Small changes can be powerful and A/B testing is the way to real estate website optimization.

Quick! What happens to your brain when you read tech terms such as “conversion rates,” “A/B testing” or “split testing”? Mine goes into shut-down mode and my eyes start to cross. But, if you have a real estate website, these are important terms to know, understand and utilize the processes behind them.

The entire ordeal of choosing a website, paying for it, guiding the designer to follow your vision and populating it with content is a long, exhausting project. When it’s finished, it’s only natural to sit back and assume your job is done and the leads will come rolling in.

Au contraire, home seller extraordinaire! Like lead generation, your website is an ongoing project – at least if you want it to be successful. Now, if you’re a superstar, multi-million dollar-generating agent, you can hire someone to do the work. If not, the job falls to you.

Let’s take a simplified look at A/B testing, one of the most important tests you can use to determine the effectiveness of the pages on your site.

Conversion rate

When a website visitor does what you’re hoping he or she will do, you have a conversion. “Now, conversions don’t always indicate a sale, but the metric does indicate that a person took some action that pushes them a bit further down the purchase funnel,” explains Lauren Drell, former branded content editor at Mashable.

If you are hoping that people will sign up for your newsletter, those that click on your call to action (“sign up here”) and actually supply you with their contact information are converted.

Divide the total number of conversions by the number of website visitors (during the same time period) and you’ll have your conversion rate. If you want to get really technical, exclude visitors who bounced after 30 seconds.

What is a respectable conversion rate for a real estate website?

“Across industries, the average landing page conversion rate was 2.35 percent, yet the top 25 percent are converting at 5.31 percent or higher,” according to Larry Kim at Search Engine Land. He goes on to caution that the average conversion rate varies by industry and that the median rate for the finance industry is 5.01 percent.

According to internal studies conducted by Diverse Solutions/Market Leader, conversion rates on real estate websites can range from non-existent to as high as 10 percent.

So, there are varying opinions on the average conversion rate in the real estate industry, which makes it difficult to determine whether your rate is up to par or not. If it’s nonexistent, however, it’s time to figure out why.

A/B testing, in a nutshell

A/B testing, or split testing as it’s sometimes called, is one method of determining what works on a page and what doesn’t. It involves two versions of the page with only one different variable. For instance, on one page, you force registration after a visitor views three properties. On the other page, which is identical in all other aspects, you force registration after the visitor views five properties. Which page converts better?

Almost every element on a page should be tested, regularly. Let’s take a look at some of the other elements commonly found on an agent’s site.

Navigation

If you’ve ever visited a site where you’ve had to hunt for what you’re looking for you understand the importance of clear, easy navigation.

Split-test your links by switching the order in which the pages appear in the navigation bar, by changing the link’s wording and by adding additional pages (you do have neighborhood descriptions, right?).

Harvard Business Services tested their site’s nav bar by getting rid of some tabs and adding a new one. They also changed several of the links’ wording. For instance, a tab labeled “Compare” was reworded to “Compare Prices.” “Get Started Now” became “Form a Company Now.”

The changes resulted in a 15.68 percent increase in sales.

Testimonials

Do you use testimonials on your home page? Perhaps you should – or at least split-test to ensure their effectiveness. Behave.org explains how WikiJob increased sales by including testimonials below the fold on its home page.

The company, used A/B testing software to create two versions of the page, Version A and Version B. The latter “. . .had three testimonials midway down the page below the fold. No other content was changed during this test,” says the story at Behave.

Surprisingly, “None of the testimonials were from named sources. They were simply praise, such as ‘Very useful for practice,’ in quotes. Version B, with the testimonials, increased WikiJob’s sales by 34 percent.

Forms

Forms should be subjected to testing as well. In fact, Neil Patel at Quick Sprout suggests reducing the number of fields in your contact form. He offers a fascinating look at form field statistics in an infographic. Ask for a telephone number, for instance, and conversions are reduced 5 percent. Forcing the visitor to supply his or her street address reduces conversions by 4 percent, according to Patel.

He suggests that by reducing the form fields to only three (first name, last name and email address), your conversions will increase 25 percent. How does he know this? A/B testing. Try it for yourself on your site to see if you get the same mileage.

Call to action

Other page elements to test include the call to action. Test various messaging, sizes and colors and your call to action’s placement on the page to determine which results in higher conversions. Test your graphics, including background color.

Copy

From determining the tone (professional and business-like or casual and more friendly) and word count on the page to headlines and sub-headings and even font size, split testing your website’s copy can become a full-time job.

Some suggest beginning at the beginning. “If you’re looking for ROI gains and you’re not sure what areas to test first, start with headlines or subject lines,” say the experts at marketingexperiments.com.

Ok, your eyes are starting to glaze over – tech talk does that to a lot of us. So, let’s make this simple. A consistent split-testing schedule can have a huge impact on how your real estate website performs and, subsequently, the number of leads you receive from it.

And, isn’t that why you got a website in the first place?