OneRoof, the new challenger in the property portal space has made some significant gains over the past 7 months since I last reviewed the site. As I predicted at the time; I foresaw a steady rise of this portal’s ascendancy in the minds of consumers and the real estate industry. The latest data certainly shows that to be the case.
Let’s start by looking at the key metric of audience. As highlighted in my November article I’ve been using the services of the free web tracking analytics tool SimilarWeb to record the progress of OneRoof and the other portals of Realestate.co.nz and Homes. The service cannot track Trade Me Property as it is not a discrete domain name. As noted at the time, the absolute traffic numbers detailed on SimilarWeb may not actually reflect the true audience numbers, however the trends and comparisons should be judged to be a reliable data set for analytics.
So in terms of top line audience, OneRoof has made significant steps forward. As at the latest data for June, OneRoof recorded a total audience of 1,120,000 as compared to Realestate.co.nz at 1,560,000. This places the audience of OneRoof at the equivalent of 72% the traffic of Realestate.co.nz.
The audience growth over the past year for OneRoof proves the value in the eyes of the consumer of the platform. From a position, a year ago when traffic was less than half that of Realestate.co.nz to now being at 72% of its scale is a significant improvement.
Now, as I stated the actual scale of the audience is not the key number, it is the relativity by comparison to Realestate.co.nz that is most important. At the same time the composition of the audience to the site is also very relevant. As I highlighted back in November, a large proportion of the traffic arriving on OneRoof was actually internal traffic from the NZ Herald website where all the property related stories were hosted on the OneRoof domain name. At that time this referral traffic amounted to 62% of all traffic, that’s nearly two thirds of all traffic viewing pages on OneRoof were actually drawn to the site to read property news stories and not drawn to viewing listings.
The good news for OneRoof executives (and possibly the bad news for Realestate.co.nz executives) is that this reliance on this referral traffic from the NZ Herald website is diminishing as the chart below shows.
As of last month referral traffic has now fallen below search traffic at just 36%; compared to 63% at this time last year. OneRoof is clearly winning in the key arena of search engine optimisation and paid search, which now represents close to half the traffic to the site. That is impressive, as largely this traffic will be looking for property listings.
As I analysed back in November, I like to make an adjustment to the monthly audience figures for OneRoof and excluded the traffic from NZ Herald. The chart below tracks this adjusted traffic to show that for last month the traffic to OneRoof drawn to the viewing of listings is approximately half the scale of the audience to Realestate.co.nz, still a strong performance for a new entrant in the market and clearly still growing.
As a further comment as to source of traffic, the chart below compares the performance of OneRoof with Realestate.co.nz and Homes vs. the same time last year. This ably demonstrates the success OneRoof has achieved in securing search traffic, placing its percentage source at very similar levels to the other sites.
However the mark of a credible and sustainable business online is undoubtedly the direct traffic created from users bookmarking or choosing to go directly to the site. Over the past 12 months the proportion of OneRoof traffic coming direct has risen from 10% to 18% but still languishes below the performance of Realestate.co.nz at 47% and Homes at a staggering 62%.
Listing Page Views
Whilst the overall traffic to a property portal is critical in assessing the value of the offering provided by the company, there is no escape from the fact that aggregation of traffic numbers is not the real value proposition. What is key is individual listing views. Like it or not, what the property portals need to do is to provide agents and their clients, the property owners; with an audience, a very focused audience of potential buyers - active or passive buyers. Therefore the true measure of a portal is page views on individual listings.
Now this is where I have a major complaint of OneRoof. They do not provide open stats on listing pages of the number of views that have occurred on a listing. Something that Trade Me provide, Realestate.co.nz provide and almost all portals worldwide provide. Why should OneRoof choose not to do this? Surely not something they forgot? So from a casual user (or potentially a vendor) perspective it is really hard to see how many times the listing page has been viewed.
Thankfully though OneRoof has built an excellent agent portal to provide such stats of page views for agents listings. I therefore chose to work with some of my colleagues and come up with a sample of relevant stats for listings on OneRoof over recent months. I selected the data of page views over the first 7 days and compare those numbers with the same period on Trade Me and Realestate.co.nz. The first 7 days are without doubt the most relevant marketing period representing more than half of all-time traffic to a listing.
The results details in the chart below are revealing. Whereas Trade Me averages 1,669 page views on a listing in the first 7 days, OneRoof only managed to deliver 70 page views, at the same time over those first 7 days Realestate.co.nz delivered an average of 315 page views. On this basis Trade Me is 20 times more effective than OneRoof and Realestate.co.nz 5 times more effective than OneRoof at delivering exposure to prospective buyers. Clearly the value of OneRoof has yet to be seen in true buyer engagement.
Just for clarity the 11 selected properties are not a random sample. They were all listed in Devonport over the past 6 months. They were all been promoted extensively online across the 3 portals using premium products. Adjacent to the actual page views for each group of listings is the average of the 11 listings - on Trade Me being 1,669 and Realestate.co.nz 315. The other adjacent highlighted number - 1,420 on Trade Me and 315 on Realestate.co.nz is the average 7 days page views for all Devonport listings over the first 6 months of this year (129 listings). Naturally as noted above no such data is available from OneRoof as there is no open data for listings page views.
A property portal has a single task, that of providing consumers with access to view properties for sale or rent. Content is king, and always has been in this digital world.
Back in November I estimated that OneRoof had around 80% of the listings of Realestate.co.nz. I judge that this level has not significantly changed in the past 8 months. To come up with this estimate, I did a somewhat crude assessment by selecting random regions and suburbs to see how the comparison with Realestate.co.nz plays out in the inventory war.
Based on this sample and using a simple weighted average I would say that at this time OneRoof has around 80% of the inventory of Realestate.co.nz. The same position as 8 months ago.
The conspicuously missing franchise brand from OneRoof remains Harcourts. To be clear there are Harcourts listings on OneRoof, however they are few and far between as the total franchise is as yet not fully listing on the portal. Rather than an integrated API feed of all listings, individual offices and agents are listing manually to derive presence on the site.
This situation has such a sense deja vu for me. Back in 2008 Harcourts were the last of the franchise groups to list fully on Trade Me. At the time the pressure coming from the salespeople was enormous and despite the deep principles of the executive team of Harcourts who wanted to support the industry owned site of Realestate.co.nz, the franchise eventually made the decision to list on Trade Me.
Then again in 2013 amid the pricing fiasco by Trade me, Harcourts again were the most vehemently opposed to the proposed pricing change and fought to encourage agents to boycott the platform, with some degree of success; although that boycott has all but slipped into history.
Whilst I admire the deep principle of the Harcourts executive team to hold out from listing on OneRoof, I sense the time for the strategic decisions to list or not was at least a year ago and now that the other major franchises have acceded to the support of OneRoof there is little to be gained in holding out.