COVID-19 by the Web Numbers
- Web traffic took a fall during the middle of March
- Traffic has since rallied.
- Your average traffic could fall from February to March.
- Southern states see less of an impact.
- Search volume and social media interaction remain steady.
By now, the novel coronavirus is probably not so novel. It dominates every single news cycle, social media feed, and, no doubt, the minds of consumers across the world. Now that everyone at Builder Designs is settled into a new routine of working remotely, we’ve decided to do what seems to have come naturally to us over the last 15 years: innovate. Rather than analyzing the effects of COVID-19 on a builder-by-builder basis, we took a step back and looked at the effects of COVID-19 across a broad spectrum of home builder websites.
With 15 years of industry experience behind us, we now host more than 400 homebuilder websites. And even working from home, our web team launched four new sites last week! This vast community of builder-specific websites allows us to view the impact of COVID-19 from an industry level and see how it has affected consumers’ behavior online.
Let’s start at the beginning of the year:
SESSIONS - FEBRUARY-APRIL 2020
There are a couple of things we’d like to note here. First, site traffic is down across the board and there is no doubt that COVID-19 is the culprit. Individual markets have been affected differently, and not all of them have seen a sharp decline yet, but the downward trend is, unfortunately, the norm. To give this a little bit of context, the graph below shows what traffic looked like this time last year.
SESSIONS - JANUARY-MARCH 2019
March is traditionally a great time for web traffic. The weather is getting nicer, students are on spring break, and it’s a great time to head to your local HBA parade of homes event. But, it’s obvious that this March is not like the others.
The second point to look at here: web traffic seems to be coming back.
SESSIONS - MARCH & APRIL 2020
Now this is a small sample size, but we’ve seen a bit of a rally towards the later part of March and the beginning of April.
This uptick may feel like a new ray of hope beaming during a time of one horrifying headline after another, but it makes sense when you think about it. With shelter-in-place orders in effect all over the country, consumers in the market for a home are going to be funneled online. What the dip and rebound in the curve tells us is that there are still buyers out there. Interest rates remain in the 3’s. It’s still a great time to buy a home; however, the logistics of tours, design center consultations, and even the closing process can certainly put the damper on things.
One other interesting thing to note is the correlation between desktop and mobile traffic. With the new work-from-home orders, we've seen a particularly large dip in desktop traffic.
SESSIONS - FEBRUARY to APRIL 2020 - MOBILE VS DESKTOP VS TABLET
Both graphs are a two-week split between mobile and desktop traffic. The graph on the left is before the stay-at-home orders. The graph on the right is during the orders. This suggests desktop users generally browse at work. But since many professionals are working from home or they're off work entirely, the spike in desktop traffic we generally see during the week is non-existent.
Next, let’s look at what’s happening on the search engine results pages (SERPS). We ran the data on a few broad keywords. Normally, we’d use caution in advising our SEO partners to try to rank for these keywords, simply because they are so competitive. But for the purposes of gauging public interest in new construction, this can be a good indicator of how consumers are feeling. Below is the overall search volume for four popular keyword phrases: “new construction homes”, “home builders near me”, “new homes for sale near me”, and “home builders.”
Search traffic for these keywords and others like it remains consistent, even increasing during the month of March.
Let’s also take a look at what’s happening on social media. We pulled information from the Facebook pages we manage to see how engaged users are.
ORGANIC IMPRESSIONS, ENGAGED USERS, ENGAGEMENT RATE ON FACEBOOK - MARCH 2020
Facebook metrics have stayed steady, even through the Wall Street panic. We can attribute this to a constant social presence, great organic content, and the right messaging at the right time.
Where Do You Go From Here?
The idea that all things must come to a halt won’t be true until COVID-19 can be spread through the internet. Since technology is already crucial in the homebuying process, it’s up to us to leverage it.
Managing your online presence is more critical now than ever. Buyers need to know how and what you’re doing during this unprecedented hiatus from the norm. They are looking for hope, encouragement, and inspiration. By continuing to remain active with your online content and targeted messaging, you build confidence and keep your name in front of homebuyers, both present, and future.
A few months ago, Builder Designs launched a public relations program to help builders navigate their relationship with the press and their larger online reputation. Since the outbreak, we’ve coached a variety of builders in strategies and messaging. If you need help on where you can start with COVID-19, let us know. We’re here to help.
We’ll keep our eye on the data and help shine some light on the business affects of COVID-19. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates. We also love to participate in Twitter chats twice a week. If you have any questions on the data provided here or you’re interested in our PR services, contact Amber!
(New) Life at BD
Digital meetings are now the new norm for us here in the Kansas City area. Other than trading our conference room for our home offices and kitchen tables, it's business usual. If you haven't already, check out the newest websites to go live on our Instagram page!