Coronavirus Update: Google Search Traffic Surpassing Pre-Crisis Levels

The Coronavirus crisis has impacted all parts of the economy, and that includes real estate lead generation. This is especially important when you are a Realtor who is counting on online leads to find new clients who will expand your sphere of influence and future referrals.. The CINC Client Marketing team - which oversees the largest portfolio of real estate lead generation ad budgets in North America - understands this and has prepared a brief analysis to show what has happened so far in real estate lead generation since the crisis began and what to expect.

Dan Lott - CINC VP of Client Marketing - analyzes Google search traffic. In the next post Harry Kierbow - CINC Sr. Dir. of Social Media - looks at Facebook spending patterns.

CINC is the largest real estate lead generation advertising agency, with 3,000 clients spread throughout the US and Canada. We invest $30 million per year through our clients' advertising budgets in search and social advertising. The majority of the spend is in Google search advertising focused on generating buyer leads. 

Because generating real estate leads is the lifeblood of our company, we were and are extremely dialed in to how the current health crisis will affect real estate search patterns and lead flows. (See current CINC CPL's in your market here.)

Is search volume going to increase or decrease?

Are people still going to look for homes online?

Get a custom report of lead costs in your target market here.

Initial Forecasts

When the crisis began, we forecasted that spending would proceed in three phases:

  • Search traffic would decline during the initial days as people reacted to the news.
  • Traffic would slowly recover as people got set in their new schedule.
  • Eventually search traffic would match or potentially surpass pre-crisis levels because people who are working from home have a greater ability to look for houses. (And since prospective home buyers are physically in their house for a long period of time, they may decide they no longer like their current house.)

We based this forecast by analyzing traditional real estate search traffic patterns. Search traffic increases and decreases due to numerous factors, including the day of the week, the month, and holidays. Generally on big special event days - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday - traffic declines sharply. On secondary holidays - President's Day, Labor Day - traffic spikes. The initial period was a big disruption that we expected would depress traffic. The second period is more like a secondary event which would increase traffic.

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Preliminary Results

We are in the initial stages of the crisis, so things could still change, but so far, home buyer search traffic has acted as predicted and we have been pleased with the initial results.

Our portfolio's search traffic declined sharply during the first week of the crisis. On March 12 and March 13 - arguably the beginning of the US crisis because it followed the night when the NBA surprisingly ended its season - we had the lowest two-day search volume of the year.

Since then search traffic has gradually picked up. Beginning March 19, search traffic has exceeded the search traffic of the preceding week. The Saturday to Monday (March 21 to March 23) period was the highest volume three day period this month.

See the cost per lead in your target market. Get a free, custom report here.

To summarize, although this could change, real estate agents who are dependent on Internet leads to get new clients should not be worried that this stream will dry up. Search traffic has already caught up to pre-crisis levels. And, unless there is another unforeseen disruption, it should remain strong.

A Few Observations

  • The share of traffic that is desktop - rather than mobile or tablet - has increased. My theory is that people working from home feel comfortable looking at real estate on their laptop, without the fear their bosses will look over their shoulder.
  • The conversion rate - the percent of traffic that converts to a lead - increased sharply last week and the CINC aggregate conversion rate hit the highest rate in more than four years.
  • Sunday and Saturday are usually the highest volume days of the week. Even though more people are working from home now, that continues to be the case.

This Blog Post was Written by Dan Lott

Dan is CINC’s VP of Client Marketing. Dan joined CINC in 2012, when he launched the online advertising department he continues to lead. He has more than 18 years experience in search marketing and online advertising, mostly developing lead generation programs for fast growing businesses, including real estate companies. Dan earned a BA in Economics from American University and an MBA in eCommerce Marketing from Vanderbilt.

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