There’s a secret to digital marketing that only those that have mastered the craft understand – cookies and pixels. When it comes to the art of persuasion, it’s these tiny little morsels of code that give you the greatest opportunity to convert vendors.
When I think of tracking cookies and pixels I think of Hansel and Gretel, dropping breadcrumbs through the forest as they make their way to the witch’s gingerbread house. As a real estate agent, you need to bring home sellers to your door in much the same way.
This is why, if you’re not doing so already, you need to start using cookies and pixels. These can guide your way through your digital marketing strategy, and gaining an understanding of them could save you thousands of marketing dollars.
So how does it work?
Tracking pixels explained
A pixel is a tiny piece of code that you install on your website. It’s invisible to users and won’t slow your website down. A pixel can collect certain pieces of information which can identify visitors to your website, including their IP address. The pixel then tells your website to place a cookie on your visitor’s computer, which can help to build a much more detailed profile of that user.
What is a cookie?
A cookie is a small text file that is placed on your computer when you visit a website. Cookies encrypt data about you which can only be read by the company that placed the cookie there.
Cookies have a number of uses – they enable your users to log into your website faster if they’ve visited it before. They also provide you with information about your visitors’ online behaviour, including how long they stayed on your website and which pages were visited.
By using the full potential of the cookie and pixel combination, you can begin to build a complete picture of a user, including their age, marital status, location, job and interests. This then enables you to target them with behavioural advertising and retargeting.
So where can I get pixels from?
If you advertise online, you should be installing pixels from the companies you advertise with. By far the two most useful pixels when it comes to digital marketing are Google Analytics and Facebook.
Google Analytics is particularly beneficial as it gives you clear insights into the ways in which users are interacting with your website, and can even tell you which of your phone calls have been prompted by people visiting your website or clicking on one of your ads. All you have to do is enter a simple code.
The Facebook pixel can tell you how users are interacting with your ads, as well as picking up other information regarding their social and consumer preferences, which you can then use to make your advertising more effective.
Who is tracking my users?
Most companies use first-party cookies, which means that a cookie placed on your computer has been put there by the website you’ve visited, and only the platform where you advertise, such as Facebook, can track user behaviour.
However, some platforms use third-party advertising networks. Google Display, for example, uses the Double Click Ad Exchange network to run ads on websites that have installed Google banner ads. These include the main real estate portals such as realestate.com.au and domain.com.au.
If you purchase ads on any of these sites, it’s likely your users are being tracked by the Double Click advertising network rather than Google itself. This is known as a click redirect.
What are the main benefits of tracking my users?
One of the main benefits of using pixels and cookies is that it allows you to identify the source that brought each visitor to your website, and trace the ways in which they engage with your brand online.
This method is known as attribution marketing, and if placed at the heart of your marketing strategy it has a number of essential benefits for your business:
- It gives you insight into your customers, and whether your digital marketing strategy is attracting the right people.
- It helps you to work out how likely a visitor to your website is to purchase or list a home for sale.
- It is an effective way for real estate businesses and agents to build brand awareness, acquire new customers and retarget site visitors.
The information collected from your site visitors can inform you of how interested they are in buying or selling real estate, and also provide you with a more in-depth picture that can then be used to show them the most appropriate ads for their situation. This is called behavioural targeting, and it’s particularly useful for real estate marketing, as it determines the kind of properties a user is interested in and then retargets them with the listings that are likely to appeal to them the most.
What is retargeting and why should I, as a real estate agent, be doing it?
Retargeting is a way of keeping your brand uppermost in people’s minds. If someone has previously visited your website or clicked on one of your ads, the cookie you have placed on their computer will tell your advertising platform, such as Google or Facebook, to retarget them. Then, as the user visits other websites, they will continue to see your ads at the side on other sites they visit, so your brand will remain fresh in their mind. This makes them more likely to revisit your site as you are keeping your brand and its services front of mind.
Get the most out of mobile and location services
It goes without saying that all your digital content should be optimised for mobile, as over half of all internet activity now takes place on mobile devices. This gives real estate agents a great advantage in that it allows you to track the location of your site visitors, enabling you to target them with the most relevant ads. Knowing the whereabouts and movements of your customers is handy knowledge for a real estate agent!
This can be particularly useful if you advertise on Facebook, as the mobile app gives Facebook the ability to show advertisers which people are currently or have recently been in your location, right down to a specific suburb level. Google can also do this using Google Maps, so you can target ads at people based within a specific radius around your business.
Putting this information together and how it can help you
Whereas with other more traditional marketing methods you have to spend long periods of time building up detailed customer profiles, with digital marketing, pixels and cookies can work together to do this for you.
For example, a surfer is looking for a new home further up the coast, where there’s a quieter surf beach. He spends a lot of his spare time on real estate portals looking at properties. He’s also using Facebook to plan a surfing trip to Bali with his friends.
One day he visits your website to enquire about a property. The Facebook pixel informs the cookie to track him. The cookie detects he’s male, aged 38, and currently lives in Manly, Sydney. Over the next three months, he is retargeted with ads for your other Northern Beaches properties. He eventually buys a place, and as his online behaviour changes due to him no longer searching for properties, the cookie detects this and stops targeting him with your ads. This saves you money, as you will only be targeting advertising at people who are actually likely to become customers.
When to install cookies and pixels
It’s a good idea to install your Google Analytics tracking code as soon as your website goes live, so you can get the most from your site from the very beginning. If you’re advertising on Facebook, you should install your Facebook pixel as soon as you start, so you don’t miss out on any retargeting opportunities.
The statistics gained from these pixels and cookies will help to make your digital marketing much more efficient and cost-effective, and also give you insights into your target audience, so it’s important to get into the habit of checking your stats regularly – ideally every week, but at least once a month. This way you can continually update and refine your digital marketing activities. You should also make retargeting an integral part of your online marketing strategy.
How to get started
Don’t worry if all this sounds too technical for you – after all, you’re not expected to be an IT expert. Finding someone else who can do the technical stuff will make it easier for you to concentrate on what you’re good at. Your IT team will be able to set these systems up for you – or preferably, speak to a reputable digital marketer, as they are the ones who will be tracking and using this information in order to make your digital marketing work better for you.