It’s been a whirlwind of a year and we’re only at the beginning of the second quarter! While we’re currently hearing a lot about supply issues and rising interest rates, that hasn’t stopped people from wanting to buy a new home. In fact, all signs point to even more demand. And by all signs, we mean our first quarter digital marketing and website benchmarks for home builders. What’s interesting is the shift that happened over the course of the quarter. Based on anecdotal evidence from client conversations, I have a theory that the public has caught on to problems builders are facing and if they’re serious about buying a new home, they’re not researching builders on their websites, they’re driving right to the source and showing up on the model home doorsteps.
1st QUARTER 2021 HOME BUILDER WEBSITE TRENDS
The overall numbers for websites and digital marketing for home builders in the first quarter were very promising when compared to the final quarter of 2020. And to get a sense for user behavior as it would normally look in the first quarter of a year, I compared session data to the first quarter of 2020 where only about 18 days took place during the pandemic (at least officially). Check out that graph below and you’ll see that rather than easing into a typical spring market as was happening in 2020, prospective buyers this year, flocked to builder websites right out of the gate. Rather than increasing steadily into March, that decline I mentioned began happening at the end of February and charted through March.
Overall improvements included a 27% increase in sessions for the 1st quarter compared to the previous quarter and with that came a 5% increase in time on site and 31% more goal completions (lead activity) than the previous quarter. As has been the case for some time, the majority of traffic comes from mobile devices.
One change that we did implement during the month of February was to remove clicks to call and clicks to email as goal completions because we felt that we weren’t able to accurately track the completion of the action and that it therefore lost some value as a goal. We still look at it as an event and something that is a contributing factor, it’s just not a solid lead in our view anymore; especially with mobile use and the fat finger problem.
As for the digital marketing benchmarks that we established at the conclusion of 2020, how did we hold up at the start of 2021? Not too shabby! I’m pleased to say that across almost every benchmark, we exceeded our goals.
1st QUARTER 2021 GOOGLE SEARCH ADS
It should come as no surprise to homebuilders to learn that Google Search trends for the first quarter of 2021 continued to support the increased demand in the real estate market that we’ve been experiencing over the past 12 months. Q1 of 2021 compared to Q1 of 2020 overall Search impressions were up by 40% while clicks were up by 50%. These increases lead to a natural rise in our home builder client’s average click through rate and for Q1 of 2021 builders could expect a search CTR around 7-8%, well above the real estate industry average. A 25% decrease in average Search CPCs helped to bolster this increase year over year.
Comparing Google Search data quarter over quarter our home builder clients experienced a 7% increase in impressions and 5% increase in clicks. This actually brought the average CTR down a bit naturally, but still coming in strong at 7.63%. The average cost per click on search ads also decreased by 16%, which helped lead to the increase in impressions and clicks overall.
1st QUARTER 2021 GOOGLE DISPLAY ADS
It’s no secret that consumer behavior has undoubtedly shifted over the past year and the Google Display ad data from the first quarter of this year compared to last definitely reinforces that shift year over year. Home builders taking advantage of Google Display efforts with ONeil saw a 51% increase in clicks Y/Y, while impressions only increased by barely a percentage. The boom in Display ad clicks lead to a 50% increase in CTR Y/Y, averaging out at 1.08%.
Quarter over quarter Display CPCs decreased, averaging out at only 19 cents a click and display ad click-through-rate increased 72%, coming in well above the industry average at 1.08%. This means that the Display ads are relevant to the audience who is seeing them and also clicking on them.
The increase in Display ad clicks year over year can likely be attributed to the shift in user behavior over the past year as well as a shift in targeting, machine learning and reaching a more relevant and engaged audience.
1st QUARTER 2021 FACEBOOK ADS
Costs went down but so did our click through rate. That’s the short story. The longer story involves the economy as a whole, data privacy and a deeper dive into the funnel. Facebook is my favorite place to advertise for lots of reasons. Certainly the cost is attractive. Coming in at just under 30 cents per click, you’d be hard pressed to beat those prices. But when you combine that with the fact that you can target every segment of your funnel at great prices and get great returns on that investment, well it becomes a whole lot more attractive.
This quarter’s decline in CTR is attributable to the fact that we garnered a 30% increase in impressions vs the very competitive 4th quarter of 2020 but only saw an increase in clicks of 11%. Again, at first glance you’d think that meant we weren’t doing a good job finding the right people to respond to the ads, but the back story is that we shifted our focus on what we were asking for from the algorithm.
There you have it. Great improvements in costs and click through rates that helped our websites increase traffic, time on site and goal completions in the first quarter of 2021. As we hear more and more about the supply issues that aren’t just impacting the home building world, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the way it might transform the path a prospective home owner takes in the home buying journey. How did your website and digital marketing statistics hold up as compared to the benchmarks? What is the foot traffic like for your model homes and offices? We’d love to hear from you.