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Bob North

June 2009

Portal traffic declining overall as Rightmove launch Premium service

By BOB NORTH

AT a time when there are some increasing signs of activity in the sales market, the latest figures by marketing data specialists ComScore show a decline in overall traffic to property websites.

The figures are for unique users visiting property sites in April compared to the encouraging traffic figures in March.

It may well be just a blip but all the leading sites have been affected with the major portals showing the largest falls and the smaller sites holding up.

Similar results are also reported to be shown on Nielsen with only the Globrix property search engine reported to be showing an increase in traffic on an average of the two.

Traffic through to agent sites is, however, more variable. Smaller agents also show variance but there is no clear pattern emerging so agents must look at their own figures and analyse the response that they are generating.

It is still quite amazing to me that so few agents actually measure their traffic on a regular basis and are aware of how much the internet is generating for them.

The latest ComScore figures - (ComScore March/April Unique Visitors)

The latest ComScore figures -
(ComScore March/April Unique Visitors)

A recent survey by Globrix indicated that 21 per cent of agents don’t track where their traffic comes from.

Of course, Globrix are interested in agents looking at traffic source as their model is to redirect traffic to the agent sites and it is clear that their overall traffic is holding up.

Globrix, who offer free listings, state that they had 15.5 million property searches on the site in April and 3.2 million clicks through to agent sites.

They have also conducted a user survey indicating that over three quarters of all agents now rate Globrix as ‘very important to them’.

This reflects my informal findings as agents are still very much looking at the cost of their web presence even though increasing numbers regard it as more cost effective than local newspaper advertising, which continues to decline.

Cost is reflected in the Globrix survey in the “What do you most like about Globrix?” catchall question.

Not surprisingly the responses were: “Free to list”; “A real competitor to Rightmove”; “It’s easy for househunters to find what they actually want”; “No upload required”; “Drives traffic directly to us”; “Cost-effective advertising”.

The latest Comscore figures for top portals and selected others.

The latest ComScore figures -
(Selected Agents ComScore Unique Visitors)

However, there is no doubt that the public recognise the importance of the major sites and Rightmove are continuing to innovate both to increase their own revenues and to get results for agents. o promote their Premium Listing service by publicising a suggested retail price of £95 to encourage sellers to request the agent to upgrade their listing to its Premium Listing service for 31 days.

The trial will be on a beta site in the H ull and East Riding area. At the moment there are a few agents using the Premium Listing service and presumably the hope is that more will use the service not only for the additional exposure that the property generates but also as an additional income earner.

Agents can buy the Premium Listing service from as little as £12.50 depending on the type of contract they are on.

To members, a Premium Listing can be bought as part of the Flexible Membership Option package (available to ALL agents), in which it works out at £12.50 for each Premium Listing but normally most agents use the £25 option by buying in bulk or as a package.

If an agent doesn’t want to buy in bulk or as a package i.e. if only one of their vendors wants to buy one, they can call Rightmove customer services and purchase one for £35.

All Premium Listing bought by members last for the life of the listing whereas the suggested retail price is for a 31-day period only thereby increasing the margin an agent is able to make.

Rightmove are giving assurances that this will not open the site up to private sellers but if the seller chooses to upgrade direct with Rightmove there is no revenue benefit to the agent. Rightmove collect and keep the fee paid.

Miles Shipside, commercial director of Rightmove, said: “We know Premium Listing can work wonders for agents and sellers in increasing click-through rates to full details and generating more leads. By setting a price on site, we hope we have a solution suited to this tough market where agents can benefit from more business opportunities at no cost to them, or even create some extra revenue.

“The suggested retail price of £95 for a Premium Listing is marketed on the site and upgrades are only available to sellers who are marketing through Rightmove member agents.

“There will be no relenting on the ban on private sellers and sellers of non-members will also not be allowed to list properties on the website. The pricing policy will also limit the number of Premium Listings, preserving their exclusivity and performance.

“It’s an opportunity for the agent to generate more leads, either by the seller paying Rightmove for the upgrade on site, or the agent creating additional revenue by selling it themselves. It also obviously helps Rightmove sell more Premium Listings too.”

Rightmove will add a note of caution however, and will clearly state on site to sellers, that a Premium Listing is not a ‘silver bullet’ for a sale, and sellers should be considering their property price and presentation too.

It is hoped this will give agents more regular opportunities to persuade stubborn sellers to reduce asking prices, which will also lead to more sales of existing stock.

• Bob North is a business consultant and a member of estate agency specialists GCG Consulting. He specialises in applied technology, including website functionality and the introduction of IT systems and applications.

Contact him by e-mail bobn@gcgconsulting.co.uk or by phone on 07831 576073.