The importance of digital marketing has been more apparent than ever this year given the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it seems like only developers with solid digital marketing strategies will be able to grow and maintain their market share in this era of unprecedented uncertainty.
In light of the pandemic, many Malaysian property developers have turned to digital marketing to align their businesses with the new normal. As defined by Investopedia, digital marketing is the use of the internet, mobile devices, social media, search engines to reach consumers.
As an investor, it’s important to know how far Bursa property companies have adopted digital marketing strategies into their business as it would show that they may be better prepared for the immediate COVID-19 future.
However, a simple web analysis has shown us that most Malaysian property developers have yet to optimise their websites (the key driving factor for traffic and sales leads) and even the top 5 Malaysian property developers’ websites fall short behind their US and UK counterparts. What is the importance of optimising, and how can Malaysian sites do better? Read on.
How much of a role does the internet play in selling homes?
The internet has become the first place for most people to search for information – and that includes properties.
These discoveries found through search engines can say a lot about current interests. For example, the Google Trends chart below shows the relative number of searches Malaysians have done over the past 5 years for the phrase “where to stay” and one can see that the interest had increased over the years, but faced a steep dip from March 2020 when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented.
However, interest has begun to build back up again post-MCO. Given this interest, how many people are actually finding their homes through the internet? There were no conclusive statistics to be found for Malaysia.
For perspective sake – the US National Association of Realtors in July 2020 reported that 52% of home buyers in the US found their home through the internet. And the main source of information comes from the respective company’s website.
According to the Search Engine Journal, the 3 most popular search engines in the world today are:
- Google with over 75% of the search market share. Google processes over 3.5 billion searches every day.
- YouTube is today owned by Google. YouTube receives 1.5 billion logged-in users per month.
- Amazon. Due to its success as an online store, more than half of the online shopping queries go directly to Amazon rather than to the traditional search engines.
Therefore, it is important for property developers to leverage their efforts through the right channels for the best results.
How do search engines work?
The most basic function is to look for something online, is through a string of effective keywords to give you the best possible match. Say if you’re looking for a house to rent in a specific area, you might start by searching for “best home rentals in Cheras” – the search engine will then try to match your queries with the information it has collected.
According to Moz, the company that developed the Domain Authority metric, search engines have three primary functions:
- Crawl: Scour the Internet for content.
- Index: Store and organise the content found during the crawling process. Once a page is in the index, it is in the running to be displayed as a result of relevant queries.
- Rank: Provide the pieces of content that will best answer a searcher’s query. This means that results are ordered by most relevant to least relevant.
In other words, the search engine will try to match your query with what it has in its database. It will then present the results in order of ranking through the search results ranking pages (SERP).
In general terms, the higher a website is ranked, the more prominently it would be placed on the results page – and who doesn’t like to be number #1, right?
Why is page rank important for property developers?
The search engine shows the most relevant results on the first page. The less relevant results are then shown in the subsequent pages.
It’s a known fact that the first page of Google captures the majority of traffic. But did you know that there are significant differences in click-through rates for the top vs bottom results? One study shows the following click-through rates by Google position:
-First result: 36.4% clickthrough rate
-Second result: 12.5% clickthrough rate
-Third result: 9.5% clickthrough rate
The conclusion is that if a website can reach the top of the first page of the search engine results, it can be an excellent opportunity for the business. This would be why it is so important for Malaysian property developers to optimise their websites and improve their organic search rankings.
How does Malaysia’s overall website performance compare with other countries?
Given the importance of page rank, one metric to compare the website performance is the domain authority or domain score. You can think of a website domain score as a measure of how likely it is to rank on a results page. Generally, the practice is to have a score from 0 to 100 with a higher score corresponding to the greater ability to rank higher.
Another indicator that can be used to compare websites is the amount of traffic it receives. Website traffic is important as it equals the number of opportunities you have to add new customers – to promote your brand, to give an impression, and to build relationships.
There are two categories of website traffic:
- Paid traffic – those that visit the site due to some paid advertising or marketing efforts
- Organic traffic – those that visit the site following a search query without going through any ads
In the context of website performance, we will focus only on organic traffic in Malaysia, compared to other countries like Singapore, USA and UK. To compare the domain score and traffic, a website analytical tool, Ubersuggest is used to provide the numerical score for each of the websites. (Refer to Note 1). The results of the analyses are presented in the subsequent sections.
For organic traffic, the top 10 Malaysian property companies fall far behind their US, UK, and Singapore counterparts.
The website traffic of course is dependent not only on the companies’ digital marketing strategies, but also on the digital penetration in the country. To account for this, we scaled the traffic by the number of internet users in the respective countries (Source: Wikipedia)
The results show that Malaysian companies are very far behind those in Singapore:
If you compare the domain score of the top 10 property companies in each of the countries, you will find that
- Both the US and UK companies have a comparable average score of slightly greater than 60.
