facebook’s machine learning has gotten much stronger and by setting up client websites to track specific goals through the Facebook pixel, we were able to take advantage of it. The combination of strong websites, beautiful new home photography and Facebook’s technology makes it an indispensable tool in the digital marketing arsenal of home builders.
2020 GOOGLE ADS HOME BUILDER BENCHMARKS
The metrics above encompass all of our homebuilder client’s SEARCH advertising efforts on Google for 2020. ONeil Interactive clients taking advantage of search management could expect the cost per click on their search ad to be around $1.26, which is a nice 35% decline in cost compared to 2019 meaning their search advertising dollars were able to go further reaching people who were in search of buying a new home in the location where they build. The drop in average CPCs also lead to an increase in overall visibility resulting in a lovely lift in search click-through rate. In 2020 on average our clients could expect their search advertising efforts to return a CTR of 7.42% which is a 50% increase compared to 2019. We already knew the new home market was hot this year and the search data backs that up.
Still focusing on the Google Network, the above metrics represent the averages our clients could expect for their DISPLAY advertising efforts on Google and is also one of the reasons we recommended homebuilders increase their display efforts throughout 2020. ONeil Interactive clients taking advantage of Google Display campaign management could expect clicks on display ads to cost about 20 cents per click, a decrease of 39% compared to 2019. Similarly to the search network, the decline in average display CPCs lead to an increase in overall display click-through rate in 2020, ultimately resulting in an increase of top of funnel traffic to our home builder client’s websites.
4th QUARTER 2020 GOOGLE SEARCH ADS
The new home search surge we’d experienced all year remained on trend and continued course throughout the final quarter of 2020. The increased demand brought an increase to average CPCs on Google Search for Q4, rising by 10% when compared to Q3 ($1.31/click). The increase in the average cost per ad click led to a decline in ad exposure, with impressions dropping by 7% and clicks dipping below a percentage point Q/Q. Although there was a slight decline in impressions and clicks, the overall CTR for our builder clients increased by 7% and averaged out at 7.67% for Q4. This is well over 100% higher than the industry average click through rate and tells us that our builders ads are highly relevant for the searches they are shown for (ie: new homes in location). The new home search boom can really be seen when comparing Q4 of 2020 to Q4 of 2019; search impressions were up by 28% and clicks were up a whopping 99%!
4th QUARTER 2020 GOOGLE DISPLAY ADS
Historically, the 4th quarter of the year is a bit more competitive for display ad space due to holiday advertising across all verticals and 2020 was no different. Average CPCs rose by 40% Q/Q leading to a 29% decline in clicks as the average cost per display ad click averaged out at .26 cents in Q4. Overall impressions rose by 3% Q/Q which points to an increase in our qualified audience availability, but the increase in ad click cost ultimately led to the decline in display clicks for the quarter.
Changes in how we live and interact lead to changes in strategies for reaching our target audiences in 2020 and while we definitely recommended more Google Display efforts for our home builder clients throughout the year (great way to reach a large top of funnel audience for a nominal cost) the comparison of Q4 2020 with Q4 2019 is telling and lends an assist to the overall story for 2020. YoY Google Display impressions were up by 45% and clicks increased by 49%, while the average CPC actually dipped slightly by a percentage.
JANUARY 2021 PREVIEW
At a time when builders are usually gearing up for the Spring season, this year we’re already hearing reports of builders doubling the usual sales numbers for the month!
In the first half of January we’ve seen a 21% increase in sessions as compared to the end of December, a 30% increase in sessions as compared to January of 2019, a 31% increase in events compared to December and a 7% increase in time on site, These increases jump to 31% for events compared to January 2019 and 15% for time on site. The market isn’t slowing down and we’re excited for the year ahead.
Don’t forget to tune into the next episode as we preview our can’t miss IBSx presentations on Friday, February 5th at 1pm.