After the government allowed the doors of marketing suites to open in mid-May we saw pent up demand drive an influx of web sessions and high intent goals for booking viewings, both peaking in July.
As forecast, there was a steady slowing of those goals from August into October, returning to around June’s levels – but still three times higher than May when emerging from lockdown.
Monthly web sessions and high intent goals – June to October
Daily tracker – June to October
October vs September
Web sessions down – 7%
High intent goals down – 8%
Web sessions have decreased compared to a negligible change in the same period last year. October daily average web sessions are still c.5% higher than last year and conversion rates to those high intent goals have remained stable since September and improved on the summer months.
Users also spent 6% longer on average on websites than in June, all indicators of higher quality audiences washing through and supported by remarketing efforts from biddable channels.
Although it’s inevitable that we will look to understand the impact of a second national lockdown by examining web data for before and after its announcement, at this stage it’s really too early to offer any robust conclusions. Many key metrics fell after the announcement was made, however a similar dip in web traffic later in October coinciding with half terms in England was seen last year; so that’s not immediately a nod to a worrying November.
The same dip this year is mirrored in Google’s indexed ‘real estate’ search volumes:
Last year November daily average sessions were down about 10% compared to October. With an eye on potential challenges that lie ahead with ‘lockdown 2’ restrictions, we’ll be monitoring our November forecasts against actual levels to analyse the impact, and comparing the MoM swing with that seen during 2019 in order to unpick the consequences of Covid restrictions from traditional seasonality.
Given recent details on the housing market effectively being able to remain open, we’re confident there won’t be anywhere near the drastic declines in web traffic and incoming lead generation experienced in the weeks after mid-March. In fact, there was compelling evidence from our developer clients’ where maintaining certain levels of activity during lockdown yielded reduced CPLs as the market returned, as long as that was coupled with clear and consistent messaging across channels.
The chart below tracks indexed ‘real estate’ search volume over the last twelve months.
Search volumes have reduced through October from the highs of the summer, though still performing at similar levels to January and February.
Google Search CPC and CTR
Whilst CPCs have started to gradually rise, as more competition returns to the channel, the last quarter has still performed slightly under pre-lockdown levels which were consistently >£0.50.
Both CTR and CPC dropped slightly MoM to 19.89% and £0.42 respectively.
Paid social performance
In the past two months we have started to see costs rise, invariably leading to fewer conversions for a given budget.
With many advertisers across all industries switching away from traditional media towards online and at a far greater pace than ever before, there is a huge surge in demand for the social platforms and CPMs have subsequently risen.
Click costs have followed a similar trend to CPMs, with increased advertiser activity across Facebook placements leading to a corresponding increase in CPCs.
More investment or a change in strategy has therefore often been required to maintain the volume of conversions.
Among October’s data we can see the early stages of a trend reversing: CPMs continued to rise (up 18% MoM) while CPCs fell for the first time since April (down 5% MoM). The improved CTR implied by this divergence in the two cost trend lines is likely indicative of a shift in messaging and ad formats, and a renewed focus on driving response over raising awareness.
A new New Homes Index
With upgrades to our data warehousing and reporting infrastructure we’re also in the process of regionalising our New Homes Index output and daily tracking. With a projected return to local Covid tier systems following national lockdown, we see this as imperative to understanding the nuances of different alert levels on regional homebuying and peoples’ research process.