- The Malaysian companies’ average score is about slightly more than half of those of the US companies average score ie relatively poor
In terms of how widely dispersed the domain scores are, I used a measure known as the coefficient of variation (CV). The CV represents the ratio of the standard deviation to the mean. It is a useful statistic for comparing the degree of variation from one data series to another, even if the means are different from one another.
- Both the US and UK companies have a CV of around 0.15.
- Malaysian companies have a CV of 0.35 ie there is a bigger difference among that Malaysian companies.
The table below summarises the key statistics for both indicators. It shows that Malaysian property developers have yet to seize the digital marketing opportunities.
- The best Malaysian domain score is the same as the lowest domain score for the US or UK
- The best Malaysian organic traffic is lower than those for the lowest traffic in the US or UK
How do Bursa Malaysia Property companies’ websites score against Malaysian websites in other sectors?
There are 96 Bursa Malaysia listed companies under the property sector.
What is the performance of these companies?
- As a group, they have an average domain score of 21 with a CV of 0.70
- In terms of traffic, they have a mean of 1,183 visitors a month and a median of 133 visitors a month. The average results are skewed by some of the top performers as can be seen from the histograms of the monthly traffic.
To give you a sense of the Malaysian property companies’ performance, they have been compared to the performance of some benchmark companies whose businesses are built on digital marketing.
The conclusion is that Malaysian property developer companies have a long way to catch up.
Do Malaysian real estate agent websites perform better?
You may argue that many property developer companies employ real estate agents to market and sell their properties. As such their own website performance may not be important.
Are Malaysian real estate agents’ websites performance better than those of the property companies?
The conclusion is that the Malaysian real estate agency companies’ website performance is not better than those of the Malaysian property developer companies.
In fact, the average results of the real estate agencies have been boosted by the performance of some who are affiliates of global real estate agencies.
How do top Malaysian property developer companies fare against one another?
Assuming that the domain score is equally as important as the monthly organic traffic, the top 5 Malaysia companies with both good domain score and traffic in alphabetical order are:
You will note that even the top 5 performers have domain scores and traffic that are less than the averages of the US and UK property companies.
After more than 2 decades of the MSC Malaysia programme, it shows just how much further our countrymen need to progress in order to step up their game.
What can developer companies do to improve their website performance?
It is without a doubt that the Malaysian property companies’ performance next year may depend very much on how well they improve their digital marketing strategies efforts.
I would think that the first step is to improve their website ranking through a process known as search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
A search engine has a crawler that gathers information about all the content they can find on the Internet. The crawlers bring all those back to the search engine to build an index. That index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with your query. SEO is about trying to put up the content on a website so that:
- Search engines will be able to understand what they’re seeing, and
- The users who arrive via search will like what they see.
A website without effective search engine optimization (SEO) will not organically appear in the top spots on a SERP. Thus, it won’t generate many clicks from search engines.
Optimization can take many forms:
- Making sure the titles are informative and the right length
- Using keywords that guests are likely to search for
- Improving the website experience
- Publishing relevant content including having a blog
- Updating the content regularly
- Improving the page speed
- Building backlinks (links from other well- known sites)
Pulling it together
- One way to assess the effectiveness of a company’s digital marketing efforts is to look at its website performance.
- Website performance can be assessed using the domain score and monthly organic traffic. Based on these, the website performance of Malaysia property companies is far behind those of its counterparts in the US, UK, and Singapore.
- This relatively poor performance need not be permanent. There are SEO efforts that can be adopted to improve website performance.
The spread of COVID-19 has made it more important for companies to adopt digital marketing. We hope that the above analyses provided you with an insight into the burgeoning need for a stronger digital approach. The results presented here can also serve as a baseline to track the performance over time.
1) The domain score and monthly organic traffic for each of the websites were from the Ubersuggest analyses carried out between the last week of Sep 2020 and the first week of Oct 2020
2) The sources for the top 10 property companies in each of the countries were
- US homebuilders – Statista.com
- UK homebuilders – Brand New Homes.co.uk
- Singapore property companies – Propertyhq.com
- Malaysian property companies – iProperty.com.my
3) There were 2 sources for the Malaysian top 10 real estate agents
- Asia Propertyhq.com
4) The analyses were based on the respective corporate website. This was generally identified by a Google search of the company’s name.
5) Not all Malaysian property developers have been classified under the Bursa property sector. We have not included the following in our comparisons:
- Construction companies who also have development arms eg WCT, Naim
- Companies with property development activities classified under other sectors eg Sunway, Eksons
1. Ubersuggest is a website domain research tool that enables the user to analyze keywords, content ideas, and backlink data.
- Domain score – this is based on a variety of factors to indicate the overall strength of the website. A score of 0 to 100 is given to the websites. The higher the score the more authoritative the site is and the higher it ranks on Google. For example, Google has a domain score of 100.
- Monthly Organic Traffic – this is the estimated monthly traffic that a website gets given the organic keywords
2. Details of the individual company’s performance across US, UK, Singapore and Malaysia are shown in Appendix 2 in the author’s original article.
*This article was repurposed from “Digital marketing – Did Malaysian Property Developers seize the opportunities?”, first published on i4value.asia
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