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A/B Testing if Real Estate Websites Should Sing

I don’t think you should have music on your website unless it’s about music or it’s completely about multimedia. For the Realtors out there, this absolutely means that you shouldn’t have music on your site, on your listings, or on your email. Ok, so you can’t really put music in your email, but the point is the same.

I had an interesting conversation on Twitter with @EdmontonRealtor (Gerald Hagan) about putting music on listings like this one which extended to @ginakay about A/B testing to see if it works. I’m not quite sure how music helps clients remember certain listings….”I wanted to look at the bungalow with Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy playing in the background.” I just don’t see it. But then Gina asked what A/B testing is.

In an A/B test you run two versions of the same page with only one or two things different between them. You’d randomly serve your visitors one of the pages and measure the difference between them. For the case we’re talking about I’d create two versions of the same listing:

  • Version A: With music!
  • Version B: Music-free!
What would you measure? Well, the ultimate goal is sales, but that’s hard to meaure and I’ll come back to that point. For this one I’m going to suggest four metrics:
  • Bounce Rate
  • Time on Page
  • Inquiry Conversions (emails, PDF or full listing sheet views)
  • Call Conversions (your best conversion)

Usability Testing in Progress
Creative Commons License photo credit: Roebot

If you want to be fully pimped out, I’d have separate phone lines for each listing. The call conversions are your best lead, but you’re going to have to ask if they remember music on the website and if they looked at the site or not.

Inquiry emails are easier to track because email addresses are free to create and you can add a subject line tracking code. I suspect that bounce rate will be the most important metric to follow. I suspect that the music will be substantially higher. Personally, if I have iTunes or something else and your site starts playing music I just close your page. Two songs at the same time makes me crazy. Time on page is a metric easily skewed, but will likely be interesting.

Matthew Inman wrote a good post over at SEOmoz called How to Convince a Client their Site Doesn’t Need Music. (requires free registration) His nine points bear repeating here:

1. It’s obtrusive

2. It cuts off when you click around

3. Not all browsers and operating systems support multimedia content

4. It slows things down

5. It’s tacky and unprofessional

6. There’s a reason other sites don’t have music

7. Not everyone may like your music

8. Ask them if they’ve ever surfed myspace

9. It uses up bandwidth

And I’ll just mention the fact that putting an mp3 on your website without the permission of the composer and performers, and without paying royalties is illegal.

Beyond the testing and the reasons Matt mentions, there’s one big one I can’t believe he missed.

You’re selling Real Estate.

If the music or anything else on your site won’t help people towards that goal then you’re wasting your time.
Don’t get personal with your site; by this I mean don’t add crap to your listings because you think it’s pretty/fun/cool/entertaining. They’re there for one reason, and everything should contribute, in one way or another, to that goal. If you’re not sure, test it. Don’t fall into complacency or selfishness. Make it the best it can be, and don’t deviate from your goal.
If you’ve got time to do an a/b test of this, or you know of someone who has done it and can share the info, I’d be delighted to help pass it around.
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    { 1 comment… add one }
    • Gerard Hagan October 24, 2008, 9:33 am

      Hey Chris,

      Nice blog post. I just setup an A/B test to test the bounce rate on a listing with music and one without. I will let you know how it goes.

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